|Subject: Portugal info|
There's a lot to be seen in this part of the country.I'd suggest to focus
on three areas(in addition to the immediate surroundings of Lisbon, like
Sintra or Azenhas so Mar,both not to be missed):
1) We had a very pleasant stay at Quinta da Ferraria in Ribeira de Sao Joao.It's a place midway between Rio Maior and Santarem (look for this area to the southeast of Obidos, or 90 Km from Lisbon on the main northbound freeway) .The hotel (formerly a quinta, or farm) lies isolated in a rural area, it consists of a central body and some smaller buildings,with a good swimming pool , horses for rent and bicycles for free for short tours among the surrounding fields.The owners are nice people and, most of all, you can sample here real,great, Portuguese home cooking. You are within easy reach( I assume you'll be driving) of many destinations, like Obidos and Caldas da Rainha(the latter strongly suggested ,as a still genuine place),or Tomar, Fatima, Batalha, Castro Daire caves, Santerem,Alcobaca,and so on. Price of accommodation for two adults and one child in 1998 was around 23.500 Esc. or 110 USD,including half board.
2) Another area of great charm is north of Coimbra.Here you have Bucaco forest which is gorgeous,and Coimbra itself of course. Two nights are enough to visit Coimbra,the forest, and most of all to have dinner in one of the many restaurants in Mealhada.This is a stunning cluster of restaurants all along the national road,all of which work from late morning to after midnight uninterruptedly to serve hundreds of gourmets who flock here for the astounding meat dishes, the most famous being the whole roasted baby pig;try also the Chanfana Ó Bairrada (i.e. goat in red wine sauce),and the superlative roasted potatoes.We stayed in an old villa of which I can't remember the name.It's part of the Turihab system,and you can find ample info on their web site http://www.turihab.pt .( Look under Mealhada)Turihab( Turismo de Habitaci˛n) is a chain of independently owned properties, partly former palaces of noble families, partly homes of farmland owners who converted to hosts and now give hospitality to tourists in a homely atmosphere.Nothing spartan of course:all the rooms have en-suite bathrooms,and usually quality period furniture .This is what I meant when I told you that I preferred to stay in more genuine places than pousadas.Of course you don't have all the services of a real hotel, but who cares? This chain has many properties especially in the regions north of Porto. Prices were about 13500 Esc or 65 USD for a double with breakfast in 1998,about 20 USD more for the plushier townhouses.
3) Porto is a great city,and the Douro valley is beautiful. Harvest begins at the very end of September and ends in early November.We had a great intro to Portugal (our first night there) in Amarante,70 kms east of Porto.We stayed in a very simple pension(which was nice but really very basic,so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone,it's named Residencial Estoril),because the excellent Casa ZŔ da Calcada next door didn't have triple rooms. We were also happy to spend our last week in the area north of Porto ( Barcelos,Braga,Guimaraes,Viana do Castelo).One hint only,in Barcelos head to a suburb north of town to find the restaurant Os Mouros,an incredibly good place though a bit more expensive than the average restaurant ,say 15 USD per person instead of 10 for a complete three course meal) Other lovely areas are further north, but at this time you will probably have expired your two weeks!
>My interest in the Pousadas stemmed from an effort to stay in traditional
Just the kind of place I mentioned above...
If you have trouble in finding exact addresses of the places I mentioned, write me again privately . Have a great portuguese experience,ciao! Leonardo from Italy