An American in (Disneyland) Paris

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Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris. Natasha shows off her custom dress by Maggie highlighting the movie featuring her favorite Disney Princess, Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Paris

There were so many more outfits to wear and so many more things to do that we wanted to get an early start on our return visit to Disneyland Park in Disneyland Paris.  This is day three (our final) in the parks.  We rode our favorite rides during early entry, a perk for Disney hotel guests that gets you in early before general admission guests can get in.  We made sure we arrived at Phantom Manor just before 10 am to get a picture with Phantom Mikey.  This is the only park you can meet him at.  Emma in particular wanted this photo.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma with Phantom Mickey. You can only meet him in Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris.

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Off to Adventureland, Disneyland Park, Disneyland, Paris

One of the areas of the park that was in place when I visited in the 90s was Adventureland.  I remember the pirate ship was sitting by a frozen waterfall because it was so cold.  It is also the home of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  It is a great version.  Like the attraction in California, there is a restaurant that looks out into the ride.  We will eat at Captain Jack’s tonight.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Disneyland, Paris

The ship sits next a waterfall that comes from a large skull rock.  The skull rock is more than just a decorative element.  There are trails, lookouts, and activities in this area and it is worth a walk-through.  Nearby is the Swiss Family Treehouse which is not very popular in the other parks, but this one is very well done and was more popular with park guests.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie at the entrance to Adventureland, Disneyland Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma in the camel chair, Disneyland Paris

They also incorporate Aladdin-themed elements into Adventureland including a entrance passageway with amazing lighting and a really cool camel chair.  You can also meet Aladdin and even rub the magic lamp.  At the right time, the smoke (genie) will appear.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie calling the genie at Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Looking toward the upper floor of the interior of Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Sleeping Beauty story in stained glass, the castle, Disneyland Paris

Next stop was an interior visit to Sleeping Beauty Castle.  The lower portion gives access to the shops and dungeon, but go up the stairs and you can follow the story of Sleeping Beauty through stained glass and tapestries in La Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant.  Great photo opportunities.  There is also a balcony from which you can look out over Fantasyland.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The story of Sleeping Beauty in tapestry in the castle, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Looking out over Fantasyland from the castle balcony, Disneyland, Paris

We also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the parade one more time.  We picked our spot so we would have the castle as our picture backdrop.  Its a Tuesday, so this is the one day of the week that they bring out a special character, one that is rarely seen.  Today is was Jasmine’s father, the Sultan from Aladdin.  Pretty good timing since the new Aladdin movie is being released this week in the US.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Sultan from Aladdin was the day’s special character at Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. It wouldn’t be Sleeping Beauty’s castle if Phillip wasn’t there to save the day. Disneyland Paris

I mentioned in an earlier post that Maggie designs and sews Disneybounding outfits for us to wear at the parks.  This is very big in the US, especially at the California parks.  The guests here clearly didn’t get it.  Some even laughed.  We didn’t care; we might be the start of a European trend.  Either way, we enjoyed ourselves.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie Disneybounding Aurora in one of her own designs.

Maggie started by making decorative and unique (Disney) ears.  Next she branched out to full outfits including some incredible dresses.  Last summer we visited Fantasyland in Florida wearing dresses that Maggie designed and made based on park attractions.  We even ran into HGTV designer David Bromsted who complimented us on Disneybounding.

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With HGTV Design and television star David Bromstad in Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, August 2018

This trip we are wearing dresses associated with Sleeping Beauty.  Both Emma and I consider Aurora/Sleeping Beauty our favorite Princess.  We love the part in the animated movie (of our generation) where the fairies fight over what color her dress should be, blue or pink.  My preference is blue and Emma’s is pink. Ironically, the dresses we are wearing are opposite.  I am wearing a dress that is primarily blue, although you will notice the fairy “making it pink” (which is spelled out in beads on my purse-I may have forgot to mention that Maggie also makes us purses that compliment our dresses).  Emma’s dress is primarily pink.  Maggie is dressed like Aurora.  When in Disneyland Paris…

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma in Maggie’s design in her pink dress with a “make it blue” theme.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie in her own design inspired by Aurora.

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Maggie’s dress designs inspired by the fairies flight over the dress color in Sleeping Beauty.

There was still more for us to see in Fantasyland.  There is a Storybook ride in California and it is recreated here with more efficient loading as Le Pays des Contes de Fees.  After your boat goes through the Cave of Wonders (from Aladdin) you come to the miniature recreation of castles, homes, and locations from Disney movies.  This version is very well done.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris

We toured through the Alice in Wonderland maze, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth.  It is an attraction that is unique to this park.  It is a cute exhibit and you can also go up on the tower for a better view of this older section of the park.  This is the perfect attraction to enjoy with young children; it offers lots of opportunities for fun pictures.  You’ll note from our pictures and the jackets that it was starting to get cooler as the sun went down.

Our evening meal was at Captain Jack’s overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.   Its terraced dining so everyone has a view of the ride.  The menu fit the theme, but we all struggled to find something we liked.  In the end, it was our least favorite dining spot.  Afterwards we wandering around Fantasyland some more, rode Pinocchio and the Carousel, and ended up at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  No spinning for me, but I loved the canopy and the wonderful lighting.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma on a footbridge in Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Twilight in Fantasyland, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at twilight, Disneyland Paris

We ended our visit where we began it, back in Frontierland at Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Railroad.  Early in the morning we will take the bus to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight back to the United States.  Next time, I won’t wait 23 years between visits.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. View of Big Thunder Mountain from the porch of Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Leaving Disneyland Paris and headed to the airport on a cool morning.

Can’t wait until my next visit.  –Natasha

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Disneyland Paris

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Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris

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Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris promotes the Marvel connection and Natasha came dressed for the occasion.

Disneyland Paris’ second park, Walt Disney Studios, opened in 2002, 10 years after the resort’s original opening.  Maggie had done her research and we were going to start the day with the more popular rides that will get crowded as the day progresses.  Taking the bus over from our hotel, we still had to deal with the rain.  It was really pouring and our shoes were completely soaked by the time we got into the park.  He headed straight to the Crush indoor rollercoaster, one of the newest and most popular rides at the park.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Crush’s Coaster, one of the newest and most popular rides at Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris.

You ride in a turtle shell with two seats facing forward and two that face backward.  The shell moves along the track, sometimes spinning and changing position so sometimes you face forward and sometimes back.  There is a great use of theme on the ride incorporating a popular character and the settings from Finding Nemo.  We liked it, although my stomach was little upset after riding several times in a row.  Each time the line got longer.  Unlike some of the other rides at these parks, there are no fast passes for Crush’s Coaster.

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Check out Remy on the manhole covers, along with our soaked shoes, Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris.

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Ratatouille: The Adventure at Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris.

After leaving Crush’s Coaster, we went to the nearby Toon Studio section with another newer ride, Ratatouille:  The Adventure.  This is an amazing ride.  We rode both with and without fast passes.  You sit in a small rat car that seems to move on a magnetic track.  You view screens in various settings all from the perspective of a small rodent.  The ride is extremely well done and not to be missed.  The setting in the park, a Paris inspired courtyard, is quite nice as well.  I loved the fountain with champagne bottles, especially since champagne is Natasha’s favorite drink.

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Who doesn’t love a fountain with champagne bottles? Natasha at Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma on a stationary (probably safer) vespa in Toon Studio, Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland, Paris

After the ride it was time for our specialty restaurant of the day at Bistro Chez Remy, French dining also from a rat’s eye perspective.  Everything is oversized as it you were the size of Remy and his family.  The chairs are styled after the medal tops and cages on Champagne Bottles and booths are between serving dishes on a plate rack. You might even be seated under a drink umbrella.  One glass wall looks out to the boarding area of the ride.  This restaurant is very popular and I definitely recommend reservations.  Ours was for the opening and the waiting area was packed with guests spilling out to the courtyard.  It stayed full the whole time we were there.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bistrot Chez Remy, Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland, Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. See what you can find in this interior picture of Chez Remy…like Christmas tree lights that double as overhead lighting, a large salt shaker, a drink umbrella as a table umbrella, a champagne topper chair, etc.

