A Taste Of Portugal – sun, sea and history in the heartland.

 

Beautiful memories of Portugal continue to haunt me. I’ve already written about how wonderful Lisbon was, a city I yearn to visit again. But Portugal is so much more than Lisbon and I had a chance to venture outside of the city during my recent visit.

A smorgasbord of wonders with beautiful scenery, awe-inspiring architecture, quaint traditions and of course sun and sea – the heart of Portugal is as wonderful to behold. So come with me as I celebrate a country which has left an imprint on my heart, with a small photo tribute to some of the glories of Central Portugal.

Sintra – a glorious Eden.

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Once described as the ‘most beautiful place in Portugal’ by Hans Christian Anderson, Sintra is a a vibrant region replete with beautiful gardens, majestic trees and romantic palaces. Hike the many hilly trails and be captivated by any one of its ten national monuments, from ancient ruins to lavish palaces.

Feel like taking it easy? Then take a stroll down the cobbled streets. Stop at a cafe for one of the delicious, traditional travesseiro (pillow) pastries, a local delicacy.

With it’s easy charm and picturesque sights it’s no wonder Sintra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal.

Pena Palace – magical and mesmerising.

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One can not visit Sintra without a trek up to the magical and oh so romantic Pena Palace. A colourful, stunning mixture of archictectural styles, Sintra’s crowning jewel proudly sits high up in the hills surrounded by pine forests and offering breathtaking panoramic views. It’s interior still looks like it would have done back in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled during the revolution.

Often places are hyped only to prove a let-down in the flesh but not Pena Palace. It was easily one of the highlights of my trip.

Cabo da Roca – where the land ends and the sea begins.

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The most westerly point in mainland Europe, the windswept and rugged coastline of Cabo da Roca boasts amazing vistas. Once believed by Europeans to be the edge of the world the headland is marked by a stone monument and the beacon of it’s lighthouse (the first purpose-built in Portugal) can be seen from nearly thirty miles away.

Lazy days in Nazare.

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Brimming with ancient traditions, the coastal town of Nazare combines natural beauty, a mild climate and a sense of having stepped back in time. So what to do?

Why not sample fresh seafood from the many restaurants along the promenade. Mingle with the local fisher women who still wear the traditional seven skirts. Take a lazy stroll down the quaint and narrow streets.

Climb to the cliff top called the sitio and be rewarded with marvellous views over the bay and beach.  Enjoy peace and tranquility while you watch the sun set over the Atlantic.

Batalha – an epic battle.

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Known mainly for it’s stunning monastery, Batalha is a small town that sits in the hills of Leiria. A gothic masterpiece of filigree stone, mysterious chambers and stunning archways it commemorates the Portuguese victory over the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota, a decisive battle in their bid for independence.

The construction of the monastery was ordered by King John I of Portugal to celebrate the victory.  His tomb and his wife’s, Phillipa of Lancaster, can be found in the Chapel of Founders within.

One can only appreciate how stunning and imposing this monument is when standing right next to it. A truly impressive place to behold.

Obidos – getting tipsy on ginjinha.

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Óbidos is a beautiful and historic walled town boasting a chequered history and has been witness to many battles and political changes over the centuries. Today no battle cries ring out but it remains as compelling a location as ever. Picture an imposing castle, expanses of terracotta roofs, narrow, cobbled streets and white-washed houses all enclosed within these walls.

Feling more adventurous? Why not take a walk along the town’s walls (no safety barriers mind you) to enjoy wonderful views of the castle, town and the neighbouring countryside.

Or take it easy and stop at one of the roadside cafes for a few cups of ginjinha, the region’s famous drink, it’s a sweet brandy liqueur made with local cherries.

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