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russ_in_LA May 16th, 2021 12:55 PM

3 Weeks in Portugal: A photographic report of a trip in progress
 
So, I thought I’d do a Portugal trip report in (almost) real time, similar to the one I did in Italy last October, but without all the reminiscing (given that this is our first trip here). Our plan is to visit in and around the following places over the next 3 weeks:

Lisbon, Sintra, Lagos and the Algarve coast, Evora, Obidos, Coimbra, Guimares, Braga and Porto.

For Lisbon we rented an AirBnB in what turned out to be an ideal location, in Chiado, right off Largo Carmo, just a 5 minute walk downhill to Baixa, and 5 minutes in the other direction to the Bairro Alto. We spent our first day wandering around Praça Rossio and Baixa, just popping in and out of shops and chatting with the sales people. We actually spent longer than I would have ever dreamed in a store dedicated to 36 different varieties of canned sardines! After an obligatory photo stop in the Praça Comércio, we headed over to the Sé (cathedral) and up to explore the Castle as well as the tight warren of surrounding streets.

Our guide book had warned us of terrible crowds, but with no cruise ships currently, and limited tourism, it actually feels a bit sleepy at the moment. The Elevador de Santa Justa is one of the sights that is current closed; however, most things are open, so we are very fortunate to be able to see it this way, and the people we have encountered seem happy to have us there. In fact, as a whole, the Portuguese have been some of the friendliest and most helpful people we have encountered anywhere.

Our second day started with a visit to the Convento do Carmo, a religious complex whose roof collapsed during the earthquake of 1755. Unlike the rest of Lisbon, this building was not rebuilt, so its soaring arches against the daytime sky make for a very atmospheric and photogenic visit. Afterwards we took a ride on the famous tram 28, for which we easily got seats. We noted the sign warning of pickpockets but, without the usual crowds, I think those sticky fingers might have taken an unwanted vacation. We hopped off in the Alfama neighborhood, where we enjoyed wandering around the streets, eventually making our way to the Panteāo Nacional, a 17th century church, the roof of which you can visit, allowing access to the massive dome and a bird’s-eye view of the church interior below. We also visited the Sāo Vicente de Fora church and monastery, in addition to several city viewpoints along the way. It seemed like everywhere we turned, there was another fabulous view of rooftops, narrow winding streets or colorfully painted buildings lining a praça.

One thing that has surprised us so far is how uniformly good the food has been. Our first night we had dinner near our apartment at Carmo restaurant and bar, which was comprised of various petiscos, Portugal’s version of tapas. Our favorite was also the simplest: green beans coated in a tempura-like batter and flash fried. Surprisingly tasty!

Our second night we went a bit upscale at Lisboa à Noite, in Bairro Alto, where we were seated in the former stables. The room was beautifully renovated, including a wall of stunning blue and white azulejo tiles. We shared an enormous grouper, encased in rock salt and baked. Absolutely delicious.

The next night we went for seafood again, in the casual but smart Chiado restaurant called Sea Me. I had some excellent tuna tataki sashimi to start, followed by a whole, simply-grilled dorado. Sam started with oysters, which he said were the best he’s ever had, followed by char-grilled octopus on a purée of smoked carrots. An unusual but addictive accompaniment.

Up next: 36 wonderful hours in Sintra, followed by two more days in Lisbon.

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Column of Pedro IV in Rossio square
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Elevador Santa Justa (minus the crowds)
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The Portuguese really get excited about sardines!
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Praça do Comércio
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Arco da Rua Augusta
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Castelo S. Jorge
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View from the Castelo
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Convento do Carmo
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Miradouro das Portas do Sol
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Miradouro das Portas do Sol
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Alfama staircase
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National Patheon
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São Vicente de Fora

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Tram 28 passing by the Sé
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Lisboa à Noite

progol May 16th, 2021 01:33 PM

Wonderful photos! It looks like you’re off to a great start! Portugal is one of the trips I canceled in 2020 and I look forward to actually getting there someday. The lack of people is noticeable so I imagine people are happy to have tourists again.

