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Trip Report Back from Portugal - Algarve and Sintra

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My husband and I took a 9 day trip to Portugal. We used frequent flier miles to fly from the US and stay for free for 5 of our 7 nights. We rented a diesel car from Auto Europe. Most of our time was spent in the Algarve. There are three beach areas not to be missed in Lagos. They all have gorgeous water and picturesque limestone outcropping....and are all within 1/2 mile of each other.
Praia Dona Ana was beautiful and there is a restaurant right there by the cliff that is yummy and reasonable - it's the only restaurant right there.... we got calamari grilled in olive oil and garlic as well as big sardines. Nearby Praia Camilo required about 200 steps down to the beach, but was also well worth seeing. You can walk through a tunnel and have an even more private beach. Ponta da Piedade isn't a beach, but a fantastic walk to gorgeous views of cliffs, tunnels and grottoes. It was worth the 10 euros to take a 30 minute boat ride to see the cool limestone formations and grottoes from the water. There's a cool fish market in Lagos too on the main blvd. Sagres was an easy and picturesque side trip. There is a Pousada (old monastery turned hotel) there that looked like a wonderful place to stay.

Another highlight was Quinta da Bica Quad Adventures - the 5 hour tour through the Algarve countryside was a lot of fun. Hugo was our wonderful guide and the trails are well marked. The quad bikes are very comfortable...even with 2 people sharing one. The family run restaurant Hugo took us to produced the best lunch of our entire trip...I had the suckling pig (yes I feel guilty about it...but it was amazing).

Honestly, 5 days in the Algarve was 2 days too many for us. We had exhausted Portimao, Algor, Lagos, Sagres, Faro, and Albufeira (liked it there).

Cascais was nice, but not worth the trip if you are already seeing beaches in the Algarve. If you are in Lisbon, Cascais would be worth a little side trip. If you go there you MUST try the ice cream at SANTINNI's - right next to the McDonald in the little village where there are lots of shops and restaurants....fantastic! They even had GORGONZOLA WITH NUTS ice cream, which was surprisingly delicious.

We spend 2 days in Sintra, which was wonderful. We stayed in the CINCO B&B - great find - it's one apt attached to someone's house. Check it out on trip advisor...great location and very fairly priced. We walked from there to the Pena National Palace, which is a must see and a nice hike if you walk to it. Sintra is a medieval town and magical....the GSPOT restaurant by the train station was very good.

The Portugese people are very friendly. There are not as many English speakers as I would have expected, but luckily I had some Spanish to fall back upon, which most could understand. The weather in early May was SPECTACULAR 70s and sunny. Many of the touristy areas have "tourist menus" and mediocre food - which was disappointing.
This is a lovely country, with a lot of geographic diversity. Have a wonderful time, if you go.

Allison

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