Portugal

We swapped our puffy coats and mittens for short sleeves and sunglasses on our Easter trip to Portugal! We explored the beautiful but hilly city of Lisbon, strolled around the castles and villas of Sintra, and took an incredible coastal drive down to the southern region of Algarve. Portuguese tapas, Douro wine and beautiful coastal views highlighted our trip!

Less than an hour from the capital, Sintra impressed us with 19th century romantic architecture and a charming villa town. The fantasy palace and grounds of Quinta da Regaleira were fun to wander and had great views of the rainbow-colored Peña National Palace in the distance. The Castle of Moors was also visible as the medieval stone fortress on the mountain, giving Jon no shortage of landmarks and scenery to practice his photography. We also picked up a cool 18th century tile that used to be on the side of one of the buildings!

 

There was a lot to discover in Lisbon, including the historic neighborhood of Alfama, which we (slowly) reached via one the city’s historic trams. We also saw the main square, Commerce Square, and had lunch overlooking the water. We tried to spot tile work built into the city, either on the buildings or as frescoes, as we wandered through the streets of the colorful city. Impressed with the beauty of the city, we even bought a small painting to frame for our apartment from a street painter! One of the best parts was the view from our adorable boutique hotel – if you go to Lisbon you must stay at Monte Belvedere!

We spent one cloudy morning visiting the Lisbon Aquarium, supposedly the #1 thing to do in Lisbon. Though uninterested in taking a selfie or snapchat with every fish in the place (like all the other tourists!), we still managed to admire the beautiful fish and mammals. The special exhibit of a rainforest fish habitat was beautiful and carefully created by a Japanese artist. Corey was enthralled with the garden eels disappearing and reappearing into the sand and Jon’s favorite was the glowing jelly fish. But we both found mutual love for the pair of furry furry otters.

 

The coastal drive from Lisbon to Lagos in the south was one of our favorite road trips ever. There were stunning views of the ocean from several lookout points, including the western-most point of Europe at Cabo da Roca. We stopped spontaneously to watch the  the waves crash at Porto Covo and surfers take on huge waves at Sagres. Our favorite stop, though, was for a glass of wine on the beach at Vila nova de milfontes.

 

In the south of Portugal, Lagos is a seaside town with 2,000 years of maritime history dating from the early Celtic settlers to a town claimed by the Romans and then the Moors.  The main attraction was a boat tour of the grottos along the shoreline. Although we hit rough seas (our boat bumped another motor while we were in one grotto), we were able to see the grottos from the best vantage point and take some fantastic pictures. There is even an old Roman castle wall and bridge that remain as reminders of the town’s vivid history.

 

We returned to Lisbon to experience the #1 rated restaurant – a cozy wine bar serving hundreds of Portuguese wines and local charcuterie. We were even brave enough to taste the homemade tinned fish and finished the night off with a taste of some of the finest port in the country.

We left Portugal stuffed full of tapas & wine and saying obrigada!

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