A Drive through Portugal

This was our second major "target" for our 2018 trip to Europe; neither of us had ever been here before, we have Portuguese immediate family members & relatives, and we wanted to explore everything we could! We wanted to see as much of Portugal as possible, so our planning of where to go, how long to stay there, and the routes necessary for each of the next destinations took some time to put togeher. The single biggest hurdle was mapping our "want to see list" to the time span we had available!

Click Image to view a larger map

Besides our Portugal motivations from our family's heritage, here are some other incredible reasons why we wanted to visit Portugal;

Some Interesting facts about Portugal / Where is it?   Map
  • Portugal has it all: historic cities, world-renowned cuisine, beautiful country areas with natural landscapes, and some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.
  • Once the world’s maritime leader and the longest-lived of Europe’s modern empires, Portugal has a complex history to explore alongside dramatic geographic landscapes, turquoise beaches, a rich gastronomy scene, and all the Port and bacalhau (salted cod fish) you can ask for.
  • Portugal won the "best travel destination" award in 2018, and after you read this article of ours, you will be able to understand why!
  • Nobody anywhere does custard tarts (or pastel de natas, as they’re called here) quite like Portugal. And perhaps nowhere in Portugal does them as well as Pasteis de Belém in Lisbon, which is why queues for the sweet, rich and perfectly crisp tarts often stretch along the pavement.
  • Perched on the western edge of Europe, Lisbon is the continent’s sunniest capital city, boasting an average of 2,799 hours of sunshine a year, beating out Athens, which has 2,771 hours of sun a year.
  • Thanks to the rolling swell of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is one of Europe’s best surfing destinations with a wave for every ability. Best of all, the surf breaks are relatively uncrowded.

Perhaps now you can understand our enthusiasm for spending a week in Portugal, exploring it from North to South?

Driving in Portugal

  • Driving in Portugal is similar to driving in the USA; the freeways ("Autoestrada") are very similar, the information signs are easily understood, and the speed limits are easy to discern. Speed limits are in kilometers per hour, multiply by 60% to derive MPH.
  • Driving in any European City is a lesson in patience and bravery. Traffic in Lisbon & Belém was thick, but most drivers were disciplined.
  • Driving in Portimão was straight forward, but getting to our VRBO rental from the highway definitely required use of a mapping system. We had retired our Tom-Tom mapping device, and only used cell phone based mapping to navigate everywhere.

We flew from Madrid to Porto, Portugal via TAP Portugal Airlines. In Porto, we picked up our rental car from Auto Europe, fired up our navigation maps, and proceeded to drive to the Delfim Douro Hotel - our first stop in Portugal. Our route from the Porto International Airport was on the A4 east to exit 24 where we turned south on the N2. Once we crossed the Douro River Bridge, we then turned back west on the N222 to the Delfim Douro Hotel on the right side of the road.
NOTE: You have to make a slight right turn onto the M537 from the N222. Note that the hotel sign is small and since there is a wall separating the hotel grounds from the road (the hotel is a bit lower on the hill than the wall), you will not be able to see it easily from the road  - Click here for Map of the road intersection

 
Card Benefits
  • Unlimited free travel by bus, metro, tram and elevators.
  • Entry to 35 museums, attractions & UNESCO-listed sites.
  • Skip-the-line at Mosterio dos Jerónimos Archeology Museum.
  • Free travel on CP train lines to Sintra and Cascais.
  • Guidebook & discounts at participating shops.
  • The Lisboa Card is valid for a full calendar year after its purchase date (just in case you need to postpone your trip), and is validated upon its first use.
  • Click here to go to their website.
Douro River Valley, Portugal   Map
Douro River Valley, Portugal

Our first destination in Portugal after landing in Porto, was the Delfim Douro Hotel and a strong desire to explore the surrounding area - some interesting wineries were just a few miles away, and we planned on visiting Quinta da Pacheca to take their tour that afternoon.

Click here to visit the Duoro River Valley Page
Praia do Norte, Portugal   Map
Praia do Norte, Nazaré

After departing the Delfim Douro Hotel, we drove to the Atlantic Ocean coast (250 kilometers from the Delfim Douro Hotel but still north of Lisbon), and stopped at the beach just north of Nazaré at the Praia do Norte, Nazaré. This is where the largest waves ever surfed took place, if you doubt this fact, please take a look at this video to see for yourself. There is an HBO Documentary named "100 Foot Wave" that documents the first American surfer to surf the big waves here.

Video is the property of Monster Experience via YouTube.
If you watch that video, you can see the building that stands on the cliff in our image and that gives you a much better idea of just how high that wave was!

The large waves here form due to the presence of the underwater Nazaré Canyon. As the canyon creates constructive interference between the incoming swell waves, it makes their heights much larger on this stretch of coast than elsewhere.

