Portugal - December 31 - January 12, 2019
We were looking for a "warm" country in Europe to spend a few weeks after Christmas and New Year Day and we thought of Portugal. It is on the Atlantic coast and in the southern portion of the continent. This turned out to be an excellent time to visit. The weather, while not meeting our standard for "warm", was warm enough to do. The weather otherwise was perfect. The days were sunny and we only had one day that it rained.
[Monday/Tuesday] We awoke early at 4:00 am and left for the airport at 5:00 am for our 9:30 am flight to Miami. After breakfast at the Houston airport, we boarded United flight UA1994, an A319 aircraft.
In Miami we picked up our checked bags and rechecked them in with TAP Portuguese Airlines, went back through security and at 3:45 pm boarded TP224, an A330 aircraft to Lisbon.
As the 2019 new year began in Portugal, we were in the air about 3,000 miles West, passing near Bermuda.
We arrived at Lisbon at 5:45 am and took our pre-arranged ride to the Hotel Mundial. Since it was very early for check in, we waited in the lobby until our room was ready about 10:00 am. Afterwards, we walked around the area adjacent to our hotel.
After resting a few hours, we took the Belem Half-Day Walking Tour, which is described as follows by the company:
"Belem is one of Lisbon's most historic districts and features some of its most important monuments. This half-day walking tour explores the history behind this area as guests explore the Jeronimos Monastery, the Monument of Discoveries, and the Belem Tower. Learn about some of the famous explorers who sailed from this area and sample the famous pastel de nata that was created in this small parish during the 1800s."
After completing our tour, we took a taxi back to the hotel and ate supper in the hotel.
[Wednesday] This morning after breakfast, we walked to a nearby grocery store and purchased a few things and walked in the area northwest of our hotel. The streets were steep and there were many stairs between the streets. We returned to the hotel about 12:30 pm.
This afternoon we took the Alfama Walking Tour of Lisbon. This is a very steep portion of the city that prohibits vehicular traffic on the cobbled streets and sidewalks. The Castle of St. George is perched on the top of the hill, and we walked up many steps to get to the top. A description of the tour follows:
"Cobbled lanes, centuries-old houses, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and famous landmarks await you on this 2.5-hour walking tour of Lisbon's enigmatic Alfama neighborhood. Explore the hilly district with a professional guide and revel in the village atmosphere as you wander down Alfama's steep streets. See Lisbon Cathedral (Se de Lisboa), George's Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) and other notable sights; learn about 'fado' (folk music); and take in incredible views of Lisbon and the Tagus River from a local viewpoint."
The weather so far is perfect - perfectly clear and in the 40's at night and near 60 in the day.
[Thursday] Today we took the full day Sintra and Cascais Small Group Tour from Lisbon. It was a very interesting tour of these beautiful cities and our guide was excellent. The details from the tour operator are as follows:
"Discover the wonders outside of Lisbon on this full-day guided small-group tour of Sintra and Cascais. Spend the day exploring central Portugal's magnificent coast and charming villages. First, explore the quaint streets of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and known for the captivating Pena Palace. Head to the coast with your guide, where you can soak up the sun with locals in the famous beach town of Cascais. If you're looking for an excuse to escape the city, this is it."
As a part of the tour, we went to the most western point in continental Europe, Cabo da Roca.
[Friday] This morning we decided to take a ride on Tram 28, which runs a scenic route through Lisbon in the WWII era tram. We got on at the stop near our hotel and rode it to the Alfama district and got off. After taking some photos, we got back on a completely packed Tram 28 and rode to near the Mercado da Ribeira. We got off and looked through the market and then walked to the Arco da Rua Augusta and went to the top and got a good view of the city.
We returned to the market and ate lunch. We then rode the subway to the Marques de Pombal and walked around the area. We then took the subway back to Cais do Sodre and took the passenger ferry across the Tagua River to Cacilhas. We ate supper near the boat dock and then returned via boat to Lisbon and went to our hotel for the night.
