A Weekend in Portugal
My 11 year old son Samuel is very serious about soccer. He played in a camp over the summer and from that camp was invited to attend a 10 day clinic in Barcelona, Spain. My husband and I would be accompanying him, however, he would be staying in a dorm with chaperones. We had a few days of free time toward the end of the clinic, so we decided that to take a few days and visit Portugal.
Unless, you have been hiding under a rock, then you know that Portugal has been getting a lot of attention lately. It has graced numerous Top 10 lists of up and coming travel destinations in recent years. I have read about the quaint fishing villages, amazing beaches, soulful Fado music and the charming Alfama district of Lisbon. I was intrigued; however, if I’m being honest; I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Portugal. Long before it was cool or a travel hotspot, I felt a pull to visit the other side of the Iberian penisula.
A Family Affair…
My maternal great great grandparents immigrated to Hawaii from Portugal in the 1800’s. My mom is half Portuguese. Hawaii is full of Portuguese people and culture, and it has woven its self into the fabric of the islands. Growing up, both my grandma and grandpa ( who are each half Portuguese) would tell stories about their parents and grandparents. As I got older, I felt a pull to see where these people came from and what made them who they are.
Short on Time…
Nate and I only had a few days to spend in Portugal, so we had to be very specific about what we wanted to see. The flight from Barcelona to Lisbon is short and cheap. It only takes about 90 minutes and cost about $120. We decided to leave Barcelona on Thursday evening and then take the last flight from Lisbon to Barcelona late Saturday night. That gave us 2 days to see as much as we could.
I knew Lisbon would be beautiful and historic, but I also wanted to see the countryside. Portugal is famous for its fishing villages and its big waves. If you know me, you know that the Hawaiian girl in me loves surfing. Base on our timing, it was possible that we could catch either the end of a major surf competition in Peniche, or the infamous waves of Nazare. We decided to give it a try.
We stay in one night in Cascais, and one night in Peniche. I picked Cascais, because it is a short drive from Lisbon, I had heard it was beautiful and it was close to Sintra where we would visit the next day. All were true. Cascais is a gorgeous little seaside town that is quaint, charming and well persevered. Think; the Laguna Beach of Portugal, only not expensive. I really wish we had had more time to explore this beautiful little town. It was gorgeous.
After leaving Cascais, we drove north to the town of Sintra. I had read a ton about Sintra and knew that we HAD to stop here. Sintra was crowded with tourists and tour buses. However, once we parked and started walking it really wasn’t an issue. Sintra has several historic buildings, homes and castles to see all within a few miles of town. Due to our time crunch we only had time for one; Quinta da Regaleira. It was amazing. We spent about 2 hours exploring the grounds and the houses. The architecture and stories were unbelievable.
Once we finished at Quinta da Regaleira; we walked down the hill into the town of Sintra. It was a beautiful little Portuguese town. We visited the market, ate the famous pastel de nata; a Portuguese custard tart, and bought some things to bring home to my mom. We really loved Sintra and could have spent at least one full day, if not longer, there.
Peniche and Nazare
After leaving Sintra, we drove about 2 hours up the coast to Peniche. The drive was fun. We opted to not take the toll road and rather stick to the coastal highway. It took longer, but we passed through several Portuguese towns, awesome beaches and little surf spots. We also were able to get out and walk around. Nate and I love to go to grocery stores in foreign countries, preferably ones out side of the tourist areas. Driving this way we were able to do just that.
We arrived in Peniche around 7:15pm and were starving. We wanted traditional Portuguese food, so after scanning Trip Advisor we decided on O’s American. It was amazing. I had fresh fish and Nate had steak. Both were delicious, local and exactly what we were hoping for. I felt like my grandma could have been cooking for me. We loved it so much.
Our hotel in Peniche was right on the ocean and beautiful. I was actually a Marriott Resort and somewhere that I would totally bring my kids back to. The beach, ocean and grounds were amazing. We spent a little time in the water on Saturday morning before heading out to Nazare…
Nazare is synonymous in the surf world with big, monster waves. These waves come in the fall and winter. We were hoping to catch them. Sadly, it was not to be. There were no wave, just a beautiful, sunny day in a gorgeous Portuguese fishing village. We walked to the lighthouse, down the stairs and out to the ocean. It was beautiful and worth the drive.
After I got my surf fix, we hoped on the toll road and drove the 2 1/2 hours back to Lisbon. By the way, driving in Portugal was a breeze. I think a lot of people are scared to drive in Europe and they really shouldn’t be. Portugal was as easy as it comes.
I knew that if I could only do one thing in Lisbon it was going to be to see the Alfama district; the oldest part of Lisbon. We headed strait there, parked and started walking. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Quaint, beautiful, and old. There were tiled, colorful buildings, fado music being played in the square, the infamous trolleys and gorgeous alley’s everywhere. It was early evening so we went to eat one of the best hamburgers of my life and then stood in line to get more Pastel de Nata from the”best place in Lisboa.” They were right.
Nate and I got to the airport with our little custard tarts, and lots of beautiful memories. The most amazing part to me was how familiar Portugal felt. It was like meeting a long lost friend. So many things sent my mind racing back to my childhood and for moments people who I have loved and lost; didn’t seem so far away.