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Portugal trip - must sees, must stops and must eats

Portugal trip - must sees, must stops and must eats

Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:13 PM
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Portugal trip - must sees, must stops and must eats

We are going to Portugal for 8 nights in early October. Our itinerary is:
2 night - Guest House Duoro, Porto
1 night - Pousada Santa Cristina
1 night - Pousada Castelo de Óbidos
4 night - Marque de Pombal, Lisbon

We will be renting a car until Lisbon.

Some questions I have:
1. What would be a good day trip from Porto? I'm thinking somewhere in the Duoro Valley. Since we're driving, we don't want too much port tasting (and not really a fan of port in any case), but would like to see scenic places and quaint towns.
2. Recommended routes and stops between the different locations?
3. Recommended restaurants at all locations? A handful of special meals would be nice.
4. Any recommended walking tours for Lisbon?

Thanks.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:23 PM
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Did you see the recent NY Times article by Frank Bruni about driving in the Duoro Valley?http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/05/30...l/30Douro.html
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:34 PM
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yes. glad you brought that up because I did forget and need to print it out for reference.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:51 PM
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I would say get the travel book from Amazon "Drive Around Portugal" It is a Thomas Cook guide. Invaluable.
It has tons of driving routes all around Portugal.

L. Reynolds has a great walking tour of Lisbon. Almost any post about Lisbon will contain a response from her. She has great information about restaurants in Lisbon and all over Portugal Just use the search for Portugal. When a post comes up scroll down until you see a response from her. Click on her name and you are set.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2010, 03:58 PM
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try the white port while you are there; it's very unique
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Old Sep 3rd, 2010, 08:59 AM
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Hi, MFNYC,

I think that with one long day out of Porto you can get a good view of the Douro. I think the area has two highlights -- the drive through the wine growing region and a trip along the river. For me, the best way to do the latter is to take the train from Pinhao to Poucinho. It's an out and back kind of thing, on a rattling old train, but it goes where no cars can and is just spectacular. You can also leave from Regua, which is further west and thus closer to Porto, but if you only have one day, I think you want to cut it shorter.

So, what I would do is drive to Pinhao, take the train out and back (there's a 40 minute stop in Poucinho, where there are two cafes and not much else). And then take a drive through vinyard country, maybe to Alijo, or through other towns in that area -- Casal de Loivo is about 8 or 10 km up from Pinhao, straight up to a really nice lookout area.

I don't know if by walking tours you were referring to organized companies, but I have put together a walking tour of the city that I have used numerous times myself and given to friends. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-of-lisbon.cfm

As far as stops along the way, the obvious one between Porto and Condeixa a nova is Coimbra (well worth a long visit) and from there to Obidos, you can choose from Nazare (seaside), Alcobaca (monastery), Batalha (beautiful gothic church), maybe Tomar (nice little town with amazing castle/monastery on top of the hill.

And I second Sher's suggestion about the Cook driving guide. I got one at her suggestion and we have used it a lot.

Have a good trip. Laurie
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Old Sep 3rd, 2010, 11:22 AM
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The fortified city of Valença is a nice spot, maybe you can hop across into Galicia too.
I would also second a night or two in The Upper Douro Valley
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Old Sep 3rd, 2010, 11:39 AM
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Thanks.

lreynold1, I did mean an organized tour. We did a couple on our trip to Barcelona and really enjoyed them. The ones we did focused on a theme or area, so I was thinking something along those lines here. I will print out your tour. I usually plot on a map all the things I want to see, and then plan my days accordingly.

Any restaurant recs?

ribeirasacra, As far as a night or 2 in upper Duoro, everything is already set. And, as it was, I squeezed in an 8th day so it isn't too rushed, Unfortunately, I couldn't squeeze in any more.
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 12:13 AM
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Sorry I miss understood the question. I thought you could change your plans.
I would not go to the Douro Valley for a day. If you take the Autovia it will take about 1.5 hours each way if the traffic is good. If you take the minor roads and see something of the countryside then it will take best part of a day.
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 06:45 AM
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We will be doing the day trip from Porto on a Saturday. Don't know if that's good or bad as far as traffic goes. We don't mind spending a full day out, but don't want to be driving the majority of the time. We would be willing to drive about 2 hrs each way.
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 06:57 AM
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Hi, MFNYC,

I forgot to add a link to a thread about Lisbon restaurants.
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...for-lisbon.cfm

I'll bring it to the top because there are probably people who have additions to make.

