Of Western Skies and Libraries

Heathrow was empty. Sort of. No queues at customs and loos. People in the terminal are those who got off the same flight we did and the ones clearing out from few earlier flights. We had the Arrival Hall all to ourselves on Christmas Day. Then we had to part – our friends we travelled with the past two weeks are jumping on another flight home while we are staying for the weekend and the Boxing Day sales. Strange ping in the heart when parting with people you enjoy spending time with.

We spent good time in Portugal, driving from the Algarve region in the South to the pretty compact city of Porto to the North. I think, amongst us, we had a good 60 pieces of Portuguese egg tarts! That is approximately S$100 spent on egg and flour. And they were so worth the calories. Especially the ones from the Bélem district in Lisbon. We went expecting a super long queue, but it wasn’t all that long before I sunk my teeth into three gloriously delicious tarts with crispy pastry and squishy eggy centres. I figured I earned the right to binge on those anyway. Hey, I walked an average of 10k steps a day!

If one is looking to experience Europe, then frankly, Portugal shouldn’t be the first stop. But if quaint little towns, nature and laid back travel are must-dos on your travels, then head there. Of the lot, we liked Cape St Vincent, Sagres (in the Algarve) and the city of Porto best.

The Cape took us awhile to get to. It is the western most point of Europe afterall. The further we drove the flatter the land became, and cliffs with sheer drops appeared on the left side of the road beyond a broad strip of rocky land sprouting low-growing bushes. There are no railings. So if you drive a bit further than you should, then it is a watery, albeit scenic, grave in the Atlantic you’d have. Stop where you should too because the traffic police are itching to write you a nice note. Otherwise, the expanse of the land is mind-blowing and the views are spectacular!

There is a spot at an insane edge you can sit on to take a picture of yourself and the western skies. But my legs turned to jelly when I walked near so I became the photographer who zoomed.

And I thought nothing could beat this the rest of the trip. Of course I was wrong. And gladly so.

The Livraria Lello on Rua das Carmelitas. I adore libraries, the older the better. But stick magic to it and I am a goner. It seems JK Rowling spent good time in Portugal teaching English and some time in Porto in this very library that gave her the inspiration for Hogwarts. I am not sure how much credit this bookstore should have for Hogwarts, but it is beautiful. Having earlier seen the studio where HP was made (Ya! I did! *delirious laughter* More later.), I can see why. You pay €3 to enter and the amount can be used to offset cost of book(s) you buy.

Then I went to another library in Coimbra that functions as a book vault. Bibliotheca Joanina, Baroque, 18th century. Magnificent. Students then had to adhere to the strictest rules. If found flouting one, you’d be thrown into a cell under the library to reflect deeply and contemplate repentance.

I couldn’t take pictures. Bleh. But I have been naughty. Here’s one off the web that looks kinda familiar. I’d end up in the cell back when.

I am in Heathrow again for the flight home (This post took a few days to finish 😹) and this time, the crowds are in. We are leaving a 16degC London winter with unused scarves and gloves. 🎶〰➰. But we had a good break and it is with happy hearts that we heading home to spend New Year’s with the family.



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