Another surprise was that a waiter we met last night who had taken our picture (and his as a selfie joke) was also working there and recognized us.  We had to get another picture with him.   We loved the food, but the setting was the really special part.  Our actual waiter was a little off and eventually he left for the day and was replaced.  Since the restaurant had just opened, it couldn’t be that his shift had ended.  Kind of strange.

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On our first night, we went to the specialty restaurant at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Lucas was the greeter. We asked him to take a picture of us outside the restaurant and when we got the camera back this picture was also on it.

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…and who should appear the next day at Bistrot Chez Remy but Lucas who snapped this selfie with us.

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when we found out Lucas was going to off the next day and wouldn’t be at Captain Jack’s we just had to get one more picture with him before we left Chez Remy.

The park has adopted a Marvel Theme in the large section to the right as you enter.  There was to be an outdoor stage show and even though the rain had cleared, technical problems prevented it from going forward.  We had to contend ourselves with the large size Marvel statues outside.  There was also the opportunity to have your picture taken with some of the characters.  The lines weren’t exceptionally long, but the characters took a lot of time to interact with us.  Since Maggie and Emma had not met Captain Marvel-I met her on the Marvel Day at Sea cruise in February with Rocky-we chose to have our picture taken with her.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie with Captain Marvel at Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie with Iron Man at Walt Disney Studio, Disneyland Paris

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Natasha with the Hulk at Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris

Nearby was one of our Florida Hollywood Studio favorites, Rock ‘N Roller Coaster.  The exterior lacked the wow factor of its Florida counterpart.  Although Emma was convinced that it was the same exact ride, it lacked the “special” element that makes it one of favorites in the US.  We were disappointed and only rode it one time which is unusual for us.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Large production show at Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris

There was a Marvel-themed show with a lot of the characters.  We missed an earlier show due to long lines and ours was completely full.  I thought it was really cheesy and find it hard to recommend, but younger extreme comic book fans may want their fix.  The tech presentation was pretty good.

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Mickey and the Magician at Walt Disney Studio Park at Disneyland Paris.

The really great show at the park was Mickey and the Magician, a live stage show with a definite French feel.  The show is done in French and English, alternating between characters.  Mickey speaks in French.  Mickey is transported into scenes of several of your favorite Disney movies by the use of magic.  We throughly enjoyed it; be sure to get in line early.  The show is very popular and if you arrive shortly before seating there won’t be room.  (We know this from personal experience.)

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Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland, Paris

Emma and Maggie are big Twilight Zone Tower of Terror fans so they also enjoyed that ride.  We did skip a few attractions that are available at the US parks and are were not particular favorites of ours.  Waiting for one of the shows, we tried the backstage tour which had been continually shrunk and finally eliminated in Florida.  This Paris ride wasn’t even worth the time to sit down.  There is nothing to it; just skip it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Loved our fruit- filled Groot treats at Walt Disney Studio Park at Disneyland Paris.

I also got my Guardians of the Galaxy fix at this park through their special treat offerings.  I liked the big hanger we walked through at the beginning with its use of theme in the counter service restaurants and the gift shows.  However, more understaffed and/or inefficiencies here-again long and slow moving lines for food.  If you want some unique gift items or souvenirs, I recommend the shop near Ratatouille, Chez Marianne.  There are lots of items based on Ratatouille, but also a selection unique to Disneyland Paris.

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Best shop for unique souvenirs in Walt Disney Studios, Disneyland, Paris

Overall this is a smaller park with lots of construction going on.  If you are not a Marvel fan there are limited attractions, although some of those (Ratatouille: the Adventure, Crush’s Coaster, and Mickey and the Magician) are not to be missed.  In other words, Walt Disney Studio Park is very hit or miss.  If you are there for several days, give it a try and hit the big attractions, making wise use of fast passes or going first to the most popular rides.  You’ll have to go early and commit some time if you want to see the shows too.  Eat at Remy’s or maybe outside the park; the “fast food” is anything but fast.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Guardians of the Galaxy Mix Tape Volume One as a chocolate treat at Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Here is Emma by one of the story board walls that were hiding construction at Walt Disney Studio Park, Disneyland Paris. She points to one of her favorites of the lesser known characters, the fox Robin Hood.

I wanted to close this post with a word about our hotel, Santa Fe.  Since we were here for several days, I loved staying on a Disney Property due to the ease of transpiration and daily early entry into the parks.  The package, with park tickets included, was a better deal.  Even though it was one of the cheaper Disney options, Hotel Santa Fe still made great use of the Cars theme.  It was particularly attractive at night with creative lighting that showed off the buildings, iron accents, and the drive-in facade.

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Hotel Santa Fe, Disneyland, Paris

All that said, I wanted to offer a word to the wise.  In Florida, you would never think to ask if the hotel had air conditioning; all the Disney hotels do.  However, it is not uncommon for European hotels not to have air conditioning.  We didn’t ask and spent three miserably hot nights in our room (and it was only mid May).  The rain made it tough to leave the window open and Emma wasn’t comfortable doing it anyway since we were on the ground floor.  If you’ll be there in a warm month, be sure to ask.  Not sure which, if any, of the Disney properties at Disneyland Paris offer this amenity.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Hotel Santa Fe (as seen from the bus) with its drive-in facade, Disneyland Paris

Tomorrow is our final day.

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Disneyland Paris Past and Present

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The pirate ship at Disneyland Paris is one of the original fixtures at the 27-year old park.

We got up to catch an early morning train from Paris to Chessy where the train station is just at the entrance to Disneyland Paris.  From the Les Halles metro station right at our hotel, we caught a direct train, lots of stops along the way but no change of trains.  It was about a 45 minute ride and cost about 6 euros.  We take our Disneybounding seriously, so we have big duffle bags full of outfits for our visit and all of Maggie’s things for her internship at the Hague.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma, like Maggie and I, was still a little sleepy on the train to Disneyland Paris.

These trains have been operating since the park opened.  We rode a train out to the park in 1995 as well.  There is also bus service from the airport.  Unlike Florida and its Magical Express, none of these services are complimentary.  Our train car was double-decked, probably for all the commuters who use them on a daily during the business week.  This means you will have to go up and down stairs with your luggage.  We were still pretty tired, so we dozed a bit during the ride on this rainy Sunday morning.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Our Disney hotel room had a Cars theme.

We are staying at Hotel Santa Fe, a Disney hotel.  There are several Disney hotels to choose from, although there are no Disney Vacation Club (timeshare) properties at this park.  We got off the train and walked over to the bus that will take us directly to our hotel.  Hotel Santa Fe is one of the lower cost properties themed after the Disney Cars movies.  As you pull in, the entrance looks like a drive-in movie.

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Disneyland Paris’ Hotel Santa Fe.

The lobby was packed and check-in did not move as smoothly as it does at the US properties.  They is also paperwork to sign.  Emma arranged a resort package for us, so we picked up our park tickets at the hotel.  The card was pretty plain for a Disney ticket.  Not surprisingly as it is still early morning, our room was not ready.

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Hotel Santa Fe lobby at Disneyland Paris

Next we had to stand in a ridiculously long line to check our luggage until we could get into our room.  People who were checking out of their rooms were also in line to store luggage while they visited the parks on their last day.  This system was not run very efficiently, although the cast members were doing their best.  If you arrive in the morning like we did, I recommend one member of the group checks in, while another stands in line to check in the luggage.  Also, the luggage check-in/out closes at 10 pm, so you may need to come back and move your luggage to your room before the park closes.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Disneyland Hotel, Paris.

We took the bus back to the parks.  When I visited in 1995, there was only the Disneyland Park.  Now there is a a second park, Walt Disney Studio Park, which opened in 2002.  You first go through security which covers both parks, then clear the ticket entrance separately for each park.  The Disneyland Hotel is within the secured area.  Another deluxe property, the New York Hotel, is currently under renovation being re-imagined with a Marvel theme.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Big Thunder Mountain Railway in Disneyland Paris.

We started at Disneyland Park.  There were familiar parts and others that were added after my first visit.  We went straight to my favorite ride, Big Thunder Mountain railroad.  The queue is along the main pathway, but you go under the water after boarding to go to the mountain.  It may be that I have the one in Florida memorized so I don’t get the surprise element anymore, but I thought this Parisian version was just terrific.  The Florida version is definitely better than California, but the ride at Disneyland Paris is by far the best in the use of the theme and the most exciting ride.  The one section I really don’t like in Florida-the jerky section through the western town-has been eliminated here.  The ride is faster and more thrilling and the return through the underwater tunnel at the end is really fast.  We all loved it!

