Posts Tagged With: experience

A place with a few secrets

Summer is right around the corner and so is beach season. Unless, of course, you live in Portugal and have by now already dug your feet in the sand at least once this year.

Today I’m showing you a famous beach in the Aveiro area, in Central Portugal. Yes, there are beaches in other regions besides the Algarve.

A fisherman and his family, by the sculptor Alves André.

Praia de Mira is, just for starters, the only beach in the world which has received the Blue Flag certification for 31 years in a row – yes, 31 years.

Like so many other beach areas in Portugal only fishermen used to live here until tourists started to arrive. In an area with no stone available people used wood to build their homes but also… A chapel! Although this is not *on* the sand (unlike another famous beach church in Portugal) it’s close enough. The chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição was built in 1843 and is still functioning and being kept by the fishermen and their families.

Enjoy!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“I am of the river”

Miranda2Way up in the north of Portugal there’s a region called Trás-os-Montes, which is known for several things: its rough and breathtaking landscape, the Mirandese language, the extreme weather (“nine months of winter and three months of hell”), the wonderful produce, men in skirts (I haven’t talked about that one, yet), the unique costumes (usually associated with Carnival, but also used at other times) and, last but not least, Miranda do Douro.

Miranda3Here, Portugal and Spain are separated only by the river Douro. All along the northern border there are other places where a river makes a natural frontier between the two countries but it seems to me that this is where the river acts more like a unifying force, rather than a dividing one. Maybe because of the harsh circumstances? Some of the areas which are now covered by water were once the spots where the poorest people would grow their food. Eventually they noticed that their produce was actually better: those high cliffs on both sides meant more condensation and, therefore, more humidity, in a place where it can get very dry in those “three months of hell”.

Miranda1We were on a boat cruise when we were there (highly recommend it!) and our guide said something which, to me, sums up very well the relationship between both sides of the river here. She was the daughter of a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother and said: “I don’t see myself as being neither Portuguese nor Spanish; I am of the river”.

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Enjoy! 🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

A natural beauty

Piodão1Usually, when thinking of architecture, we tend to think of big buildings, whether modern or old. The way I see it, however, credit should also be given to more “popular” types of architecture, using natural materials – like stone!

piodão4Today I’m bringing you a few snapshots of one of the most famous schist villages from Central Portugal, the village of Piodão.

piodão2Located close to the Serra da Estrela region, Piodão is one of a total of 27 schist villages in the heart of the country. In a place with an abbundance of schist as well as zigs and zags, ups and downs, what do you build your houses with? Why, schist, of course!

piodão3Getting to know these villages is very much worth the trouble of getting away from the city and maybe even getting lost on your way back because the GPS isn’t working and it’s a rainy night and you can’t see s**t. Not that it ever happened to me! This is also the part of the country where you’ll find some of the most beautiful river beaches.

piodão5Enjoy!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.com/

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Categories: History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Under your feet

gruta da moeda_4Most people visiting Portugal will want to see the monuments, cities, towns and villages, besides the landscapes. But… did you know Portugal also has caves? In fact, Portugal has lots of caves, but plenty of them can’t be visited because they’re not, well, easy to access.

gruta da moeda_1In the area of Serra de Aire e Candeeiros (not far from Lisbon and close to Fátima) there are several caves that you can visit. Today I’m bringing you some images from Grutas da Moeda (literally, “caves of the coin”).

gruta da moeda_2These caves were discovered in 1971, when two hunters were chasing a fox. The fox eventually hid in a hole in the ground, which they found out to be an entrance to a cave. The two men explored that entrance for almost two months, discovering some of the galleries that you can visit today. gruta da moeda_6The part that you can now visit is about 350 meters long (not very long, but there’s plenty to see!) and there’s a constant temperature of 18ºC all year round.

gruta da moeda_5Obviously, like with so many other places in Portugal, there’s a legend about these caves. Many, many years ago, a wealthy man was passing by the area and he carried with him a bag heavy with coins. A band of thieves tried to rob the man and, in the struggle, he ended up falling down a hole in the ground (the cave, as you probably guessed), taking with him the bag of coins.

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Enjoy!  🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Activities, History, Legends, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Portugal in a box

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Can you put Portugal in a box? The Portuguese company My Own Portugal proves it can be done!

How does it work? Very simple: each month there’s a new box with a different theme. Inside the box you’ll find several Portuguese products, a postcard and a guide – all related to that month’s theme.