If you don’t mind, would you share your Airbnb?


thursdaysd May 16th, 2021 01:50 PM

How lovely! Lisbon is one of my favorite cities. Hope you made it to Belem for the monastery.

TPAYT May 16th, 2021 02:03 PM

Ahhh Lisbon! We laughed at the sardine store and were amazed at the hundreds of shoe stores
with every type of tennis shoe known to man. Of course, Lisbon is full of hills and those gorgeous
tiled streets, so you need those shoes.

So enjoying traveling along with you, the photos are lovely.

Outside of Sintra, Cascais was one of our favorite places.

russ_in_LA May 16th, 2021 02:08 PM


Originally Posted by progol (Post 17242356)
Wonderful photos! It looks like you’re off to a great start! Portugal is one of the trips I canceled in 2020 and I look forward to actually getting there someday. The lack of people is noticeable so I imagine people are happy to have tourists again.

If you don’t mind, would you share your Airbnb?

Here is the link to their AirBnB listing. Although there is a bit of street noise occasionally (voices, cars), I highly recommend it.

https://abnb.me/Gck9rTBFjgb.

progol May 16th, 2021 04:58 PM


Originally Posted by russ_in_LA (Post 17242375)
Here is the link to their AirBnB listing. Although there is a bit of street noise occasionally (voices, cars), I highly recommend it.

https://abnb.me/Gck9rTBFjgb.

Thanks, Russ! It looks great! I bookmarked it for that future trip!

Melnq8 May 16th, 2021 05:24 PM

We also had to cancel Portugal in 2020 and hope to go in 2022. In the meantime, I shall be jealous of your trip and live vicariously, while enjoying your report and lovely photos! It's so nice to see people traveling again and read an international trip report (as I sit here in Wyoming half way through my two week road trip, lol).

joannyc May 16th, 2021 08:10 PM

Thanks for your great TR! Looking forward to more. The Lisbon apartment is lovely. And, your photos are beautiful!

russ_in_LA May 16th, 2021 09:55 PM


Originally Posted by thursdaysd (Post 17242364)
How lovely! Lisbon is one of my favorite cities. Hope you made it to Belem for the monastery.

We did! That will be coming up after Sintra. 🙂

KarenWoo May 17th, 2021 11:00 AM

Enjoying your trip report and photos! We visited Lisbon and Sintra in 2018, and we loved it! We visited the Sao Vicente de Fora and loved the gorgeous tilework and the views from the roof.

What documents did you have to show to enter Portugal? Are you fully vaccinated?
Thanks!

russ_in_LA May 17th, 2021 11:16 AM

Sintra
 
Thanks for the encouraging words, everyone! Moving on now to Sintra.

Originally we were going to spend 6 nights in Lisbon, and then rent a car to drive to Sintra, where we planned to spend the night; however, our guide book had warned us about the difficulty driving there, so we decided to take the train and spare ourselves the headaches. Since the weekly rate of our AirBnb in Lisbon was the same as for 6 nights (essentially giving us one free night), we decided to split up our week there with an overnight in Sintra, allowing us to travel there with a just an overnight bag. As it turned out, there was no traffic at all, so driving would have been fine.

We arrived at the train station and grabbed a taxi to take us to the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais hotel, which was to be our splurge accommodation of the trip. We were expecting a five minute cab ride, but it turns out that the road between Sintra and the hotel was under construction, so what would have been a 1km trip ended up being a 15km, 30 minute detour.

The hotel turned out to be both beautiful, and conveniently located for two of the four palaces that we planned to tour that day and the next. After a pleasant lunch out on the terrace of the hotel, we walked five minutes to the Quinta da Regaleira villa and garden, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Designed by an Italian architect, who apparently believed in a “more is more” philosophy, it’s an early 20th century mashup of Rococo, gothic, and art nouveau.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel where we were offered use of electric assisted bikes for the 3 km trip to Monserrate, another palatial estate and garden, but this time more influenced by Mudéjar Moorish designs. It was a fun ride getting there, and the gardens and villa were completely different from that which we had seen earlier in the day, but just as beautiful.