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma at Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris.

Next we headed over to Phantom Manor (their version of the Haunted Mansion as it is called in the US parks).  It has just reopened after a renovation.  There was no line.  They worked to incorporate the US old west theme into this ride so it works better than its Florida counterpart given its location in the park in Frontierland.  There are some elements that have carried over from the US parks, but the story is entirely different and its a little scarier.  We really liked it.  Just before you head in there is also a pavilion where you can meet Phantom Mikey; this is the only park where he appears.  We plan on getting that picture on the last day.  There is generally a line for that photo.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma and Maggie at the Temple of Peril, unique to Disneyland, Paris.

We tried a newer ride, Indiana Jones’ Temple of Peril.  This is a short outdoor roller coaster, completely different from the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland in California.  They did a great job with the theme elements and setting the mood, but the ride itself is short and jerky.  We didn’t have any interest in going again, in spite of the fact that you could walk right on.  No crowd at all.  Anyone who had been there before apparently avoided it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The theme elements on Indiana Jones’ Temple of Peril at Disneyland Paris are very well done.

We decided it was time for a great roller coaster, so we headed over to Hyperspace Mountain.  When I visited in 1995 there were long lines and the ride had a Jules Vern theme.  This time we walked right on.  I couldn’t believe it.  Arguably it is the best version of Space Mountain.  They added a Star Wars theme on a temporary basis, but it proved popular so the star wars elements are being left in place.  In fact on the Disney website it is referred to as Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Eve and Wall-E can be seen in Discoveryland near Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.  Below, Maggie and Emma checked out the iconic Astro Orbiter.

Hyperspace Mountain was the location that Boris abandoned me on our first visit.  He and Rocky said they would look around a little and then wait at the exit while I rode-Rocky was too young and Boris doesn’t like rollercoasters (well, most rides actually).  But they took off and didn’t return for over 2 hours; they showed up 45 minutes after I got off.  I was pretty panicked by then.  It had gotten dark, was freezing cold, and I was in a country where I did not speak the language.  Yes, I still remember it (vividly) and no, I wasn’t happy about it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost in Disneyland Paris.

We decided we would get some lunch before the afternoon parade, having rode the big/busy rides in this park.  We went back to Adventureland and tried Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost; Colonel Hathi is the elephant herd leader in The Jungle Book.  It was a charming building with lovely flowers that offers both in and outside dining.  However, the service at this counter service restaurant was horrible-long lines and extremely slow response times.  This was the worst I had ever experienced at any Disney park and this is the the low season.  The food was not great either.  The best part was the building and the live entertainment.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Loved Malificent’s hat on the sign for the entrance to the dragon’s dungeon in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland Paris.

After lunch we slipped in to see one of special and unique elements at Disneyland Paris.  The castle here is Sleeping Beauty’s and it comes complete with a chained dragon in the dungeon. There are several entrances, but from each you can see the dragon move and take a look around.  Definitely worth a stop.

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The dragon in the dungeon of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Disneyland Paris.

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The dragon in the dungeon of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Disneyland Paris.

We entered from the side of the castle, but you can also go in and out through a giftshop in the castle interior.  The shop features lovely Christmas decorations as well as dragon-themed items.  The interior detail was quite impressive including the light fixtures and the stone-looking fireplace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the castle giftshop at Disneyland Paris. You’ll notice the characters from Sleeping Beauty are featured in the fireplace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Parade at Disneyland Paris

Afterwards, we stepped out of the castle and saw the parade.  It was great character watching.  It is similar, yet different from other Disney parades.  I think this is the only parade that they do at either of the two Disneyland Paris parks.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Our room at the Santa Fe Hotel, Disneyland Paris.

We went back to the hotel so we could move our luggage to our room.  Maggie changed into one of her Disneybounding outfits.  She was inspired by Ariel and made a unique skirt and added other clothing pieces to complete the outfit.  Maggie designs and sews all of her outfits.  She has even made ones for Emma and I and a Star Wars themed hat for Rocky.

We

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Maggie with the character that inspired her at Auberge de Cendrillon in Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Auberge de Cendrillon restaurant in Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Paris. A pumpkin carriage is parked outside.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Auberge de Cendrillon at Disneyland Paris.

We selected several of the unique dining venues at the parks to try during our trip.  Tonight we are going to the restaurant in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Auberge de Cendrillon.  It may be Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but this is Cinderella’s Royal Table.  No worries on how she gets there each day; her coach is parked outside.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Emma with one of the rarely seen Disney characters.

This is character dining with some of the Disney princesses.  I give the entertainment staff a lot of credit.  This is not a rushed interaction; the princesses stay and talk to you quite a while.  It was also a much better dining experience than lunch.  However, you pay dearly for it.  The fixed-price menu is not cheap.  In addition to the traditional Princesses you find at Disney castle dining, two of the sewing mice from Cinderella, Suzy and Perla, also circulated among the diners.  What a treat to see these rarely seen characters.  The big surprise was the conversation with the princesses, some of them almost broke character at times.  Sleeping Beauty even asked if we knew who she was; apparently most guests do not.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. While Maggie was in her Ariel inspired outfit, we walked through and took some pictures in Fantasyland. Here at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Its a Small World at Disneyland, Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Its a Small World at Disneyland, Paris.

After dinner, we walked through Fantasyland.  This is one of the original sections of the park.  Afterwards, we decided to ride Its a Small World, a traditional favorite.  Some of the displays were different from the the US parks.  The surprise was that they had several displays depicting  American  and Canadian culture.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Its a Small World at Disneyland, Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Its a Small World at Disneyland, Paris.

Before the evening show, we walked around and even rode a few rides that we loved again-like Big Thunder Mountain.  The nighttime castle show was a combination of Illumination-like lasers, the castle light show, and fireworks.  It was a great show in the true Disney standard, but I did not like it as much as the Florida show.  We were glad we stayed to see it, but I didn’t feel that I needed a repeat showing.  Tomorrow our plan is to take advantage of early entry at the Walt Disney Studio Park.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Nighttime at Disneyland Paris.

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A chance to see Notre Dame before our visit to see the (European) Mouse

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Notre Dame Cathedral in May 2019

Note:  Most of the pictures in this blog post are of Notre Dame Cathedral as it looked in May 2019, one month after the fire that ravaged the 850-year-old church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance to Disneyland Paris.

So I will start with a bit of background as to why I am back in Europe so soon.  Disneyland Paris opened as EuroDisney in 1992, but two years later it adopted the name it operates under today.  I visited in the early years of its operation and now have a chance to visit again.  Anyone who regularly reads the blog knows our family (well, not Boris) loves Disney and we jump at the chance to make a visit.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Paris on a wet May evening

My niece Maggie will be doing an internship at the World Court at the Hague in the Netherlands and is going to Europe early for a little sightseeing.  I got an invitation to go along.  Having just finished a 3-week transatlantic crossing and visits to Portugal and Great Britian, I was tempted to pass.  However, it had been cheaper to buy a roundtrip ticket to and from London so I had already paid for return air.  Their departure date was the fictitious return date I had selected months earlier.  I decided it was fate.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Still Beautiful, Notre Dame in May 2019

Maggie and Emma (my sister and Maggie’s mom) are going directly to Paris.  My return flight is to London so I will fly in and head over to Paris to meet up with them there.  I was surprised to find that it would take as long to change terminals and airlines and catch a flight to Paris as it would be to take the TUBE into town and go over on the Eurostar.  I didn’t want to pay to check a bag on a flight, so I decided to save a little money and take the train to Paris.  I figured it would be easier to sleep on the train than in the airport terminal waiting for my Paris flight after the long flight over.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Paris, France

In addition to not paying to take a bag with me, I liked having an assigned seat (again without paying more), and was able to enjoy the view out the window in route.  I would also end up in the city with a direct metro line only five stops from the hotel Emma had selected.  That is a lot of rationalization.  I admit this travel option was a bit nostalgic for me; more on that later.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris on the Ile de la Cite as seen from the River Seine, May 2018.

