Having covered much of mainland Portugal we decided to spend our last two weeks checking out island life. First stop:
This archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is comprised of nine islands. We stayed on São Miguel, nicknamed “The Green Island” (Ilha Verde). We flew into Ponta Delgada, the island’s largest city, and immediately jumped into our rental car and headed for the northwest corner of the island to Mosteiros, Portuguese for monasteries. This tiny town of just over 1000 inhabitants offered us a damp and windy week that also allowed us to get in some quiet time before we headed back to the states.
We are now back in our Reno nest, happy to sleep in our own bed. As after every trip we talk about what we missed and want to do now that we are home. My choices this go-round were to eat a big salad and drink a large-sized coffee with creamer. (In most of Europe coffee comes in a thimble and the whitening option is milk.) Bob’s choices were a shower with constant hot water pressure and a gas stove to cook on. We have both already had our longings come true. We are grateful.
For a country that is approximately the same size as the state of Indiana we are constantly amazed at the the diversity Portugal offers. By the time our latest adventure is concluded we will have driven the entire length of the country (it takes about 5 hours if you do it in one continuous trip) and even jumped off to a couple of islands. We are finding some wonderful cities to explore and have taken great road trips. FYI: When exploring we routinely get off the main roads, which are primarily toll ways, and opt for the more scenic byways. Overall we have found that the milage (kilometerage?) of one route versus another is pretty equivalent. The big difference is time – and that we have lots of.
Since gas prices are currently a hot topic I am happy to report that our first rental, a Toyota Corolla hybrid, got 42 mpg and our current car, a Toyota C-HR hybrid, is getting 51 mpg. Some of you may be wondering, “Why two cars?” Our insurance coverage using our travel card is only good for 30 days, so a 60 day trip = two 30 day contracts. A minor inconvenience to make the switch but well worth it. And heck, with the size of Portugal it’s not far back to the Lisbon airport!
Aveiro: known in country as the Venice of Portugal
Coimbra: a former capital of Portugal and its 4th largest city
All-in-all a lovely day of discoveries. Though the weather was a bit chilly and the wind was blowing so hard it actually snatched the sunglasses off my face, it was definitely worth the climb. That said, it was also nice to have a short walk home.
And now for some random moments…
Évora: a must-see walled city
Tomorrow we are off for the Algarve. I will keep you posted. Adeus from Portugal, where even the bridge support columns are beautiful.
We are back in one of our all-time favorite cities! On our previous visit (pre-covid) our rental flat was in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. (For a recap of that visit, photos of our beautiful views, and stories of various vagabond activities: https://conhan8.com/?p=2135).) For this go-round we decided that staying near the historic center of Porto would be an interesting change of pace. Bob did the research and found us a rental that was a 15-minute leisurely stroll into Centro with its gorgeous São Bento train station and must-eat-at Traça restaurant (where the prato da dia was olives, bread, squash soup, baby mushroom risotto, coffee; it met our lofty expectations).
I thought it might be fun to share our neighborhood so I decided to take a boundaried walkabout. Using our flat as the center point I walked three blocks in each direction and did some investigating of what I would find within those thirty-six square blocks. (I am using the term “blocks” pretty loosely as very few of the intersections meet at 90 degrees and some junctions branch out in 5 or more directions. It’s good to be flexible in our thinking.) Within that zone we had at least one bakery (padaria) and a fruit stand per block, 4 motorcycle showrooms, a decent grocery store, a unique pizza place for easy takeout, a meat market, a variety of hair salons/barber shops, a laundromat, and a nice mix of other eating/shopping establishments.
And now for some random visual delights:
We could have comfortably hunkered down into our neighborhood and had a happy stay but we had places to go and, more importantly, people to meet. Two of our dear friends, Lynne and Kerry, have relocated from Reno to Portugal (in Moledo and Porto, respectively); we were eager to catch up with them so we exchanged texts and arranged for a beach afternoon on the north coast.
Overall, a lovely day spent doing pleasant things with two life-affirming and truly gracious women. As we exchanged thank yous the next day Kerry treated us to a photo of the ocean view she had that morning while enjoying coffee in Porto (Foz area). She gave me permission to share.
One more road trip – actually two because we were so wowed on our first day that we went back for another taste. It’s BRAGA!!
