Portugal, one of Europe’s most beautiful countries
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you have definitely heard how popular Portugal has become. Portugal, one of Europe’s most beautiful countries, is a perfect option when thinking about your next trip. It also offers great value for the dollar.
I recently flew to Portugal on a 12-day trip, visiting three different areas. They included Lisbon, Comporta and the Alentejo region. All three areas are very special and created a great contrast.
I began in Lisbon and, after a short 20-minute drive from the airport, I arrived at the beautiful Santa Clara 1728. Located inside an enchanting 18th century building in one of Lisbon’s most romantic squares, Santa Clara 1728 is one of the nicest boutique properties in Lisbon. Of course there are many other options when staying in Lisbon, but for this trip I decided to try something smaller and more design-focused. Lisbon in general is a city made for walking. Although it is very much up and down, there is so much to see while exploring the cobble stone streets of the different neighborhoods. Whether it is Barrio Alto for the restaurants and night life or Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district and known as the Moorish Quarter, there is always something amazing to see. I particularly recommend visiting the National Azulejo Museum, also known as the National Tile Museum, as well as the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum which has a fabulous collection of ancient art from different times and different parts of the world.
The food in Portugal is incredible as well, and there is a wide variety available in Lisbon. One of my favorite spots was Sea Me, a seafood restaurant where you can inspect the catch of the day, order, and specify how you would like the fish cooked. It cannot get much fresher than that! When there, order the sardine sushi which is a specialty and runs out fast. Tapisco was also on the top of my list for dinner and is highly recommended. You may have to wait in line for a while as it gets very busy, but this tapas experience is not to be missed. Tapisco’s Michelin star chef decided to close her old restaurant in order to concentrate on serving the type of food she loves. From the typical gambas al ajillo and Iberico ham, to beautifully braised pork dishes dining here is a great experience. Another fun area in Lisbon is the Mercado da Ribeira where the Time Out Market is located. This huge space has over 30 different stalls from some of the most famous chefs found in and around Lisbon. Pick up a few bites from each one, and sit and enjoy with your favorite Vina Verde.
After 4 nights in Lisbon it was time to head towards the beach. An easy two-and-a-half hour drive brought me to the quaint fishing town of Comporta. While here I stayed at the Sublime Hotel which is quite special. This beautifully designed property has villas scattered throughout the grounds. Located just ten to fifteen minutes from wide Atlantic beaches and beach club restaurants, Sublime offers an escape to relax at the spa, by the pool or in their lushly planted gardens. Sublime also has a number of restaurants that serve food that really makes you feel more at home rather than in a hotel. The most amazing experience I had while there was eating at their “Food Circle.” This 12-person restaurant is shaped in – you guessed it – a circle and everything is cooked on this ingenious grill/plancha that the chef created just for this restaurant. You are served 10/12 courses, and all the vegetables, herbs and fruits – everything from mini strawberries to pineapple basil – comes from the garden. After 4 relaxing days and nights here, it was time to leave and head for the countryside.
To end the trip, I spent three nights at São Lourenço do Barrocal in the heart of The Alentejo. This refurbished estate has been in the same family for 8 generations and recently has been turned into a hotel. Sitting on nearly two thousand acres of land, this property takes you back to how it must of looked in the past. With beautiful boulders, olive trees all around, and a cobble stone main street, it really gives one a sense of place. When I was there they were working on a second pool for children. In time, they will also be bringing in different artisans, scattered across the property, to sell food and other products, thereby returning Sao Lourenco to its old farming days. The hotel has all the modern comforts one would want and, along with 2 restaurants, 2 beautiful swimming pools, and a superb spa, it is a wonderful way to either begin or end your trip. This is the time to relax, put down the phone and get a sense of what it must have been like living in Portugal so many years ago. Sadly it was time to leave, and I drove via Evora two hours to the airport for my flight home. I did, however, bring back 6 bottles of the delicious olive oil produced by São Lourenço do Barrocal which I am still using today.