Traveling always has a certain purpose around it. It is difficult to decide at times why we travel. There are so many equivalent sides to travel. Some travel to let go, some travel with a purpose, some for leisure, some for business, some for relaxation and then there are those like me who travel to indulge and get lost. To learn with a purpose and see what the world has to offer in the road unknown. When that travel comes with friends around who are your staunchest comrades it is a win win situation or a coincidence of sorts for an amateur travel enthusiast. Each time I venture to a new place it leaves me spellbound by the magnanimity of its offerings. The excellent learnings and the ever illuminating, thought provoking vistas that I relate to at each place as if I left a piece of my heart at every place I stepped on. Portugal will be an offbeat track decided out of sheer love for beaches and westward Europe. I give due credits to Mahesh Prasad, Shreya Patwardhan and Praveen Sridhar for accompanying me in this trip and making it successful. This word “successful” has a great importance here because this is a real pregnancy travel story. I bravely ventured out to Portugal on foot, bus and train accompanied by these affectionate mascots who left no stone unturned to take care of me and make sure that my sixth month of my pregnancy was a carefree and lively affair with travel. So this is the second blog in the pregnancy travel edition.
It took us exactly four days to go around some important places in this beautiful country with white sand beaches, spic and span till far as the eye could see, lush green mountainside treks, sky lit castles, the maiden moonlit streets, Gothic architecture, stupendously long stretches of beaches near the south-western coast, immensely helpful people and profoundly ambient cafes that left me flabbergasted at the food offerings in this amazingly magnificent nation. Let us begin with the most important cities and options to explore in Portugal.
Pastel palaces. Moorish castles with sweeping views tucked into lush hillsides. Winding cobblestone streets, and lavish estates with secret tunnels and waterfalls. These are just some of the treasures found in the enchanting town of Sintra, Portugal. With so many monuments away from the heart of Sintra, the town’s historic center may go unnoticed. However, the historic center of Sintra is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a stunning place to explore. The unique architecture of the buildings and the narrow lanes are charming enough but the display of trees and flowers will impress you. There are great spots from where you can get incredible views of the town and its surroundings and it’s only a matter of choosing your favorites. The historic center has plenty of restaurants where you can taste the best Portuguese dishes and lovely specialty shops where you can buy unique souvenirs.
When it comes to Sintra’s palaces Pena typically gets the most attention, but it’s also worth stopping by the blindingly-white National Palace of Sintra. Nestled in the historic centre, its terracotta orange roof and conical features make quite a statement, particularly when seen from the Moorish Castle. Portugal’s royal family actually lived in the National Palace during the 12th century, and today it houses an array of art collections.
The National Palace of Pena has a direct vantage point of another famous landmark: the Moorish Castle. Built on the highest spot in Sintra, the military fort was established way back in the 10th century as a way to protect the Iberian peninsula.
Downtown Sintra is full of charming cafés and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor terrace seating. Many of these spots are fairly small, so feel free to get close to your someone special. Among the best sweet treats to try are the local travesseiros (“pillow” pastries) and queijadas, pastries made with cheese.
Cabo de Roca, Sintra, Portugal
Cabo da Roca is a beautiful cliff, emerging 140 meters above Atlantic, it is said to be the most westerly point of mainland Europe. It is located about 18 km far from Sintra & about 40 km from Lisbon and surrounded by small fishing villages hidden among the forests of Sintra. The windswept cliffs of Cabo de Roca were believed to be the edge of the world up until the up until the late 14th century and the spectacular, desolate scenery adds to the allure of the location. The raging Atlantic Ocean waves pound the base of the massive jagged cliffs while challenging hiking trails follow the coastal paths. If you’re hoping to get there by public transportation then the bus 403 (Cascais Line – Sintra) is the one you should look for. This bus departs from the Cascais terminal. It takes 20 minutes to get to Cabo da Roca and 35 minutes to get to Sintra’s main station. Before entering the bus make sure it stops to Cabo da Roca since a lot of them are directing straight to Sintra. This place was amongst my favourite spots in Portugal, interestingly it also houses the oldest lighthouse in Portugal. A quick drink at this place will be the ultimate relaxation experience, but be sure to carry warm clothes too.
