Category: Portugal

More Portugal

More Portugal

When we visited Portugal with our friend, Marie, we did a lot of things there. So many, in fact, that The Travelin’ Man almost couldn’t keep up. I KNOW, right? It’s true. I did publish articles on our experiences with Lisbon, Porto, Belém, and Sintra. In case you missed those or want to see them again, click on these links:

  • Lisbon, capital city of Portugal
  • Porto, city on the river Douro
  • Belém, Royal retreat
  • Sintra, magnificent castle and palace

We also explored some other areas that I am not going to do a full article on. But they were special and fun, and I got some great photos that I wanted to share. So here is the final submission for Portugal…

The Vineyards of Pinhão and Alijó

We hired a van to take us out into the Pinhão and Alijó areas. This is deep into the vineyards of Portugal where much of the port wines originate, as well as other Portuguese wines.


We took a rabelo boat up the Douro river, which cuts right through the middle of the amazing vineyards. The area is absolutely breathtaking. Magnificent rolling hills that fold into the Douro river. Enjoy:


Venturing Out

We hired a driver from Choice Car to take us from Porto to Guimarães. Then we went from there to Braga.


Our driver was Miguel Carvalho. He was friendly, professional, and knowledgeable of the area. Thank you, Miguel!



Here, we visited the very distinctive medieval Castelo do Guimarães:







The beautiful and divine Bom Jesus:




On our way back in, we stopped and walked along the beach:


This is on the Atlantic side; we were waving to all our friends in the US.


Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

We met up with our friend, Marie, in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. Our time in Lisbon, including a fantastic day-trip out to the Sintra mountains is documented in previous articles.


After touring in and around Lisbon for a couple of days, we relocated to Porto via a three hour train ride. The above picture was some of the tiled artwork inside the train station at Porto. Just amazing. A small example of the culture of Porto.


While in Porto, we ate at some great restaurants, took a magnificent food tour, and took in the beautiful city. We even went to a Port wine tasting. While we really enjoyed our stay in Lisbon, there was something about Porto that appealed to us more.


We also did two separate day-trips. One was out into the unbelievably beautiful vineyards deep in the foothills of Portugal, and the other was out into the less traveled towns of Guimarães and Braga. Both of these excursions are documented in a separate article (or will be soon).



Porto sits literally right on the banks of the Douro river. Like Lisbon, it is a very hilly town, so you may want to hit that stair master a few times before coming out!


The food in Porto, very much like Lisbon, is excellent. We did splurge on one really fancy restaurant while we were there. It was on the top tier, overlooking the city (see above). It was called Yeatman’s. Spectacular views from up there! Great food and drinks as well.


While we’re on the subject, there is a drink they make here that is named after the town itself called Porto Tónico. We noticed that each bar or restaurant had their own version of the drink, and some were better than others. It’s a cocktail made with white port (a fortified wine made from white Douro Valley grapes), tonic water, and usually a citrus garnish, most often a dehydrated orange slice, but this varies by bar. The porto tónico tastes like a cousin of the gin and tonic, but refreshing like an aperol spritzer. Simply delicious and low in alcohol.


There is artwork scattered throughout this creative city. We encountered this giant rabbit during our travels here. I had no idea why it was here, so I looked it up online. It was done by a man who goes by Bordalo II. You can see his signature there on the bottom right. He made this completely out of things he found in the city. And as it turns out, the guy is actually pretty famous. He has also done similar artwork in Paris, Dublin, San Nicolas (Aruba), Tallin (Estonia), and Hamburg. It makes me mad because I have been to some of those places and had no idea. If I had known I would have sought them out. Oh well. But we are planning a tour in Ireland later this year. Maybe we’ll swing by Dublin for a quick photo op!



Check these boats out (above). These are called “rabelo” boats. They were used way back in the day before railways to transport the port wine (and people) from vineyards in the Douro Valley. They are unique to Portugal. We rode on one that is similar, but bigger when we visited the Douro Valley. That article will be coming soon.

The Great Porto Food Tour


One of the highlights of our stay in Porto was the walking food (and wine) tour. Jana always says there is no better way to get to know a city than to take a guided walking tour. And the food, she says, is part of the adventure. With a walking food tour, you get to do both of those things at the same time. And if you are lucky enough to get a really good, local guide, as we did, you will not only experience the food, but you will go where the locals go to get it. We enlisted Porto Walkers as our expert local guide to show us around. Our guide, Alex, not only showed us these great food treasures, but also briefed us on the history of the area and of the food itself. It was very enjoyable and educational.