I got this box full of goodies dedicated to their September theme: Portuguese libraries. Inside the box there was a craft beer, a chocolate bar, a savory jam, biscuits, a notebook, a pencil, a guide to Portuguese libraries, a postcard and several discounts for bookshops. So, for this post I’ll suggest Portuguese writers to go with these products – a kind of food pairing, but with authors. 😉

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Starting with the biscuits I’ll suggest the poems by Florbela Espanca, who lived between the late 19th century and early 20th century. Her poems aren’t what I would call “sweet”, but rather melancholy. Feeling like curling up with a book on a grey Autumn afternoon? Prepare you favourite cup of tea, grab some of these biscuits (shaped like letters, did you see that?) and lose yourself in Florbela Espanca’s poetry.

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Moving on, we have my favourite Portuguese writer: Fernando Pessoa. I could have a whole blog dedicated to him and it probably wouldn’t be enough. Here we have a milk chocolate bar with a reproduction of a famous photo of him and a quote, which reads: “Because I’m the size of what I see and not the size of my height”. Fernando Pessoa was an incredibly prolific writer who had dozens of different personas, all of which with independent characters and types of writing. Several of his works are translated into English, so do get to read them if you can!

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Next we have another prolific writer and a big name from 19th century Portuguese literature: Camilo Castelo Branco. This red pepper and chili savory jam bears the name of that which is, probably, his most famous work. Amor de Perdição is a tragic love story involving 3 people, two rival families and plenty of autobiographical details. If you’re into literature you might find it interesting that, although this work falls, mostly, into the Romanticism category, it already has a few characteristics from literary Realism.

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Last but not least in our list of authors for this post we have a Nobel prize winner: José Saramago. He stirred a lot of strong feelings and opinions throughout his literary career – most people either love him or hate him. So, for a strong craft beer like this an equally strong writer is just the right match! Pictured here is my autographed copy from Saramago’s O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ).

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In case you want to start your own book (or just write down a few thoughts) there’s also a cute little notebook. This pencil with multiplication tables is a classic item from the Portuguese school materials from decades ago (rarely used today, but I think I probably had at least one pencil like this – until my teacher found out, of course).

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Enjoy! 🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: People, Products | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Beauty beyond the hills

The region of Trás-os-Montes (literally “behind the hills”), in the Northeast “corner” of Portugal, is often half-forgotten. Seen by many as being “too far away” the fact is the region is rich with traditions, tough hard-working people and gorgeous landscapes.

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Trás-os-Montes is also home to century-old chestnuts, small happy rivers and music that can make your granny dance like she’s 18 again. I’ll be talking about some of those traditions (which include men in skirts) in future posts – today I want to show you some of the happy little rivers.

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Sometimes you get to enjoy their beauty in small, more of less secluded, river beaches and some other times you can only appreciate them from a distance. Either way, it’s always worth it.

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This region is also known for having “nine months of winter and three months of hell” (nove meses de Inverno e três de inferno) because the weather goes to extremes, with very little space left for autumn and spring. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons behind all be beautiful sceneries?
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Enjoy! 🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Once in a lifetime

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When I was a kid several of Sintra’s monuments, which today are crowded with tourists at any time of the year, were kind of my weekend playground.
I remember Capuchos when it was a semi-abandoned place, which I later refused to visit having known it had been vandalized. I also remember the castle and the old man selling entrance tickets, postcards and pots of honey on a stall with cats sunbathing on its roof. But my favourite of these places was, probably, Pena.
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As a kid I was obviously impressed by the outside architectural “layers” and details, in a time when it was all, still, in different shades of dusty grey (the palace was later painted with its original colours). What really had a magic of its own, however, was the park. It was, to me, a piece of forest with mystery around every corner: The stone tables, the well, the metal bridge, the sculpted warrior and the gigantic trees seemed to me to be “extra magical” at a time when there really wasn’t a lot of information around regarding the park. I was always secretly hoping to come across a fairy somewhere – and I could almost swear I caught a glimpse of a pointy red hat once!
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When I read that Parques de Sintra would open the Pena park and palace at night I had a “now or never” kind of feeling. Besides, they were doing it for charity purposes, so what could be better?
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Although it had only been two days after a full moon (which means plenty of moonlight) Sintra did its best to keep up with its reputation and the whole area was surrounded by fog. While it was certainly amazing I really don’t have any good photos of the park that night because of the fog and because most places were, well, almost pitch black – except for the fireflies!
The lakes looked amazing at night with the fog and the Fonte dos Passarinhos, lit by our lanterns, had its own mystique. My good friend, the ginormous Western red cedar, was part of the tour as well, as did the century old ferns.
One of the ferns in this part of the garden was, if I’m not mistaken, planted in 1850, which makes it… 165 years old! Did you know that the ferns in the Feteira da Rainha and the surrounding trees make up an ecosystem of their own? The trees protect the ferns from the harsh Summer sun, but allow for enough sunlight in the Winter, after their leaves fall. This was all part of the king‘s project when he planned the park. This plan was so detailed, in fact, that it even took into account the winds coming from the sea.
When reaching the highest point, near Cruz Alta, the wind transformed the heavy fog into rain, so when our group got to the end of the tour, and we “emerged” into the middle of the crowd near the palace, we all looked like we had actually ran a marathon! 😀
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I didn’t get to visit the inside of the palace this time (too crowded!) but I did get to wander around the terraces a bit. Once again, the fog worked its magic!
The best part of this night? They actually managed to collect a total of about 5 tons of food! Everyone working there, from the five companies and institutions involved, was a volunteer. I can tell you our guide was one enthusiastic volunteer!
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P.S.: I do hope this will not be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and that they repeat it sometime in a not very distant future!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Before the crowds arrive

