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How highly would you prioritize Portugal?

How highly would you prioritize Portugal?

Dec 6th, 2014, 12:44 PM
Original Poster
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How highly would you prioritize Portugal?

I am interested in Portugal for a number of cultural and historic and musical reasons. But I'm also drawn to go back to Italy (have been once) and explore Spain further (particularly to visit Andalucia, which I haven't done).

The answer is obviously a matter of personal taste, so I'm not expecting anyone to tell me the definitive solution. Nonetheless,if you had two weeks this year that you wanted to spend in this approximate region, how would you prioritize?
WillTravel is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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Since I've been to both Italy and Spain a number of times, Portugal is now at the top of my list, next year I hope. I can certainly understand your dilemma. I suggest you try a week in Spain, 1 location such as Seville with day trips, and a week in Lisbon doing the same. Difficulty arises when you try to cram too many stays into a short time frame but since Seville and Lisbon are relatively close together, I see no problem combining them.
MmePerdu is online now  
Dec 6th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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Time of year would make a difference to me, not to mention exactly what it is that interests you when it comes to travel in Europe.

Only Rome had a longer lasting empire than Portugal, and Portugal's, in second place, was really a long-lived empire with exceptional global reach. It was over practically in a flash (or crash), rather than a long decline, but one of the most fascinating things about today's Portugal is how much it has maintained interesting cultural ties with those countries formerly in its imperial net, maybe even more so than the British empire, and in more creative ways. Its ties to the countries of its former empire are in some ways stronger than its ties to the European Union -- and yet it is obviously a European culture right to the core when you visit. A global European culture.

In music, Portugal goes totally its own way, and one of the great joys to me of visiting Portugal is that if you aren't hearing Portuguese music in a cafe or restaurant, you are usually treated to silence instead. There is no generic canned international music, and Portugal has already remained remarkably free of generic global fashion brand shopping (except in its most set-up-for-tourists streets, which are not that many) .

Another one of the contemporary joys of Portugal is that it has the best cuisine for the cheapest price (Italy had a great deal more of it in recent years, and while it hasn't lost the cuisine, it has gotten pricier in most places)! Wine is wonderfully tasty and inexpensive to boot. Port wine is marvelous (but many wines are).

Finally, Portugal has exceptional historic architecture but also a very pleasant contemporary architectural style. There are monstrosities, but there is also outstanding native talent. Great climate (some people claim the best in Europe).

Italy and Spain are infinitely interesting, but it is quite interesting to put Portugal in the mix. For a great many people, European travel really centers around France (in particular Paris) and Italy, plus London of course and then some dips here and there to other places. But I put Portugal and Greece very high on the list of understanding how European thinking has shaped so much of the world, and the really lovely thing about Portugal is that it absorbed so much of what flowed back in the other direction, to give a particular graceful aesthetic that is all its own and not dead or frozen in the past at all. It is not a theme park.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 02:11 PM
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I like MmePerdu's idea. It all depends on how you can arrange flights and not backtrack and waste a lot of time.
Add or subtract days according to your interests. Possibly fly into Seville, stay 3/4 nts. Train to Granada, stopping in Cordoba on the way. Granada for at least 2 nts, bus to Malaga, 1 nt.
Fly to Lisbon from Malaga. Fly home from Lisbon.
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 02:21 PM
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It depends slightly on the time of year (i.e., weather; tourist hordes). Otherwise, Italy, Italy, Italy. Except for Andalucia at Semana Santa, Portugal in March, and/or when other places are inundated with tourist hordes.
dfourh is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 02:51 PM
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I don't see how it is possible to see any of northern Portugal from a base in Lisbon. I think it is possible to combine some parts of Spain with some parts of Portugal, but Lisbon and Sevilla would for me be falling between 2 stools. But it really does depend on how you like to travel. There are a number of big time historical sights and museums in Andalucia that I think are fantastic, and trying to see them from one base would be impossible geographically, it would not leave any time to get off the beaten track in any meaningful way.

The other problem for me with day trips in Spain is that almost all of Spain, except tourist sights, closes up for hours and hours in the middle of the day. So just about the time you get someplace for a "day trip", people are starting to retreat from the public life of the place. They don't begin to reappear until the time the "day tripper" is ready to go back to their "base."

I highly recommend Porto if you are going Portugal as well as Lisbon, but if I were going to pair Lisbon with another European destination it would be Amsterdam, or possibly Vienna. Don't know if the flights favor it, but the startling contrasts and yet the similarities of these European capitals would be a lot of fun.

But you already apparently know everybody travels differently and my style and interests might be totally opposite of yours.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 03:06 PM
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We were no overwhelmed by Portugal - fins as part of another trip - but not by itself.

If you have never been to Andalusia - IMHO by far the most interesting part of Spain due to it;s Moorish heritage - I would definitely head there - as long as it's not midsummer - when the weather is truly unbearable.

Also love Italy - but if y ou've already seen some of it - why not try the best of Spain now?
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 6th, 2014, 07:21 PM
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sandralist, Up until I read your posts on Portugal I've only had a passing interest. Now, I'm wondering why my bag isn't already packed. Thank you.
LSky is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 03:36 AM
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Visiting Italy once probably means you have been in the tiny triangle of Rome/Florence/Venice. Which is a bit like going to the States and only visited Boston/Cambridge etc. So lots to go at.

Portugal is relatively small but with some great ancient cities and language which is a little tricky and some wonderful countryside. Right now prices are low and of course you also have the amazing Azores and the interesting Madeira to try.

