We spent two-weeks in Portugal having arrived into Lisbon and then immediately grabbed a taxi to our rented apartment one hour north in a small town called Caldas da Rainha. From the moment we arrived we could feel the happy vibes of Portugal. We immediately found the people to be kind, helpful, and lovely. Almost everyone smokes, but that is the by far the worst of the attributes of this culture, in my opinion.
We took ourselves out for a wee stroll around the area and found a small place to have a bite to eat. The fish soup I ordered was delicious. Afterwards we made our way back to our apartment and it wasn’t long after a hot shower that my eyes were closing indicating the need for some sleep. Well, we fell asleep around 6 pm and did not rise again until 10 am the next day!
This would be the moment we experienced breakfast in Portugal which consisted of a mouth-watering fresher than fresh pastry coupled with a delicious double espresso-type coffee in a small-ish porcelain cup (sorry folks, no plastic-lidded disposable cups in Portugal. In fact we encountered very little use of disposable products at all. Thank heavens. The tap water is perfectly safe too and truthfully, I have always preferred the use of real China, porcelain, ceramic, glass. Everything tastes better that way.) We paid about .85 euro per coffee and .85 euro per pastry. A real bargain was realized as we sat on the cobble-stone patio and savoured the delicious-ness of our first meal after many hours.
After that we headed toward Obidos, a medieval village and World UNESCO site which is incredibly well preserved. A taxi stopped for us and our lovely driver said his name was ‘Cliff’ and channelling dad from me came, ‘my name’s Cliff. Drop over.’ He didn’t get it. Oh well. He chatted away in English as we just marvelled at it all. We spent a few hours climbing up ancient stone steps and along ancient stone walls. We marveled at the ceramics for sale and stepped into and out of little boutiques where not a soul touted us to buy a thing.
Then, feeling completely wonderful with the day’s experiences, we walked the 5 km back to our little, well equipped apartment.
The highlight of the next day was grabbing a taxi and heading out to see Fatima (where it is believed that in 1917 St. Mary appeared to three peasant children.). The area is now a huge and well maintained shrine for the millions of visitors it received annually.
Following that, we asked our driver to take us to the beach community of Nazare, which of course was breathtaking. We started with a large view from a cliff overlooking the beach then we walked down to sea level with burning thighs. Later, the same driver came to take us back to our awaiting hot showers and beds.
It was time then to move on to our next little home. We used an Uber to get to Aveiro (the Venice of Portugal) and found our reserved apartment which was all new and gorgeous with a view of the river we would later have a tour of.
I had absolutely loved our previous locations but I think Aveiro had just become my favourite place to stay. (Hubby had brought a small laptop along and we were able to easier make apartment bookings online with certain key filters like distance from centre, air conditioning, wifi and configuration of beds vs bedrooms and bathrooms (as Hubby’s sister was along with us).
The next day we grabbed a taxi and went to see Costa Nova, also nearby. This beach nearly made me cry with it’s beauty. It has a kilometers long perfectly preserved board walk which we traversed for about 8 km or so. It helps to preserve the beach due to keeping folks off the dunes. We also walked the couple of clicks out to the two lighthouses and marveled at the many fish swimming near the sea wall.
After Aviero, we made our way by train to Porto where we once again found ourselves in a gorgeous 16 foot high ceilinged new apartment with all the bells and whistles to ensure our stay was comfortable.
Porto was extremely gorgeous as it is a city built on a steep hill overlooking the gorgeous Douro River.
There are several bridges leading to Gaia, a twin city with a large monastery watching over all. We walked and walked and walked and ate and ate and ate.. The hilly cobblestone streets were fascinating, colourful and thought-provoking. Most of the housing and apartment buildings had clotheslines outside of windows with colourful clothing flapping in the breeze. We rode on a boat and we crossed the bridge to Gaia. At one point I had a bit of panic attack due to the crowds in the late afternoon but hubby helped to calm me down and we got back to our apartment and then could just relax and let the day slip away.
Our next destination found us in Coimbra which is the home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, founded in wait for it, 1290. Yikes. Again, built on a hill, we climbed some seriously inclined cobblestone streets in order to get up to the campus and see the view. While walking, I realized that many women wear sneakers, even with nice dresses. This would be due to the challenging surfaces of their streets, I would imagine.
If given the opportunity I will certainly return to explore more of this incredible country which completely stole my heart.