Portugal Road Trip July 2019

So …. here we are in Europe, sailing Mira in the Mediterranean! Our loose plan is to sail Mira to the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Explore their waters and coastlines, but, also leave Mira and discover Europe by car, train or bus.

Our first land adventure was a two week car trip through Portugal. We LOVED Portugal! Driving is definitely the way to go. There are so many little towns and villages just begging for you to drive through and stumble upon – it was magical! The people were super friendly – even to those of us that massacre the Portuguese language.  The food and wine were fresh, delicious and inexpensive (!) – what more do you need?

A map of our driving itinerary is below. We left Mira in a marina in Gibraltar and made our way in a big circle – heading north first, briefly through Spain and then followed the coastline all the way around Portugal. Our stops were in Ronda, Seville, Douro Valley (Pinhão), Amarante, Porto, Viana do Castelo, Aveiro, Nazaré, Lisbon, Belém, Sintra, Cascais, Boca do Inferno, Lisbon, Sagres, and Tavira on the Algarve Coast and back to Gibraltar.


Ronda, Spain
is an ancient town that is one of the most visited in southern Spain. Ronda perches dramatically on two sides of a 100 meter deep canyon through which the River Tejo flows.

The jaw-dropping Puente Nuevo, “new bridge” ironically built in 1751, connects the two sides of the city.
I was so happy to be in Spain on my birthday!

Seville, Spain
is the southern Spain that everyone imagines. Perpetually sunny, blue skies, beautiful architecture, with an old bull-fighting arena and ancient ruins. Seville is bustling with activity – busy tapas bars, dramatic flamenco dancing, and live music everywhere. The historic center, where we stayed, is laced with winding alleyways that are magic to explore and get lost in.

Rooftop bar drinks with a view of Seville was a perfect way to start off my birthday celebration.
The Cathedral of Seville was elegantly lit up at night.

Narrow streets and alleyways with something to discover around every corner.
Ornate, colorful buildings of Seville, heavily influenced by the Moors.

Seville is a city bursting with parks, green space and palatial buildings.
A portion of the original Arabic wall and tower in the Santa Cruz area, the historic Jewish district.
Promenade along the River Guadaquivir.

El Rinconcillo, Seville’s most ancient tapas bar, preserves the magical taste of old Seville. Tapas orders are still tallied up with chalk on the bar top!
Fun evening that began with tapas and ended with a dramatic Flamenco dancing performance at La Carboneria.

The Douro Valley, Portugal
is one of the most ancient wine regions in the world, but actually, the lush green mountains, valleys and the winding river are what I remember most. We stayed in a lovely Quinta (picture a b&b vineyard) perched on the side of the mountain close to the lovely riverside town of Pinhão. A stunning view from our balcony.

A cruise down the Douro River in a traditional river boat – topped off with a port wine tasting.
D’Origem olive oil factory tour in the mountains above Pinhão.
Perfect way to end our last night in the Douro Valley.

Amarante, Portugal
is a romantic town whose reflection on the water of the beautiful San Gonzalo bridge drew us in. A walk through the church, squares and terraces of the town preceded a delicious Portuguese lunch of freshly caught, grilled fish.

Reflection of the Ponte de São Gonçalo on the Rio Tâmega.

One of the freshest and most delicious lunches of our trip at Restaurante Estoril in Amarante.

Porto, Portugal
is a charming city that straddles the River Douro with colorful traditional fishing boats constantly on the move. Its cobblestoned streets are lined with squares of orange-roofed buildings, beautiful monuments and landmarks.

Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto is the port wine capital of the world.
Many of the multi-colored houses of the Ribeira district in Porto were constructed during the 15th century.
Our first glimpse of the traditional Portuguese azulejos – ceramic tiles found in churches, palaces and public spaces. The São Bento Train Station, one of the most beautifully decorated stations in Europe, has 20,000 blue and white tiles.
Ingreja de Santa Clara do Porto in the Se district.

Port wine tasting and tour included visits to three of the major wine producers’ cellars.
The golden color of the beautifully aged tawny port.
Hilltop view of Porto from the Miradouro Serra do Pilar.

Porto and the River Douro captured at sunset from the Jardim du Morro viewpoint.

Viana do Castelo, Portugal
is a city situated in a picturesque setting, nestled in between the Rio Lima and the steep Santa Luzia hills and the rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline.

A panoramic view of Viana do Castelo and the Atlantic Ocean.
An historic tram led us up into the hills from town.
The magnificent Santuário de Santa Luzia towers above Viana do Castelo.

Aveiro, Portugal
is a city on the west coast built along a natural lagoon called the Ria de Aveiro. Colorful moliceiro canal boats navigate through the middle of the Venice-like historic town.

Couldn’t miss a boat ride!
Look what we found on the drive down the coast between Porto and Lisbon!

Nazaré, Portugal
is one of the most popular seaside resorts on the central western coast of Portugal, known as the Silver Coast. Nazaré is best known for its high breaking waves that form due to a nearby massive underwater canyon. Numerous surfing records have been set here. The most recent unvalidated world record was set in 2018  when a Portuguese surfed an 115 foot wave, trough to crest!