My original plan for the next day was to walk to town to see the final two palaces, then walk back and get our luggage, before heading back to Lisbon; however, as a result of the road closure, we decided to take our luggage with us, so as to avoid the extra trip. The hotel told us that we would be able to store it at the train station, but this turned out not to be the case; so we dragged it 10 minutes to the National Palace of Sintra to see if they had lockers, and they did! Unfortunately, out of 30, not a single one had a functioning digital lock, rendering them useless. Fortunately, the ticket agent took pity on us and let us store our two small bags behind the desk.

The Sintra National Palace is reputedly the best preserved medieval royal palace in Portugal, easily recognized by its two over-sized chimneys. Also a UNESCO site, it was lived in continuously from the 15th to 19th centuries. Several of the rooms feature beautiful azulejo tiles, as well as moorish motifs. It was definitely worth the price of admission.

Our last planned tour was of Placio Pena, perhaps Sintra’s most well known site, often featured on the cover of Portugal guide books; but our plan to save the best for last backfired when fog rolled in to enshroud the hilltop confection. What the fog did not do was diminish the beauty of the gardens, which drape over the hillside like a lush, green cape.

So we returned to our Lisbon apartment, exhausted but satisfied. Even though we still have two more weeks to go, I know that Sintra will end up being one of the highlights of the trip.


https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...0b276fe3b.jpeg
Quinta da Regaleira
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Quinta da Regaleira
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Quinta da Regaleira
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This shows that you have to give very clear direction to the architect. Never just say, “I think I’d like a bench here”.
https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...4e091c784.jpeg
Quinta da Regaleira

russ_in_LA May 17th, 2021 11:23 AM

Monserrate
 
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Monserrate
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Monserrate
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Monserrate
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Monserrate
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Monserrate
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Monserrate
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Monserrate

russ_in_LA May 17th, 2021 11:30 AM

National Palace of Sintra
 
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scrb11 May 17th, 2021 11:31 AM


Originally Posted by progol (Post 17242356)
Wonderful photos! It looks like you’re off to a great start! Portugal is one of the trips I canceled in 2020 and I look forward to actually getting there someday. The lack of people is noticeable so I imagine people are happy to have tourists again.

Ditto.

How was the OP able to travel now?


russ_in_LA May 17th, 2021 11:48 AM

Pena Palace
 
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...0ef93db90.jpeg
Not my photo
https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...caad449b3.jpeg
...nor this one
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...4e27cd109.jpeg
Yes, this one is mine.
https://cimg8.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...30c8716b8.jpeg
This one too
https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...cc97f5452.jpeg
https://cimg0.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...29771788b.jpeg
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russ_in_LA May 17th, 2021 11:52 AM


Originally Posted by KarenWoo (Post 17242626)
Enjoying your trip report and photos! We visited Lisbon and Sintra in 2018, and we loved it! We visited the Sao Vicente de Fora and loved the gorgeous tilework and the views from the roof.

What documents did you have to show to enter Portugal? Are you fully vaccinated?
Thanks!

We have resident permits, but we did have to take covid tests and show documents indicating our negative results.

progol May 17th, 2021 12:49 PM

Oh, russ, those photos are breathtakingly beautiful! I feel like I've just indulged in a rich visual dessert -- and I'm soooo jealous!!! Such stunning places - and so accessible right now.

Enjoy the rest of your trip -- and I look forward to the rest of it!

russ_in_LA May 18th, 2021 01:39 PM

Belém, Lisbon
 
For the first of our final two days in Lisbon, we focused on the Belém district, which has a surprising number of attractions packed into a relatively compact area. We started with the spectacular Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, where we were so very thankful to be able to see it with so few people. We could really imagine the peaceful solitude that might have existed when it was first inhabited by monks.

