Lokl’s TR on Montreal got me thinking why not do a non-skiing related TR on the great trip my wife and I recently took to Portugal for our 25th anniversary.
We spent two weeks there and saw a good portion of the country as it’s really not all that large. We flew into Porto and with our luggage a day behind us due to airport delays caused by the French Air Traffic Controllers strike. I had arranged for a private tour of Graham’s Port Lodge followed by a lunch on their terrace restaurant with an amazing view down the river valley. The port tasting pours where quite a bit for a late morning tour so we took half to lunch with us to have with our dessert. From there we walked off lunch with a walk back across the main bridge into Porto and up 21 flights of stairs to the main level of the city.
From Porto we traveled on a newly built motorway that was quite an impressive engineering feat. It traveled over the tops of the ridges in the Douro valley with a system of bridges and tunnels. We spent two nights at a Quinto Do Vallado which is a working winery with a really nice b&b on property. While this was the area where the Port wines are grown the area has become serious about its table wines and they are world class and very inexpensive. We visited several wineries but the best tour was the private one they provide lodging guests at Vallado. The highlight of section of our trip was a 3 hour river cruise on the Douro in a small wooden motor yacht.
From there we traveled a couple hours south to Obidos which is a 14 century walled city which was quite interesting. We ate a local small restaurant instead of the touristy places and found that was the ticket to great meals and low prices. We became addicted to the garlic prawns during our time there.
We then traveled to the Algarve region which is on the southern coast facing Africa. We stayed at a nice Hilton Golf and Beach Resort and were upgraded to a huge suite. I got in 3 rounds of golf including one on the course used for the World Golf Tour stop for the Portugal Open. This is a very popular area for Brits to Holiday. There was a nice marina area with restaurants on the water we ate at a couple of times but the food was more British than local so we ventured elsewhere. In the ancient town of Loule we found some great small restaurants and have really great meals. In the smaller restaurants you could have a 3 course meal with wine and coffee for less than $50 for two. There also was a town Mercado (market) that was very interesting.
Our final stop was in Lisboa. My wife took to using the Portuguese names not the ones given to them by the English. This is a fascinating city with so much history that I didn’t know about. It’s very hilly and each section has its own flavor. We took a half day walking history tour with a guide that was a good way to see all the sights and understand the history.
If you are looking for a good European vacation off the beaten American tourist path I would highly recommend Portugal. The people are very friendly especially to Americans which are a bit of a novelty to them. The food and wines were great and very cheap. It’s a compact country with a lot of variation and history. I’d like to go back and it would make a pretty nice place to retire.
"It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport."
Artic Explorer Fridtjof Nansen
I got to go on a company trip years ago (fortunately I worked for a wine company). I agree that Portugal is a great country to visit, very beautiful, some cool old walled cities like you mentioned (Evora was the one I got to spend time in). Also agree that Porto and the Douro were a highlight. The food was amazing too (first time I ever had rabbit) great pics!
Thanks for the report, Coach. I have always wanted to visit Portugal, the greatest empire to ever be destroyed by a natural event (earthquake). It was an incredibly important and wealthy place, and to think it's become a backwater in a way is maybe a learning event (not about our politics, just in general). What surprises me most about your pictures besides how well kept it looks, is the architecture. Those buildings are stunning and there is virtually no one there to enjoy it besides you guys. One aspect of Portugal that doesn't get a lot of press is the surfing. A friend of mine rented a van and camped up and down the coast catching waves and enjoying the same meals you did. It really sounds like it has a lot to offer (along with the wine). Again, nice trip.