For my last post about our recent trip to Portugal, I was inspired by the wonderful photography and stories of blogger The Insatiable Traveler and want to share some of my photos along with a few suggestions and observations.
DO pack hiking boots or sturdy shoes to manage the steep hills. I can’t say this enough!
DO eat a hearty breakfast. All our hotels included lavish buffets in the room rate, which set us up perfectly for a day of exploring.
DON’T be intimidated if you don’t speak Portuguese. Learn a few key phrases and politely ask someone if he or she speaks English. Most do, especially in the larger cities.
DON’T speak Spanish instead. There’s a long history of discord with Spain, and Portuguese is not a dialect but its own distinct language.
DO venture into grocery stores. I love seeing how local products are different from the brands I get at home, and people are friendly and helpful.
DO rent a car and tour the beautiful countryside.
DON’T expect world-class museums. If you’re used to the Louvre, Prado, British Museum, Met or Uffizi, you’ll find museums in Lisbon to be charming but not on the same level.
DON’T forget to look up, down and sideways. Many buildings still retain their original azulejos (tiles) and the cobbled streets often have intricate designs.
DON’T you wish your commute was this stunning? The São Bento train station in Porto is covered with tiles depicting festivals, transportation and historic scenes.
DO visit the port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and go wine tasting in the Douro Valley.
DO try vinho verde, the light, refreshing “green” wine that’s young and slightly effervescent.
DON’T expect high-end shopping. Instead, splurge on local crafts and designers.
DO bring home some hand-painted pottery. Prices are way lower than in the States and the quality is magnificent.
DO have lunch at Casa do Leão when you’re exploring the Castel São Jorge in Lisbon. The food is good and the view over the city is spectacular.
DO visit historic Coimbra, a short drive from Lisbon. It’s home to one of the world’s oldest universities — worth the trip for the ornate chapel and examination hall, medieval library (which maintains a bat colony to eat insects that could destroy the books) and academic prison, where misbehaving students served time. (Good thing this wasn’t my alma mater!)
DO try local specialties, such as porco à alentejana, an unlikely but delicious combination of chopped pork and tiny clams.
DO ride the tram (especially #28), an inexpensive way to tour Lisbon. However, DON’T bother with the pedi-cabs unless you negotiate a price; they can be more costly than a taxi.
DO visit the markets for the vast array of produce, snacks or lunch among the locals, and great people watching.
DO be aware that tips aren’t generally included in the bill. Leave 10%.
DON’T plan on eating dinner early, though it won’t be as late as in Spain. Most restaurants, even in hotels, open around 7:30 p.m.
DO have a fantastic trip and tell us all about it!