Portugal Bound

by Ann Marie Michaels on May 8, 2012

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Memories of Lisbon / Recuerdos de Lisboa

I’ve been working very hard these past few months. In fact, there have been weeks that I did not see the sunshine. I’m not kidding. Producing my Healthy Whole Grains class has been extremely time-consuming (on top of running the blog network and everything else).

My husband, Seth, has been working hard, too. And having a 5-year-old leaves you very little downtime.

Off to Portugal and Spain

It’s time for a vacation! We are taking Kate to New York to stay with her grandparents for a few weeks and we are headed to Europe for a romantic two-week trip to Portugal and Spain. We love our daughter, but there are times that you need to recharge and have time to yourselves.

Portugal

Last year we left Kate with Bubbe and Papa and went to Amsterdam for two weeks. Seth and I have both been to Amsterdam (he typically goes twice a year for work) and we love it. This year, I decided I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before.

I’ve heard so many great things about Portugal. I’ve been to Barcelona in Spain before (highly recommended) but I’ve never been to Seville. My well-traveled sister told me once that Seville is her favorite city in Spain, so I’ve always wanted to go. Seth has never been to Spain or Portugal, so he’s excited about both places.

portugese entries

And, of course, I’m crazy about the food. (Look for my recipe for Portuguese shellfish stew, mariscada, coming later this week.)

Our Itinerary

Click on the photo for a bigger image

Lisbon, Portugal – We’ll stay in Lisbon for 3 nights. Seth and I are meeting in Lisbon this week (I’m flying from New York, after dropping off Kate, and Seth is flying from Amsterdam, where he is currently working). I booked a room on my Starwood points at the Sheraton so we have someplace cushy to land and recover from jet lag.

Lisbon is supposed to be the San Francisco of Europe. Considering how much I adore San Francisco, I know I’m going to love it. We plan to do a walking tour, check out a fado performance, ride the cable cars, and make a day trip to Sintra, which is supposed to be beautiful.

IMG_3018

The Algarve, Portugal – On day 4, we will grab some coffee and breakfast, and then rent a car and drive down to the coast. Not sure where we’re going to stay yet. Most likely, we will drive down and cruise around until we find a town we like. We’ll probably stay in a “quarto” — there are many people in the Algarve who rent out private apartments near the beach. We’ll stay 3 nights in the Algarve.

Portugal - Algarve

Seville, Spain – On day 7 of our trip, we will drive a few hours to Seville. Again, not sure where we’re staying yet. I’m still researching. If you have any good suggestions, please post below. We’ll stay in Seville for 4 nights.

The Magic of the Dance

I’m not sure what all we will see or do in Seville, but I know I want to go to see the cathedrals.

Alcázar

Alcázar Cathedral

Inside the Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral

Évora, Portugal – On day 11, we drive to Évora in Portugal. We’re staying for 3 nights at a relaxed bed and breakfast. We’ll see some of the ruins, but we also plan to do a whole lot of nothing in Évora. If you pack too much sightseeing and too many busybee activities on your vacation, you never get a chance to do what you set out to do in the first place — relax!

Lisbon, Portugal – On day 14, we drive back to Lisbon, return the car, and stay one more night at the Sheraton. We’ll have a leisurely dinner and get up the next morning to fly back to NYC.

What I’m Looking Forward To in Portugal and Spain

Seafood – Seafood in Portugal is supposed to be phenomenal. I’ll take lots of pictures and try to get my hands on recipes so I can share them with you all.

Sunshine – I’ve spent the past few years working my a ton of hours in front of the computer. This white girl really needs a tan. Not to mention a vitamin D boost. I’m looking forward to sun, sand, and fresh air.

Silencio – I plan to do a lot of sleeping, lounging, lying around in the sun, reading, and just doing nothing.

Spirits – Spain and Portugal are known for a wide selection of wine, port, and sherry. And it’s a lot cheaper there than say, France.

Portugal - Algarve

Other Suggestions?