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Vilar de Mouros

Yep, it’s true: we’re rapidly approaching the most wonderful time of the year! So today I’ll be showing you the location of two famous Portuguese music festivals – before the crowds arrive.

Vilar de Mouros, in the north of Portugal, is home to the oldest music festival in the country. It all started in 1971 and, at the time, the festival attracted thousands of people from other countries as well – much like today, except they had funkier outfits back then! The lineup of the two-day festival consisted mostly of Portuguese bands, but also included Manfred Mann and closed with Elton John. Woho! I found some amateur footage from then which I’m sharing here to spread some 1971 groove… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrXB84e6uXU (Embedding disabled by request. Sorry, not my fault!)
Not far from Vilar de Mouros there’s Paredes de Coura, which also hosts an outdoor summer music festival. Both festivals take place in beautiful natural areas (rivers included!) and if you happen to be nearby – even if it’s not summer – a detour is well worth it!
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A detail in Paredes de Coura.

If you’re planning on coming to a concert, music festival or historical reenactment in Portugal this year you might want to check the website’s page with that info – and with everything neatly organized by dates and location, including links (when available).
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Vilar de Mouros

 Have fun!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beyond the obvious

tavira4Reputation can be a good thing or a bad thing – a bit like tourism.

In Portugal, the Algarve (in the south part of the country) has a reputation for being one long strip of sand, sea and sun, filled with restaurants, pubs and hotels – a place that becomes overcrowded in August with both Portuguese and foreign tourists, battling for a spot on the beach.

tavira1The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can experience the real Algarve, if you dare to look beyond the obvious. Altough this a region which has beautiful beaches (many of which with very few waves you fraidy cats) it also has castles, old forts, white-washed villages and towns, wonderful cuisine, thermal baths and even a natural park (Ria Formosa).

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Today I’m sharing with you some images taken, just last week, near Tavira, in the Ria Formosa area. You don’t get to see this unless you leave your hotel-with-swimming pool-and-5-bars-in-a-nice-all-inclusive-package.

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Will you dare to step out of your comfort zone? 😉

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Categories: Activities, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Building bridges

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First post of the year and anniversary post as well – today is the blog’s second birthday! Yay!

This past year was incredibly busy and it seemed to go by in a flash. I met great people, explored new places and learned a lot. There’s a website in the making and an increased presence in social media, besides a never ending bucket list for travel destinations and experiences in Portugal. I’d like to thank everyone who stops by, whether you’re fellow bloggers or interested in knowing more about Portugal – you rock! 😉

For today’s post I’m bringing you a bridge – but not just any bridge.

You can find this bridge in Castro Laboreiro, a town very very close to the border with Spain and in the area of the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Castro Laboreiro is the kind of place that is older than you think might be possible and has a ton of history. Still, you risk missing out on a lot of things if you don’t pay attention. This bridge, for example, can be found by the side of the road and you may not actually notice it. Not much is known about it but, like many bridges in the region, it probably dates back to the time of the Roman empire. Can you imagine how many thousands of feet walked on it?

The surrounding area (which I’ll show in future posts) looks like it came straight from a scene from The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys.

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I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful 2015 with plenty of travel and good times! 🙂

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Categories: History, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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