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Trip Report Trip Report: Portugal - July 2012

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My husband and I visited Portugal for our anniversary in mid-July 2012 for 10 nights. It was a great vacation and we loved the country. I'm not going into detail of every attraction we saw since there's already a ton of information about that out there. This trip report is mostly the highlights and my tips, with a few not so great moments. Of course, what we liked and didn't like is a matter of opinion, but I wanted to provide my perspective here because I used Fodor's extensively to plan this trip, and many others. Hopefully, this trip report helps someone. For context, we're both 30 years old and from NYC.

Itinerary: We took TAP Portugal for all of our flights. Our itinerary was 3 nights in Porto, 3 nights in Lagos and 4 nights in Lisbon. We flew into Lisbon and were supposed to get a connecting flight to Porto, but our plane was very delayed leaving NY (7 hours). Once we landed in Lisbon, all of the Porto flights were sold out and we couldn't get a flight out until 6 hours later. So we just picked up our rental car at the Lisbon airport, got our bags and drove to Porto. It required some leg work to get our bags from the plane but it was worth it. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't bother with the connecting flight, I would just drive. The roads in Portugal are in exceptional shape (consequently, with lots of tolls). We kept the car until arriving in Lisbon.

Weather: Porto (70s) and Lagos (80s) were warm during the day, but the nights got chilly (50s-60s). Lagos by the ocean is especially windy, day or night. Bring a shawl/light jacket. Lisbon was nice and warm all day and night.

Porto: Hotel: Sheraton Porto. We didn't have a lot of time here, especially since we lost half a day because of the late flight.
- We had dinner at ODE Wine House in Ribiera on the first night (really cool wine cellar, you have wine and cheese on one floor, and then you move up to the second floor for your dinner, friendly service, great food and wine). We didn't have a reservation, so we put down our names and walked along the Duoro River for a bit and got some wine at a waterfront bar.
- The next night we went to Shis (very chic, on the ocean rocks, have a drink at sunset - it's beautiful. If you're staying for dinner, definitely have a reservation. We weren't impressed with the food though.)
- During the day, we grabbed sandwiches from a deli and just started eating and walking. Checked out the Sao Bento train station for its pretty azulejos (tiles). Definitely go to the Lello bookstore - it's what inspired JK Rowling for parts of Harry Potter.
- We took the tram out to Foz do Duoro one day. The tram goes along the river and out to the ocean. We just got ice cream and walked along the water.
- Since we didn't go into the Duoro Valley, we went into Gaia for port tasting. We walked across the river on the bridge, went to Ramos Tinto winery for a tasting. Sandeman is also supposed to be good, but it was closed when we were there. We did the cable car ride in Gaia to get a pretty view of Porto and the river. Sunset is ideal to do this.
- Another great restaurant is DOP

Enroute to Lagos, we stopped in Obidos to take a lunch break. There are a lot of other towns for stopping in, but this one was recommended. Bad choice. There was a medieval festival going on, it felt very touristy, lots of flies, and incredibly slippery cobblestones even if you are wearing sneakers. (This was a problem in Porto and Lisbon too. Wear shoes with traction!) Anyway, look into stopping in Evora or Coimbra instead if you are travelling this route during the cooler months. These towns are more inland and it was over 105 degrees there.

Lagos: Hotel: Cascade Wellness Resort: beautiful hotel and pool, but windy by the ocean and chilly pool. We used Lagos as our base for exploring the rest of the Algarve beach towns. Another good base is Albufeira (bigger, more touristy). There isn't a whole lot to do in the town of Lagos itself besides dining, spring break type bars (if you like) and shopping. We usually had dinner here or at the hotel and explored in our car during the day.
- Meia Praia is a nice, long beach with white sand, but cold water. We went to the Bahia beach bar for lunch. If you are there on a Sunday, they have a party on the sand at night with live music. You need reservations if you want a table that night.
- Dona Ana Beach is a gorgeous beach, but rocky sand. Lots of people here, but just a beach bar for food/drinks. Bring umbrellas and towels from your hotel.
- Definitely drive west to Sagres one day. Stop at the Fortaleza (fort) and walk around it for amazing views. It is VERY windy here, but worth it! We went to Bar Tonel on the beach for lunch. From there, drive further west to Cabo Sao Vicente for more awesome views. You can go into the lighthouse if it's open for more views. If possible, time it so you can see the sunset from either the fort or Cabo SV. It's just beautiful. We actually drove back another evening just for this.
- We were saving out last day for the hotel pool, but it was weirdly cold. So we drove to Monchique and Foia. It's high up in the mountains. Fun drive, but not much to do besides eat in one of the cafes. You can also choose to drive east to the other towns in the Algarve, like Albuferia (huge town), or Faro. We decided to just take it easy since we had saved the day to relax.
- In Lagos town we ate at Lemon Grass (good and cheap Thai food), a pizza place one night and a tapas bar, Limau. We also had a delicious breakfast at the hotel every morning and dinner once. Everything was good food-wise wherever we went, but be prepared for slow service!

Lisbon: Hotel: Sheraton Lisbon
- Food first, because everything was mostly wonderful here. We had dinner at Feitoria (anniversary dinner, Michelin starred, flexible menu for special diets, amazing food and service, formal). Terra (vegetarian buffet with outdoor seating, kind of hippie and very popular.) Taverna Chiado (bleh). Cantinho de Alveileiz (Amazing! We went on our last night, but could have done a repeat here. Great food and wine, Anthony Bourdain went here.) Best thing to do in Lisbon is research restaurants and make reservations...the food scene is huge here.
- We had brunch at Quinoa once day. Very good food and cool environment.
- In Lisbon, we spent some time in the Alfama, wandered around, saw some of the attractions, like the Castelo, and shops. There is a very famous tram that you can take to get up to the Alfama. But the line was 2 hours long and it was hot, so we just took a cab up and walked down.
- We went to Belem one day to see all of the monuments by the water and the Monastery. Again, we didn't do anything in too much depth, but it's a nice area. Stop at Pasteis de Belem, the shop with the blue and white awning to get the original pastis de belem and other pastries...crowded, but so good. It's 2 doors down from the Starbucks and on the side of the street that the Monastery is on.
- Chiado is a grid-like district, great for shopping and eating...and walking to the water. Rua Augusta is a pedestrian only street lined with lots of high street stores. Get the gelato from Santini Gelati...amazing flavors. A Vida Portuguesa is a really cool store...also in Porto. Lots of gift options here. Republica das Flores is another quirky shop.
- Barrio Alto is high above this area and the place to be for nightlife and fado. The Cais do Sodre area is up and coming...more edgy nightlife. We went to Cinco Lounge one night. Awesome drinks and cool decor. The owner is a British expat who sat down with us for a few drinks on the house because we told him it was our anniversary. The night starts really late in Lisbon, like 1 and 2am. We went around 11pm and it was pretty empty....people are still at dinner!
- One day we did a day trip by train to Sintra to see the castles. We saw Pena and the Moor's Castle and then walked around town, went into the cute shops, ate at OVC....really nice cafe with good food and desserts.
- Apparently, Gulbenkian Museum is the museum to see in Lisbon, but we didn't have time for it. Sad to miss this one.

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