It's more than a year old, but it's a start. Laurie

and p.s. on the drive. Ribeirasacra is right that it's about 2 hours from Porto to Pinhao, which is where I would head. Part of the drive south from near Vila Real will be in the wine growing region, though, so some of your driving will be sightseeing. I continue to think the highlight would be the train trip if you can swing it.
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Old Sep 4th, 2010, 06:27 PM
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MFNYC, don't miss the "caldo verde" cabbage soup - hearty and delicious. The breads are fabulous and the sardines are very tasty. If I recall, the food (and let’s not forget the wine) is excellent and reasonably priced.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 01:35 AM
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As you near Lisbon coming from Porto, get onto A-8 and make stops to see Obidos and Mafra. At Obidos, stop at the Cauldron for lunch. It's on a small side road beside a massive white building (formerly a convent or church, you'll see it from the highway). This is a locals hang out and much better quality food than the tourist spots in Obidos itself (try their bread stew. Beware their portions, they are massive). Turn off the highway and toward Obidos and then right turn to the sideroad. After lunch, go back to visit Obidos, very old lovely walled city.

Mafra is several miles on toward Lisbon. Beautiful sites including a former palace of the royal family.

In Lisbon, these are two of my favorites:

In the Alfama district, try FAZ Figura restaurant (218 868 981). Rua do Paraiso 15B. It's fantastic, new versions of the traditional dishes. The pork is fabulous.

In Chiado district: Colcci Cafe - Rua Ivens 59-61 (21 0991613).

Eleven comes highly recommended but I haven't tried it myself. Enjoy your trip.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 01:38 AM
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Do you port sampling in Lisbon at the Port Institute. Give them a call to make sure of the hours. The guidebook said one thing and when we got there, they were closed. I understand it's a great experience and I hope to enjoy it next time I'm there.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 01:53 AM
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One other suggestion: Read the reviews of Obidos Pousada at TripAdvisor and you'll get a pretty good idea of how people felt about it. Obidos itself is a small place and you can see everything there is to see in 2 hours. As for myself, it wouldn't be worth staying overnight, but it is a must stop along the way to see and photograph.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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Thanks. I making lots of notes to bring with me from these threads.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 12:25 PM
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tag
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 05:58 AM
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Ok, less than 2 weeks to go. I have some more questions. Here's the itinerary, much based on info from this forum and Karen Brown's guide.

Day 1- Arrive porto in early morning, stay at Guest House Douro. Drop off bags, have breakfast, explore Porto, rest, and have dinner. Maybe visit Vila Nova de Gaia if we are energetic enough.

Day 2 - Pick up car rental. Drive to Pinhao. Take train to Pocinho and back to Pinhao. Drive back to Porto (I know it's a long day, but I think we can handle it). We aren't interested in Port tasting, but more interested in the beauty of the area, and hoping the train ride will give us the post-jetlag rest we may need.

Day 3 - drive to Pousada de Condeixa-a-Nova for the night. Make possible stops in Aveiro, Bucaco, Coimbra and Conimbriga on the way to the Pousada. Recommended restaurant, at O Cabritino, next to Pousada

Day 4 - drive to Pousada Castelo de Obidos. Make possible stops in Batalha, Alcobaca and Nazare on the way to Obidos. Walk around Obidos and have dinner.

Day 5 - drive to Marque de pombal hotel, Lisbon. Make stops in Sintra and Estoril on way to Lisbon. Return car. Explore Lisbon in evening.

Day 6 - Explore Lisbon, maybe do a walking tour (I printed out Lreynolds' one, so that's certainly a possibility).

Day 7 - Day trip to Cascais via train. Explore Lisbon in the evening

Day 8 - Explore Lisbon

Day 9 - Fly home

Questions:
1. If we go to Vila Nova de Gaia, can we walk there, or take a cab? Any specific place to go for tastings?
2. Can we handle all the 'possible' stops en route or is it too much? If too much, what should we skip?
3. How is the packing at these various stops?
4. Do we need restaurant reservations? Right now the only restaurant I am pretty sure about is the one on Day 3, but don't have a reservation. Any other recs for the other days?
5. For train ride to/from Pinhao. Any particular side of train to sit for best views?
6. On drive to Pinhao, any particular quick stops we should make?
7. Any particular place for lunch in Pinhao, or even take out for the train ride?
8. Where might I find a train schedule on line?
9. Any good basic Portuguese language lesson I can download for IPod just to become familiar with the basics?
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 06:02 AM
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oops... question 3 should be "How as the parking" not packing.
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Old Sep 26th, 2010, 07:25 AM
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Hi, MFNYC,
I can help you out with a few questions, I'll use your numbering. I see this more of a "wish list" than a possible itinerary because I'm pretty sure you're going to have to make some cuts, but that's of course your call.