[Saturday] Today we went on another full day trip, this time to Fatima, Batalha, Alcobaca, and Obidos. The Dominican monastery of Santa Maria de Vitoria at Batalha is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the tallest church in Portugal. Details are as shown:
"Discover a medieval world of stone monasteries, cobblestone streets and holy sites on a full-day, private tour of Fatima, Batalha, Alcobaca and Obidos from Lisbon. Immerse yourself in Portugal's history and religious traditions as you explore some of the country's most significant churches, see a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore a picture-perfect hilltop community of whitewashed buildings and tile roofs."
The Church at Fatima is a pilgrimage site to commemorate the appearances of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on 13 May 1917.
The enchanting hill town of Obidos, with whitewashed houses is enclosed within a 14th-century wall.
[Sunday] Today we took Uber (this was our first ever use of Uber) to the Oriente Train Station in Lisbon and took the IC 182 train to Porto Campanha Station. We left at 10:09 am and arrived in Porto around 1:00 pm. We took a taxi from the train station to our hotel, The Pestana Vintage Porto - Hotel & World Heritage Site.
We walked around the area before we ate in a restaurant near our hotel.
[Monday] Today we went to the nearby Sao Bento subway station and took the metro across the river to the General Torres Station and walked down through the old city of Vila Nova De Gaia that is directly across the river from our hotel in Porto. We then took the cable car to the top of the hill and back down. We ate lunch in a small market.
We then walked across the lower portion of the Luis I Bridge, a double decker bridge, to our hotel. The Metro and pedestrians use the upper level and cars and pedestrians use the lower level. After a brief stop, we walked along the river on the west side of the hotel.
[Tuesday] Today we took the Secret Sights of Porto 3-Hour Walking Tour. Details are as follows:
"See a different side of Porto by going on a secret sites walking tour. Traveling on foot means you'll access places that can't be reached by bus or car. Your guide will take you to hidden places that locals love such as a beautiful bookshop, historical buildings, and a fantastic spot to taste a custard tart too. On the way to the hidden gems, you'll also see city highlights such as Liberdade Square, and Se Cathedral."
Casa Oriental is a cannery store that sells products canned by the Comur factory, which began in 1942, to can eels. It evolved into canning all type of fish now, including sardines and cod.
After eating a traditional Portuguese lunch of Francesinha at a restaurant overlooking the river, we took a 3:30 pm 50 minute cruise on the Douro River.
[Wednesday] Today we took the Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, Portuguese Lunch and Optional River Cruise. We opted to not take the River Cruise. We drove about an hour and a half east of Porto along the Douro River to the wine region. Porto was made wealthy and famous for developing Port Wine. Vineyards cover the steep mountains for miles and miles. The weather was cold and foggy. We were actually above the clouds a lot of the time. We saw lots of frozen condensation on the vegetation near the tops of the hills. The roads were narrow and very winding. We enjoyed a traditional Portugese lunch at a restaurant in Pinhao.
To replace the river cruise, the guide took us to the small village of Provesende, where he grew up. He showed us a traditional bakery and we ate some of the bread they baked that morning. It was a very interesting little village.
See the tour companies description of the trip below:
"Go wine tasting amid the vineyard-clad hills of the Douro Valley, a World Heritage-listed region famous for its port wine production. Feast on regional specialties with a traditional lunch in the scenic village of Pinhao and visit two wine estates for an introduction to award-winning local varietals. This small-group tour is limited to eight people for personalized attention from the guide."
[Thursday] This morning we walked up to the Stock Exchange Palace and took the guided tour. Afterwards we toured the San Francisco church.
We shopped on the way back to the hotel and checked out of the hotel at 1:00 pm and took a taxi to the train station.
We took the 2:45 pm train and arrived back in Lisbon at 6:00 pm. We walked the short distance from the train station to our hotel, the Olissippo Oriente.
[Friday] This morning we left Portugal. We got up at 6:15 am and took a taxi to the airport at 7:30 am. We boarded our 10:30 am TAP Portuguese Airlines flight TP223, an A330-300 airplane, to Miami. We departed Portugal on time and arrived in Miami at 2:45 pm. We stayed overnight at the The Miami International Airport Hotel, which is inside the airport terminal.
[Saturday] After spending the night in the hotel, we walked through the airport to the check in and boarded United flight UA2344, a 737-800, bound for Houston. We arrived at about 10:30 am in Houston.
This draws to a close our brief trip to Portugal. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Adios for now,
Lawson & Kay
The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)