Back in 2017, Dave and I were preparing for a two week vaca in Portugal, and were excitedly looking forward to reuniting with our travel group in another gorgeous destination. The plan was to meet in Lisbon for 4 nights, travel by train to Lagos for 4 nights, then part ways with the group to explore Evora and Porto on our own for another week.
Our flight departed Atlanta without delay for a direct flight to Heathrow where we would change planes on our way to Lisbon. Liz, one of our original travel mates, was on our flight from Heathrow to Lisbon and the three of us would be the last of the group to arrive. Five of us (me, Dave, Liz, Kristen and Dawn) were sharing a large apartment in Lisbon, with Sean & Joey and Julie and Tony each getting their own flats close by.
As our plane touched down in London, we were greeted with the news of a British Airways computer outage that was grinding Heathrow to a halt. We sat on the tarmac for over an hour before we were allowed to get off the plane – we were not prepared for the chaos that was going down in the terminal. All BA flights were cancelled and there were people everywhere. Realizing we were probably not leaving London as planned, we managed to find Liz in the BA Club World lounge where we plotted our course over copious bottles of free champagne. I was able to rebook us on a flight to Lisbon the next day, so we made a hotel reservation in London and proceeded to make our way to the city.
We stayed at the Eccleston Square Hotel, which was wonderful, and found a great pub around the corner for pints and fish and chips. We made it an early night since we were a little jet lagged, and decided to spend the next day sightseeing since our flight to Lisbon was late in the afternoon.
After breakfast we struck out, making the most of our impromptu trip to London. We took the underground to the Tower of London and found a pub, did a quick TOL tour, and crossed the Tower Bridge in search of Indian for lunch. It was during lunch that we learned our flight to Lisbon had been cancelled and we were on the scramble to make new plans. Liz came to the rescue and got us on a flight that day, so we hustled back to the hotel to grab our bags and get to the airport. Despite the best attempts of our driver, we did not make our flight and had to rebook for the next day. We were not happy, but again, there are worse things than being stranded in London.
The next morning we had an early start to tour the town of Sintra and its glorious, colorful Pena Palace. It was a rough wake up, but the hired van was comfortable and the drive was short. The Palace is very unique with its spectacular colors and architecture. Walking along the top, the views of the town of Sintra and surrounding countryside are breathtaking (don’t look down!). After visiting the Palace, our driver took us to Cascais to explore the beach town and its shops, and we stopped at a beautiful restaurant along the coast for lunch.
Our group split up with Shoey and the girls staying at a house just outside of town and Dave and I stayed in a flat in town. Lagos was a dream – the town, the people, the beaches – all of it! Our apartment was on the Rua Marreiros Neto, a narrow pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants and bars, with a charming park that was visible from our apartment window. Happily, our checked bag caught up with us in Lagos, which was a nice welcome.
Although Lagos is small, there was plenty to do. One of our more memorable days was walking down to the beach and taking the path to each of the beaches. We climbed through a hole in the rocks to get to one of the beaches. After our beach walk we climbed the stairs and gathered refreshment from a clifftop bar, where we returned for dinner later that night.
We spent the next three days soaking up the history of Evora, wandering the cobblestoned streets and exploring shops and churches. Evora has a number of Roman ruins and an aqueduct, which makes for an amazing backdrop. We had some great meals in Evora; one that stands out was in the Pousada Convento. This is a convent that has been converted into a restaurant and accommodations. Our meal was unique and delicious, and the service was impeccable. I was shocked at how affordable it was – that was probably our most expensive meal in Portugal and it was less than $70 US for appetizers, cocktails, entrees, dessert and wine.
After leaving Evora we headed north to Porto, stopping in Obidos for lunch. We were so completely enchanted by Obidos we contemplated staying the night. This little village appears to be pulled straight from a fairytale, including its own castle. At every turn we were confronted with an adorable house or church, perfect street scenes and an abundance of flowering plants of every color. It was hard to leave this little gem…. we made sure to sample the cherry liqueur on our way out, and promised ourselves we would return for a longer visit.
We spent the next 4 days exploring Porto, which has a mix of historical and urban areas. We walked a good portion of the city, checking out many of its beautiful churches, parks and palaces, and of course eating. The tuk tuks are popular here too so we took advantage of them to save our feet when exploring further afield.
One afternoon we “crawled” the port wine shops on the other side of the Douro and took the cable car up to the convent. A few nights we dined on the Ribeira, but on our second night we discovered a cluster of decent restaurants in Rua das Flores that kept us occupied more than one night. On our last night in Porto we were tired and decided to eat at the restaurant right below our apartment called São João da Ribeira Lda. which was amazing. We had the most inventive meal paired with delicious Portuguese wines, all for about $40 US. We still can’t believe how well we ate in Portugal for so little money.
Portugal is an amazing country with a lot to offer travelers, including history, culture, great food, beaches, wines and nightlife, and it’s affordable to boot. If Portugal is not on your bucket list, it’s time to add it and book your trip ASAP!
Until Next Time!