Portugal was always part of my history books - The Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C., the arrival of the Phoenicians in twelfth century B.C., then the Celtics, the Romans under Augustus, the Visigoths, the Arabs, and later the King owners of the richest courts in Europe. At the beginning of the 1400’s, people from all over earth were arriving at Lisbon due to the new expeditions sent by the crown to Africa, bringing back shiploads of precious spices like pepper, ginger, saffron and other foreign spices.
Fast forward to today. Portugal is going through a new reincarnation. Today people do not go to Portugal to find the latest spices from Asia or Africa or the precious stones from Brazil; they are arriving to find an experience that will change their lives. Today Portugal looks like someone who has been drinking from the fountain of youth - she looks vibrant and very beautiful.
My trip started in Lisbon, once the admired “capital of Europe”.
There is an old saying in Portuguese “Quem nao tem visto Lisboa, nao visto cousa boa” (who has not seen Lisbon has not seen beauty).
So I came to see beauty. I arrived in Lisbon, the heart of Portugal, via Madrid.
The driver was waiting for me outside the terminal, and as usual, when I arrive to a new place, I tried to ask the driver lots of questions. I usually start with a formal conversation, then I quiz the driver about the city, trying to see how much he knows, and I usually get a lot of good information. Luckily for me, the driver, provided by Made for Spain and Portugal, was also a certificated guide. So while he drove me, he introduced me to the names of the prominent streets we drove through with their perfect geometrical layouts like Avenida Da Liberdade. I asked him about the significance of the massive monuments that adorn the avenues. He knew every name and it’s importance.
In Lisbon I stayed at Hotel Bairro Alto. The trip from the airport to the hotel takes 20 minutes.
The hotel is located in the 16th century quarter that has traditionally been the city's bohemian haunt of artists, writers, and the cultural Chiado. The neighborhood is called Bairro Alto.
The hotel’s front door staff quickly unloaded my bags and moved them to my room while I was checking in.
My Deluxe room was small but well-equipped, with French doors onto small balconies overlooking the square. It was fairly spacious due to it’s smart and efficient design.
The Terrace, open daily from 10:30 am to 1:00 am, offers a relaxed ambience and is the ideal place for a leisurely moment to enjoy hot tea, wine, and comfort food which is served all day.
The Bairro Alto Hotel is a gem, and the service is excellent with a great and dedicated, friendly, and professional staff delivering a truly personalized service.
The early Celts named Sintra the “Mountain of the Moon”.
This city’s beauty has long been famous for the castle walls and palaces rising out of its many foggy hills. Some of the most exquisite manors and palaces in all of the country reside there, like the Palacio Da Pena - an impressive reminder of the centuries which Portugal was under Moorish domination, or Quinta Da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Cultural Landscape of Sintra and its scenic gardens.
I suggest that you visit Sintra in the winter months because hordes of tourists descend upon it throughout the rest of the year and clog the narrow lanes.
The Town of Sintra is wonderful for shopping. You can get lost in their winding cobblestone streets that go up and down, all lined up with little stores with all kind of beautiful treasures.
Estoril is the playground of Portugal, situated on the coastal lowland. The area is warmed by the winds from Africa and cooled by the Atlantic. This ideal temperate climate makes it a favorite summer resort.
The Intercontinental Estoril is a perfect box, enclosed in a glass cage, with great lines and futuristic design. There are just two floors of hotel with condos on the floors above.
The hotel is just steps away from the train station, and you can catch a train into Lisbon easily. All rooms have impressive oceanfront views. There is a great sport club and spa.
I had lunch at the Atlántico restaurant, a chic, intimate restaurant overlooking the ocean. The Atlántico is just around the corner of the hotel so it is not inside the building - it looks like it is attached, but it is not. Alejandro, the manager, explained to me that the hotel purchased the restaurant. I had the best tuna, and raised my wine glass as I was fixated on the pale blues of the Atlantic Ocean.
The name Alentejo derives from the phrase “Alem Tejo” (beyond the Tejo river). It is the South central region of Portugal.
The capital of central Alentejo is Evora, and its history spans from the Neolithic era to Roman times to the Golden Portugal of the 15th an 16th centuries. It’s a must-see city, declared UNESCO World Heritage City in 1986.
The city, since it had very little damage after the earthquake of 1775 that destroyed much of Portugal, is the best example of the old Portugal, and today has become a “museum city”.
The first five star hotel of the Alentejo. Located on the outskirts of Evora, it is part of the Luxury collection hotels by Starwood. It has 92 rooms and luxury suites. The property also has a spa, which includes a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath, gym, and treatment facilities.
This is an extraordinary place with peace, serenity and class.
The most notable building is the University. Founded in 1290, it is the oldest in Portugal. Visiting the very spectacular university and it’s amazing library was extraordinary!
The University was declared a World Heritage site in 2013
The rooms are located in a new wing, overlooking the valley, and designed to be in harmony with nature.
I stayed in a “Quinta Deluxe”. The room was spacious with modern bathrooms and soft fabrics with pale grays and greens. There was an abundance of natural light coming through glass windows. The room is designed to bring tranquility and a zen-like feeling.
It has a therapeutic spa with an indoor pool and an outdoor infinity pool with a mirrored effect, projecting the beautiful landscape like a giant movie screen.
Porto is situated on the steep, rocky bank of the Douro River.
It is an old port from the Roman Empire called “Porto Cale”, hence the name of Portugal, and later called “Oporto” (the Port) by the British.
There are so many surprises in this town with much to be discovered and learned about its rich history. Porto was once a very rich town, with many families that left treasures everywhere in the form of Palacios and quarters. The gothic granite cathedrals are decorated with gold from Brazil, and there are many palaces with impressive wood carvings. Don’t miss the Exchange, a beautiful municipal building that was once a monastery.
The Center of Oporto is a square that possesses the principal public buildings.
The 83 magnificent guest rooms and suites are among The Yeatman's most impressive features. Each room opens onto a large private balcony, enjoying a dramatic and unobstructed view across the River Douro. From my balcony I could see the city’s houses rise in terraces from the river bank. The location gives you perfect views of the, city topped by Torres dos Clerigos, rising 247 feet high.
The hotel is in walking distance to the river and the old town, where there are fantastic areas to walk along the river.