As I sit in the funky & cool lobby of the Icelandair Reykjavik Marina hotel, looking out at a cool, blustery day, I am remembering just a few days ago looking forward to a drop in temperature. We arrived here yesterday (monday) afternoon after about 12 hours since our 4am wake up.
I should fill you in first though on our last days in Portugal. Can we just say:
This in one terrific country! The people, the scenery, the food (other than the beer of course). Every town & city we visited had their own signature pastry. How civilized is THAT? These concoctions were usually developed centuries ago by nuns. The recipes are trademarked and usually only made by licensed bakeries in those towns. By the way, there are a LOT of bakeries (pasteleria) in every town, small & large.
Of course, they all have espresso machines. Even non coffee drinking me had cappuccino & espresso several times – when in Rome (or Lisbon, Sisimbra, Evora, Tomar…)
After Tomar, we drove to Luso – famous for its brand of bottled water available everywhere – to stay at the Palace Hotel Bussaço. This place is a kick. It sits in their own park (non guests have to pay to enter the grounds and cannot enter the hotel building.) It looks like a 17th century structure but was really built between 1890-1905. The last king of Portugal (for whom the place was built) was assassinated in 1910 so no more monarchs have resided there. The park grounds were established by a tribe of monks in the 15C. cool, wild & different. I surprised Nancy by booking a room here and she felt like a queen for the night!
The restaurant has a deservedly great reputation.
After one night there, we moved onto Coimbra. This city hosts Portugal’s oldest university and seems like a college town. We toured a few buildings of the school as well as another noteworthy Cathedral. The library still has 600 year old books and is beautiful. No photos allowed – sorry. They have a colony of bats living in the building that fly through the stacks every night to eat the bugs that would otherwise have destroyed the volumes by now!
A typical Coimbra scene.
Again on the road the next day with lots of kilometers to cover. Guimarães was our next stop. We have had a LOT of fun learning & practicing the pronunciation of this town! As best I can write it, it is ‘gweemanaish’. Go figure. If this place was on the coast, we would have already moved there. It is hard to define & describe why…… the vibe, the look, the friendly ladies sitting in the praças, atmosphere, history, all those and MORE earned our appreciation.The poster is for ‘spaghetti’ gelato – made with ice cream run through a potato ricer & covered with nuts, fudge etc. We did NOT have one but watched it made.
How could I not love a place with their own delicious version of the Sfogiatele?
In addition to the palace, castle, cathedral, convent, cloister, gondola to the top of a hill & museums, we had terrific food & saw an exhibit of siege machines including battering rams, trebuchets, catapults & HUGE crossbows. Only @ 8200 people live there but it seems like a small city.
Imaging a town in the states of that size having this church!
We felt like Willie Nelson the next day – yup, On the Road Again. This time a short drive — an hour’s drive or so but of course we discovered charming little towns to explore along the way. This stop was Portugal’s second city – Porto. (Guimarães was the birthplace of modern Portugal – around 100 years ago). This is a big city. Lots of traffic & noise. The big attractions (besides the usual historical monuments) are the Riberira area (along the Douro River) and the port caves & wineries. We had a lovely lunch watching the world go by, sampled some port & climbed a big (no Space Needle though) tower. Dinner was at the restaurant next to our lunch place – the owner was a kick & the food was great.
I think this is my favorite picture of the trip!
Since Porto is such a big city, we planned 2 nights there but after hearing about a seaside town down the coast, we decided to cut a day out of Porto & headed south for Aviero, known as “the Venice of Portugal.”
Since it was Saturday & this is on the coast, the town was full of touristas and famous for its salt & fish industries. They too have their own pastry. Nancy read about a cooking class & we were able to get into a hands on session.
This pastry is a shell of communion host dough (some are shell shaped), filled with a ‘cream’ of egg yolks, sugar & water. Not as bad as it may sound. Very rich & filling. It is called the Ovos Molés but pronounced as Ovosh Molesh.
The salt pans were pretty cool. We were able to walk around a facility.
Sunday was our last full day in Portugal. On the way to Lisbon, we stopped in a beach town called Praia du Vagueira.
A mile long boardwalk, beautiful beach, gentle surf. Ahhhhh.
Right across the street from the beach was a derelict small inn or restaurant for sale. Anyone know a good realtor? We hit the road (again).
Apparently, it is almost a felony to not visit Sintra, another cool, hill top town built as a retreat by the royals & nobility. Again, a place that went into decline after the king’s assassination. Very impressive though & restored. The two favorite “must sees” is a 1200 year old Moorish Castle that we hiked and climbed on, and The Pena Palace. This was truly the most crowded town we visited but definitely worth it.
Well, loyal readers, you are all caught up on our Portugal Adventures. We left early Monday morning and flew to Iceland and changed from our toasty summer wardrobe to our puffy coats and wool hats.
We have only been here a day + but we like it.
If you are heading to Portugal, I have a few thoughts; Get a GPS if you are renting a car!!!! Most of the streets in towns do not have signs on them; the roads are in great shape though. If you are used to a lack of toilets & then having to pay to use them in places like Italy, forget about it. PT has lots, they are clean, well stocked & free. I do not know why hotel showers only have half doors on them, allowing for lots of water all over the room. Even 5 star places. The beer stinks but the wine, mojitos & caipirinha are great. The people are justifiably proud of their beautiful country. But, they smoke too much.
Thanks to our Fitbits, we WALKED 134.85 miles EACH for the 2 weeks we spent climbing crenulated towers, wandering little hill towns, walking on beautiful beaches and stumbling over cobblestones. Total number of stair flights were 691 total.
Our little Fiat Punto used only 2 tanks of diesel while moving us a touch over 1,000 kilometers.
Go, enjoy & Obrigado for following us.