Within the walls we admired buildings and gardens.
As much as we enjoyed our time on foot we also made a side trip to….
And finally, a few random bits with accompanying photos. Who knew 2 quiet weeks in the city would result in so much to post about?!?
WIth a nod to former math lessons on the order of operations, the above formula pretty much sums up our latest travel adventure: Twice the patience plus tenacity multiplied by flexibility and divided by covid and British Airways resulted in an overall happy landing in one of our all-time favorite places, Portugal. (An aside on British Airways: a challenge from start to finish. Poor communication, abysmal website, lethargic service providers, and the repeated excuse of “something is wrong in the computer” when everyone knows that SOMEONE put that something in there in the first place. Even the fact that our flights were relatively empty was countered by finding out that the armrests in our cabin were fixed, meaning you could not lift them up to avail yourself to more comfortable seating. Enough complaining…really…we were happy with travel overall and we got where we wanted to be safely.)
After almost 24 hours of wearing an N95 face mask, a seamless connection through Heathrow to Lisbon (Heads up: the Posh Cheese and Pickle sandwich from Pret A Manger in the airport lounge was a real culinary find: fresh whole grain baguette, sharp cheddar, pickle relish, red onions, lettuce), a productive transaction with our rental car folks at the Lisbon airport and a 30-minute drive to our flat we tumbled into bed and awoke the next morning to beautiful views and comfortable outdoor temperatures.
On this visit we once again chose to stay outside of Lisbon: last time we were in the charming town of Seixal, a ferry ride across the Tagus from the city; this time we stayed in Cascais just up the coast, in an area billed as “The Riviera of Portugal”.
We took a day trip north to check out both Ericeira, with its surfing beaches, and Caldas da Rainha, known for its glazed ceramic pottery. On another day it was a 40-minute train ride into Lisbon city center for a walk along the river and late lunch.
As we made the transition from Lisbon/Cascais to Porto we stopped to visit the medieval walled city of Òbidos. It has a rich history that includes the Romans, the Moors and the Portuguese. It was presented to Queen Urrana on her wedding day. What a gift!
Our last weeks of travel were through the beautiful Cantabrian and Pyrenees Mountain ranges in northern Spain – Basque Country. After busy, busy Portugal it was nice to settle into a quieter, more slowly paced part of the world. It felt like Mother Nature was conspiring on our behalf, and the rainy days we had were just perfect for allowing us time to catch our breath and reflect on our travels while the sunny days welcomed us to explore this intriguing area.
But first: a disclaimer: Two weeks in this part of the world resulted in almost 250 photos to sort through and choose from. I figured if I kept the text relatively short and the number of photos at around 60 it would take a person with an average reading speed and a quick mouse finger under 10 minutes to make it through this post. (And where are all those middle schoolers who ask when they are going to use math skills?) I am hoping that attention spans will accommodate… Timer starts NOW!
Just like Oliver Twist with his longing for more food, we have realized that one visit to this beautiful area will just not be enough. As I mentioned to my friend and fellow travel lover, Patty Bartscher: We dived into the vast attractions of Portugal like were like first-timers at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. We wanted to try everything and we just kept piling more on our plate.
Arrival on Easter Sunday. We had booked our digs through Airbnb and the owner recommended the services of her property manager, Abdellah, as a guide. It was our good fortune to take her suggestion as over the course of our visit we were given what felt to be a real inside view of life in this part of Morocco. This photo was taken just as we go off our ferry. The tall building to the right is a mosque. Our rental was just below that orange arrow, within the walls of the Kasbah and set amidst a warren of narrow, winding streets. (“First the Continental Hotel, then to Hawmat Zaitouna (rough translation: Olive Street), then to #73” were the directions we repeated over and over as we memorized our route.)
Okay, you sharped-eyed readers – you know those are not olive trees. They are just a sample of the hectares and hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres, in case you were wondering) of grape vines we drove past as we made our way from Valencia to Fuente de Piedra, a small town that put us equidistant from a number of things we wanted to see on this next leg of our travels.
Our next stop: 3 days in Tangier, Morocco. If I can sort through my photos fast enough I just might get another blog post out in the next week. On the other hand, we are now in Seixal, Portugal (across the river from Lisbon) and our list of things to do is long and tempting. An abundance of blessings, for sure.