In terms or politics Portugal managed to get rid of their own dictator without outside help and are rightly proud of this and their ability to unelect a communist government while the history of the Royal family moving the throne to Brazil leaving a Governor in Europe has produced a very sensible people. What to do in the country, I have enjoyed bicycling across the country in Algarve and Alentejo, visited old cities, tasted Port in Porto and seen wine lists with 4 colours rather than the usual three.
bilboburgler is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 06:06 AM
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Time of year is indeed a question; however I'll assume that you're cognizant of conditions in Portugal and/or Andalusia.

I think a visit to Andalusia is compatible with a brief visit to the Portuguese region of Alentejo, a large area of (mostly) rolling hills, cork and olive groves, lovely old cities like Evora, and grand vistas. It's perfect country for exploring hilltop villages and for seeing beautiful domestic/vernacular architecture. Except for a couple of cities (such as Evora) it's somewhat off the beaten path.

It's also fairly close to centers in Andalusia such as Seville, although, of course, with limited time you really won't be able to do either region the focus they're due.
Gardyloo is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 09:40 AM
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We spent 5 nights in Lisbon, and we LOVED everything about it. Charming city with friendly people and very affordable prices. Easy to get around, and taxis are cheap. We took the train one day to Sintra and another day to Cascais.

I can highly recommend the Hotel Avenida Palace. So gorgeous and gracious.

We would love to return to Portugal and spend two weeks traveling north to south (or vice versa).
Tabernash2 is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 11:50 AM
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Spain is our number one destination over and over...( we have also visited the " major" cities in Italy ,France etc)
I had never been to Portugal until four nights in Lisbon this fall. ( after four days in Madrid).
The opinion on the board regarding Lisbon was rather divided. ....some found it disappointing,
others liked its uniqueness.
I filled three and a half days easily ....did not even have the time to go to Sintra .
The city was interesting, charming, VERY hilly, partly gentrified, had a sense of nostalgia and
A number of posters don't like Madrid, some are not overwhelmed by Barcelona, but I am yet to hear from
those who did not like Andalusia. Its history, architecture and landscape are irresistible.
A week in Seville and Granda combined with a week in Lisbon and surrounding
area would be my suggestion.
danon is online now  
Dec 7th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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Have a great trip!

I really don't know what it means for someone to say they think Andalucia is the most interesting part of Spain because of its "Moorish" heritage but found not much of interest in Portugal. Did they not see the Alfama in Lisbon? The tile work all over Portugal? Hear anybody talk? What did they think they were looking at and did they not wonder at the origin of words like "Algarve" -- ?

Andalucia is quite interesting to be sure but when people say it is the "most interesting" part of Spain I can't help but wonder where else they've been in Spain. While I wouldn't go so far as to say I didn't like Andalucia, it certainly had the least interesting food of anyplace I've visited in Spain, and destinations like the Basque country and Galicia are fascinating, and the Pyrenees stunningly beautiful. Just like there is more to Italy than Rome, Florence and Venice, there is much, much more to Spain than Barcelona, Madrid and Andalucia.

I wanted to add one more charming aspect of Portugal. It really doesn't come across as a consumerist culture. Of course you will find ways to buy Portuguese craft, and many tourist spots have vendors selling things to tourists, and there is luxury for those who seek it. But it really quite refreshing to go to Portugal as a visitor and feel society is organized around a different premise and you've escaped the worst aspects of consumer society. Harder to do in Italy or France, or Barcelona or even San Sebastian (which is one reason that many tourists don't "get" Portugal).
sandralist is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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With the short, relative cheap flights from Malaga or Seville to Lisbon, it is perfectly feasible to visit bits of both Spain and Portugal in two weeks. If you have the energy, and given that you are torn between the two, go for it. Anything you do will make a great trip.
Sassafrass is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 12:33 PM
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Of course there is more to Italy than Rome and Venice, or more to Spain than Barcelona and SS,
but most posters don't have the privilege of living in Europe or time and funds to explore
all the lovely towns on a BIG continent.
danon is online now  
Dec 7th, 2014, 12:37 PM
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sandralist, I understand what you mean about Portugal feeling less 'consumerist'. We felt so welcomed there, and that the residents truly appreciated having tourists come visit their home. It seemed a very gracious culture. Exemplified perfectly at the Hotel Avenida Palace.
Tabernash2 is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 12:59 PM
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Clearly Portugal was instrumental in the exploration of the world by Europe, but in no way, shape, or form has Portugal contributed to the world body of culture like the Italians, Spanish, French, Germans, English and Dutch among the European colonizers.

The food of Portugal is most enjoyable but unfortunately it is under appreciated and relatively unknown in the US. The people are kind but benignly morose. There are many wonderful and unusual towns through the nation and while Portuguese is a Romance language, it is difficult to speak well. And in Galicia, Spain where they speak Gallego, it is more Portuguese than Castilian.

It is worthwhile but it does not have the charm and diversity of Italy and Spain.
IMDonehere is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 01:10 PM
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These are really great answers. Thanks everyone. I think I may try for a combo of southern Spain and Portugal, but I'll have to see how the exact timing shakes out.
WillTravel is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 03:18 PM
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Beautiful words, Sandralist. Thank you
lobo_mau is offline  
Dec 7th, 2014, 04:03 PM
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Clearly IMDonehere can list some European countries by heart, but in no way, shape or form, he/she has any clue about what he/she is talking about.
lobo_mau is offline  

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