We are spending the night in Paris before going over to the park.  Before my arrival in Paris, they are visiting several museums and taking a tour of the Paris Opera House.  I have done the Opera House tour and highly recommend it.

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©Jean Janssen. Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera House, France.

All of us had flight issues.  I landed a little late, but the real problems began at passport control in the UK.  I had never seen the lines at London Heathrow that long.  They did have a fair number of officers working, but the volume of visitors on this Friday was beyond the additional queue markers that had been set up.  When I had been in line an hour and a half and had only moved up through a third of the line, I started texting Emma and Maggie to let them know I might miss my train.  (I don’t even want to think about how long passport control will be when/if the UK really does leave the European Union.)

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Paris, France

Eventually, they got a few more officers checking passports, but I didn’t get through the queue until 15 minutes after my drop dead time.  In all, I was there over 3 hours.  Suddenly that 5-hour window between my flight and train reservation didn’t seem like enough.  I still had to collect my bag, go through customs, get on the TUBE to the St. Pancras station (you don’t have to change lines, but it is not an express train), go through security at Eurostar, and be at the Eurostar terminal at least 30 minutes before departure.  You often can’t get into the Eurostar waiting area more than 1 hour before departure due to space issues, but you must arrive at least 30 minutes before the train unless you are a premier passenger (who must arrive at least 10 minutes before departure).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Paris France

There are frequent Eurostar trains to Paris each day, but the next one was 2 hours after mine.  Also, there was a 60 euro change fee and an increased ticket price for the later departures that I would have to pay.  Fortunately the bags had been pulled off the belt at Heathrow and I found mine; there was a station attendant who not only told me confirmed what tube line to use but also helped me get my ticket; and I was able to get on a train in less than 3 minutes after arriving on the platform.  With every stop on the TUBE, I recalculated my arrival time at St. Pancras.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  One month after the fire.  Stabilization and reservation measures were already in place at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

I made it.  The line was still open for my train.  I saw people arguing with an attendant because they were there before their train’s departure but after the designated time.  They were not allowed into the security queue.  It took a while for me to get through security and passport control out of the UK and into France (which allows you to just get off the train when we arrive in Paris) at the St. Pancras Station terminal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire, stabilization and reservation measures were already in place at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

Eurostar offers direct train service from London’s St. Pancras Station to Paris’ Gare du Nord, a portion of which is travel under the English Channel by use of the Channel Tunnel, commonly referred to as the chunnel.  The chunnel opened on May 6 (Boris’ birthday), 1994 creating the only “fixed link” between England and Continental Europe.  This trip is a bit of nostalgia for me.  My first chunnel crossing was in December 1995 when we were among the first Americans to make the trip.  It was on this same trip that I visited Disneyland Paris for the first time.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

Back then, London to Paris and the reverse were the only routes they operated.  Additionally, there was only one crossing each day.  Today, Eurostar has 7 direct routes and many connections.  There are 19 options each day for travel from London to Paris.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

That year, Boris wanted to take Rocky on his first European trip.  He had business in London and we both went along for the time between Christmas and New Years.  Before we left for London, Rocky didn’t feel great so I called the pediatrician; I was advised to just give him a COKE and take him along.  He felt worse when we arrived in London.  The only thing he saw was the Tower of London.  The next day I had to take him to a British doctor and we spent the rest of the time in the hotel room as he recovered.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

When it came time to make our Eurostar crossing, we sat in the center of the car with 3 seats facing a center console.  A French family sat facing us across the table.  When Rocky threw up all over my coat, the mother commented that the train movement must have been unsettling for him.  She didn’t know the half of it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

In Paris Rocky’s recovery continued.  He does have fond memories of his visit to the Eiffel Tower.  Boris was so eager for him to remember the trip positively, that our last full day in Europe he took us to the newly renamed Disneyland Paris.  It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 Celsius); the pirate ship sat next to a frozen waterfall.  Once again, we were among some of the first Americans to visit the park.  I will be curious to see how much I remember.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

Just after I cleared Eurostar security for this trip, they called my train and I got right on.  I am an aisle girl on an airplane, but on a train I like to sit by the window and enjoy the view (except durning the chunnel portion of the trip).  A young woman was in my seat.  She moved for me, but that started a conversation that lasted the entire 2+ hour journey. It was an interesting conversation, but by the end it was almost impossible for me to keep my eyes open and I had missed my nap window.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

When we arrived in Paris and got up to pull down our bags, the man in front of us decided it was time to share the following with us:  “congratulations, you talked continuously for the entire trip”.  I told him he should have mentioned it if we were bothering him.  My seat mate was not as polite.  She complained that people she met in Europe (she is originally from South America) preferred to complain afterwards instead of telling you at the time if your behavior bothered them.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One month after the fire and stabilization and reservation measures were already well underway at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France.

I transferred to the metro line to go from Gare du Nord to the Les Halles metro stop.  I was barely conscious so it took me a while to figure out the ticket machine-which one, what route, etc.  When I got to Les Halles I was fortunate to have had Emma identify which exit out of the metro to take.  (There were at least five.)  My walking navigation on the phone just took me in circles, but fortunately a young man on a motorized scooter helped me find the hotel.  Emma and Maggie were napping.  I decided that was a good idea.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris in May 2018

I missed their next museum visit, but joined them for a walk over to Notre Dame.  It had been just a month since the shocking fire that ravaged the 850-year -old iconic church.  My first visit to Notre Dame was in 1986 while I was still in law school; I have visited multiple times since then.  Just last year, Boris and I had stopped by on his 60th birthday trip to Paris.  Less than three years ago, we had enjoyed an anniversary dinner in Paris at La Tour d’Argent.  The historic restaurant has been in operation since 1582 and is known for its amazing views of Notre Dame.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Paris.

On the walk over we stopped for dinner at a sidewalk cafe, a must for any Paris visitor.  After dinner we walked over to Notre Dame.  A month after the fire, you could get pretty close on foot.  The immediate area was barricaded and guarded.  We walked around most of perimeter and I was impressed with the stabilization and reservation methods already being employed.  You have seen the shots of what I saw from multiple angles throughout this blog post.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen

It started raining on the walk back, so we stopped into another sidewalk cafe for drinks and desserts.  When it slowed, we started out again only for the  sky to let loose about 4 blocks from our hotel.  We looked like drowned rats when we got back to the hotel, but after hanging up our wet clothes and turning the hair dryer on inside our tennis shoes, it was time for a good night’s sleep before our train to Disneyland Paris in the morning.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Paris, France

 

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Portugal: A castle, a beach, and the westernmost point of Continental Europe

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

Today, our last full day in Portugal, Boris and I are taking separate tours.  Boris is headed to see the lines of Torres Vedras.  I am going to see some of the most popular sites near Lisbon on a small group tour.  We will stop in Sintra and its Pena Castle, Casa de Roca, and the beach at Cascais.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the state rooms in the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

Since I am on my own, I selected a tour that included a hotel pick up rather than going to a meeting point; it does cost a few euros more that way but I wasn’t familiar with the tram and bus system around Lisbon.  Every time I looked the lines for public transportation were exceptionally long.

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Natasha at the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

I was the first to be picked up.  We have a van that seats 8+.  The driver invited me to sit in front since I was on my own.  We had a bit of trouble at the second stop.  The rest of the group were young doctors who had just finished their training at a medical school in the Caribbean.  They had had a long night in Lisbon (got in at 7 am) and weren’t ready to be picked up at 8:30.  We shifted two independent tourists from the other vehicle into our van and the three of us headed out with Igor, our guide.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  The triton arch at the Pena Palace featuring a mythical creature symbolizes creation. The entire gateway shows elements of water, coral, and shells, while the upper portion depicts greenery.

Among the tour participants were two young professionals,  a 32-year old Indian gentleman who now lives in Manhattan and a Korean woman in her mid twenties who lived in the US during high school.  I was delighted everyone spoke English.  We all loved to take pictures and got along really well, although I am much older than the other tour participants and our guide.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sintra, Portugal. If you look at the top of the mountains you will see the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace.