Wearing hiking shoes would not hurt either…….
PS – I could not have a drink because I was pregnant.
Faro, Portugal is well known as a sun-worshipper’s paradise. Lovely weather and unspoiled beaches are the highlights of what this spectacular region has to offer.
Ilhas Desertas – This secluded island is the perfect place to go when you want to escape the summertime crowds. To get there, you’ll take a ferry that leaves from a dock, which is a mere five-minute walk from old-town Faro. After a relaxing, forty-minute journey, you’ll disembark onto an island nearly deserted, but for the seagulls and a few other lucky visitors. There’s a restaurant here, but you can just as easily pack a picnic lunch. Don’t forget the sunscreen, either.
Old Town Faro – Travelers on their way to the beach often overlook Faro’s Old Town, but they’re missing out on one of the best things to do in Faro! Here, you’ll find winding cobblestone streets, stately old churches, plenty of shops and restaurants, and lots of lovingly restored 18th century Portuguese and Moorish-style buildings. In Old Town Faro, it’s almost like you’re stepping back in time.
Praia de Faro – This is one of Faro’s most popular beaches, and with good reason, too. The beach stretches nearly as far as the eye can see in either direction, and the water is a glittering, unbelievable blue. There are plenty of watering holes here, serving up delicious fare at affordable prices, and it’s a wonderful place for people watching during the busy season. Kick back and enjoy the sun!
It’s probably something to do with its coastal location and warm, sunny climate. Castles, monastries, museums and artefacts, name it, and you will see it in Lisbon. What a variety and a plethora of sightseeing options Lisbon has to offer. Unbelievably cheap and easy on the pocket, this is one city that has won my heart. I would give a lifetime to be here – pun intended.
The main square in the city is Praça do Comércio, a lively place with restaurants on both sides. Visit the “Old Quarter” and Alfama, you can find a lot of small restaurants and terraces in that area that serve fresh seafood. Places like Alfama are also the perfect spot to listen to Fado, the traditional Portuguese music – there’s usually a live band playing.
The Timeout market, Mercado da Ribeira, is a good venue for food during the day, and also a very chilled hangout in evening. The pretty coastal town of Cascais is around 30 minutes by train or car from Lisbon. This is the seafood central. Try the local sole, sea bass or sea bream, and then sleep it off on the sand.
Getting around the capital :
- The only flat surface in the city is the Praça do Comércio so you’ll be up and down hills, stairs and cobbled streets.
- The Viva Viagem (like the London Oyster) card is useful if you travel by metro/tram/bus or train, as you can load it for single trips or day tickets.
- Trains are very cheap to take and you can take a metro in Lisbon from the airport as well. Taxis won’t set you back too much either.
- You could also buy the Lisbon card which not only gives you access to public transport, but also discounts on entry to museums.
- If you get lost don’t worry too much, the majority of people in Portugal speak good English, so it’s quite easy to get directions.
- Lisbon is also a good party spot – I can vouch for this because we inquired for a pub venue for the evening and the taxi drivers were kind enough to advise us the best places for a pub crawl. So when in Lisbon just put on your thinking hat and be sure to be polite, and that is the secret to finding your way in the best bar, pub or discotheque to let free into the yonder night and wear your dancing shoes on.
Portugal taught to me wild and sensible in my approach at the same time. I met people from all walks of life on my journey here, a baby who was two and willing to travel throughout the whole train journey with me, a taxi driver who narrated his vagabond tales to us, a friend on the street who helped us all the way to the castle, a woman in disguise of an angel who was the sweetest waitress at a breakfast cafe and the list went on with some negative experiences too. I did not like the way their card system for transportation functioned. I hated how we had to ask our way out of the beach each time we crossed an unknown path as there were no signboards or placards which guided the newly landed person in Portugal especially in Faro, I also disliked the fact that the people were not able to guide us even to the nearest railway station when we got lost one sweaty and dreary afternoon.
All in all it was a splendid trip and I went beyond imagination by traveling with my baby in the womb.
Until next time with Blumeninsel Mainau and Bodensee.
©Rucha Sudhir Khot