Do you guys have any other suggestions of what we should do while in the cities we are visiting in Portugal and Spain? Please share your travel tips below. I’d especially love to hear your restaurant recommendations.

Photo credits: Thanks to Flickr for so many great images. Please click on the individual photos for photo credits.
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

susie May 8, 2012 at 4:28 AM

Wow, now I want to go to Spain! How do you plan what you want to see on your trips? Do you use certain websites or look at a ton of travel books?

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Jill May 8, 2012 at 6:19 AM

Can’t wait to see your photos from the trip and stay up on your adventures! Thanks for sharing–we’re living vicariously through you!

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AmandaK May 8, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Y’all have a great time! I can’t wait to see the pictures & read about the trip.

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Michaela May 8, 2012 at 8:32 AM

Hi

We have been travelled with my hubby around the world also live 7 years in US (L.A.,NYC) but my fav for vaccation is Lago di Garda in Italy it is the largest Alpien lake and so so so beautiful, we go there twice a year (it is only 7hours by car from our home). Malcesine is our fav in Lago di Garda try to google it many pictures you will see. Very close is also historical city Verona (Romeo and Julia). Also I love Nice in France and of course our home Vienna, best city for living for me:-)

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Lisa Imerman May 8, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Hubby and I haven’t really had a vacation ourselves in years. Probably won’t happen as with 4 kids is basically impossible to leave them with anyone, just too much work for the grandparents for more than one or two nights tops. My in-laws take them for a night or two when they are in town, which is a big when since they live in AZ most of the year.

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Jinni May 8, 2012 at 10:21 AM

We spent 3 weeks in Portugal in 2008 (and a week in Amsterdam) – it is still by far one of the best vacations I ever took.

Only two suggestions: Please visit the local market in Evora (it’s near the ossuary in the center of town) – the cheeses are all handmade and amazing. We spent three nights there and wish we’d stayed longer!

And if you get a chance, visit: malmequer bemmequer – a restaurant in Lisbon. We went two or three times and I’ve sent all my friends there. The owner is the chef and the food is awesome. Also he gave us VERY helpful information on what’s local to every region and what to eat there during the time of year we visited – May/June.

ENJOY! I’m off to Prague and Budapest myself (WITH the child) next week!

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cheeseslave May 8, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Thank you, Jinni!

I will be sure to check those places out.

I love Prague! I HIGHLY recommend that you make the trip south to Český Krumlov.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I guarantee you will love it — unbelievably beautiful. It is one of my very favorite towns in Europe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8Cesk%C3%BD_Krumlov

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Jinni May 8, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Thanks! Added to the list!

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Mali Korsten (The Korsten Chronicle) May 8, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Have a great time resting, eating and recharging! Hope you return feeling rejuvenated!

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Megan May 8, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Wow, jealous and you’ll love it! I’ve been to both Portugal and Spain, and spent 5 weeks in Sevilla 7 years ago! It was amazing. Definitely check out the cathedral, the Giralda tower (right next door if I remember) see a flamenco dance, and just walk through the town, like Barrio Santa Cruz. There are some pretty gardens, some smaller-scaleish museum, and just fun European (yet still Spanish) culture to observe. Spain was the first place I really branched out food-wise, and tried a number of tapas I never ever would have, if it weren’t for the serious recommendations by the patrons. You seriously have me wanting to go back!

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Josefina May 8, 2012 at 1:31 PM

I love Portugal–I hope you’ll love it too!

In the Algarve, I would stay away from popular resorts like Albufeira. Monchique is supposed to be beautiful, up in the mountains. I stayed in Silves a couple of years ago, about 20 min drive inland from the central/west coast–lovely architecture and good food. If you want more unspoiled coastal nature, try the very western part around Sagres. On the east side there’s Tavira which is quite nice and supposedly a great place for good food. We stayed there for a week and dined at the same restaurant for four nights! The food was to die for. I have forgotten the name but it’s behind the town mall, tucked into a nicer apartment community. They have great fresh seafood but I had the same dish of steak with cream sauce and the best fried potatoes I’ve ever had.
Besides seafood, Portugal does wonders with pork, especially in the Alentejo. Even the motorway cafes there on the way from Lisbon to the south coast serve excellent pork. And desserts! The best. I bought a simple bolo de mel (honey cake) at a supermarket in Tavira and it was amazing. Also, don’t miss their excellent quality olive oil and green wines.

