Posts Tagged With: sightseeing

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

Snapshots of Nazaré (and a revelation!)

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View from the lighthouse at the Fort of St Michael Archangel.

Nazaré is one of those places that has its own mystique, legends, folk lore and, in more recent decades, tourists and surfers.
In the late 1940’s Nazaré attracted the attention of a then-young photographer called… Stanley Kubrick! He captured bits and pieces of the lives of the people of Nazaré (fishermen and their families, mostly) with their somewhat “exotic” hats and clothes, squinting in the sun and smiling – sometimes.

nazaré4Life by the sea can certainly be hard, particularly when you’re facing giant waves in tiny boats. Ever heard of the “Nazaré canyon“? Probably not, but that’s the phenomenon which caused the famous 100 foot (30 meters) wave surfed by McNamara in 2013, in Praia do Norte.

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Even in Praia do Norte the sea can sometimes be flat – like on this day! Just my luck!

Traditionally, the women of Nazaré wore not one, not two… but seven skirts! Why? Well, there are several theories, but no certainties. Some people say it has to do with the magic usually associated with the number 7 (and, particularly, with the seven waves, since they used to spend a good part of their day near the sea); others claim it was simply because the women used those skirts to cover both their heads and ther legs while they sat in the sand, waiting for the men to come from the day’s fishing activities. Contrary to what some people might think, yes, it does get cold in Portugal and, yes, we have fog, cold drizzle and wind, even on the beach! 😉

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And if you think that Nazaré sounds reaaaaally similar to Nazareth… well, that’s connected to the legend of Nazaré!

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Remember the lighthouse from the first photo? It’s that tiny spot on the left.

There’s a giveaway taking place right now on the blog’s Facebook page. It’s your chance of getting a box full of Portuguese goodies – for free! 😉

P.S.: If you follow the blog you may have noticed that I haven’t posted so often lately. No, I haven’t given up on the blog or the site. It’s just that I have… let’s call it “a new project in the making”! 🙂

coming soon

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

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

Along the coast

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Along the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. This area covers most of the Alentejo coast and part of the Algarve, in a total of about 110km of cliffs, unique plants, big waves, rich culture and history and, yes, amazing sunsets. Actually, this is such a special region that it is the only place in the world where storks make their nests in the rocks by the sea – and by rocks I mean cliffs!

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But today I bring you another side to this coast: The town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, in the Alentejo, as seen from the river Mira. No cliffs seen from here, just the peaceful sunset inviting your mind to drift away and relax. There’s a lighthouse at the mouth of the river; you can see some boats and a few of the white houses from the town. The beaches are empty now and every living thing seems to stand still to appreciate the sun going down and the moon coming up.

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Enjoy! 🙂

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

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Apple beach

 

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If you’re staying in Lisbon and plan on going to Sintra for an afternoon there’s a lot you won’t be able to see – like the beach, for example. Most people who visit Sintra focus on the monuments alone, but the fact is there’s a lot more to see. 🙂 Today I’m writing about a beach in Sintra, which also happens to be a true classic.

Praia das Maçãs (yes, Apple Beach) has its own mystique and fan base. Even in winter it’s a lovely place to go for a walk and to breathe in some of that energizing sea air. In the summer it’s one of the most crowded beaches in the area. For many people living in the Lisbon metropolitan area this used to be their go-to place in the summer months, particularly from the 1960’s to, say, the 1990’s. Today, it’s still a place where you’ll find a lot of families, but also surfers and bodyborders.

There’s a (let’s call it “erratic”) tram that can take you from Portela (near the train station in Sintra with the same name) to Praia das Maçãs. If you have the opportunity I highly advise you to take this tram, as you’ll be able to enjoy part of the Colares area.

Trivia tidbit of the day: Legend has it that Praia das Maçãs owes its name to the fact that apples, from orchards located in Colares, would fall from the trees to the stream and eventually end up on this beach.

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There’s a giveaway right now on the blog’s Facebook page which might be interesting if you happen to be visiting Portugal for the next couple of weeks!

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

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Categories: Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Highlands – Portuguese style

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Sometimes travel doesn’t have much to do with monuments or with a huge checklist of things you have to do in order to “have fun”.

Sometimes travel is just about soaking up the energies from the place you’re visiting and about collecting memories. Personally, I like to daydream a little.

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When in Castro Laboreiro (which I mentioned before) I couldn’t helpt but get a “Lord of the Rings” kind of feeling. I was sure that at any minute I would see a legion of soldiers (or orcs!) coming from around the mountain.

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Then I remembered my favourite part from the Latin classes I took in college. Despite being fairly technologically advanced Romans were superstitious and, might I add, a little too full of themselves.

Apparently, it took them a long time to enter the area we now call Serra da Estrela because, among other things, they must have thought it was a good idea to bring horses to a mountainous area! Oh, and Viriato played an important role, of course.

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Standing there, with the wind rushing past my face in the grey and cold weather, I wondered if the north of what we today call Portugal had other characters, similar to Viriato. Even if it never did I can only imagine that living here, especially centuries ago without the comfort we now have, made everyone a hero in their own way.

Do you daydream when you travel? 😉

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

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A long, long time ago…

mezio1Before Portugal even existed there were people already living here. Obvious, right? Those people built huge stone monuments, some of which made their way to our day and age more or less intact.

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Today I’m bringing you a couple of examples you can find in the Peneda-Gerês region, particularly in the area called Mezio (near Soajo).

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Not much is known about them, but they’re thought to be approximately 5000 years old. You can find examples of this type of pre-historic monument all over the country, but mostly in the north and in Alentejo (as far as I know).

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Truth be told, they’re not always easy to find, even when they’re mentioned in maps and hiking trails. Sometimes you’ll just have some obscure reference to a dolmen in a particular area and little more information besides that.

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But who doesn’t love exploring around a bit? 😉

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Categories: Activities, History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 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

Simple pleasures

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I already mentioned Ponte da Barca on the blog before, but I couldn’t skip the opportunity of bringing it up again. I mean, look at those trees.

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Sometimes you really don’t need an incredible work of art or a fancy resort to enjoy being somewhere. Sometimes the colors of the sky and the trees are just right and Nature creates a perfect paiting.

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Or maybe it’s just the way a boat fits a reflection – almost perfectly.

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Or noticing an unexpected rower.

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Trivia tidbit of the day: Remember when I told you about Santo António? His mother was born in Ponte da Barca, no less!

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

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