1. Vila Nova is a short walk across a beautiful bridge. You can either take the upper level or the lower level. If you cross over on the upper level (or take the modern tram) right on the other side is a small garden/park with a spectacular view back to the city of Porto across the river, it's one of my favorite sites anywhere. But you will be up top and nowhere near the port wine lodges. If you walk across the bottom level you'll still have a nice view back to Porto's riverfront, and you'll be right on the main drag with many port lodges.


2. I think some of the travel days are very ambitious, but I know different people have different travel styles. But even with a get-up-and-go approach, I don't think it's possible to visit Aveiro, Bucaco, Coimbra, and Conimbriga on the way to the pousada in Condeixa. Aveiro is a pleasant town to walk around, but for me the highlight is the coast nearby, there are some beautiful dune stretches and nature preserves, but you don't have time for that. Bucaco is a ways off the highway, up in the forest. It is essentially a hotel in a forest. I've stayed in the hotel, and it's an experience, and have taken long walks through the forest, but that's not the kind of thing you are going to have much time for on your way to Condeixa. If it were me, I'd either try to spend at least half a day in Coimbra, just drive right into town along the river go into one of several central parking garages. The old town, the cathedral, the university, the pedestrian areas, all are a nice way to spend a day or two, so you will certainly have plenty to do in a half day.

The other alternative Conimbriga, are the roman ruins about 4 or 5 km outside of the Condeixa pousada. If you like Roman ruins, these are the best in Portugal. Some have complained about the many modern roof-coverings, but I assume that's done to preserve the mosaics. And there's a nice museum there as well. If Conimbriga were a high priority, you could visit there on the way out of Condeixa the next morning, but that would require giving up many of the proposed stops on the next day.

I don't think Batalha, Alcobaca, and Nazare are all possible to see on the way from Condeixa to Obidos, but two of the three would be at least do-able.


5. The train is very tiny and crosses the river, so river-side seats become land-side seats and vice versa. We essentially had the train car to ourselves and could move around at will. I don't imagine you'll have a problem.

6. Porto to Pinhao will take you at least 2 hours. The quickest route goes up north on the super highway, through Amarante, which is a pleasant river town, but I don't think there's much time for a stop. Picking up the car rental and getting to Pinhao for a morning train is awfully tight and it looks like there's a big break in train departures, one at 11:43, the next at 4:00 pm. But if you have to omit the train ride, you will still have time to see some of the area, my two favorite places on the north side of the river are the tiny town of Casal de Loivos (you'll be close as you head down towards Pinhao) and then further west, the small town of Mesao Frio. The pousada in Mesao Frio is worth a quick stop, though they don't have an outdoor cafe there are nice views from there. If I were you, I'd have a back-up plan if the train doesn't work out.

7. Train schedule Pinhao to Pocinho
9h42 10h37 0h55 ver
11h43 12h39 0h56 ver
16h00 16h58 0h58 ver
17h56 18h54 0h58 ver
19h35 20h32 0h57 ver

Return trips to Pinhao will be about a half hour after you arrive in Pocinho, so you are talking about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour total time. Parking is not an issue in Pinhao, in my experience. Lots of places.

Comment on Day 5 -- Estoril and Cascais are right next to each other, so I would visit them both on the same day. People are divided on whether they're a real highlight, I'm one of the ones who sees the beauty in Cascais but thinks it has become a high-rent shopping district suburb of Lisbon, and Estoril really has nothing much but the casino, IMO. Traffic in Cascais is HORRIBLE, so either head straight for the parking garage if you're in a car, or leave it for a train as you suggest. I'm sure if you take the train out you can hop off in Estoril if you want and get back on to Cascais.

If it were me, I'd consider dropping off the car in Lisbon and then taking a train out to Sintra another day. Parking is very tight, but I guess it depends on what you want to see there. If you're going to head to some of the beautiful but more out of the way sites like Monserrate and convento dos Capuchinos, you will need a car.

Hope this helps a bit, you've got a lot to think about.
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