Our first spot was the local marketplace. All manner of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and breads. Alex took us to several different places within the marketplace where we got to taste some of the loacal snacks, breads, and cheeses.


There is a restaurant within the marketplace that specializes in sausage. They bring it out on this special plate-grill. Unfortunately, the flames didn’t come out well on the iPhone picture, above, but if you look closely you can see them. The fire is coming from the special plate-grill. You turn the sausages yourself, cooking them the way you want them. The one in front isn’t burned, it’s a blood sausage. I’ve never been a big fan of blood sausage, but Alex convinced me to try it, and man it was awesome! It was paired with some great vinho verde. We all enjoyed this so much that we vowed to come back on our own for a sit-down meal here.


When Alex brought us to this place (above), he asked if this was a place we would have come on our own. Well, we probably wouldn’t have gone in, even if we had been able to find it. Once you step inside, your nostrils are rewarded with the smell of great cooking, and the place was packed with locals. We got some very traditional Portuguese dishes here and some refreshing vinho verde.


They love the pork in Porto. I should say they love the pig, all of it; that plate on the left has two treats on it. One is pig’s ear, the other is pig’s intestines! Um, ok, a little too fancy for my palate, but no one leaves this place hungry…


They also brought out the traditional ham and cheese sandwiches, YUM, and some fish sandwiches. And a nice glass of espadal to top it off – fantastic. And uh, for the record, Jana did eat some of the pig’s ear which she said was great, but she passed on the intestines. I find that surprising, considering she ate some haggis while we were in Scotland.


We stopped at a cute little side cafe for some espresso. I am a big fan of espresso, I just love the flavor of it. In Porto (and Lisbon), they add just a spot of milk to the top of the espresso. It’s called ‘uma bica’, and even though it’s just a drop of milk, it really smoothes out the espresso. I drank it that way the rest of our stay.


Every place we went on this tour was delicious and entertaining. The food was the very best of Porto. The cod cakes (above) literally just melt in your mouth. And there were three or four places where we got to try out some of the port wines.

There was this one place we went to where we all just sitting there, enjoying our food and drink when, suddenly, one of the waitresses just busted out into song! It was fabulous and completely unexpected.


And of course, what food tour anywhere in the country would be complete without a taste of Pastel de Nata!? We watched as they made them right in front of us got ours right out of the oven. Exquisite!

I could just go on and on about all the things we did in Porto. Be sure to check for ‘Portugal’ under the ‘Destinations’ button on the web site to see other places we went while in Portugal. I do still have a couple of more articles coming in for Portugal, so be sure to follow me on the site so that you will get notified when these stories are published. It was a wonderful, magical place to be. We really enjoyed our stay and will probably be going back with some other friends as part of a riverboat wine tour that begins and ends in Porto. That’s gonna be awesome!!

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

During our vacation in Portugal, we toured with our good friend, Marie, from New York. We all met up in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. During our stay in Lisbon, we took a day-trip to Sintra. It was a relaxing one hour train ride through the beautiful Portuguese countryside.

Sintra is a small resort town in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains. While we were there, we visited the Palace of Pena and the Moorish Castle. Both are spectacular sites to see and should definitely be on the top of your list if you are ever in this part of the world.

Spoiler alert: following is some really fine photography! No drones or helicopters were used for these pictures. I don’t even have a selfie-stick. But if I did, I’d be using it to pat myself on the back. But seriously, amazing pictures considering they were all done with just my iPhone. It was also helpful to have such perfect weather! You should definitely be viewing these on your PC or tablet.

The Palace of Pena


It began in the Middle Ages, as just a simple chapel on top of a mountain. In the 15th century, King Manuel I had a monestary built around the chapel. (I took the above picture by hanging out of a watch tower window at the Moorish Castle. Hey yall, watch this!).

For the centuries that followed, it became a quiet, peaceful place that housed about twenty monks. But the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced the monestary to ruins. All that remained was the original chapel.


In 1842, King consort Ferdinand II began constructing the palace around the chapel. The palace was to be the summer home for the royal family. Construction continued through 1854. Throughout the construction, he and his wife, Queen Maria II, frequently intervened in the matters of design and architecture of the palace. These choices are clearly evident in the end product. It manifested into a beautiful Ramantic style castle that looks part royal palace and part Disney.


This is easily one of the most photogenic palaces I have ever been to. It has been a public museum since the fall of the Portuguese monarchy in 1910. In fact, the last ruling queen of Portugal, Queen Amélia, spent her last night here, at this palace, before leaving the country in exile.

Over the years, this has become one of Portugal’s most visited monuments, and it is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


After visiting the palace, we stopped at a cute little cafe and had a light lunch while sitting around the old well. Then it was off to the Moorish Castle!

