Favorite thing: Obidos is on of the most enchanting towns in all of Portugal. It is very tiny with a population of 3,100. The old section of the town is completely encircled by 13th century wall. It is possible to climb up stairs to the wall and walk the entire circumference of the old town. Doing so will provide you with excellent views of the old town itself and the surrounding countryside. One little problem here is the ramparts are not very wide in some places and very steep in others. Hence if you have difficulty walking, I suggest you give this a pass.
Portugal is the biggest producer in the world of cork and if you travel around the central and southern part of the country you will most likely come across the cork oak that is easily recognisable as it turns in to an orange/reddish color when the cork is taken off from the tree.
Thes edays less cork is being used by winemakers as there are other ways to seal the bottle these days that are cheaper than cork, so because of that you see many other products in Portugal that are made by cork these days such as wallets, post cards, hand bags and various other things and they sure make a very original souvenier from Portugal.
Portugal is the second largest exporter of marble in the world after Italy.
It's especially in the eastern part of the country you have the marble quarries and if you visit the town of Estremoz then you can go and visit the big open marble quarry in the outskirts of town.
It's quite impressive to see how they break marble directly from the ground there and there is so much of it that they usually don't mind if you pick a piece for yourself as a souvenier.
The best of travel is always the unexpected. Best especially if it is of something unthought of or even as an afterthought, a sudden burst of serendipity encountered thru a shared new knowledge from another traveller, a sudden urge to find the thing, discover it that becomes your own. It is especially potent this discovery when it is wholly of a place, and only that it pertains her physical self and identity like a gorgeous summit.
This is true of my experience with Azenhas do Mar. A pretty little seaside village on the foothills of Sintra about 15 miles (23 kms.) from the center of Lisbon, Azenhas do Mar which means Windmill of the Sea in Portuguese and is borne on the back of a rocky crag perches ever tightly on a promontory forever looking out to sea. It is considered one if not the most photographed villages/sight in all of Portugal and has been declared the most picturesque them all. Yet, despite this distinction, this ultra-white lonely little outpost on the coast of Sintra hardly figures in terms of a full narrative description to be found in the internet. Like possibly so many people of some knowledge about Portugal, I have in many occasions seen over the years the burnished photographs on magazines and brochures of this pretty village but have never had the chance to actually set foot in it until the summer of 2011 when taken to it on a drive with another VTer from Lisbon on our way to a VT meeting up in the next village of Fontanelas (ah, the glories of being part of VT!). So I stood there in the bosom of Azenhas do Mar under a brilliant and perfect early summer afternoon feeling somewhat credulous that the experience is finally here to grasp...and grasped I did of her in utmost delight and breathlessness.
The following day I had to go back on my own wanting to take in more of the place, conceding that nothing is ever enough when it comes to beauty and its mysterious healing effect. Like a child lost in a house but giddily excited, I went ahead played to the hilt the strange status of a tourist or first time visitor - saunter and wander around this petite sea village shivering it seems always in the constant sea winds that pass thru, taking obligatory fotos for posterity, admiring the colourful houses staggering against the cliff, climbing endlessly up and down the thousand steps, eating fresh calamari and salad and downing great regional Portuguese wines in one of the town's only few restaurants sitting wildly outside it til sundown from where this spectacle of nature is displayed even more magical. The public bus arrives and time to return to Sintra and the train back to Lisbon now in early evening hour.
Azenhas do Mar is a short 30-mins. bus ride from Sintra. Buses several times a day can be picked up just a few meters outside the Sintra train station. It's good to check the schedule inside the train station (as with train schedules) and double check them with the tourist office that maintains a window inside the train station. The bus ride up to Azenhas do Mar is a memorable one in itself taking the winding path down thru little coastal villages shrouded in thick pine forests, one of which is the wine-producing village of Colares, her old core medieval-looking trapped inside thick walls to where you can hop off to linger and do some wine-tasting in the town's many bodegas and then hopping back to the next bus continuing along sand-duned roads now next to the sea at two of Sintra's gorgeous beaches - the Praia Grande and the Praia das Macas. Here you can spend hours sunning and swimming with fewer than usual holiday crowds but carefully with rougher currents surging up in the bellows of agitated waves. From Praia das Macas especially, it is easy enough walk (tho up hill certainly) upwards to Azenhas do Mar, another kilometer away. Or wait up for the next bus.
Accommodation in Azenhas do Mar: from my own inquiry in town, it seems that there is not a single hotel or pensao located right in the village. The only way perhaps would be to rent a room in some home. Most accommodation and there are plenty enough can be had mostly at nearby beach of Praia das Macas. In here too are a wide selection of restaurants.
To reach Azenhas do Mar from Lisbon: The easiest and fastest is to take the Lisboa-Sintra-Lisboa express train at the Rossio Train Station. A 40-minute ride up to the mountains of Sintra. Outside the Sintra train station, a few meters away, take the bus to Azenhas with stops in Colares and the beaches.