We drove to Sintra and then on to Pena Castle to be in the tour group line before the castle opening at 9:30 am.  There is a steep climb up to the castle from the point where you park.  Be prepared for the hike.  I did have to stop briefly a few times while my generous companions waited for me.  You can make the 50-minute climb from the train station in Sintra, but it is not recommended.  Catch the tourist bus up from the city and know that you will still have the climb I did and also need reserve energy to walk and climb around the castle itself.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Tile detail on the Pena Castle. From a distance it looks blue or gray. Up close, the tile and stonework is fantastic.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Often, different but coordinating tile patterns were used in the decoration of the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

Set in the beautiful Pena Park Forest, the castle is fairytale-like.  It reflects a mix of architectural styles and different cultural and religious influences.  In some places you have to get closer to notice the details, but the lovely Portuguese tiles are found throughout the structure.  This is my second visit.  The first time I only saw the exterior of the castle.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Archway at the entrance to the Pena Castle.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Beautiful interior of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

The basic admission charge is 7.5 euros (in 2019) and almost double that if you want to also see the interiors.  There are reduced rates for children age 6-17 and for families.  If you are booking a tour check to see if the palace tour is included.  Sometimes it is and sometimes companies do not include it to make their package price appear lower.  The circumstances for our group varied depending on who each of us booked our tour through.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

On a weekend and throughout the busy season, the castle is packed with tourists.  You will want to arrive early and be one of the first ones through the gates.  Tour groups go in a separate line.  By 10:30 am the castle was stuffed with visitors.  You will be tempted to walk around the amazing exterior, but instead (if you chose the full ticket) head straight to the interior tour line so you can walk around inside while there is still room to see things and take pictures.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. My wonderful tour companions at the Pena Castle.

I knew Boris wouldn’t believe it, but the two other members of our tour group actually  took more pictures than I did.  They also took a lot more pictures of themselves and of/for each other.  Ah to be young and beautiful!

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One of the beautiful interior ceilings at the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. State Rooms in the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The dining room in the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal was one of the few rooms in the castle to survive the earthquake.

Some of my favorite parts of the interior include the wonderful ceilings and the state rooms.  The dining room is one of the few spaces that was not damaged by the earthquake.  The castle has been restored to the look it had in 1910 when the Portuguese royal family had to flee to Brazil.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Stained glass window in the Chapel at the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The stained glass window in the Chapel in the Pena Palace shows the king holding replica of the castle in his hand.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. If you look even closer, you can see that they have replicated the stained glass window within the panel.

By far my favorite part of the interior tour was the chapel and the wonderful stained glass.  Like the dining room, this space miraculously was spared in the earthquake of 1755.  If you take a close look at the stained glass window,  you can see the king holding a miniature of the castle.  Look closely at the chapel window and you will see the stained glass window represented.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. This is one of the few original ceilings in the Pena Palace not damaged by the earthquake of 1755.

The palace was a pilgrimage site in the middle ages to see the chapel of Our Lady of Penha.  Priests would trek up the mountain daily to say mass.  Later, a residence structure was added.  The structures served as a monastery until the monasteries were nationalized in 1834.  The monastery was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1755.  “In 1838, German Ferdinand Saxe Coburg-Gotha (1816-1885), King Consort of Queen Maria II, bought the ruins of the monastery, the woods and the Castle of the Moors… and initiated the construction of a road that would link the palace to Sintra.”  Portugal Virtual.  Ferdinand began remodeling the monastery in 1840 and in 1845 added another complex of buildings.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Gateway terrace at the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

Today, those buildings painted in red are the remodeled parts of the monastery.  Those buildings painted in yellow are part of the “New Palace” inspired by the palaces and castles of Bavaria, Ferdinand’s homeland.  It was Ferdinand that chose and directed the color distinction.  The family used the palace as their summer residence.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Moorish Castle as seen from Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal.

After our interior tour, we enjoyed the views from the Queen’s terrace (where you will find the steps up to the chapel) and then went up to walk around the castle’s purely decorative battlements.  From this vantage point, there are excellent views of the parkland, city, and the Moorish Castle.  This walkway can be tricky.  The walls are low and the pathway is narrow at certain points.  On particularly crowded days with traffic going both directions, passing other tourists could be hazardous.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Exiting Pena Castle through the lower archway.

The castle is a photographer’s dream and I was fortunate that my fellow travelers felt the same way.  We were a bit behind schedule when we left the castle probably due in part to our delay in Lisbon with the late participants and partly due to our desire to photograph the castle (and us with it) from every angle.  Igor was most patient.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The terraced city of Sintra, Portugal.

A portion of our group caught up to us at the castle.  They were with the other guide.  Leaving Pena Palace behind, we went down to visit the city of Sintra.  Like the castle, the color of the older historic buildings is dictated by the government.  In Sintra, Igor dropped us off and gave us free time to walk around, take pictures, shop, or get a snack.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A selfie in Sintra.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sintra, Portugal.

I used my time to walk around and take pictures.  I wandered briefly by the shops, but only went inside a bakery and purchased some treats.  Due to our late start and the fact that some of the other participants were going to join us in Sintra, we are eating lunch rather late.  Any excuse for a pastry.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In Sintra, Portugal

The rest of the graduating medical students joined us in the two vans in Sintra.  They could have taken the train to meet us, but since it required a transfer and they are pressed for time, they decided just to UBER.  Unfortunately, they missed the highlight of the tour and had the added transportation expense.  A few still looked a little green around the gills (in fact, one guest in the other van required a few special stops), but the others in the group were very friendly.  I was old enough to be everyone’s mother, but still felt included in the conversation.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Monument at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Continental Europe.

We passed the original group lunch spot (which would have been Dutch treat) and pressed on to Cabo Da Roca so our new participants would get to see something before we stopped for lunch.  The westernmost point of Europe is actually in the Azores which we visited last week.  However, today I am visiting the westernmost point in Continental Europe, Cabo da Roca.  The site is off the beaten path, but there is signage.  There are no entrance fees.  The parking lot was very crowded on this holiday weekend.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lighthouse at Cabo da Roca, Portugal.

There is a lighthouse at Cabo da Roca that dates from 1772.  It is actually the first purpose-built lighthouse in Portugal and is still operational.  The lighthouse is not open to the public.  Also, there is a monument at the lookout point.  On a crowded day like today, you’ll have to wait your turn to get a photograph.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The marked off area and rescue vehicles in place at Cabo da Roca, Portugal.

The views at Cabo da Roca are breathtaking, but that was not what first captured our attention.  In route, Igor told us about the many deaths that occur at the site because people get too close to the edge.  He said if you see emergency vehicles, there has been a death.  It is not an infrequent occurrence, but none of us thought that was just what we would find.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Rescue workers cliffside at Cabo da Roca, Portugal.

Fortunately what we saw on arrival was actually a rescue operation underway (not a recovery operation for a body).  Around 2 am, a man had fallen off the cliff and was injured and trapped on the cliffside.  About 10 am when visitors starting arriving to the site, tourists heard him yelling.  When we arrived about 2 pm, the complicated rescue operation was still underway.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Marker at Cabo da Roca, Portugal.

It took a bit for me to mentally regroup and go off to enjoy the views and mark the occasion of my visit to this point.  I enjoy my treks to the ends of the earth.  Check out my post on my visit to Cape of Good Hope (often mistakenly thought-including at one point by Natasha-to be the southern tip of Africa).  I have also been to Cape Horn (southern tip of South America).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. View of the ocean from Cabo da Roca. Note the people out on the edge of the rocks.

The pathway is a little rough and in spite of the rescue operation taking place on the opposite side, some people went past the fence line and headed out onto the rocks.  I wandered back to the van while enjoying the views and the coastal grasses and flora.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Adapted vegetation at Cabo da Roca.

Cabo da Roca is about a 40 minute drive from Lisbon, but we have more places to see along our return route. We stopped for a peek at the beach before heading into the popular seaside town of Cascais for lunch and free time.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Beautiful coastline and beach near Cascais, Portugal.

Igor dropped us off at the police station at the port.  From that spot I wandered into town to get some lunch (more mussels and a cider) and to do a bit of shopping.  I found some scarves that were patterned like Portuguese tiles and got them for the girls-mom, myself, Maggie, and Emma.  It is Mother’s Day here and I will share them with the girls on Mother’s Day back in the States.  I did go down to see the small beach in town, clearly a popular destination on this holiday.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Cascais, Portugal.