The Moorish Castle


I got the above picture by hanging over the balcony off the Queen’s bedroom in the Pena Palace on an adjacent mountaintop. Worth it.

While the Palace of Pena is one of the most photogenic places I have been to, the Moorish Castle has to be about the most unique castle I have visited. It was built during the 8th and 9th centuries during the Muslim occupation. Not only is it perched high atop a mountain, but it is literally imbedded into the mountains and surrounding terrain.


And on the inside, it’s not like a traditional castle with a keep in the middle. Once inside the castle walls, there is a vast, open area.


There are beautiful trees there now, but back in the day it was cleared out. The formal keep is further inside, to the north, and the stables and other buildings are scattered around the edges. The castle is essentially a 450 meter (about 500 yards) perimeter situated atop and within the mountainous cliffs.


This is a view from the outside. It took us about a half an hour to make it up the hill this far, and there was a lot of huffing and puffing. I can only imagine soldiers back then with all their armor and weapons. Significantly heavier than my iPhone and a water bottle.


Not to mention, imagine coming all this way to attack and then being confronted with these massive boulders and cliffs (above). You could forget getting any siege engines up here.


And the views from up here are just spectacular! Well worth the climb up. Almost in the center, at the bottom of the mountain is the cute town of Sintra. Over to the right, up on the hill is yet another palace. It isn’t the Palace of Pena. I tried to find it on maps but it isn’t marked. Like I said before, palaces and castles dot the horizon everywhere you look.

So, yeah, it was a great day adventuring up in the mountains of Sintra. Climbing, hanging out of windows and towers taking pictures while trying not to drop my phone. More climbing up the towers. But then came the dilemma of how we get back down the mountain. Interconnecting bus routes (slow, hot, crowded, time consuming). We could walk back down (LOL LOL LOL). Or we could rent a car with a driver. It was a short discussion.



Belem, Portugal

Belem, Portugal

While we were in Lisbon, and before joining up with our friend, Marie, we took a quick train ride down to Belém, which is a suburb of Lisbon. It is where the Belém palace and other notable attractions are located. And it is said that Christopher Columbus hung out here for a while after returning from the new world.

Belém is a melting pot of national monuments, historical buildings, and modern symbols of Portuguese culture. Extravagant parks and breathtaking architectural marvels abound in this small but significant area of Portugal’s coast.

This is an area that was particularly popular during the era of Portugal’s monarchy and is where the Belém palace is located. The monarchy essentially ended in 1910 and was replaced by the Portuguese First Republic, and it was completely eradicated  by 1919. Belém was minimally impacted by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1755. So, most of the area, including the Belém palace, remains intact today.


See above, the Tower of Belém. Completed around 1520, this is an example of some of the older structures that have survived the test of time, and the earthquake of 1755. In fact, this is probably one of the more famous towers of the world and is informally known as the symbol of Belém.


Then there are the more modern marvels, such as the Monument of Discoveries, which was inaugurated in 1960. And check out that sky; we couldn’t have asked for better picture-taking weather!


And take a look at the front of this thing. Is it a cross, or is it a sword? Exactly. The Belém palace is also located in this area. And of course the monastery.


The monastery has a full and colorful past. The original building was inaugurated in 1495. The monastery is also the origin of one of the finest and most controversial pastries in Europe, the Pastéis de Belém.


Lots of other places imitate these sinful tasties, but the originals come from the monastery, and that recipe is still guarded today. Even the name of the pastry, Pastéis de Belém, is unique only to those made at the monestary. All others (imitations) are called Pastel de Nata. We had them here and in other places. You really can taste the difference, albeit subtle, but they were better at the monestary.


You would be forgiven if you thought this was the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But it’s actually the 25 de Abril Bridge in Belém. Our guide claimed the company that designed this, the American Bridge Company, had bid on, but lost the bid for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. While I cannot confirm that, I can confirm that they designed the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Small world, eh?

The list for things to see and do in Belém is much longer than I have represented here. We spent about three hours just touring the things I have documented here. To see everything, you could easily spend a full day in this area. We really enjoyed our visit to Belém and would come back here again.


(I Apologize for the improper spelling of Belém in the title. Search engines are more responsive to Belem vs. Belém, so that is what blog writers generally use. Sorry about that. I only used the improper spelling in the title.)

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

A marvelous old European city chock full of art, statues, and kaleidoscope views. Magnificent castles, palaces, and towers dot the landscape almost everywhere you look. This is a city whose existence dates back to somewhere around 1200 B.C. Easily one of the oldest cities in the world. Older than Paris, London, and even Rome itself. It would require volumes upon volumes of five inch thick books to capture all of the history of this city.


