Portugal is the girl at the coffee shop buried in her writing, her creativity. Her thick rimmed glasses lightly hiding her effortless, unequivocal beauty. She is delightfully embedded in her work and curiously oblivious to the world admiring her.
She is dressed in a style of her own, not overly colorful or patterned, though surely not muted either. Just a slight chic funk that brings out her cool creative self. Though petite and unassuming, her looks and depth play in a league above the rest. Yet her gentle inviting nature make her refreshingly approachable rather than intimidating. Those surrounding her notice her, peeking up from their books, laptops, and doings from time to time to watch her but so as not to get caught in a stare. She looks up gently and catches eyes, locking and restraining your attention. The kind that jolts you. Dissolves you to sand. She looks back down, and the moment has passed but you're left in that stir of brief love.
Feeling silly for you don't even know this girl, but somehow you feel as though you need to. Perhaps parts of you feel as if you already do. You paint her life in your mind, her far reaching spheres of influence and influences. What are her seamless many selves, her histories and stories? She seems good, whole, and uniquely herself. A refreshing sight in a sea of uncertainty in humans.
When she packs her things and you watch her go, you smile at how quick she came and went knowing you'll now hold her only as a lasting impression. She's forever the girl at the coffee shop.
For many a reason, Portugal is this girl. However brief your interaction, you'll leave filling full, jolted, and sunk within this lasting impression.
Though once lost to travelers and explorers alike in the shadow of Spain, Portugal has emerged as a force of its own and is now at the forefront of global destinations. Just like our girl, Portugal is smaller in size but its depth answers to all, leaving its travelers to find familiarity in a foreign place. It's a patchwork country, a merge of many layers, eras and influences. Yes, Portugal is too an unequivocal beauty, but it is also this confluence of histories that both pull from and relate to parts us of all.
Within this brevity, we find what I adore most about this country – its unique ability to connect beauty to the otherwise mundane. Just as the coffee shop exposed our girl immersed in her element, watching the swirls of her thought find home in her pen and paper, Portugal has a beautiful ability to showcase people in their element on a grander scale.
To float through Lisbon’s side streets or wander its Alentejo valley, you’ll come to find that the inner workings of daily life are artfully captured and displayed. To take a step back and observe, you’ll see that so much of the home and workplace spill out from behind closed doors and walls, vibrantly showcasing life and a sense of a collective human experience. From any vantage point, we can see the simple elegance of humanity - a grandmother looking out from her kitchen window, a father reading with his daughter, a man watering his balcony’s plants, a mother hanging laundry to dry, and neighborhood kids laughing and rushing around. Within these tender moments, we are reminded of and find relief in the beauty of simplicity. It is these small moments that fill life, and that make humans, well, human. And to be surrounded by this, is this country’s greatest gift.
Now, go, run and experience the nooks and crannies of Lisbon's Alfama, the crushing beauty the Algarve coastlines, the expanse of wildflower fields in the Alentejo, and the tipsy full bellied adventures of Porto and its wine country. Within Portugal’s many selves, you’ll find your lasting impression.
Happy exploring loves,
11-Day Portugal Road Trip Itinerary
Lisbon (3 days)
Lisbon (Lisboa) is Portugal’s colorful capital. Deriving its name from centuries prior, ‘Lisboa’ means ‘safe harbor’ – and a beautiful, quaint one at that. Perfect the art of slow travel and wander the city’s hills on foot or by tram, pausing to admire the character found within each building’s façade.
See & Do:
- Wander the Alfama district
- Find panoramic views from St. Georges Castle (Castelo de São Jorge)
- Wind through the city on Tram 28
- Stroll the grand riverfront Praça do Comércio
- Feira da Ladra flea market
- Monastery of St. Jerome (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)
- Parliament of Lisbon
- Garden of Lisbon (Jardim de Lisboa)
- Photograph the famed azules (tiles) across the city’s architecture
Day Trips from Lisbon:
- Queluz Palace + Sintra (Pena Palace)
- Too often missed (or not heard of) is Queluz Palace
- Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is truly spectacular. A castle perched upon a mountanesous forrest is one of Portugal’s most famed and photographed spots.
- Belem Tower + Pastries de Belem (world famous pastries, line out the door)
- Cascais (a beautiful coastal resort town): bike throughout this beachy town, eat some of Portugal’s greatest seafood, and visit Europe’s most westernly point for views at the Lighthouse of Cabo da Roca)
Areas in Lisbon:
- Baixa, Chiado – both are central for exploring.
- Alfama – if you are looking for a bit more romance!
- Pousadas de Portugal: Formerly run by the Portuguages state, these are boutique hotels all over Portugal that have been converted from historic buildings & sites (palaces, castles, convents and monasteries). Very unique experience!
Eat & Drink:
- Time Out Market
- Cervejaria Ramiro (seafood)
- B & A Wine bar
- LX Factory (http://www.lxfactory.com/EN/lxfactory/)
- Feitoria (upscale dining)
- Party in the famed Bairro Alto district
The Algarve (3 days)
The southern coast of Portugal is known as the Algarve. Pristine turquoise waters, sun drenched rock formations, and striking cliff faces make a drive throughout this area a sure win.
See & Do:
- Praia da Marinha, Praia da Dona Ana & Camillo – for signature, Algarve beaches. There is parking but get there early. These beaches are hiked down into so plan for that!
- Praia da Bordiera - quieter, expansive beach in which you have to wade through an estuary
Drives + Views:
- Lisbon to Lagos: The Anteljo Valley (stop in Evora for a meal. Also, if at the right time of year, you’ll see endless sunflower fields and cork fields).
- Lagos to Cabo de Sao Vicente for incredible, untouched coastline, ending at a lovely lighthouse.
- Ponta da Piedade (in Lagos)
- The town of Tavira (very cute, small fishing town)
Areas: Most people stay in Lagos. People come for the beaches but there are also plenty of historical sites as well. Some stay in Faro as well, but is less of a destination.
Western Coast: 2 Days
See & Do:
- Peniche (visit the Berlengas) + Baleal (a tiny local surf town with amazing sunsets)
- Obidos (Charming, picturesque town with a castle)
- Stay in Obidos or Peniche
Porto + Douro Valley (3 days)
See & Do:
- Wander historic section of Porto – check out Porto’s famous ‘facades’
- Winery hop in Porto & try Port (recommend Taylor’s Port Cellars)
- Drive the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Road’ - N-222 from Peso de Regua to Pinhao in Portugal
- Take a vineyard tour in the Douro Valley
- Eat along the Cais da Ribeira at sunset for spectacular views of the waterfront and Ponte de Dom Luis I
- When en route back down to Lisbon, stop at the cute town Aveiro for some Ovos Moles – a sweet treat only from that town!
NEED TO KNOW -
Transportation: Car Rental + Gas + Tolls
- Car rental is extremely and if from the US, you do not need an international driver’s license.
- The highways are INCREDIBLE and very easy to navigate.
- Getting gas is also very easy – they have easy to access and well marked pullouts (service stations) from every highway.
- Tolls will add up! Usually your car rental company will offer an automatic-and-billed-after the car has been returned option.
- If you are not driving, the bus and train system is wonderful as well.
Essentially all towns have a local dessert, which is freaking adorable. Check them out here!