|Subject: Re: Portugal in September/October|
Ola amiga, Lucille!
I'm sorry for not answering you sooner, but I was in hoildays.
33 days in Portugal? what a great trip!
Let me see how a portuguese guy can help you planning your holidays. First of all, I think 4/5 nights in Lisbon is ok. There you won't need a car. There are plenty of ways to move (metro, bus, taxis, etc); for example you may even go by train to the Cascais / Estoril area. And yes, in Lisbon make reservations (both in hotels and restaurants). In the rest of the country, you don't need reservation, with the exception of Porto and Algarve. As Lisbon is covered in a lot of guides, I don't have nothing very original to say about the sights of the city...
>From Lisbon, I would take something like your option B, but after Lisbon (or during the stay) don't miss Sintra, and if money is not an important issue, stay at Hotel Palacio de Seteais. Check my previous post http://tinyurl.com/iks2 - I've already refered there that Sintra is amazing - start by picking a book from Byron or Eça de Queiroz and stay either at Lawrence's or Tivoli Palácio de Seteais. http://tinyurl.com/iks4 or http://tinyurl.com/iks6
Regarding Fatima, you may like to go there if you have the faith, but even to a catholic, it is not in my opinion a very spiritual place, as it is a completely commerce/tourist - driven town.
Wherever you go from Lisbon, I would suggest a car. I think the taxi fare from the hotel in Lisbon to the train and from the train to the hotel in the next town is almost the same as 1 day of rental. Also, but this is my personal taste, I think the car is one of the best ways to visit the country side. In Portugal, trains are not known for their good timing....
So, going north, I would suggest a car drive along the beaches, stopping wherever you see a nice place in the shore from Lisboa to Aveiro. There are lots of good beaches in Portugal, and in october you will not find them crowded as in August, whixh is nice, but many of them are not quiet pleasent, I must say; lots of urban chaos, complete anarchy in urbanisation, you get the picture. There are some exceptions, however. You may stop in Guincho, Ericeira, Peniche/Obidos, Sao Martinho do Porto or Nazaré, but a beach you should try is definitely São Pedro de Muel (or São Pedro de Moel # english sound: Moo-el) just north of Nazaré. It is by far the best preserved little village with beach of central Portugal (Moledo in the far North is another one). http://tinyurl.com/iksf There, I usually stay at Residencial Verde Pinho, surrounded by pine trees (a mere 35 Eur per room for 2) but ther is also Hotel Mar e Sol, near the beach (about 50 Eur). Please note that those are modest hotels, yet clean and nice sites. By the way there is a little restaurant there, called Brisa Mar # try the cataplana, for instance. Cafes - we portuguese love to go to cafes to drink espressos... for an espresso in São Pedro de Muel, go to Cafe Central (you'll notice it, it's Central)
In central Portugal, if you like spas, you may go to Hotel da Curia or Hotel do Caramulo (i think the second one is better, but i'm not sure) http://tinyurl.com/iksj http://tinyurl.com/iksk Nearby Hotel do Bussaco is a completely different deal: http://tinyurl.com/iksn it was a hunting palace for the kings of Portugal and it has one of the most impressive wine cellars of Portugal.
Further north, you may want to try Figueira da Foz # south of this town, in a place called Cova-Gala there is one seafood reataurant called Carrossel which serves old style seafood dishes that i love.
If you like off the beaten track travel, go from Figueira da Foz to Costa Nova and Aveiro not by the hi-way (which is not handy in this case), not by road nr. 109 but for a road that crosses the forest, always very near the coast # be careful with the rocks in the path... that road is NOT in very good condition.
I Like Aveiro and the beaches of Costa Nova and Barra (especially Costa Nova) because I was born in Aveiro. At Costa Nova go to Restaurante D. Fernando or Restaurante Praia do Tubarão (they are side by side) and do ask for a authentic Caldeirada de Enguias (well, if you want to know what you just asked Caldeirada is Stew and Enguia is Eel...) I just love the caldeirada they make! If it is not your kind of food, try Clube Nautico.