As you plan your trip take time to check out the dates for various secular and religious festivals and market days and try to work them into your schedule. We were in Porto for the MayDay procession and demonstrations and in Barcelos for the Festival of the Crosses and for the weekly regional market day. Sharing in these events adds a richness to your travels and an opportunity to understand and interact more fully with the local population.
Fondest memory: For most of our trip we were on the Caminho Portugués ... walking trails and Roman roads through the landscape of Northern Portugal. I miss the beautiful hills and valleys, the peaceful and timeless towns and most of all the wonderful, friendly and generous people.
My sister and I visited Portugal in September 2009 and we were amazed by the wonderful architecture in Lisbon and neighboring cities. Several people groups settled in this most western part of Europe and it shows in the varied architecture - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassicism.
Look for the "Manueline" which is the exuberant Portuguese version of late Gothic. The Jerónimos Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Lisbon is a fine example. It was built by Dom Manuel I in honor of celebrating the discovering of the sea route to Indian and it symbolizes Portugal’s period of wealth and conquest.
There is also the Pombaline style which is a a mix of late Baroque and Neoclassicism that developed after the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 (source: Wikipedia).
When in Sintra, look for the Sintra Moorish Castle which has impressively preserved walls and cisterns.
If and when we go back to Portugal, we will look for the Almourol Castle which was built in 1171 on an island of the Tagus by the Templar Knights. It is notably the highest tower and it is strikingly square-shaped.
And with the love of football, stadiums here are awesome venues and Tomás Taveira is a person who became famous because of his stadium designs.
Fondest memory: Beautiful castles like St George's Castle and the Moorish Castle in Sintra
And hope you enjoy this video that shows a lot of the Portuguese architecture:
JUMPING SIBLINGS PORTUGAL VIDEO
As you read more about Portugal, you will find it referred to as the City of the Seven Hills or the “cidade das sete colinas” . Important mystical cities like Rome, Jerusalem and Istanbul, Mosco, Barcelona (to name a few) have also been called "The City of 7 Hills".
What is it's significance? It is a legend that says that Lisbon was built on 7 hills. And in Lisbon, these specific hills are enumerated as follows:
São Jorge : @ famous castle of same name
São Vicente :@ São Vincente de Fora Monastery; Alfama area
Sant’Ana : @ São José Hospital stands.
Santo André : @Largo / Miradouro da Graça
Chagas : @Largo do Carmo
Santa Catarina :@ Largo Camões, Bairro Alto
São Roque : @ Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, Bairro Alto
Also note that the bus tickets also have on them this mysic name: 7 Colinas (7 Hills). But truly, the beautiful viewpoints on hills (miradouros) offer spectacular views and make this city worthy of being called The City of Seven (or probably even more) hills.
Fondest memory: seeing the wonderful views on a Miradouro (at St George Castle)
Of course anytime is the best time because Lisbon enjoys a wonderful warm climate, being relatively warm during the winter to the rest of Europe.
Being close to the ocean, Lisbon may have fast-changing weather. But when we were there in September 2009, the weather was very nice, sunny and perfect for our jumping pictures. I think it only "drizzled" once during the week we were there. It is considered summer from May to October and the average temp is 25 °C (77 °F) during the day and 16.2 °C (61.2 °F) at night.
During winter from December to February, Lisbon has the warmest temps in Europe with average temperatures above 15.2 °C (59.4 °F) during the day and 8.9 °C (48.0 °F) at night.
The weather was perfect when we visited in September 2009. See for yourself through our video at:
PORTUGAL VIDEO OF THE JUMPING SIBLINGS
When in Algarve, look for its better side - a tranquil spot found after a slow drive.
It really is a truism that these days there are few spots in the Algarve coast left unspoilt by heavy commercialization and its unabated ailment of continuous massive construction and expansion of most degenerate-looking cinderblock agglomeration resulting as ever in overdevelopment. It is rather unfortunate this turn of events knowing how magnificent this entire area used to be. Too bad that Portugal never took lessons from the aftermath of Spain's Costa del Sol tourist fiasco and just like their profit-hungry neighbor next door, the Algarve coast especially the Western side of it from Quarteira to Albufeira and most of Lagos is now nothing but a big hang-out for all-inclusive holiday package tours and beer-swilling party-goers who are largely into sun-worship than a sense of local culture-partake and yes, that can be combined with a decent partying.
And yet, a caveat here is important that not all is lost. That is, not all have been given over to runaway surreal overdevelopment. Abounding great little tranquil and uncrowded spots have remained mostly if not only slightly debauched such as in the Eastern part like Tavira as well as farther away into the Western side after the city of Lagos. And the sandspit islands around Faro (Ilha da Culatra, Ilha Deserta and Ilha da Armona) are great expanse for ideal tranquil days at the beach. One such place is the stunning little town of Aljezur in the Western tip of the Algarve as one enters the coast from Alentejo. I must admit at the outset that Aljezur happens to be one of my favorite spots in the Algarve in so far as wholly aggreable and acceptable all-round little vacation places.