We made one final stop before our ride back to Lisbon.  We went to Hell’s Mouth, the rock formation at Boca do Inferno less than 2 miles from Cascais, Portugal.  According to Cascais-Portugal.com, “[t]he ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs chiseled out a small cave, which subsequently collapsed forming a small bay and natural arch.  In the summer these waves merely splash around in the open cave, but during winter storms the full force of the ocean is funneled into the chasm which gives rise to the name of the rock formation.”

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Natasha at Boca do Inferno, Casais, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. “Hell’s Mouth” Boca do Inferno, Casais, Portugal

This was a great spot for picures.  Afterwards, we headed back into Lisbon.  Because my hotel is closest to the office, I was the last one dropped off.  Igor was not only a great guide but I really enjoyed talking to him.  And come on, Igor and Natasha…the names go so well together.  I had to get a picture.

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Igor and Natasha at Hell’s Mouth, Casais, Portugal

What a great trip in Portugal.  I’m coming back.

–Natasha

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Fatima, Portugal and a few Monasteries

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal.

Today Boris and I are taking a private tour out of Portugal to see Fatima and a few recommended sites within two hours of Lisbon.  There are all kinds of tour itineraries and group sizes (at a wide range of prices) to see these popular destinations.  Since we are before the high season we were able to get the private tour at a good price.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Fatima, Portugal.

As a Catholic, I have heard of Fatima my whole life.  This is the location where the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children on multiple occasions over the course of six months.  It is one of several pilgrimage sites in deeply Catholic Portugal.   Ironically, the name of the city is from the name of a Muslim woman who married a Christian ruler.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Shrine at Fatima, Portugal.

We started our day with the hotel buffet breakfast once again running into a couple we had met on the cruise ship.  Like us, they are taking a variety of tours in and around Lisbon after completing the transatlantic crossing.  M’Liss Gee Hinshaw, also a travel blogger, had just done a food tour of the city.  You can find her postings at Mlisstravels.com.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A traditional Portuguese pastry.

There was some confusion with the driver.  We were waiting in the lobby 5 minutes before our pick-up time, but he had arrived earlier and spoke to the front desk.  The room reservation was in Boris’ name, but I had booked the tour in my name so the driver was told that there was no one under that name staying at the hotel.  (I use my maiden name.)  Luckily the driver waited outside and after a call or two we met up with him.  Our first stop will be Fatima.  The countryside was quite beautiful, but with an early morning start I admit to being somewhat tired and closing my eyes a few times.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Monastery at Saint Mary of the Victories in Batalha, Portugal as seen from the cloister.

I was under the impression that our driver was also a guide, but he said very little in the hour plus drive to Fatima.  The first place he took us was a gift shop under the pretense of a toilet stop.  Ah, let the kickbacks begin.  Actually, they had some lovely rosaries so I purchased several for family members.  This small community has swelled to 50,000.  There is some industry in the area, but at least 40% of the population is there to support the tourism associated with the shrine.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Stable at the home of Lucia Santos near Fatima, Portugal.

As travel writer Rick Steves put it, “[w]andering through the religious and commercial zones, you see the 21st-century equivalent of a medieval pilgrimage center: lots of beds, cheap eateries, fields of picnic tables and parking lots, and countless religious souvenir stands — all ready for the mobs of people who inundate the place each 12th and 13th day of the month from May through October.”

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the stable at Lucia Santo’s home in Aljustrel, Portugal.

Our next stop was the village home of the three shepherd children, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto.  The children reported visions of a luminous lady believed to be the Virgin Mary on the 13th of the month between May and October of 1917.   No vision occurred in August as authorities detained and jailed the children for two days.  The Virgin Mary appeared to the children in the Cova da Iria fields outside the hamlet of Aljustrel near Fatima, Portugal.  Noteworthy is the fact that  the visions took place during World War I and brought a feeling of hope to war-torn citizens.  The children were grilled relentlessly about the truth of their story; they never wavered.  The miracle was recognized by the Catholic Church in 1930.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Home of Francisco Marto near Fatima, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lucia Santo’s aunt welcomes visitors near Fatima, Portugal.

You are able to go inside the homes of the children, interesting as a depiction of village life during that time more than anything else.  Lucia’s great niece has also set up a spot where you can visit her.  I suspect she lives off of the generosity of her visitors.  The two cousins only lived to 1919 when they died of Spanish Flu.  There was a group in the home handing out religious cards noting the centennial of the death of Francisco. Lucia spent the rest of her life in a convent.  She died in 2005.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Stained Glass in the Basilica at the Shrine in Fatima Portugal.

We appear to be just ahead of the big crowds.  The buses were rolling in as we were leaving.  Leaving the small community, we drove back to the religious pilgrimage site.  By now we had figured out that our driver was just that.  He actually repeatedly said he was a driver and not a guide.  Without conviction, he would give us a canned speech, about a paragraph or two, and then point us in a particular direction.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Looking out from the Basilica, past the outdoor altar, you see the site of the apparitions on the right, the new church in the distance, and the museum on the left. The white stripe on the ground (center, right) is the smooth space for people to approach the chapel on their knees. Shrine at Fatima Portugal.

The shrine covers a large area.  Rick Steves provides the following excellent discretion of the grounds:  “The esplanade, a huge assembly ground facing the basilica, is impressive even without the fanfare of a festival day. The fountain in the middle provides holy water for pilgrims to take home. You’ll see the oak tree and Chapel of the Apparitions marking the spot where Mary appeared; a place for lighting and leaving candles; and a long smooth route on the pavement for pilgrims to approach the chapel on their knees.”

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Basilica at the Shrine at Fatima, Portugal.

The large Basilica was completed in 1953.  The tombs of the shepherd children are inside.  The Basilica has huge colonnades on either sides and reminded me of St. Peter’s in Rome.  At the other end of the grounds is the newer church completed in 2007.  It holds 9,000 worshipers.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lighting candles at the shrine in Fatima, Portugal.

We started our visit by purchasing candles to dedicate to family members.  Unlike lighting a candle in a church, these candles are thrown into a raging fire.  They came in various sizes and were not expensive.  Some families chose candles so large they towered over their head while holding them.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Visitors stand in line to light candles at the shrine at Fatima. Note the tall candles.

We stopped next for silent prayer at the Chapel of the Apparitions and shared the time with other visitors.  At times during our visit the site, young pilgrims spoke or a priest led the congregation in a rosary in the Chapel.  From the new church to the Chapel, I saw devotees coming forward on their knees.  The very large oak tree sits next to the Chapel.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The chapel at the site of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. Pilgrims approach the shrine on their knees.

Boris didn’t want to make the climb to the Basilica, so he sat on the wall surrounding the oak while I went up and in.  The church is not particularly ornate and the stained glass very modern, but I loved the grave markers for the shepherd children.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. At the graves of the shepherd girls at the shrine at Fatima.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. At the grave of Francisco Manto at the shrine at Fatima.

When I came out, Boris was nowhere to be found, so I walked the park grounds to the new church.  Our driver gave us the wrong time for Mass, but I did get a peak inside.  I also got a picture at the statute of John Paul II, the Polish Pope my mother shares her heritage with.  Pope John Paul II  visited Fatima three times, initiated the construction of the new church, and offered a relic from the Vatican for the church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The new church at the Shrine at Fatima Portugal.

There is also a large museum on the grounds, but our driver did not recommend a visit there.   I returned to find Boris at the tree and we completed our visit before crossing the street to grab a quick drink before meeting our driver.  From Fatima we drove to Batalha to see the impressive monastery.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Portal at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories in Batalha, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal.

A visitor is immediately struck by the exterior of the monastery.  Our driver told us he always gets a “Wow”.  There is a “shopping mall” next door designed to capture the tourist euros.   We had chosen to include a lunch with our tour, so we went first to a restaurant in this shopping area where our driver was well known and had made a reservation.  Once again he pointed us in and left us.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lunch of Salted Cod, a traditional Portuguese favorite.

