There’s something I need to rectify quick time, the lack of blog posts about Portugal. I’m half Portuguese and yet, I haven’t written a single thing so far about Portugal!
The reason is pretty simple. Portugal is home.
I live in London, but I still go ‘home’ as often as possible to visit my family and friends. When I’m at home and settling into old habits, it just never occurs to me to wake up at the crack of dawn to pose in front of the Monument of Discoveries or remember to take photos of the food I grew up eating. While I’m dunking my bread in oily, garlicky clam sauce, and catching up on all the latest gossip with my sisters, I rarely stop to think, wait, let me take a photo before we can all dive in.
Portuguese cuisine is best known for its pasteis de belem and grilled sardines. But it has so much more to offer. Other Portuguese favourites include clams “Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato”, suckling pig “Leitão Assado”, cod gratin “Bacalhau com Natas” and Iberico cured ham “Presunto de Pata Negra.”
Portugal is a beautiful, mesmerizing country.
I often find myself just staring out over the sea, my thoughts sailing over it, drifting out towards the horizon before snapping back to the company and place that I’m in. Portuguese society is very relaxed, we worship the beach, not ourselves. I have yet to come across a less pretentious people.
I love the drive from Cascais into Lisbon along the coastal marginal road. Walking up and down the cobbled streets, imagining myself living in one of the many royal mansions left behind from a bygone era. Drinking Super Bock beers (#teamsuperbock) in a beach shack or on the side of the road somewhere in Bairro Alto. This is everyday life.
Tourism in Portugal began in the coastal towns of Cascais and Estoril. Before Lisbon was cool, it was a busy, underappreciated place. Even Lisboetas preferred to come here to escape city life and relax.
I’m doing my readers a terrible injustice, because of all the places I’ve travelled, Portugal tops my list. As a food, travel and lifestyle blogger, Portugal ticks the boxes like none other. Of course I’m biased. I’m proud to be Portuguese and I love my country, but tourism is booming here for a reason. Portugal rocks!
Portugal is the in place right now.
I couldn’t be prouder. Especially since it was not long ago that we were hard hit by the recession. Even our tourism industry was stagnant. We were offering our visitors the same thing we had offered for years. While we are amazing at preserving our culture and heritage, we’re generally not as great in keeping up with modern evolution. There was no innovation and meanwhile everything was falling apart, getting worn, old and tired.
Portuguese architecture throughout the country is fascinating. Many of the buildings are reminiscent of the romantic, renaissance era. Look out for the “Azulejos” Portuguese tiles.
Today, Portugal is breathing new life.
Nowhere is it more apparent than Lisbon, which is finally getting the makeover it deserves. Fresh paint, new tiles, new business, new attractions. Lisbon is now the coolest city in Europe, according to Conde Nast Traveller, the Guardian, Esquire, and many other magazines and blogs.
Two new places worth mentioning are the TimeOut Market, a fantastic food and drink court that you would expect to find in a city like London and Sud Lisboa, a luxury restaurant, swimming pool and lounge bar with spectacular views. Both are new, welcomed additions to the city.
While even the old Praca do Commercio now glistens and shines at night. On a recent day trip to Sintra, I was amazed to see tuk-tuks in operation to take tourists up the steep hills, making it much easier and convenient to visit the Pena Palace and surrounding attractions. For years access here has been a problem.
The Pena Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces of Portugal. Its bright coloured walls and position atop a hill in Sintra overlooking breathtaking views are right out of a fairytale.
Portugal has something to offer every type of tourist or traveller.
There’s wine tasting, river cruising, gourmet food, water sports, diving, sailing and surfing, hiking, horse riding, golf, scenic road trips, old towns, history, art, museums, culture, music and much more.
From the historic city of Porto in the north, with its Douro wine and river, to the cosmopolitan capital of Lisbon, right down to the beach resorts and unspoiled nature of the Algarve. All along the coast, there are various different towns and sights to see. As well as inland, such as the region of Alentejo with its unique gamey cuisine and more fabulous wines.
The beaches in Algarve are famous for their yellow gold sand, rock outcroppings and turqoise waters. While the Atlantic Ocean is a cold sea, temperatures here are much milder.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging all about Portugal, sharing my favourite places and key insider tips. I hope to inspire you to take a trip and discover why everyone is talking about Portugal.