Subject: Re: Portugal in September/October
Lucille, I spent one month in Portugal back in 1998.That was the last (for the moment)of three vacations in that beautiful country. I think you have an adequately long time to get more than a glimpse of the main aspects of portuguese life and culture, so that you can fall in love, after quite a number of other travellers, with the country. My remarks on your itineraries: Although Lisbon is a gem of a town, as also is Porto, in my opinion you're giving this two cities too many days ( 10 out of 33). Real old Portugal is in small towns. Since you're planning to go north I would stretch your itinerary a bit farther north to include the Minho region. My idea would be : arriving in Lisbon head immediately north to the Fatima area. One night in this area is really very tight; I would stop here for 3 to 4 nights taking it easy just to recover from your flight and visiting, perhaps by bus, at least Tomar, Batalha, Caldas da Rainha and Alcobaça(and Fatima for reasons of faith, not for sightseeing).Two nights in Porto are adequate to catch the peculiar atmosphere of the town, but you can stay more if you daytrip to the Douro valley, Lamego, etc. After that you can rent a car and drive north to visit at least Guimaraes, Braga, Barcelos, Viana do Castelo and possibly pushing up to the northern border region especially the upper Lima valley with the villages of Lindoso and Soajo as farthest points. This could take you 5 nights. By the way, food and wine are terrific in Minho. Then drive south stopping for 2-3 nights in the area immediately north of Coimbra ( Aveiro and especially Costa Nova on the seaside, and Mealhada, Luso, Buçaco forest in the interior). Next stop, the coastal area northwest of Lisbon: from Nazarè, via a quick visit to Obidos ( nice but hypertouristy) to Azenhas do Mar, Sintra( touristy, but astonishingly beautiful), playa do Guincho, Cascais and Estoril. Count 3 nights in this coastal area. Leave the car in Lisbon,Visit the capital city for 3 days/4 nights. Take a train ( alas, I don't know anything about trains in Portugal or elsewhere, I myself would keep the car even in Lisbon and beyond; if you drove in Italy tou can drive in Portugal) to Algarve where you can spend a quiet week and still have 2- 3 nights to be devoted, before returning to Lisbon, to the fantastic region of Alentejo ( to me it's much more interesting than Algarve, where the really nice sight are the cliffs but they've built a whole lot of real estate around them and some places like Albufeira are now a perfect paradise for 7-days inclusive tour vacationers from northern Europe). In Alentejo you can stay in classic and fully satisfying Evora and enjoy the elegant and relaxed atmosphere of town and the beautiful surroundings ( for instance there are great prehistoric sites if you care for this kind of things). Chances are that the climate will still be a sort of late summer in mid November down in Alentejo, which is the dryest and hottest part of the country ( and to me maybe the best, even if I was there in the 41°Celsius of mid-August). This stop in Alentejo will surely be enough mouth-watering to have you planning a more complete visit next year. Let me know of your impressions, and if you need hints on accomodation and restaurants, please feel free to ask. Don't forget to consult the Zine archive first, anyway.

Have a nice trip planning and a nice vacation!

Leonardo Besana in Brianza, Italy