Still unpacking from my fabulous trip to Portugal, but wanted to get this trip report in while it is fresh in my mind. My 4 traveling companions and myself all agree that the areas in Portugal that we toured really exceeded our expectations. It is stunningly beautiful and varied terrain. Beaches, cities and medieval villages and castles all within an hour travel time!
Arrival at Lisbon airport 6:00am TAP airline. Picked up rental ( a Volkswagen sharan minivan ) at Hertz. All went smooth as we had made arrangements in advance. All with in the airport. No shuttles needed.
Using my iPhone Google maps we drove to pousada Cascais. Google maps on my iPhone 5s worked nearly perfectly all week. The pousada is a lovely hotel that is very well located to walk anywhere in town. In fact, I was upgraded to a 2 room 2 bath suite over looking the marina. The staff was pleasant and knowledgeable. The included breakfast was very good with a big selection. We didn't eat in their gourmet restaurant so I can't comment on that.
After checking in and stowing our luggage, as it was early for our rooms to be ready so we walked around town to acclimate ourselves. Cascais is gorgeous with 3 or 4 beaches, a marina, restaurants and shops galore.
After getting a feel for the town, we hopped in our minivan for a beach tour of the western coast. We made stops at boca do inferno, guincho beach, cabo da rocha, adraga, Praia grande, Praia das machas, and Ericeria. It is a rugged coast line with dramatic rocky cliffs. The pictures in the guide books don't even do it justice. I may have skipped Ericeria. It was kind of dead and I couldn't really get a feel for the town and beach lay out, but this could have been because it was a Monday late in the day and the weather was a bit chilly.
When we got back to our hotel, it was late and we were tired. We grabbed a bite in the main square in town. It was a beautiful setting with outside seating and a man playing guitar and singing but the food was just OK. My advice would be to dine on the smaller streets and check trip advisor or your concierge.
Took the train into Lisbon from Cassais train station. Easy 30-40 min ride. We loosely linked together 3 Rick Steve's self guided walks. Starting with the Alfama distirict we walked from the cais do sodre train station to Sao Jorge castle paid for admission and hit all the miradouro's (scenic over looks), walked through oldest part of town and ended up at the Se cathedral.Next we walked down the main promenade in the Baxia. We loved the open squares and the beautifully patterned cobbled streets. There are shops and open air dining all throughout. I had intended to take the funicular to the Barrio Alto area but my BF suddenly got ravenously hungry and insisted on making a beeline to the oldest beer hall in town (guess he was thirsty too!) we walked up what felt like a million steps to get there, it was really cool. Lunch was good typical Portuguese fare for me, whole robalo and little salted potatoes with cold beer. Would have preferred to eat outdoors though. I did get to see the funicular, the Convento co Carmo, and walk through the barrio alto and Chaido, did some shopping and gelato eating. We ended the day in Lisbon with a ride on the Santa Justa elevator. Make sure you pay to go all the way up, the view is amazing. We ended the day with a casual meal at our hotel as we were too tired to do anything else.
Back in the minivan for a day in Sintra. BTW we were so amazed at the great mileage we got with our diesel. After a couple of u turns we found the free parking below the national palace. We took the 434 bus that makes a loop around the main sights to Pena Palace where we bought a combo ticket for Pena and Moorish castle. There is a lot to see at Pena, unbelievable views, the inside of the palace and grounds so plan a lot of time. Next we made a wrong turn walking to Moorish castle and got really lost! We finally got there and walked the ramparts. Again words don't do the views justice. We took the bus into town and had very late lunch at the Hockey Cafe. Tourist trap for sure but great people watching. We debated whether we had time to do the Quinta da Regaleira as it was 5:30. We decided to go for it and we all were glad we did. It's a crazy place with a big Herman Munster like mansion, gardens, grotto's with underground passages and waterfalls. Remember to bring a small flash light or your phone flash light will work. There are surprises around every corner. Again we managed to get lost finding our parking lot. My feet were never so tired! When we got back to Cascais we resolved not to have any more bad food! We checked trip advisor and decided on Masala Indian restaurant. Food was great and the staff was helpful in making recommendations and really funny.
Today we changed hotels to the Penha Longa near Sintra. The main reason we are all in Portugal is to attend the wedding of a good friend. Penha Longa is where the wedding party and guests stayed and some of the events took place. It was cloudy that morning so we spent the morning walking around Cascais sight seeing and shopping. The sun did come out later so we spent a couple hours sunning and enjoying cocktails on Praia Rainha beach. It's really pretty with a beach bar and sun bed rentals. We checked in to Penha longa in time to shower and change for a cocktail party then dinner at Adraga beach restaurant hosted by the Bride and Groom. The food was amazing. Multiple courses of seafood and decadent chocolate mousse for desert. Was great to see friends we hadn't seen in a while.
Started the day with breakfast buffet at the Penha Longa. Really, really good with extensive selection. Penha Longa is beautiful property with a golf course, old monastery , ruins, gardens, a beautiful pool, spa, ect...the view from my room in the monastery wing was to dye for I kept taking pictures every time I looked out over my balcony. After breakfast we drove to Belem. Started with pastis de Belem. There's always room for pastry, very delicious! We toured both Jeronimos monastery and torre de Belem both definitely worth a visit. This evening we dined at Arola restaurant at Penha longa, another spectacular night hosted by the bride and groom. Arola is a Portuguese tapas restaurant very highly recommended. I'm not sure if they do this on a regular basis but we had a DJ and dancing afterward.
Wedding day! Relaxed at the hotel, had a leisurely breakfast, spa treatment, (wonderful!) and lounged at the pool.The Wedding took place at a private villa that was beautiful beyond words with a view high above Sintra all the way to the ocean . The ceremony was like a dream and the reception as well. The bride has an exceptional vision and attention to detail.
Brunch at the hotel. Saw the bride and groom off to their honeymoon. Hopped in the minivan and headed to Obidos. Took about an hour to get there but it's well worth it. It's a medieval walled town. Give yourself 2-3 hours to see it all. Originally we planned to go to Nazare next but it was getting a little late and Nazare is 40 minutes north of Obidos, at least according to google maps. We decided to check out Peniche instead. I'm so glad we did! There are many dramatic rocky beaches as well as some wide beaches with fine sand. We ate at a kind of beach shack type restaurant right on the beach called Zakura. It was cool and had good typical Portuguese food. I had Cod with cornbread crust and potatoes. Found on trip advisor. Also we started with olives and cheese. It was a great last day!