After the monastery, we crossed the highway for a view of the massive Padrão dos Descobrimentos sculpture. From there it was a pleasant 10 minute walk along the water to the Belém Tower, a medieval defensive tower which was in the middle of the river when it was built, but now lies just offshore, the river having shifted course since that time.

Our original plan was to then go to the nearby Popular Art Museum, which was unfortunately closed due to Covid, so instead we went to the Berardo Collection of modern art at the Belém Cultural Center across the street. It is a rather extensive collection, but don’t worry if you don’t know your Impressionism from your Expressionism, or Dadaism from Surrealism, as the well laid out, informative rooms will explain it all.

By now we had worked up an appetite. I was worried about waiting in a horrendous line at Pastéis de Belém, but needn’t have worried; we walked right in (but I really feel for the people who depend on tourists to make a living right now. ) Of course, we had to have the famous Pastéis, and they were phenomenal, as expected. I know that this may be heresy to admit, but while I thought the pastry was second to none, I actually liked the custard filling better at Monteigaria, which is both eggier and smoother in consistency (but I’m really splitting hairs here).

Our last stop was intended to be the National Coach Museum, for its collection of 16th to 19th century carriages, but we were disappointed to find that it too was closed. Instead we made a last minute decision to check out the Electricity Museum, which is in a former coal-fired power station. It was fantastic! Visually arresting, with its massive steam powered turbines, as well as extremely informative, with extensive descriptions of every step of the process. I highly recommend it.

Right next door lies MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. The futuristic building is stunning - its swooping bridge leading to a futuristic building with a roof top terrace; but we were underwhelmed by its exhibits (and the contrast with the impressive electricity museum probably exacerbated this feeling). But regardless, we managed to spend several hours filled with a wide variety of sights and experiences, making it another great day in Lisbon.


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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

https://cimg7.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...be93f52e5.jpeg
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
https://cimg5.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...e6bdc2bc5.jpeg
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
https://cimg6.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...50c6de10e.jpeg
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...97434cff4.jpeg
Tower of Belém
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Lisbon Cultural Center
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Lisbon Cultural Center
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Pastéis de Belém
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Bridge to MAAT
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Electricity Museum
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Electricity Museum
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Electricity Museum
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Electricity Museum
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MAAT
https://cimg0.ibsrv.net/gimg/www.fod...49b6eb206.jpeg
MAAT

MinnBeef May 18th, 2021 05:36 PM

Russ, if you are still in Lisbon, I cannot recommend BA Wine Bar in Barrio Alto highly enough. The place is tiny tiny so try and make a reservation, perhaps by showing up if not for that night then the next. A huge selection of Portuguese wine and delicious tapas. As Portugal was not a wine area I was too familiar with, the lovely co-owner would pour samples of 3 different wines for me to match the tapas I had just selected. I then would choose which wine I wanted her to pour further. And the BEST PART- she left the samples of the other two each time for me to finish! As you can guess, its in the Barrio Alto. It is one of my fondest memories of my trip through northern Spain and down into Portugal from 2018.

And as always, your photos are amazing!

russ_in_LA May 19th, 2021 12:55 AM


Originally Posted by MinnBeef (Post 17243079)
Russ, if you are still in Lisbon, I cannot recommend BA Wine Bar in Barrio Alto highly enough. The place is tiny tiny so try and make a reservation, perhaps by showing up if not for that night then the next. A huge selection of Portuguese wine and delicious tapas. As Portugal was not a wine area I was too familiar with, the lovely co-owner would pour samples of 3 different wines for me to match the tapas I had just selected. I then would choose which wine I wanted her to pour further. And the BEST PART- she left the samples of the other two each time for me to finish! As you can guess, its in the Barrio Alto. It is one of my fondest memories of my trip through northern Spain and down into Portugal from 2018.

And as always, your photos are amazing!

Thanks for the tip, but I am a few days behind on my posts, so we are currently in the Algarve. We’ll check it out next time.


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