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cheeseslave May 8, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Hi, Josefina,

Thanks for the comment.

In the Algarve, I would stay away from popular resorts like Albufeira.

That is what I read in Rick Steves’ book.

We will definitely be eating a lot of pork. I know it is very common in Spain as well.

Maybe we will try Tavira! I am worried maybe there isn’t enough to do in Sagres.

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Josefina May 8, 2012 at 3:23 PM

‘That is what I read in Rick Steves’ book.’

Yes, and for good reason! Although I didn’t go to Albufeira, I drove around a little in the Portimao area, it’s truly awful and depressing.

True, Sagres is probably more for the very avid nature lover–if you want action it won’t be much fun.

Faro is pretty nice. And I’ve heard good things about Olhao. Loule has a great market.

Have fun!

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cheeseslave May 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM

OK thank you so much for confirming that.

Steves recommends Tavira or Lagos, Sagres or Salema. We thought we’d drive around till we find a place we like.

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Kathy May 9, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Sorry if this sounds like a novice questions, but I am not well travelled at all. Do you need to be able to speak Spanish to visit these countries? Or at least some knowledge of the language? I think I would suffer from culture shock and not know what to do at all. LOL

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Josefina May 9, 2012 at 8:15 AM

In Portugal, Portuguese is spoken. Some may understand Spanish but the two languages are very different when spoken.
The Portuguese are very good at English, but I hear the Spanish are more reluctant to use the English they do know. In the touristy areas, you would never need to know the local language (and in Spain there are more than just one) unless you want to get into the ‘real’ Spain or Portugal.

Culture shock usually happens when you go live there, not just visiting. Esp in tourist areas. You should go!

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Carmen May 10, 2012 at 5:09 AM

Hello I´m from Sevilla and like Megan said check out the cathedral, the Giralda tower (yes, the tower just beside cathedral), Guadalquivir river, La Torre del Oro, there are so many beautiful places in Sevilla…. And the food, not only tried las tapas, ask for Jamón, even if your are not hungry, believe me you´ll eat. It´s delicious. Enjoy your stay in Seville,

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John May 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM

You’ll have a great, refreshing time! I LOVE southern Iberia. You made smart choices for your itinerary. When in Evora, I suggest you also visit the sleepy hilltop towns nearby like Monsarraz and Marvao. Sintra is magical and if it’s sun you want, spend a day or afternoon in Cascais (plenty of great seafood restaurants although more expensive than in other places in Portugal). As for Lisbon, at first it may seem a little shocking to see how rundown its oldest neighborhoods are but you’ll end up finding it quite charming! And it’s a city that’s truly unlike any other with so many unique cultural aspects to explore (I fell in love with the tiled art). See this excellent itinerary for ideas: http://www.lisbonlux.com/lisbon/itinerary.html

Ideally you’d also have time to visit Obidos, a wonderful storybook medieval village, but you’ll probably run out of time. Enjoy!

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Cheryl May 15, 2012 at 12:09 PM

You are very blessed! :)

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Tania May 25, 2012 at 4:18 AM

I am probably biased as I am Portuguese and live here (Lisbon :) )… I love food. I can tell you that we have a great variety of wines (do try “Vinho verde”, it’s different, younger and more acidic than normal wines, but also the normal table wines, and sangria :) ), good fish and shellfish, and in general good raw materials, though of course there are lousy places to eat too.

Try our cheeses, our fruit, the traditional sourdough breads (not the factory made bread), and do have fun!

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