Porto, our first stop in Portugal, was brilliant. The hilly city is set on the banks of the Douro River near where it joins the Atlantic Ocean. The first afternoon there, we headed straight out to the beach which was really nice, although as Ian discovered, the water was freezing!
Porto is of course famous for its Port wine, so, when in Rome…! Before we went to visit any Port ‘caves’ (cellars) though, we met up with a local guy called Davide (who we met through Couch Surfers). He owns a Port/Wine shop in town and suggested we visit him at his shop to taste some of the local produce. He told us all about the process of how Port is made, and explained about the different types, he also then recommend to us a few of his favourite Port Houses which we could visit for further tastings. He also suggested to us a place to go for dinner for traditional Portuguese grilled chicken – which was cheap and yummy.
The Port Houses are mainly located along the river on the opposite side to the city (with some awesome views!) On Davide’s recommendation we did a tour at a place called Graeme’s. It was really cool to see the old bottles of Port and the all the barrels in the cellar (some of which were over one hundred years old! The tour finished with a tasting of different types of Tawny and Ruby Ports, where we both discovered that we like Port…!
Another highlight was spending a few hours wondering through the old town. The streets are steep and cobbled so you can’t rush anywhere even if you tried. Porto is also full of character and charm, impressive looking bridges and cheap food. There is also an old church tower which we climbed all 225 steps to the top to get a 360degree view across the city, it was stunning. This is one of our favourite places in Europe so far.
Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, got off to a slow start after being dropped off by our bus unbeknown to us at the time, on the very outskirts of this huge city. After trawling up and down the streets in the scorching heat for about half an hour, some locals finally pointed out that we were in a completely different area on our map to what we thought. Our hostel was in fact a 50 minute metro ride away.
After all the confusion we made it to our accommodation, and then set out to explore. The city has a network of trams which we went on to see the different areas. It, like Porto, also has an old town although not as charming. We spent time wondering through the maze of alleyways and admiring the huge stone square full of bars and restaurants (and tourists!) We also found a view point with sweeping views of the city.
We had the use of a kitchen at our hostel so it was nice to cook our own dinners for a change.
From Lisbon, we headed inland (about 2 hours on a bus) to an old medieval town called Evora, in central Portugal. This walled town is full of character and ancient relics. It was bloody hot, around 36 degrees, so during the day there wasn’t much going on or people around.
We visited a church that has a chapel attached, built completely from human bones and skulls. Bit of an eerie place really, but fascinating. The old town is a maze of really rough cobbled and narrow streets, and in the afternoon sun, the heat was radiating back off the streets and walls of the buildings. We walked past a café selling ‘Somersby’ cider and took this as a sign to stop and cool off! This was the best cider Danielle has ever tasted. Fact.
In the evening we went to a small local restaurant, tricky at first to find but once we were shown the way by a sweet old lady (who didn’t speak a word of English) the local dishes were hearty and delicious. Fact. To top it off, the owner was a spitting image of Freddie Mercury.
Lagos; a gorgeous, vibrant, lively beach town, in southern Portugal. We initially planned to stay here for just two days, but our lazy, relaxed beach days continued for five! It really felt like a holiday here, and although very touristy, we were spoilt for choice of beaches and the weather was hot hot hot.
We also hit jackpot with our Hostel “Carlos House”, situated just around the corner from the main town square, we had full use of a kitchen to cook in, and a rooftop terrace where we sat overlooking the old town and the ocean. It was bliss.
We used this down-time to plan some other parts of our trip, and soaked up the nightlife partying with an awesome Dutch couple we met, Willem and Simona.
On a recommendation from our friend (thanks Grace!) we took a bus to a nearby old fishing town called Burgau, which was much quieter than Lagos and had a lovely beach and pretty traditional style townhouses.
After 5 days of being beach-bums, we finally left Lagos on a 6.30am bus heading back to Spain.
See next: Spain (Seville – bottom of Spain page)