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Archive for the ‘Portugal’ Category

Lisbon

Lisbon

Prior to leaving for my 7-day trip with fellow Virtuoso Travel Advisors, I wondered why more people do not travel to Portugal. Unfortunately, I did not come back with the answer. What I did come back with was continued awe that this country is not swarming with tourists. There are so many intriguing reasons to visit, so here is my attempt to put them into a couple of simple themes:

Excellent Value: Euro-for-Euro, you get more hotel, quality food and unique experiences compared to most places in Western Europe. In time, this will change, so I would recommend visiting sooner-than-later.

Historical Relevance: Portugal was one of the wealthiest kingdoms for centuries. Being the cross-roads for many cultures during this era has left the country with a variety of architecture, religious influences, and sense of history. Which brings me to the next point.

Gorgeous Architecture: One of the key results this history has stamped on Portugal is reflected in its architecture. The element seen most prolifically throughout the country is the influence of Moorish architecture in the form of tiles … everywhere.

Sintra: Pena Palace

Sintra: Pena Palace

Exotic Feeling: Portugal somehow feels less familiar and more off-the-beaten-track. From its language (Portuguese) to its music (Fado), to its storytelling (they love their fables and folklore), each of these traits make it unique.

Bucolic Countryside: There is an exciting variety of beautiful terrain to enjoy –  Mountains, Seaside, Farms, Fields of Oak / Vineyards, Valleys, and Rivers. I never got tired of what surrounded us in our travels up and down Portugal. This coming from someone who lives in Northern California (confession: Portugal reminded me a lot of home; particularly flying into Lisbon which could easily be San Francisco, or traveling through the Douro Valley which is reminiscent of Sonoma or Napa Valley).

Locally Produced Food, Wine & Port: Being someone who greatly appreciates regional foods, there was a wonderful variety of locally-sourced culinary delights such as seafood, river fish, pork (the Black Pig was particularly decadent), soups (hot and cold), cheese, fruits, vegetables, pastries (my favorite: Pastel de Nata), wine and port  (Douro Valley was particularly scenic).  Like the architecture, cuisine has been heavily influenced by the different cultures which have passed through and lived in Portugal.

Douro Valley: Hotel Aquapura

Douro Valley

Easy to Get Around: People are friendly and for the most part, speak English. Public Transit is very good within the cities and between the larger cities. Would otherwise recommend renting a car (with GPS) and be prepared for getting a bit lost on their excellent roads (the traffic was very manageable outside of the cities).

Embrace Health & Well Being: There are excellent health and well being facilities throughout Portugal. Simple spa treatments (facials, massages) to medical treatments (weight loss, liposuction) can be found in charming family-owned Pousadas to luxury hotels such as the Lisbon Four Seasons Hotel Ritz.

Off the Beaten Track: Portugal is not as touristic as Italy and France, but it has many of the same experiences to offer.

The Unexpected: Highlights, in addition to those mentioned above, would be wonderful Graffiti Art in Lisbon, Cooking School in Alentejo, Yurts in Brejeira (Algarve), and a scattering of  World Heritage Sites (13 at last count).

Here is a collage of sites we visited during our 7-day visit:

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