Have you ever imagined a journey in your mind, planned every single detail and then lived the trip exactly the way you dreamed of it? We made that happen in Portugal!
A trip is lived three times: when you dream about it, when you live it and when you remember of it.
It was our first trip together to Portugal, We were so excited about Porto or Lisbon, yet something else wasn’t letting us sleep at night. There is a village that lies in the region of the haunted Sintra, that resembles a gold mine. I named it “the gem of the Atlantic Ocean”: Azenhas Do Mar.
Porto is an amazing city, I recommend it for the food and the architecture. Not by chance, Porto has been named the “Best destination in Europe for 2017”. This is the second time in four years. Lisbon is a must-see. The colors, the music, the sun, the vibes, everything! The feeling of freedom you get in Lisbon is hard to find anywhere else in Europe. Yet, Azenhas Do Mar...
Twenty four hours in Porto
Unfortunately, we could not stay too long in Porto. By the following day at noon, we had to escape the city. We wanted to see the sunset at Azenhas Do Mar. Giulia was a little upset but I promised her to see as much of Porto as we could.
Giulia is my girlfriend. She is more relaxed than me. I am more frenetic, I like jumping from one place to another. My camera drives me. I love how different we are.
Sadly, we could not enjoy the breathtaking view of Porto from the Palacio Hotel for too long, a 5 star hotel where we landed a great deal for one night. The hotel had a pool, a spa, a glorious breakfast… We enjoyed nothing of that!
Brigde Luis I is the most beautiful piece of architecture in Porto. It overlooks the Rio Douro, the river that baths the city of Porto. You can see the bridge from almost any corner of the city. Yet, you can enjoy the best view of it from the viewpoint Sierra Do Pilar. Viewpoints in Portugal are called “Miradouro”. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and cold. The sunset took the day off, but the view of the city was still amazing. I felt bad for Giulia, she waited for me in the cold weather while taking a long exposure of the city at night
To comfort her, I took her out for dinner at “La Bolina”, probably the best restaurant in Portugal. Cheeses, local meat, cold cuts and sangria all laid out on the table. Delicious food and a staff courtesy rarely seen before. Also, when you se a 30 euro bill for a dinner for two, you know you are somewhere in Europe.
The gem of the Atlantic
Day two. Three pm. We were still in Porto. Not good. Azenhas Do Mar is 3 hours away on the main road from Porto to Lisbon. It’s Saturday and we don’t know if traffic is on the way. Luckily, we rented an Audi A3. 140 km/h is still an acceptable speed limit in Europe. At 6.40 pm we are at Azenhas Do Mar. We made it for sunset!
Ready to enjoy the sunset, we get off the car. The Atlantic Ocean is at our feet. I can almost see America. I feel like Cristopher Columbus. Giulia is my caravel. Today the sunset is amazing and the sun slowly sets behind the water. It’s a masterpiece of view. We admire Azenhas Do Mar, the most hidden village in the heart of the region Sintra! It's astonishing. I think: life is good, life is worth living. And it’s not over yet.
Restaurant Azenhas Do Mar is a famous restaurant built on the rock where the village lies. It only has 20 seats. “I am sorry but for tonight the restaurant is all booked” , we were told by the manager. I don’t give up. “We are flying from London to have dinner here tonight, we flew three hours to have a romantic dinner at this restaurant. Do your best” - “Wait five minutes sir, let me see if I can accommodate you”.
Five minutes later we were seated at the best table overlooking the ocean from the window next to us. It was the best day of of my life, made even better by a portion of risotto shrimps and asparagus and “baccalhao” the signature cod fish from Portugal! Delicious! The price didn’t matter at the end. We were dreaming!
Lost in Lisbon
Lisbon, like Rome, was built across seven hills means nearly every street’s brow affords immensely satisfying views over the city as it slips down towards the river. They are named Miradouro. My favourite in Lisbon is Santa Graca, you can’t believe the sunset view you can enjoy from up there. Miradouro Santa Caterina is also a beautiful one. You can enjoy some prosciutto and white melon, while listening to some good music and abandon yourself to the good Portuguese vibes. The music, the noise, the crowd, the colours of Lisbon. It’s all magic!
Time to stop at a proper restaurant would have wasted us a lot of time, so we kept on exploring and discovering Lisbon. The city is home of one of the longest bridge in Europe, Ponte Vasco da Gama, Seventeen km of pure architecture. Impressive! We recommend a long walk from Belem Tower to Ponte 25 De Abril, caressed by the breeze and free of thought. You will feel relieved and rejuvenated!
If you want to enjoy some Lisbon signature food try “sardinhas" and “pastela de nata”. If you want to admire the beauty that this city has to offer, wander around the neighbourhood Alfma and Barrio Alto. You will taste the joy of living in Lisbon, people are happy, the sun takes you by hand.