Aljezur is near perfect. It is one of those colourful tiny typically-Portuguese villages that stand solid and strong in tradition yet perfectly adept in her openness to all types of visitors. Generally quiet tho this inland village is, better if you can help it to avoid Aljezur as with most of the Algarve coast during the peak travel months of summer. Aljezur's great location is in a lush, green, fertile valley cut in the middle by a narrow river....the old town separated by the new all surrounded by small family farms and sublime plots of fruit orchards. High above the hill are the remains of a 10th century Moorish castle (free entrance) easily accessed on foot and with an achingly beautiful grand views of hills and the surrounding plateau. Two of Portugal's highly praised and prized beaches - Praia de Monte Clerigo and Praia da Arrifana - are located just 10 kms. away from town. It's to these beaches that a regular band of surfers come to sun wind and water-splice.
There are limited accommodation in proper Aljezur, mostly pensaos (B&Bs) and simple rent-rooms in family homes. More accommodation can be had at the beaches but expectedly costing slightly more than if inland. One good basic hotel in the new part of the village is the Pensao Residencial Dom Sancho II. It is very reasonably-priced especially during off-season, clean with en suite bathroom and centrally located with cafes, shops and small restaurants plus a convenient super market just down beneath it. The hotel is at Rua Dom Francisco Gomes de Avelar, 4, steps away from the town square next to the imposing 18th century church Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Alva. The owner also has accommodations at the beach in Monte Clerigo.
Aljezur is served by several daily direct bus service to Lisbon from Lagos. There are no train service available from here.
The best of Portugal is... Portugal.
Where else in the world would it be possible to find twenty happy people making a picnic at 3 AM, with 3º Celsius?
It happened in Entroncamento, but could happen everywhere, only needing to join the right group.
When decided to fraternize, Portuguese don't know the word "impossible"
The portuguese Camino, or the portuguese way as it is also referred to, is an alternative way for pilgrims to walk to Santiago de Compostela.
It starts in Lisbon and goes past important places like Fatima and Porto before ending in santiago de Compostela.
It's not nearly as popular as the very popular Camino de Santiago that goes through France and the north of Spain, so this one here for the people who like to avoid the masses and prefer peace and quiet when they walk to Santiago.
Before travelling anywhere, it's a good idea to know the essential of each country and each people.
Portugal is a small country, but with some diversities that reflect in the weather, the landscape, and even in the people's behaviour.
In general words the country is dominated by a regular migration from inland to coastal areas, with fast growing cities in the west, and progressively abandoned villages at east, with some scattered cities try to captivate the migrants, avoiding the human desert in the area.
From north to south, there's a gradient of temperature, and humidity. The north is always green, with the small properties composing some beautiful mosaics. The houses are heavy, most of then in stone, traditionally in two stores to shelter the animals in the ground floor, and use their heat. Agriculture is being abandoned, with forest spreading all over the northern half, and burning generously in summer. The people is conservative, and communicative, generally proud of their hometown and region.
By the opposite the south, except the coastal Algarve which is a sort of "touristic island", is warmer and drier, with wide planes changing colors along the year. The difference between coast and inland is not so noticeable here, because all the area is less populated, and dominated, by large and extensive agriculture. The houses, mostly in white, show their Arab origins, and the people is more discreet and calm.
The center is a transition area, becoming a mixture of everything, without any loss of character and expression.
History, art and landscape spots are spread all over the country, with cultural events concentrated mainly in the bigger towns. Swimming is possible all along the whole coast, with the southern coast in the top, because the water is, in average, 3-5 degrees warmer than in the west.
and for weather a good one as weather goes is
Its easy to drive there yes, very nice. April is ok. car hire ahead of arrival is most cheaper. Check for tips here at destination above for tips by posters like us, and the area tourist office.
Hope it helps your planning
Fondest memory: visiting every 2 or 3 yrs my kid godfather in Faro.
Ian Flemming who wrote the James Bond novels spend part of the second world war in Estoril where Casino Estoril was a big gathering point for foreign spies as Portugsl was a safe have for them because they were neutral in the second world war.
He created the James Bond figure from all experiences he had in Casino Estoril and "Casino Royale" as the first James Bond novel is called, takes place in Casino Estoril, so even if you are not a gambler then i think you should pop by Casino Estoril if you have the chance as that is a casino with an interesting history.
The Douro Valley, together a travel including Lisbon and Évora and in one week you can see how diverse and impressive can such a lovely and warm country can be.
Fondest memory: The mix of landscape, people, food and culture is unique. I spend quite some time away from Portugal and is this peculiar mix that brings me home with a big simle.
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