Subject: Portugal
On Tuesday,30 May 2000,Natalie wrote:


What do you usually use? My husband and I are also planning to go to Portugal as part of a Spain/Portugal trip in late September, early October. We were planning on using buses and trains, and probably going from Seville in Spain to Lisbon. What do you suggest we see along the way, and are we totally missing out by not going further north? We're interested in art, people, wine and food, especially. I'd love any suggestions you'd care to share.

Thanks, Natalie in Los Angeles

Hi Natalie, Of course I use a rented car. I'm going to talk about this in a separate posting(following this).

Now, coming to Portugal,I understand(if I'm wrong,please excuse me)that since it will be part of a Spain and Portugal trip in late September, early October, you are not going to devote much time to Portugal. Let's say one week to ten days?

I think that since you don't mention beaches and beautiful rocky seaside landscapes among your main interests,you can skip Algarve,although this region is really beautiful and best visited in that time of the year. The region of Spain adjoining Algarve is also very interesting for nature lovers(delta of the Guadalquivir,Parque nacional Coto Donana).

So,on your way to Lisbon,you have one of the best parts of the country awaiting you :Alentejo.This is a land of enchantment ( pardon new Mexico),where you have: -typical natural landscapes consisting mainly in vast plains covered with cork trees(more than 50% of total production of cork comes from Portugal),olive trees,and vines.A lot of horses are bred in the region.The land is scattered with prehistoric ruins(some of them relly moving). -great food and wine(especially red wines) at a ridiculous cost -neat,well kept towns and villages with almost every house painted in white with vivid blue or yellow edges and flowers and plants everywhere. -some interesting towns,like Evora,which is an ancient roman town,and later a religious and university center,and also Estremoz, Portalegre,or my favourite Castelo de Vide(actually more a large village),with adjoining Marvao fortress,and Serra de Sao Mamede mountains. Even if you limit yourself to Evora and surroundings(count 3 nights)you have plenty of things to enjoy.

Coming from Seville,I would head north to Badajoz,in Spain,and cross the border at Elvas(like many Spaniards do every day for shopping excursions to cheap Portugal),which deserves a short visit,and then stop for the night in Estremoz(this will total 280 Kms or 166 miles,count a 5-6 hour quiet drive).Next day on to Evora either through Borba,Vila Viçosa,Redondo,or through Evoramonte,with a deviation to Arraiolos(carpet making center).Next two nights in Evora with a quiet exploration of the town(and a siesta after lunch). Next day I suggest not to miss a short excursion to one or two of the prehistoric sites that lie west,southwest of town(reachable through splendid narrow earth roads among cork trees where you will come across maybe 1 or 2 cars in a day),and then on to an easy toll highway to Lisbon.After visiting Lisbon where you can spend 4 nights including a full day excursion to Sintra(one of the gems of the country),you can go back to Spain and even reach Sevilla in a single day,although it's a long drive.If you have some more days,you can do the return trip through Santarèm,Portalegre,and again Badajoz.

Of course you'll be missing a lot since northern Portugal has a totally different,but equally captivating flavour.But you would need at least one month to explore all the interesting places the country has to offer,so content yourself and think that ,if you like it, you will have a good reason to go again!

Ciao for now,and if you have more specific questions,ask again,I'm happy to share

Leonardo from Italy