  

First image above is the property of Otávio Nogueira via Wikimedia Commons using the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Praia do Norte Surf

Even on a calm day, you can see how (image # 1) the surf here is strong. We saw a number of 8 to 10 foot waves come ashore. Image # 2 is the cliff area that separates the village of Nazaré from the beach we were at.

NOTE: Click here to watch the video from the beach that day and you can hear how loud the surf noise was. Don't forget to turn up your speaker volume!
Video is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC via YouTube.
If you like our videos, click here to subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Nazaré Beach

Nazaré is on the other side of the cliff from where we were at Praia do Norte. As you can see, the village of Nazaré resides next to a pretty beach and a very nice marina.
The inlet in the distance is the entrance to the Nazaré Marina, to view this area on a Google Map click here. This map will provide you with an overhead view of the entire area, where you can more easily see where we were north of Nazaré at the Praia do Norte.
Because we had to meet our VRBO apartment agent at a specific time, we departed on the Portugal A8 freeway and drove to Belém (130 kilometers). Traffic was light until we arrived in the Lisbon area, and then it got quickly crowded.
NOTE: This image is the property of 'Mister No' via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Lisbon, Portugal   Map
Lisbon, Portugal

After driving most of the day, Lisbon was a breath of fresh air. We were able to park the car and concentrate on exploring the city by public transportation and walking. Our rental unit is located in Belem, very close to the Tagus River and also close to the metro train system station.

Click here to visit the Lisbon Page
Portimão, Portugal   Map
The Algarve area of Portugal

After Lisbon, the Algarve was our next "target area" to explore. We had heard stories from Celeste's parents about how beautiful it was, and how good the food was, so our expectations were high and our zeal to start our exploration there was at a high level!

Click here to visit the Algarve Page
Portuguese Delicacies

It cannot be overstated how good the seafood & pastries are in Portugal. Yes French pastries are quite good as well, but Portuguese pastries are unique and excellent and we had them in every district in the Country! Below are pictures of a few of things we enjoyed.

Pastéis de Nata - these are from Pasteis de Belém which is considered to make the best in Lisbon

More great pastries - don't remember the name, but they were awesome!

Cataplana de Peixe - a Portuguese fish stew made in a special cookware called a cataplana.

 Pastel de Nata Quick History Lesson 

Pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. These monks were originally based in France where these pastries could be found in local bakeries. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as nuns' habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.

Following the extinction of the religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day.

Click here to view the complete Wikipedia Article about these amazing pastries.

Now as you have read on this page that we had a rental car while in Portugal, and so you can imagine that we had to stop for gasoline, or rest rooms, etc, at various locations throughout Portugal right? At every rest stop or gas station that we visited, there would be an espresso bar. So during most of these stops we would have an espresso with a pastry, and each & every time it was absolutely delicious!

The point we want to leave you with, is that Portugal Service Station food & coffee is miles better than what you can find in the USA ! Do yourself a favor and give it a try.

Some Useful Links

NOTE: Below are some useful links where you can find even more information about the areas we have described on this page. There are of course, many other useful websites & pages, so for something specific, we would suggest using Google Search.

 Useful Portugal Links 
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon’s Iconic Egg Tarts on the 'Eater Travel' Site
  • Delfim Douro Hotel
  • The Top 10 Things To See And Do In The Douro Valley
  • Google Search Results List of Accommodations in the Duoro Valley
  • Wineries in Douro Valley area on the "Wine Tourism" site
  • Lisbon History on the Wikipedia Site
  • Google Search Results list of accommodations in Lisbon
  • Google Search Results list of restaurants in Lisbon
  • Google Search Results list of accommodations in Cascais
  • Google Search Results list of Restaurants in Cascais
  • Portimão Information on the "Wikipedia" site
  • Portimão in-depth article on the "Algarve Tourist" site
  • Portimão in-depth article on the "Lonely Planet" site
  • Google list of accommodations in Portimão
  • Sagres on the "Wikipedia" site
  • Travel in Sagres Article on the "Travel in Portugal" site
  • Google Search Results List of Restaurants in Portimão
  • Things to do in Portugal on the "Get Your Guide" Site
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Portugal"
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Portugal"
 Lisbon Airport Warning 

The Lisbon International Airport is extremely crowded with vehicles, and the Rental Car Return Center is very close to the Airport entrance. Be very careful driving in the Airport, and look for the signs to direct you to the Rental Car Return Center.

We entered the Airport area on Avenue Berlim because we had to fill our rental car gas tank, and the only gas station was a BP station (on the south side of Avenue Berlim as you enter the Airport). All of the car rental companies are located in a single building, located adjacent to the Airport Terminal One building. What we discovered was that the Car Return Building signs were not obvious as we exited the gas station, and we wound up exiting the Airport and upon returning, we found the signs to the Car Return area could be seen!

Trip Related Pages
Trip Overview
Paris
Mont Saint-Michel
Nice, France
Monaco
Madrid, Spain
Portugal
Duoro River Valley, Portugal
Lisbon Portugal
Portimão Portugal

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