By Don and Linda Freedman

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Fall 2004

Vila do Conde | Guimaraes | Amarante | Porto | Aveiro
Coimbra | Sintra | Cascais | Ericeira | Lisboa


Ericeira is on the coast north of Sintra and another town we had breezed through one day and were determined to return to for a longer visit. It's an old fishing village with a picture perfect old center, clean sandy beaches and an abundance of white capped waves that have made it a surfing favorite. The fishing tradition still prospers while new homes and apartments are springing up all around. Many are used only as second homes while more and more are becoming year round residences. Former city-dwellers want to enjoy this lifestyle year round and are willing to commute to their work in the Lisboa vicinity.

Vila Gale Ericeira is a very unique property. Famous for its green roof and ideal setting, it evokes the era when an annual holiday at the shore was de rigueur. The main part of the building was a manor house until l930 at which time it was enlarged to become a seaside hotel. It is next to a large bathing beach, Praia da Baleia. On the other side, a rocky bend in the road separates it from fishermen's beach, Praia dos Pescadores. It's a short walk into the old village.

Part of the Vila Group of Hotels, it has 197 rooms and 5 junior suites all very well equipped. The reception hall/lounge is huge and airy. The front desk staff was a delight, helpful and friendly. There are 2 outdoor pools, one with salt water. The games room and playground are great for the kids while grownups appreciate the Jacuzzi, Turkish bath and gymnasium.

Our large king (twins together) bedroom was very well furnished and decorated with quality woods and fabrics. The furniture consisted of desk, round table, chairs and night tables. A large built-in closet more than met our needs. The spacious bathroom with stylish tile work came well supplied with quality toiletries, bathrobes and thick terry towels. The large tiled terrace was like having another room with comfortable table and chairs it would have been a delight to sit and enjoy the huge waves crashing of the rocks on either side of the sandy beach. I say “would have” because our luck had run out. Heavy winds and rains had moved in and most of our joy was to witness the height and fury of the white capped surf as it crashed ashore. Fortunately, there were a few breaks in the weather that enabled us to get out to eat and to tour the town. Seashore - Ericeira, Portugal

On our first try at venturing out toward town, our umbrellas were rendered useless 5 meters outside the front door. We allowed ourselves to be blown next door where we were deposited at Pregoe 1/2, a snack bar/cervejaria. Our eating luck was with us. A pureed vegetable soup with leek was flavorful, hot and hit the spot. Toasted cheese and ham and cheese sandwiches are always a safe choice. Good coffee to finish and we were ready to buck the wind and rain back to the hotel and spend the afternoon catching up on the news and notes.

As darkness settled in the rain stopped but the winds continued. It was time to move out. Rua das Furnas runs along the rocky shore toward Fishermen’s Beach and the center of town. The winds were bellowing all around us and the waters bashing and surging around and over the rocks was an awesome sight. Our destination was not far away. Esplanade Furnas sits on a clearing over the sea along the rocky coast. As we approached the lights shining thru the glass windows that form the exterior illuminated the wild windy scene which made it even more dramatic. A wide stone ramp leads to the front door. It must be delightful to sit on the deck, but not tonight. One of the staff saw us approaching and opened the door with a hearty welcome and congratulated us for braving the elements. Little did he know the extent of our courage when our stomachs beckoned. The smiling lady behind a showcase of fresh fish and the grinning fellow in front of an open stone grill made us aware that we were in the right place.

The man who opened the door and woman behind the counter were the owners, wonderful warm friendly people with whom we enjoyed sharing our Portugal travel experiences and their suggestions for future travel in their country.

With the help of our host, we chose two fish that we had not had so far this trip. Canteril is reddish in color and the Pregado looks like sole. The fish are sold by weight.

Once the choice was made we were seated at a table beside the window with the sight and sound of the salt waters swirling amongst the rocks. The dining area is divided into 3 sections by glass panes with portholes in wood frames. Various styles of knotted ropes hanging from the wood slatted ceiling; the feeling is definitely nautical. We were the first to arrive so we had ample time to chat with the staff while enjoying the house white which again was the very good Vinha de Garcas. The fresh white cheese and marvelous rolls were followed by tender octopus marinated with olive oil, onion, and parsley. Other brave souls began to filter in and before we did depart the tables were full, a tribute to the well deserved reputation of Furnas. The fish were served one at a time to facilitate sharing. The Canteril was dense and tasty. The Pregado was delicate and sweet. Both had been halved and then grilled to perfection. Roasted potato and mixed salad were served with the fish. Furnas makes their own gelado so dessert choices were easy. We would have one of each - small portions of course: vanilla with fruit and caramel/nut sauce, chocolate and vanilla with chocolate sauce, vanilla with fruit sauce and of course chantilly on all. If you eat in just one restaurant in Ericeira, Furnas would be a splendid choice. It has it all at a reasonable price. Praia do Pescadores - Ericeira, Portugal

The very nice breakfast in the ocean front dining room did little to raise our spirits as the rain and wind was at it again full blast. A bit of clearing at midday had us running back along Rua das Furnas to capture the waves and rocks by digital. Praia dos Pescadores sits below the high walls on which the old town is perched. The picturesque half circle beach is protected north and south by rocky extensions with the fisherman and sunbathers living in harmony.

A maze of cobblestone streets of colorful whitewashed houses all eventually end up in the tree-lined Praca da Republica, the social center of the old town. The homes all looked like they were freshly painted and the streets were spotlessly clean. Small squares and quaint architecture offered Linda wonderful photo opportunities. The sun even cooperated for a few moments here and there. We had been told that while the pastries we had in Sintra were good that the "Ouricos" which originate here are superior. We stumbled across the epicenter of this goodie, Casa dos Ouricos on Calcada da Baleir. "Ouricos" wins hands down. Delicate dough is filled with mystery ingredients that create a heavenly delight. We thought about taking a dozen with us on the bus to Lisboa the next day but knew the guilt that would descend on us after we devoured them would be disastrous. In retrospect we should have taken 6 as we could have endured half the guilt. Old town Ericeira, Portugal - whitewashed houses

A fellow at the hotel had recommended that if we wanted a break from fish to try TicTac on Rua S.Outubro 7. The specialty here is meat, Brazilian style. It is on a corner and when you enter the floor is a continuation of the black and white street stones all around the outside - neat idea. It's a cute place with a cork ceiling and large windows that open in good weather. There is another dining room upstairs. The open kitchen exposes the large grill and grill person. It's a family affair and they work hard to please. Since it was to be meat, we ordered the house red, marques de Borba-Alentejo. It was deep red and fruity, with a taste of oak and a nice finish. We shared Parrilhada, mixed grill, which consisted of two kinds of meat, pork and spare ribs. Sausage usually is included but we requested extra ribs instead. The plate is usually served with rice, beans and french fries, we opted for sautéed vegetables instead of the fries. One meat was tender, one was chewy, the pork was fine as were the ribs. It was large portion, easily shared, for a good value. The negative was that the wine and bottled water were overpriced and more effort could have been put into cleanliness.

Ericeira's shoreline, neat old town and fresh fish make it a compelling visit. Tomorrow, off to Lisboa for our last days of this glorious trip.

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Vila do Conde | Guimaraes | Amarante | Porto | Aveiro
Coimbra | Sintra | Cascais | Ericeira | Lisboa

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