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Paul & Luiza´s World Tour

Portugal - North, Douro Valley, Coast to Lisbon & Alentejo

PORTUGAL | Thursday, 1 November 2012 | Views [6775]

Destination – Portugal (Braga, Barcelos, Guimaraes, Porto, Amarante, Aveiro, Coimbra, Nazare, Obidos, Lisbon, Sintra, Evora, Montemor, Evoramonte, Estremoz & Elvas) – getting to know “my little love”

Braga to Porto - The road trip is gorgeous as we begin our tour of Portugal with beautiful Braga, a mix between a medieval and a baroque city. After a bit of driving around trying to find our hotel we check in at the nice Dom Vila Hotel.  Everyone is so helpful and friendly and it’s just fabulous to be able to speak Portuguese with our “Patricios” (native Portuguese).  Unbelievable, we can understand everything! Doing his research on the internet, Paul found out that the Portuguese call their country “meu amorzinho” (my little love) and we are staring to understand why. The lovely lady from reception recommends to us the free walking tour of Braga and we decide to take it - if it’s free it must be good, right?  And it really was great as it gave us an insight into the history and architecture of Braga.  The next morning we visit the cute historic little town of Barcelos (famous for the national symbol of Portugal – the rooster) and learn about the legend of the resurrected rooster followed by a lovely lunch with “vinho verde” to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.  Next day we visit Citania de Briteiros, an Iron Age pre-historical settlement up in the mountains and then drive towards the unbelievably cute and photogenic historical city of Guimaraes, the cradle of the Portuguese nation.  From Guimaraes, we drive down to Porto (Oporto).

After unsuccessfully trying for about an hour to find our hotel we finally find out there is a huge celebration happening exactly on the street where our hotel is and that it’s closed to traffic.  So, we leave the car and walk up the street just to find out an amazing kind of festival is happening. Thousands of young people are out on the streets to celebrate “dia do calouro” (something like freshman day – last day before you start University).  It’s such a vibrant, happy and incredibly loud & cool celebration that we can’t help but feel infected by the fun.  The colourful costumes contrasting with the full on black robes, the noisy empty painted Coke/beer cans and the beautiful and hopeful smiles of the future students are a show apart.  What an amazing experience.  After that just an icy cold Portuguese beer and grilled peri-peri chicken at Pedro dos Frangos to finish the day then back to the very well located Hotel Paulista for a good night’s rest.  We decide to stay in Porto for 3 days as the city is amazingly beautiful and the food is unbelievable. The shopping is not too bad either.  We go sightseeing, walk a lot, always up or downhill of course, visit the historical bookstore Livraria Lelo where we buy a Portuguese cookbook, eat fantastic Portuguese food at Pedro dos Frangos (highly recommended!!) and talk to the very friendly and chatty locals.  Our conclusion is, if you don’t have the time to wait for an answer in this country, don’t ask the question !!

Amarante to Lisbon - After 3 glorious days in Porto, we leave for the little historical town of Amarante. The drive along the riverbank is gorgeous and the city is really beautiful.  A nice little historical village divided by a medieval bridge over a picture postcard river and on the other side, a Cathedral and picturesque mountains and valleys.  Again, we walk around, take photos and eat some more hearty Portuguese food accompanied by some great Portuguese wine.  The truth is, Amarante is so cute and picturesque we decided to stay for an extra day, get that Bacalhau (salted cod fish) ready!  From Amarante, we drive to another gorgeous town called Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal, and you guessed it, there are canals, gondolas and loads of pretty and well preserved Baroque architecture. Very nice indeed, so we stay at the basic but nice Residencial Estrela.  Well, a bit too basic as in the evening we notice there was no heating and it is too late to move.  Next stop, Coimbra, and we check in to the nice Hotel Oslo which has a great buffet breakfast.  We go for a nice cozido for lunch and then retire for the day.  Coimbra is just so beautiful, magical, enchanting, historical and romantic, what an amazing city. We go sightseeing again up and down hills and see some fantastic churches, monasteries, medieval university buildings, libraries, archways, lanes and houses.  We also eat some amazing regional food and drink some seriously good wine.  So far, Coimbra is our favourite city among all the other amazing cities in Portugal.  After 3 lovely days in Coimbra, it is time to move again.