Cafes # At Costa Nova go to Visual and at Barra go to Cafe Farol (the former is trendy, the latter is more classic).
In Aveiro, there are plenty of nice hotels and restaurants: for example Hotel Moliceiro (coy and romantic, near one of the river canals that cross the inner city), Hotel do Alboi (these one has rooms w/ little kitchen) or Hotel As Americas (modern but not so well located as the previous). Restaurants # fish, mainly # restaurante A Barca; restaurante Sal Poente, restaurante Travessa do Peixinho (this one trendier, but not so good). Restaurante Sal Poente has live music at the weekends and is located in an old salt warehouse (Aveiro was well known for its salt production).
>From Aveiro, you may want to go directly to Porto, where I've lived in the last 12 years or so. For information on Porto, please check my website http://tinyurl.com/ikso or http://tinyurl.com/iksr where you will find some useful information. Regarding hotels in Porto (which I still have to put in the website), I would stay on Hotel Porto Carlton or Hotel Infant Sagres, or if you have good orientation with a car in an unknown city, Hotel Boa-Vista, at Foz (Foz is the common designation for Foz do Douro, that is the place where the Douro river meets the ocean). By the way, also at Foz, but completely different style, there is a very good Youth Hostel, with views to the river as good as Hotel Boa- Vista. You may end with some sort of sadness (probably this is not the right word in english) with your visit to Porto, because of the incompleted civil works in the city, some overall desorganisation, the traffic, etc... unfortunately it is sad, but it is true. Nevertheless, at Porto you and your family are already invited to have some espresso or some Port with us!
In the North, you should take some days at Douro # in october you may even get the chance to participate in the vindimas (I've never tried, though). At Pinhão (Pinhao) you can stay at the fantastic Vintage House... you can reach Pinhao from Porto by boat, but you'll need a car in Douro...
A car is in fact a good choice in Portugal, but be very aware of the tipical portuguese driver # yes, it is not a stereotype, we are indeed reckless drivers!
After the visit to the North, in the way to Algarve, you may consider going by car (700 km...), it's with you.
Between Lisbon and the Algarve, there's Alentejo (don't know if you're planing to visit) # maybe not the shore (which is beatiful but may be too much after the trip to the north), but maybe the Alentejo profundo, the deep Alentejo... I've already mentioned in a previous post Horta dos Torrejais (http://tinyurl.com/iksv). I've also been told about Herdade da Matinha (http://tinyurl.com/iksx), but not very good (pricey for the offer the have)... what they have at least is a very good website! :-). Finally, Évora is a must-see town in Alentejo.
In Algarve, I've already refered in a previous post that the village of Vilamoura and the Quinta do Lago resort are nice places to go, very trendy in the last 20 years! I usually go to Prainha (literally, little beach, http://tinyurl.com/iksy) - they have a wonderful pool in a hill with fantastic sea view...
Regarding restaurants in Algarve: - Café Correia in Vila do Bispo, near Sagres - A tasca in Faro - Vilalisa in Meixilhoeira Grande (nice name to pronunciate...), near Portimao - Mula cheia in Parchal, near Portimao
At least in Vilalisa and in Mula Cheia, you should make reservations. Well, I Think it's all! If you want some more specific information, I'll be glad to help you.
Ricardo Porto, Portugal http://ricardo-duarte.pt.vu
I didn't talk about Pousadas de Portugal, which you may already know. They are fantastic places to stay in the countryside # their website is http://www.pousadas.pt/contents.html (note: in the Aveiro region there is a Pousada that seems to be nearby, but it is not, because there's no bridge between Aveiro and Murtosa there's no bridge in the river and you would have to make 60 km to get from the Pousada to Aveiro). For portuguese phone numbers: http://www.118.pt/en/menu.php