By Danielle Lerner
David and I just had our teenage girls (19 and 17) around this summer as our two younger kids were off at camp. We decided to use this opportunity to bring them along on an “adult” sightseeing vacation before they both leave for college. :-(. This was the first time we traveled with just the two of them since my 14 year old son was born. I had traveled to Europe with my 19 year old the last two summers, therefore, I knew how much more intimate this could be than when traveling with the six of us. Portugal was our destination of choice. We traveled for 15 days, seeing much of the country and staying in 6 different spots.
I started in Obidos with just my 17 year old. Obidos is an ancient walled city about an hour north east of Lisbon. It is quite charming and picturesque with its terra cotta roofs and narrow cobblestone streets. You can climb up and walk along the entire wall of the city. This was a highlight of our visit, although scary at some points! We stayed one night at the Pousada Castelo de Obidos, a historic hotel, where you can also dine while enjoying breathtaking views of the city.
From Obidos we set off to Porto, one of the two main cities in Portugal. Here David and my other daughter met us. We stayed for a few nights at the InterContinental Porto – Palacio Das Cardosas. We chose to stay here instead of The Yeatman Hotel, a popular resort, because we felt that the location of the InterContinental was more central. We were right!
Porto was one of our favorite cities to visit. You can climb the spiral staircase at Clérigos Tower and take in the beautiful vista of the city. Attention: Harry Potter fans can visit the Livraria Lello Bookshop, one of the oldest bookshops in Portugal. This edifice inspired JK Rowling in writing the Harry Potter series.
Not to be missed are the caves in Gaia, massive and impressive wine cellars. You can taste the many different vintages and flavours of Port while dining overlooking the beautiful port of Porto and Gaia. I must say that traveling with kids old enough to go wine tasting with you in Europe was a real treat! :-). I would highly recommend Graham’s for lunch. The view at that time, if you eat outside, is spectacular and the tour was impressive.
Gaia is a 30 minute walk from the port in Porto. You need to cross the Dom Luís I Bridge, a double-decked metal arch bridge that crosses the Douro River. You can walk the lower level if you don’t want to climb, or climb to the upper level where you will have better views. Your hotel can help make reservations for the cave tour.
A big treat for us was that we happened to be in Port when Portugal made history and won the European Soccer Championship for the first time. The city set up big screens so that everyone could watch the game. When Portugal pulled off this historic win, the excitement was like nothing you can even imagine! It was amazing to be in the country for this.
Our next destination was the Six Senses in the vine covered hills of the Douro Valley. We stayed for 2 nights and thouroughly enjoyed all of the amenities of this amazing property, including the spa, on site restaurants, wine library, swimming pools and organic garden.
If you ever make it to the area, don’t miss chef Rui Paula’s Michelin star restaurant DOC. We ate here and watched the sun set over the water and the boats glide past. The food, as expected, was outstanding. It was one of our most memorable meals.
We headed south to the Algarve for a 3 night stay at Quinta do Lago. The resort is a quaint, manicured, European destination spot to summer with a beautiful relaxing beach (um, sort of). One downside to the resort is that it is situated in a flight pattern. While trying to enjoy the serenity of the beach, we constantly heard planes overhead. Not so relaxing!
We took a trip to visit Lagos. If the water isn’t too choppy, there are boats and kayaks that will take you into the grottos. They are spectacular! For a five star meal, take a five minute drive and go to Gusto by Heinz Beck at the Conrad Hotel.
Lisbon, the capital, is a vibrant city on the water. There are an abundance of activities here from sight seeing and dining in top restaurants, to hiking in nearby Sintra, a steep 2 hour hike. (We were tired!)
We stayed for 5 nights in Lisbon at the Hotel PortoBay Liberdade. The hotel is located just off the Avenida da Liberdade. This is Lisbon’s main boulevard and home to designer shops, high-end restaurants and trendy bars. But, IMO, the best (most lively) area to stay is the Barrio Alto/Chiado. This area is very chic and also houses boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Next time we will stay here!
Our most memorable meal in Lisbon was lunch at Ramiro’s. It was completely no frills, yet the most delicious seafood we have ever had. It is definitely more of a lunch spot since the meal is quick and atmosphere minimal. However, it is not to be missed!
We took a day trip to Évora, the capital of Portugal’s south-central Alentejo region. Here we visited a city park where wild peacocks were on the loose! However, it was a very short visit because it was too hot to spend any quality time inland.
The coast was a better option. We went an hour south of Lisbon and stayed on the coast in Grandola. We stayed at Sublime Comporta. The resort was a beautiful, eco-friendly, spa-like retreat, only a few minutes drive from the water. The staff was magnificent. In fact, the manager called in a favor to some friends to get us a dining reservation near the water at Ilha Do Arroz even though the restaurant was already fully booked. It’s a great spot that you need to reserve way in advance, luckily our hotel got us in!
Overall, it was an amazing trip that I highly recommend. Tchau Portugal, at least for now….and maybe next time with my two other kids!