Conquered and occupied by all of the dominant factions and armies along the way. In the early B.C. era, these included Germanic tribes, Phoenicians, and the Indo-European Celts. Later by the Romans of course, leading into the Middle Ages. In the 8th century, the city was conquered by the Muslims, whose occupation continued through the 12th century when they were conquered by the Norwegian crusaders.

In more modern history, the country of Portugal battled against Spain for its independence, and later fought within itself to end the Portuguese monarchy.

The city has struggled throughout time with devastating earthquakes. Then, in 1755, the mother of all earthquakes hit, followed by a devastating tsunami that triggered massive fires. Over 85% of the city was destroyed, and tens of thousands of citizens perished. At that time, Lisbon had grown to be one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Europe. The impact of the tragedy of 1755 sent shockwaves of awe throughout the world.

All of this means that Lisbon has survived its past and thrived to become the great, cultural and artistic city it is today.


The weather while we were there in May was warm, sometimes even a little hot. But the evenings were still cool enough to warrant a light jacket or sweater. Clear blue skies and no rain in sight!

Cozy outdoor bars and restaurants abound, allowing you to unwind and relax in the center of the city’s historic beauty.

Perched on the mouth of the Tagus river that feeds into the Atlantic Ocean, the food specialty in and around Lisbon is seafood. Seafood here is part of the culture.

Restaurants in Lisbon

Some of the restaurant culture here is different than what we were used to. For example, we went to one place where we had made a booking, and the door was shut and locked. There was a sign that simply said, ‘Ring Bell.’ Which we did. The door slowly opened, and the host asked if we had reservations. When we said we did, he let us in and closed the door behind us. On the inside, it was a perfectly normal and nice restaurant.

At this other place we went to, Cervejaria Ramiro, there was a mob of people standing around the street in front of it. We muscled our way through and got almost inside. We were told to pull a number from the machine and wait until our number was called. ‘But we have reservations,’ we said. It didn’t matter, get the number, and step aside. So we got our number and joined the masses out front.

Occasionally, a strange, synthesized electronic female voice would call out a number over the loudspeaker. But it would be something crazy, like 200,615. She would repeat the number about five times. Our number was 5667. Then she would call number 874. So we figured it must be some sort of a lottery. They generate a random number, then call it out, if it’s your number, you get in!

Jana and I were fortunate enough to be able to hook up with our friend, Marie. Marie is from New York. So in addition to spending some great times with our friend, we got all caught up on the happenings back in the states.

So Marie has decide this isn’t going to work for us. She pulls up the email we had received that confirmed our reservation. She muscles her way up to the front again, and insists on talking to the name of the person the email is from, and she showed them the email. The host breaths a loud sigh and gives her the eye roll. ‘Very well,’ he says, ‘come with me.’

We follow this guy through a huge restaurant area that is as loud and chaotic as the New York Stock Exchange. People yelling at each other over the noise, making it worse. Countless hammers smashing open huge crab legs. We round a corner, then follow the guy up a very narrow set of steep stairs. We get to the top and, voila, a quiet, cozy, somewhat small restaurant seating area with a great view of the madhouse out on the street!

And the food was OMG! The menu had pictures of the entrees. But it was just a picture, with no perspective on size. So Marie tells the waiter she will have the shrimp as a side item, the waiter responds with a question: Just one? It was a little confusing. Did he mean just one serving, so she said yes.


Nope, he meant just one shrimp! Look at that thing!

Anyway, suffice to say the food was superb at every place we went to, and each one was a new adventure.


This shot, above, is the street that leads into the square. The Comércio square is a must see. There wasn’t much left of it after the 1755 earthquake, so they decided to just tear the rest of it down and start over.


We were there the same week as the finals for EuroVision, which is a huge annual European singing and performing competition. Since Portugal won it last year, they are the host this year. It occupies the entire square. In fact, if you zoom the pic above, you can see the banner for EuroVision on the street on the other side of the archway.


There is just a ton of great things to see and do in this city. There is São Jorge Castle, which we did not visit. Another great square to see is the Rossio square (above left). There is the Santa Justa Lift (above right), which is a famous elevator built in the early 1900’s and has a very colorful history.


We really enjoyed our time in Lisbon, and didn’t even scratch the surface on covering everything is has to offer. All the more reason to come back! While we were in this part of the world, we also visited Belem and Sintra. These are covered in separate articles. And yes, that’s a real bird in the picture, and yes I took the picture. 🙂