We head off to the picturesque fishing village of Nazare and are so pleasantly surprised by the lovely beach and landscape.  Even the weather is gorgeous for a change, nice sunny day.  We take the opportunity to have a divine “arroz de polvo” (octopus rice) for lunch at the famous Taverna D’Adelia”. Totally worth blowing the budget for.  We keep on driving towards the medieval walled town of Obidos where, after checking in at the very nice colonial Hotel Louro, we climb up the medieval wall and walk around the city.  Afterwards we take a stroll around the medieval, moorish, gothic, baroque and renaissance style lanes.  This place is absolutely amazing and we fell like we are falling in love with Portugal all over again, my little love indeed!!  We do the walls and the sightseeing again in the morning, that’s how beautiful it is, before heading off to Lisbon. We’ve been to Lisbon before (on the way here on the cruise over 2 years ago now!!) but it’s so beautiful we decide to explore it again with a bit more time.  We check in at the Travel Park Hotel, a bit of a splurge but we got a very good deal at Booking.com, so let’s relax and enjoy it.  The hotel is located in the area of Anjos and we suddenly realize that the neighbourhood is definitely a bit sus, so no credit or debit cards on us and we go out with just pocket money for the day, after all, “only the paranoid survive”. 

At this point we have to confess we “borrowed” our itinerary from a great tour advertised on the internet for a lot more money and then we adjusted it to suit our needs, a bit like what we did with our Greek road trip.  Being in such a strong Catholic country Portugal kind of puts you in a confessional mood so there you go!!. Renting a car for a month for two people was also a great deal when you take into account the price of public transport in Europe.  Anyway, it’s time to explore Lisbon and we have allocated 3 days for this lovely city. Lisbon is as beautiful as we remembered it or even more. There is so much to see, see again, do, shop and eat, the 3 days get a bit blurry and NO the red wine has nothing to do with it. Well, maybe. OK, totally.  We go on a quest for the holy bacalhau (salted cod) just to find some more amazing Portuguese wine along the way. We go sightseeing and walk around a lot as the architecture is absolutely amazing.  

Sintra to Elvas - We say goodbye to Lisbon to visit the gorgeous town of Sintra and get lost in the amazing Pena Palace for a few hours and then keep on driving toward Evora.  We check in at the Hotel Casa do Vale, very good but only if you have a car, as it is a bit far from the town, and call it a day.  The next day we set off to visit the medieval walled city of Evora, beautiful but we have to say it doesn’t measure up to most of the other gorgeous towns we’ve been visiting lately, even so, we decide to stay put for 3 days and explore Evora and the fantastic surrounding villages  in the Alentejo region.  On our last day we visit the lovely village of Montemor with its amazing medieval castle and colonial buildings, finishing our visit with a lovely bottle of Alentejo wine, arroz de pato (duck rice) and bacalhau a bras (salted cod fish rice), just glorious.

OK, it’s our last day in Portugal and it is packed with medieval, baroque & manuelino architecture.  We begin with the gorgeous village of Evoramonte with its amazing medieval castle, walled city and white washed houses. Second stop the equally gorgeous village of Estremoz still in the amazingly lush wine region of Alentejo where we also visit a legendary medieval castle and cute whitewashed village.  Last stop, the town of Elvas, where we were supposed to overnight. Elvas is another medieval town with an impressive Roman acqueduct that somehow fails to impress us as much as the other ones, so we decide to push on towards Toledo in Spain. To be honest we are kind of sad to leave Portugal, a fantastic country with so much to see, fantastic food and wine and unbelievably kind and friendly people.  Ate logo e obrigada, meu amorzinho!!!


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