Sadly, no massive waves breaking on the hot, cloudless, windless day we visited. But, the beach was impressive.
The rocky coastline leading to the town of Nazaré.
Glenn was thrilled with his Portuguese hanging kebab.

Lisbon, Portugal
is the perfect combination of fascinating history, trendy culinary scene, vibrant night life, stunning vistas and charming neighborhoods, begging to be explored. We walked our way through Lisbon and enjoyed all of this and more!

Special dinner at the Palacio Chiado – an 18th century mansion turned restaurant.
The view from our apartment down the pedestrian street of Rua da Vitoria  in the busy Baxia-Chaido district.
The famed Arco da Rua Augusta in the city center which was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the great earthquake of 1755.
View of the city and the Tagus River from the top of one of Lisbon’s many hills. Miradouros (viewpoints) are one of the best features of Lisbon.
View of Lisbon from the São Pedro de Alcãntara Miradouro.
São Jorge Castle which towers on a hill overlooking Lisbon.
Courtyard of Ingreja de Santo Antonio de Lisboa in Alfama, one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods.
Praça do Rossio with its famed statue and wavy mosaic tiles.
Wandering through the beautiful grounds of Sao Jorge Castle.
Miradouro Das Portas do Sol
Originally a 17th century church that was turned into a monument, the National Pantheon of Lisbon.
The hilly, wandering streets of Alfama.
I was fascinated by the tiles on the homes in Lisbon. They are called Azulejo tiles, dating back to the Moors who brought them in the 13th century.
The word, azulejo, means “small, polished stone” in Arabic. The tiles were used to cover up large blank walls that were common during the Gothic period.
Originally the tiles were blue and white, but, soon expanded into many different colors and ornate designs.
The Ascensor da Glória is a funicular railway line that also colorfully displays local street art.
The famous pastéis de nata is an iconic Portuguese custard tart, usually served warm w a dusting of cinnamon or sugar. They really do taste as delicious as they look and are available literally EVERYWHERE in Lisbon for about 1 euro each. There is a big debate about which shop serves the best pastry.
After sampling many, many, many pastéis de nata all over Lisbon, our FAVS are the warm and creamy ones from Manteigaria!
Our final view of the city from the rooftop deck near the Elevador de Santa Justa.

Belém, Portugal
was the original location of Lisbon’s shipyards and docks – so, of course, we had to spend the day there. Today it displays the rich seafaring heritage with museums, monuments, and extravagant buildings.

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a great example of the Manueline style of architecture.
The interior of the Igreja Santa Maria de Belém is magnificent.
The sheer scale of the extravagant buildings is amazing.
The Torre de Belém is Lisbon’s most famous and photographed monument.
We are always happier by the sea.
We had to try one more pastéis de nata – at the Fábrica Pastéis de Belém, the original home of the tart since 1837.

Sintra, Portugal
is a delightful town just a day trip from Lisbon. The highlight of Sintra is the Palácio Nacional da Pena – one of Europe’s finest palaces with a brightly-colored exterior and an interior restored to its 1910 appearance.

Game of Thrones’ fans theorize that the Iron Gate and many other features of the Pena Palace were an inspiration for the show.

Lunch in the historic centre of Sintra.

Cabo da Roca, Portugal
is the westernmost point of mainland Europe, whose coordinates are well-known by those sailing along the coast of Portugal.

Chilly, grey and windy when we visited, the cape at 150 meters above the sea felt like the end of the earth.

Cascais, Portugal
is a delightful Portuguese fishing town and is located next to the some of the finest beaches in Portugal. Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat of Portuguese nobility, and today Europeans and Portuguese alike flock to this charming town for their holiday.

Portuguese fishing boats moored next to the beautiful Cascais beach.

Sagres, Portugal
is the extreme western tip of the Algarve coast of Portugal. The Algarve Coast contains more than 150 beaches and stretches 200 km along the entire southern coast of Portugal. The beaches in the Algarve range from small rocky beaches surrounded by towering cliffs in the west to long, wide sandy beaches in the east. With its temperate climate and wide range of nature, beaches and partying, the Algarve is a premier summer destination for many Europeans.

Sagres with its dramatic landscape of seas and immense carved cliffs.

Tavira, Portugal
is one of the most charming towns in the Algarve. Located on the far eastern end, Tavira reminded us of a quaint, white-washed Greek village.

Pousada Convento de Tavira, a former convent, was our home for a few days.
Enchanting views of Tavira from our room.

A quick ferry trip from the center of town took us to the beautiful, wide sandy beaches of the Ilha de Tavira. Though the water in the middle of July was still too cold for us!

Dinner by the Gilão River that slowly flows through Tavira.

Tavira in the Algarve was our last stop before heading back to Gibraltar to return to Mira and head off for our next sailing destination – the Balearic Islands – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera!

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