We were given bread, olives, butter, which we have found is the standard in seated restaurants.  It comes with a small cover charge.  We noted the table next to us wanted to save a euro and waved it away when offered.  Next we got fried pastries one with a filling of meet, one with seafood, and a third with cheese.  I got the salted cod with chips (think thin round potatoes but not the salty ultra thin American variety).  Boris had the pork.  We ended with traditional desserts.  Mine was a pastry with an egg filling; wonderful!  Boris had the local beer, while I enjoyed sparkling water.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories in Batalha, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Exterior of the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Exterior of the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

After our driver’s next canned speech, Boris and I toured the monastery.  You can enter the church at no charge, but if you want to visit the rest of the buildings you pay a small fee.  Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the exterior of the unfinished chapels and wanted to include those in my visit so Boris and I chose to pay the fee and see the rest.  He probably regretted it later, because I took the time to take a lot of pictures of this beautiful monastery.  I also enjoyed the diminished crowds after the morning and early afternoon in Fatma.

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Tickets are required to enter the Founders Chapel just to the right after the entrance. Inside are the tombs of King John I of Portugal (d.1433) and his wife Philippa of Lancaster (d.1415). Also in the chapel are the tombs of four of John’s younger sons, including Henry the Navigator.

After a look at the church, we went inside the Founder’s Chapel just to the right after you enter the monastery church.  Entrance is part of the paid ticket (although no one was checking when we were there).  Under the rotunda are the graves of King Joao (John) and his wife Philippa of Lancaster.  Four of John’s sons are also buried in the chapel, including Henry, known widely as Henry the Navigator.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the Royal Cloister at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Looking into the gardens of the Royal Cloister at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal.

At the other end of the church to the left side is the entrance to the cloisters of the monastery and also the pathway to the unfinished chapels.  They were more diligent at checking our tickets here.  They asked if we had already visited the Founders’ Chapel and stamped our ticket for both areas.  This area included a special exhibit and the wonderful arched pathways around peaceful gardens.  There was also a gift shop and museum.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The star faulted ceiling of the Chaterhouse at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha Portugal. Home of the Portuguese Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Portuguese Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in the Chapterhouse and was guarded by military personnel.  The space features a star vaulted ceiling.  It is said that the ceiling was constructed at great risk and that as a result only condemned prisoners were allowed to work on it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Approaching the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Exterior of the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance to the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal from the inside.

By far, my favorite part of the monastery was the Unfinished Chapels, built by King Joao’s son Dom Duarte as another mausoleum.  The chapels are quite elegant; even the ravages of centuries and the open exposure do not diminish the beauty.  In fact, I suggests that it adds to it.  The chapels are tall structures with beautiful detail work and lovely stained glass.  The afternoon light created colored patterns on the floor as it came through the windows.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Stain Glass reflection in the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. From inside the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

The chapels sit near the rear of the main building and are only accessible through a separate door. The main chapel structure is a tall octagonal rotunda with seven smaller, hexagonal chapels branching off it.  Most of the chapels are empty except for the pigeon nests: only Dom Duarte and his wife Eleanor of Aragon are interred here.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior ceiling of one of the small side chapels, part of the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  Tomb of Dom Duarte and his wife Eleanor of Aragon in the Unfinished Chapels at the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories, Batalha, Portugal

We rejoined our driver and left Batalha enjoying more of the countryside on our way to Alcobaca.  Both the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victories at Batalha and the Monastery of Alcobaca are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  According to UNESCO, “[t]he Monastery of Santa Maria d’Alcobaça, north of Lisbon, was founded in the 12th century by King Alfonso I. Its size, the purity of its architectural style, the beauty of the materials and the care with which it was built make this a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art.”

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Monastery of Santa Maria d’Alcobaca, Alcobaca, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Alcobaca Monastery, Alcobaca, Portugal.

The driver recommended a bakery across the street for a snack after our visit and told us we wouldn’t need as much time to tour the Alcobaca Monastery.  He mentioned that it was not ornate and that we would not be able to enter the cloisters.  What he actually should have said was that the cloisters were open for visitors (and feature lovely tile work that I could see through the door) but that we didn’t have time for a visit to any area other than the church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Tomb of Ines de Castro, Monastery of Santa Maria d’Alcobaca, Alcobaca, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Tomb of King Pedro I of Portugal in the Alcobaca Monastery, Alcobaca, Portugal.

The monastery is most often visited as a pilgrimage site to see the twin tombs of Pedro I and Ines de Castro.  Young Pedro, son of King Alfonso, fell in love with his wife’s lady in waiting.  Ines was exiled by the King, but returned upon the death of Pedro’s wife and Ines and Pedro resumed their relationship and had four children.  Worried about the connection between Portugal and Spain and that the couple’s relationship might be viewed as an insult, the King ordered the death of Ines.  She was murdered in front of one of her children in 1355.  The event resulted in a civil war.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Alcobaca Monastery, Portugal

Upon the death of King Alfonso in 1357, Pedro ascended to the throne.  His first act was to order the recovery and death of Ines’s murders.  “[Pedro also] exhumed Ines from her grave in the church of Santa Clara and set her up on the throne and then forced the noblemen, the clergy, and the peasants to bow before his dead queen and kiss her hand.”  The story of the couple has inspired poets, painters, authors, and filmmakers.  Although damaged by Napoleon’s troops, the tombs remain a visitor’s favorite.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Alcobaca Monastery, Alcobaca, Portugal

 

 

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Land Ho: Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal.

After a twelve-day crossing we arrived in Lisbon in the evening.  Those who were flying out in the morning took advantage of the opportunity to disembark for an evening out.  There is also an excursion for a twilight tour, Fado, and dinner.  We are going to stay on board, pack, and enjoy dinner and local entertainers who are coming on board for the evening.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Fado music and dancing aboard the Azamara Journey at berth in Lisbon.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Evening sky of Lisbon from our balcony on the Azamara Journey.

We got off the ship in the morning and like many of our fellow cruisers are staying on in Lisbon for a few days.  We took a cab to our hotel and were fortunate that we could get a room right away.  We unpacked a little and then headed out with our Hop On/Hop Off tickets to explore the city.  We usually make a circuit and then go back around getting off where we have interest.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal

A bit of history about the natural disaster that hit Lisbon in 1755 is in order before we take off, as it effects everything we will see today.  On the morning of All Saints Day, November 1, 1755, a 9.0 earthquake rocked the city for three and a half minutes.  Three tsunamis also hit the city.  November 1 is a significant feast day in the Catholic church and most of city’s population were attending the Latin mass at the time.  Fires stuck out across the city, many believed to have originated from the candles in the churches igniting the feast day flowers.  Many people died in the churches as they collapsed.  In all, over 75,000 people died as a direct result of the earthquake.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. You have to love a purple hotel. Lisbon, Portugal

The king and his family were away from the city at the time the earthquake hit.  “King Joseph I became excessively paranoid after the quake and refused to live in walled buildings. The entire royal court was transferred to a giant tented complex outside of Lisbon where [the king] remained until his death.”  It was the prime minister Sebastião de Melo, the Marquis of Pombal, who saw to the safety of the city and its reconstruction.  It is said, he “overruled the church and prevented an epidemic of diseases by load[ing] the dead onto damaged ships and burning the bodies out [at] sea.”   He oversaw the new city design and the type of construction utilized to prevent the future vulnerability of the city.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Statute of the Marquês de Pombal who led the rebuilding of the city after the 1755 earthquake. Behind the statute is the main departure point for local tour buses in Lisbon, Portugal.

Our hotel is about a 15 minute walk from Marques de Pombal Square (known as the Rotunda until 1998), the main departure point for the various bus company services.  I wanted to say up front that we usually have a wonderful experience with Hop On/Hop Off tours.  Unfortunately, our Lisbon experience was the worse.  First of all, the various companies are hard to distinguish, the buses and employees are poorly marked/identified if at all.  The hotel had actually sold us vouchers (not tickets).  This is not an unusual practice, but the hotel should have mentioned that they are vouchers.  We could not find he stated company named on the tickets and it took us quite a while to determine who to redeem our vouchers with.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the historic district of Lisbon, the buildings are often covered in beautiful tiles. Antique tiles can be worth 1,000 euros each.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Titled building facade in Lisbon, Portugal.

