Porto and surroundings

Though this company is called “Lisbon Stories” I’ll be spending the next week quite far from Lisbon: I’ll be doing a tour in Porto and it’s surrounding areas, visiting Barcelos, Guimarães, Aveiro, Viana do Castelo, Régua and Douro valley.

All those who know me fairly well know about my passion for the North of Portugal. Porto, the main city and 2nd Portuguese city is now becoming a fancy “outsiders” destination and won several travel awards. Why is this city so special? Some say it’s because of Douro river; others mention the port wine, aging in its oak barrels not far from the city, many mention the baroque style carved on the granite stone, or even the famous sandwich “francesinha”. I have another reason: the laid-back personality of the inhabitants and the city itself couldn’t care less about this sudden popularity and didn’t change its character.

Being there it worths to pick a car and drive around this green region, discovering “Minho” area. Here you’ll find small scale agriculture, the catle raising and untouched Natural Parks (like Gerês), for the wild life, small rivers, lovely views from its mountains and also for the Green Wine. As for towns to visit, I specially love Barcelos and Guimarães. Guimarães was declared World Heritage by Unesco for its lovely historical center. Barcelos is also worth visiting, specially on Thursdays when its traditional framers market happens and a visit won’t be complete without passing by its open-air archaeological museum, one of my favorite museums in the whole country.

I could keep writing about this region forever, but, it’s time to pack my things and get ready for this trip. Thank you Kristin for booking this tour!

Cruiseships… plenty of them

Today is a very special day for our pier: we have six big cruise ships docked in Lisbon’s harbor. Isn’t this something? I’m sure that the streets are going to be packed!

While Silver Cloud, Balmoral, Ryndam e AIDAaura and Independence of the Seas are just here for the day, Seven Seas Mariner and Silver Cloud are spending one night here. Together, they will bring about 9500 people to the Portuguese capital. This definitely isn’t a common situation as we normally receive one or two cruise ships per day.

During the month of August Lisbon will receive a total of 21 cruise ships, bringing approximately 33.000 visitors. Does it look like a big number? Not really if we bear in mind that during the year of 2010 Lisbon’s port received a total of 495.000 visitors, and about 502.000 passengers in 2012.

 Regarding Lisbon Stories’ statistics, 50% of our clients come on cruise ships. 60% of them are here just for the day while the other 40% are starting or finishing a cruise here and decided to extend their holidays.

Enjoy your time in Lisbon everyone!

Com’out Lisbon – another festival

During summer time it’s quite hard to see one Lisboner sitting inside, either at a restaurant, café or even music concert. As the sun starts to shine and the nights get warmer Lisbon’s streets get more and more crowded with plenty of things to do. Open cafés and restaurants can be found everywhere, belvederes are turned into chill out areas, kiosks open and get popular and there are also the famous feasts of Lisbon. They only last until July, but for those who are visiting Lisbon during August or September (like you, Kristin) and are sad because the Feasts of Lisbon are over, I have great news: “Com’out Lisbon” has just begun.

This festival will last until the 11th of September and will cover the whole city. Almost every concert or projection happens in a different part of Lisbon, which will let you discover off-track gardens or parks. The activities are varied, including music concerts (don’t miss the Big Band from Hot Club Portugal, on Sept the 8th), outjazz, DJ’s and open air cinema. As usual, the entrance is free and you don’t need to pick up tickets some days before, or so. Just show up at the exact place in the exact time and enjoy the show!

The full program can be found here. Unfortunately there’s no English program but it’s not hard to understand the location nor the date, so, since it’s free entrance, I guess that you have nothing to lose!

 

Portugal has gorgeous beaches and amazing weather: it’s not my fault!

I know that it’s about time to write a new article, but, to be honest with you, this is all I did today.

This is beach is just 10 minutes away from where I live and it’s simply gorgeous. It’s quite long too, so, whenever I’m tired of lying down (hard life) it’s nice to go for a long walk on the sand… or to play with it…

We’re not closed, don’t worry! Tomorrow I’ll go back to work with the Sintra tour and hopefully I’ll get some inspiration for new posts. What about you, are you enjoying your summer? Let me know!

Discover Evora

After my last post about Évora tour with wine tasting and picnic lunch several people emailed me asking more information about Évora. Here is the answer:

Évora is the main town of Alentejo, an undiscovered region in the South of Portugal. The landscape is marked by the green of the grass, brown of the land and the white of the white washed with the blue or yellow stripes around the doors and windows frames.

Évora isn’t a big city, but going there from Lisbon on a daytrip, it has plenty to keep you busy and entertained. Close to St Francis church there’s the farmers market, where one can sample and see the regional products such as cheeses, sausages, vegetables and honey. Besides being excellent, all my customers keep tipping the farmers as they can’t believe how cheap things are.

In terms of heritage one can start the visit with the Bones chapel (which walls are covered by human bones, taken from a cemetery in the 17th century), St. Francis church, Graça church, Giraldo square, the main square of the town; the Roman temple (built 1800 years ago) and finally, the Cathedral. Évora’s cathedral is one of the few places where you can find an image of Our Lady pregnant, inside a church. The image dates back from the 16th century, but in the 17th century they were all forbidden and destroyed, which makes it even more special.

If you’re thinking about coming back to Évora, don’t leave the town without visiting “Pousada dos Lóios”, a luxury state inn installed in a former monastery, from the 16th century. And don’t forget to book the tour!

Looking forward to visiting Évora? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends.

Évora with picnic lunch and wine tasting

    Yesterday I had the most amazing day with Carol and her family. They are a happy family of 6 composed by her parents, her and her husband and two kids, aged 8 and 14. They all wanted to visit Évora but while her husband wanted to visit a winery and try some wines, her parents wanted to see the country-side and her kids wanted to do something fun.

    In order to please everyone we visited Évora in the morning and once they were feeling hungry we drove towards a vineyard where between cork-oak trees and endless vineyards there was a wooden table set with regional products. Cheeses, hams, chicken pies, regional sweets and liqueurs, bread and jams, as well as fruit composed the menu. While parents could eat and taste some regional wines and liqueurs, the kids could run around vineyards and scratch pieces of cork from the trees.

    The picnic was provided by a local company of wine experts, so, all the products were fresh and we didn’t need to worry about cleaning the table or so. Once we finished eating we visited the winery where everyone could learn about the wine production and its complicated process. Since the kids were very interested in cork, we also visited a cork-factory in a really small town, far from everything, where they could learn more about the cork process and see how things are made.

By the way, here’s the tour link. If you’re looking for a romantic tour this can be an idea.  Imagine you and your partner having a picnic lunch on your own, tasting great wines in an idyllic landscape on the shade of cork-oak trees and vineyards…