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Posts from the ‘Travel Portugal’ Category

Last Days in Lisbon, Portugal

After renting a car and driving most of Portugal for ten days, we spend the last five nights in the great city of Lisbon. Full of historical/naval significance (the longest reigning modern European Colonial empire in history), shops, boutiques, museums, and cafés fill the buildings and fortresses of years past.

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Pedestrian walkway in Lisbon

Fabulous food and dramatic coastline emerge as our main travel theme of the entire Portuguese adventure.

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Views of the river from Lisbon

We find the final entrée on our “food list” in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant across the street from our poorly located hotel.

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Morcela de arroz – Blood sausage made with pigs blood and rice

Morcela (pig blood in sausage casing). Not too bad when mixed with rice. A tad too strong for us in its pure form.

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Pig blood baby

“You must try our other Portuguese tradition, Bacalhau a’ Bra’s,” (salt dried cod mixed with hash-browns) Antonio, our waiter says.

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Bacalhau a’ Bra’s

Well, all meals cannot claim a savoy title. The cod claims the title of “least favorite,” beating out Caracois (snails) by a fish bone.

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Caracois – “Poor man’s snails”

Our hotel’s location demands six-mile (round trip) sweaty walks to the center of Lisbon where the good cafés exist.

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Lisbon

A great way to burn off excesses of the past three weeks. Walking moves faster than traffic once the city awakens. Many guys try to sell me hash, weed, and cocaine along the way.

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Lisbon

“Those guys don’t have good stuff,” Antonio the waiter explains. “They are from Romania and just rip people off.”

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Lisbon on a lazy Sunday afternoon

Along with a poor location, our hotel offers see-through walls surrounding the bathroom. I don’t care how much you love your travel partner, some activities in the bathroom need to remain private. (Especially after eating blood sausage and snails)

We take three subway lines, and then a train to what guidebooks claim is the “must do day-trip from Lisbon – Sintra.”

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Castelo dos Mouros near Sintra

The city of Sintra disappoints. Although a walk through old forest up to the Moorish fortress and palace proves exhilarating, elbow to elbow tourists deplete our remaining energy.

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Palacio National da Pena in Sintra

The next day, we hop onto the “Hop and Ride” tour bus to the coastal tourist destination of Cascais.

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The cliffs near Cascias

If you’re going to do a tourist area, this would be the best spot in our opinion. Full of beautiful beaches and magnificent coastline, cafés compete for your palate pleasures.

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The beach in Cascais

To wrap-up Portugal according to our style of travel, we prefer the laid-back atmosphere in the small coastal towns.

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Green lip mussels

Feasting on an array of seafood, amidst waves crashing on cliffs and rocks, will stay with us more than historical accounts of greatness. But that’s just us.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Portuguese Feast

It’s time to drive north through Portugal’s mountainous interior in search of meat and liquor. Melt-in-your-mouth “piglet cooked in wood oven” starts things off perfectly in the town of Monchique.

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Piglet

José, the proprietor at our guesthouse Casa Mirante, shows us the fruit he uses to make medronho, a local brandy/moonshine, also known as “firewater.” Private distilling is tolerated, keeping this Portuguese tradition alive.

Jose

Jose

The fest continues late into the evening with peri-peri chicken and more medronho moonshine. Oops, suddenly even the street statues aren’t safe!

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Too much moonshine!

We’d do well to regroup the next morning with sardines for breakfast.

sardines

Perhaps it’s time to seek spiritual healing with a visit to the megaliths outside the town of Evora. Appearing around the sixth to fourth millennium BC, this large circular stand of stones represents one of the oldest monuments of humankind. Nobody knows exactly why they are here. Theories abound. If that’s not spiritual, what is?

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Megaliths near Evora

A drive through groves of olive and cork trees brings us to the medieval town of Evora.

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Stripped cork trees near Evora

Relics from Greeks, Romans, and Moors appear here.

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Evora

Our good fortune continues, as we happen to visit during the annual street fair. Who cares if we can’t find the hotel, while the GPS lady yells at us due to road closures? Bring on the street food! We’ll leave the moonshine alone tonight.

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Fried quail eggs and blood sausage

Continuing to the northern coast, the city of Porto greets us with beauty and delight.

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Our castle in Porto

We spend two nights in a renovated castle, and feast on the local traditional dish of pork tripe with beans.

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Cafés line the river and streets in this friendly city.

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We make friends while sharing glasses of Port (we are in Porto).

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Making friends in Porto

Francesinha, a sandwich of egg, meat and ham smothered in melted cheese and sauce, is the local hangover cure.

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Francesinha

Back on the beach, the town of Ericeira grabs our heart.

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Ericeira

Known for sun, surf, and seafood, it’s a smaller town, close to Lisbon, and offers a laid-back atmosphere.

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Goose neck barnacles

This would be a perfect place for an extended stay.

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Lobster

For now, it’s off to Lisbon to wrap up our Portuguese adventure.

Celebrate Portugal’s Delights: The Best Meal in Three Weeks

After three weeks of hiking and public transportation around the hot Cape Verde Islands in West Africa, it’s time for some cooler temperature and creature comfort. Once we land in Lisbon, Portugal we indulge in the independence of a rental car in search of excellent food and scenic drives. Our car includes a “hot spot” which provides internet and google navigation from our cellphone. Let’s go! A road map would be useless on these infinite streets with no names.

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Looking back at Lisbon from Costa de Caparica

We stop in Costa da Caparica, a short drive and hot spot for tourists. Enter our first delightful celebration in the form of seafood pizza and beer. Finish with wine and cockles and shrimp sautéed in garlic. Our best meal in three weeks.

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All that is left of “one of the best meals in three weeks”

Let’s head south to the laid-back beach town of Vila Nova de Milfontes for some raw oysters and octopus salad. Our best meal in three weeks.

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Octopus salad

We will eat our way through Portugal. Delightful.

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Near the lighthouse south of Vila Nova de Milfontes

Our waiter for dinner that evening, Antonio, explains that he works 12 hours each day, with a two-hour break in the afternoon.

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Seafood platter

He recommends the seafood platter crowded with shrimp, lobster, fish chunks, and an array of shellfish. Our best meal in three weeks.

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The Rota Vicentina walking trail

Along the way south, we spend the day hiking a segment of the Rota Vicentina walking trail.

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Views from Rota Vincentina walking trail

No need to bring sleeping gear, as the 217-mile trail cuts through small villages where hikers can secure food and lodging.

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More scenery from Rota Vicentina walking trail

We stop in the small town of Zambujeira do Mar for a seafood salad lunch. Yet more delight.

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Zambujeira do Mar

Driving through broccoli-like forest, we reach the most southwestern point in Europe, Cabo de Sao Vicente.

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Broccoli trees

Cool temperatures and harsh wind with spurts of rain greet us at this hot surfing spot.

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It is a rainy, windy day at Cabo de Sao Vicente

Time to celebrate with wine and Cataplana Mariscos (like paella but no rice, just various seafood with potato), again, our best meal in three weeks.

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Cataplana – the Portuguese version of paella

The sun shines in the town of Sagres. We delight in dramatic cliffs and secluded beaches.

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Just one of the many secluded beaches in southern Portugal

Searching for coffee in the morning, a stranger who speaks no English motions for us to get into his car. We do, and he peels rubber flying down a straight road. We’re beginning to wonder.

Dramatic scenery near Sagres

Then he stops and lets us out at a local coffee/bakery off the main road. The kindness of strangers – traveling’s greatest delight. Stay tuned, as we continue to celebrate Portugal. Maybe we will have out best meal yet.