When we finally got tickets, we had to stand in the sun in line waiting for the bus.  The distinct lines only intersect at this point, so you have to make the full circuit before you tackle another route (after having stood in another line)  Our plan had been to start about 10 am and it was 11:05 when our first bus finally left.  Greyline tours the castle route in a large van which was more maneuverable on the narrow streets, but did not provide as good a view.  I love the top of a two-level bus for great views and pictures.  I had to take pictures through glass which is never my preference.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal.

Because of the limited seating no one was getting off, so if you tried to get on the bus at any other stop there was no room.  Half the headphone inputs weren’t working either.  Boris had to move seats three times (when people finally got off) to find one that worked.  He was not the only one with this problem.  Actually the commentary was pretty limited anyway.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. You can now navigate Lisbon in a tuk-tuk.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Heading up Lisbon hills on tram line 28.

The castle route is probably the one with the most up and down hill turns.  I would condition yourself before heading off to Lisbon.  Walking means seeing the most, but you need to be physically fit to manage the hills and cobblestones.  There are lots of forms of transportation to help you navigate the city, especially the steep hills.  The Asian tut-tuk, in a refined form, had made its way to Lisbon and you see them everywhere.  Electric trams which look just like San Francisco cable cars cross the city.  The infamous line 28 car takes you up near the castle.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  Since 1901 the Santa Justa Elevator has transported visitors to new heights in Lisbon, Portugal.  It was designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel.  Its original purpose was to lift citizens to the Barrio Alto neighborhood.  The cars are wood-paneled and still feature their original brass controls.  There are also stairs to an upper viewing terrace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. This might be my favorite picture from Lisbon. It is not the best “photo” but it captures the hilly nature of the city. Note the stairs and the escalator.

There are also funiculars to take you up the steep hills.  I also saw some outside escalators.  Of course you can also do the stairs.  The local buses were also recommended to us.  In some cases, the queues for the buses and trams were exceptionally long.  We were surprised at how crowded the city was this early in the season.  Lisbon has truly been rediscovered.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. You’ll have to walk up a bit from the various forms of public transportation, but yes there is a castle in Lisbon.  St. George’s Castle, Lisbon, Portugal

Make the climb to the castle district to browse around, take in the incredible views, get some exercise and vitamin D, and soak up the feel of the city.  The medieval cathedral is also in this area.  Both a day and night tour might be worth it to experience the different feel of the city at various times of day.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. View of the Praça do Comércio, capital square in Lisbon Portugal, from our cruise ship, the Azamara Journey.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The view looking out to sea from the Praça do Comércio featuring a statute of King Jose I on horseback.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Colonnade along the north side of the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the best parts of the tour was getting a new perspective on places I had seen from the the cruise ship.  The large rectangular riverfront square, the Praça do Comércio, caught my eye on the sail in.  It features wonderful colonnaded and colored buildings, a center statute of King Jose I, and an impressive arch.  Before the earthquake of 1755, the Ribeira Place sat on this site.  The palace was totally destroyed by one of the tsunamis that proceeded the earthquake.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Arco da Rua Augusta sits on the north side of the Praça do Comércio.  This is the view through the arch looking inland.  The arch was build to commemorate the rebuilding of Portugal’s capital city after the 1755 earthquake.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. View through the Arco da Rua Augusta looking to the riverfront square.

The Arco da Rua Augusta, completed in 1875, sits on the north side of the square. The side of the arch facing the square features a figure representing Glory crowning figures representing Bravery and Genius with wreaths.  Below are statutes of national heroes Vasco da Gama and the Marquês de Pombal.  The reverse side of the arch features a clock added in 1941.  The arch is the southern end of the main pedestrian street of the city.  Visitors can now take an elevator up and then climb stairs to a viewing terrance.  In additional to wonderful views, the clock’s mechanisms can be seen.  The arch was built to commemorate the rebuilding of the capital city after the 1755 earthquake which destroyed most of the city.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance portal to the Igreja Conceiçao Velha in Lisbon, Portugal, the only portion of the church to survive the 1755 earthquake.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Detail on the facade of the Igreja Conceiçao Velha in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Detail on the facade of the Igreja Conceiçao Velha in Lisbon, Portugal.

Just north of the square we passed by the Igreja Conceiçao Velha. The facade is incredibly beautiful.  It is the only portion of the church that survived the 1755 earthquake.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The 16th-century Jerónimos monastery in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal.

I wanted to stop and have lunch after returning to the Marquis de Pombal Square,  but Boris wanted to keep going since there was a short queue for the next tour route we planned to take.  We switched to the Belem Route which covers more distance.  The stops on this route include some impressive landmarks.  The city is full of tourists, but the spaces in-between the stops on the Belem route were not congested like in the castle district. Near the waterfront, we stopped at the 16th century Jeronimos Monastery commissioned  by King Manuel I in 1501 to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s historic 1498 trip to India.  Da Gama’s tomb is inside the monastery church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The 16th century Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal as seen from our cruise ship balcony.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Joining the crowds at the Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal.

We got even closer to the waterfront at our next stop at the Belem Tower, which we had also seen from the cruise ship.  It sits on the river’s edge now due to shifting of the watercourse, but it originally sat in the middle of the river.  It was built in between 1515 and 1521 as a fortress.  Like the monastery, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  While the views are reported to be wonderful, Boris and I did not climb the steep spiral staircase to the terrace on top.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon Portugal with the Jerónimos Monastery in the background as seen from the balcony of our cruise ship.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Side view of the Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal.

Another waterfront landmark along the River Tagus is the Monument to the Discoveries.  It is designed to look like the prow of the type of ship used by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century.  The monument was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.  While Henry is at the front, other prominent discoverers are also featured.  An elevator takes you to the top.  The pavement compass and map of the world shows the extent of early Portuguese exploration.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  The Ponte 25 de Abril Suspension Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal

This was also the part of our tour when it was we got our land perspective of the iconic bridge that spans the Tagus.  We crossed under the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge as the cruise ship sailed into Lisbon.  At first glance, you might think you are in San Francisco.  The bridge was designed and constructed by the same group that built the Golden Gate Bridge in California.  It was originally named the Salazar Bridge in 1966 when construction was completed five months ahead of schedule.  The name was later changed to celebrate the bloodless Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974.  The Ponte 25 de Abril Suspension Bridge carries heavy traffic each day and was expanded from 4 to 6 lines in 1995.  A rail line underneath the vehicular traffic was added in 1999.  There is a toll for northbound traffic headed into Lisbon.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Donna Maria II National Theater, Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Shopping/Office Building with an historic facade in Lisbon, Portugal nominated for several design awards.

After our stops along the waterfront, we headed back into the city and a return to the Marques de Pombal Square and the end of the tour route.  We once again passed the National Theater and the fountains on the adjoining plaza.  We passed a unique shopping mall/office building that had incorporated the historic facade.  The structure enjoyed high placement in award competitions for its clever design.  We also passed the beautiful Basilica da Estrela, also known as the Star Basilica, and the popular family park next to it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A Musician. Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal

After our tour completed, we stopped for a light lunch during our walk back to the hotel.  It was mid afternoon and we had a special dinner planned so we didn’t want to eat too much.  Along the way I saw more individual transportation options utilized by the people of Lisbon.  It is fairly common now to find individual bicycles for rent along the streets in major cities in Europe and North American.  In Lisbon, you can also rent motorized skateboards (also particularly popular on large college campus in the USA).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Uber rental bicycle in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Returning to work after a business lunch in Lisbon, Portugal

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance to the oldest Portuguese restaurant.

There was time for a short nap before our dinner at Tavares, the oldest Portuguese restaurant still in service.  It opened its doors in 1784.  Since we were the first to arrive (Boris likes to eat early and we were standing outside when the restaurant opened at 7 pm), I was able to get a few pictures of the opulent interior without disturbing other patrons and looking like a tourist.  The prices were very reasonable for a special evening out.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The opulent interior of Tavares, the oldest Portuguese restaurant. It opened its doors in Lisbon in 1784.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lets start with a white port. This is Portugal after all.

We started with a white port as an aperitif.  We chose the tasting menu (70 euros) with four courses and a complementing wine with each course (40 euros).  The salted cod and suckling pig, traditional favorites, were wonderful.  So too were the prawns and pork.  We ended with the appealingly plated assorted desserts.  It was a fabulous meal and a wonderful end to our first full day in Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Our beautifully presented dessert at Tavares in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lisbon, Portugal.

 

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