Why visit Portugal?
Before I went to Portugal, the reasons were:
1. To listen to fado. I had fallen in love with Mariza, famous and beautiful singer of the plaintive Portuguese folk song called fado
2. To live cheaply. Portugal in 2009 was one of the cheapest places in Western Europe-important when you travel with Kiwi dollars
4. To experience a completely unknown culture with an unpronounceable language.
So what was Portugal like?
We arrived in Portugal at the border town of Evora, putting our watches back an hour. We chose because Enya sings so evocatively about it, and we soon learned why. Perfect medieval city, cobble stones, cork trees, wonderful food, generous people. Portugal got better and better.
The search for fado singing took us to tiny cafes up the steep streets of Lisbon, and the love of adventure compelled us to spend a few days in Tomar, home of the infamous Knights Templars. Then it was up the coast to Porto. No-one had warned us about losing our hearts to the exquisite colours of the riverfront houses, the charm of the labyrinthine streets, the majesty of the Duoro river.
Why visit Portugal again?
- To travel again up the Duoro River, by train, through the vineyards, taking plenty of time to sample the wines and ports.
- To hire a car and drift along the coastal roads
- To stay a few days around Cintra
- To spend every weekend listening to fado sung by many different singers, all following the lead of the immortal Amalia Rodriguez
- To ride a bike through some of the less hilly parts of the countryside
- To take another gastronomic walking tour in Lisbon
- To visit the beaches of the Algarve, out of season
- To take a few days on the Azores Islands, especially Madeira
- To spend a day at the Tile Museum in Lisbon learning about the intensely colourful and detailed Portuguese tiles, Azulejo.
- To stay two weeks in Porto at our lovely apartment right on the river and just soak up the relaxed, beautiful atmosphere.
We found the best way to travel outside the cities was to hire a car- the roads are well sign posted and there traffic is not a problem. Once in the cities, we parked the car in a public carpark and left it there till we were ready to hit the road again.
Walking and public transport are the best way to explore this small country of Portugal, with more than its fair share of scenery, history, art and architecture, gastronomic delight and welcoming people.
You can easily explore Portugal independently, as we did. I have found a great looking women-only tour company www.sightsandsoul.com. Here is one upcoming tour.
Lisbon and the Silver Coast
April 24 – May 3, 2013
Enjoy the magical landscapes of glorious beaches rimmed with golden cliffs, Moorish fortresses and Knights Templar castles, fairytale walled towns, baroque palaces and fantastical Manueline architecture. Attend a fado music performance, paint ceramic tiles following the Moorish patterns, visit Fatima and Sintra, and indulge in amazing Portuguese seafood and wines.
Stephen Hartshorne GoNOMAD Associate Editor asks the question we are often asked, What Makes a Perfect Women-Only Tour?
Portugal is among the oldest countries in Europe with the same boundaries since 1297, with an impressive medieval heritage and with the oldest wine demarcated region in the world, the Douro Valley wine region.