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Bridgeworthy: Portugal – A European Gem

PortugalAs you make travel plans to escape peak tourist season in Coronado, consider the beautiful country of Portugal. With its incredible history, beautiful beaches, delicious food and friendly people, Portugal offers tourists an incredible experience for a lot less money than many of its sister European countries.

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After 10 days in Spain my family drove out of Sevilla and headed for the Algarve Coast in Portugal. The Algarve is a very popular European vacation destination and I had been warned to stay away from it in the summer, but we were very happy we decided to try it for a few days. The Algarve is the southern coast of Portugal where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Straights of Gibraltar. We stayed in Carvoiero, Portugal in a resort called Pestana Palm Gardens lodged on a cliff overlooking the Ocean. Our unit was a two bedroom townhome with a rooftop deck that had more than enough space for us. The resort also had a beautiful pool, a restaurant, and grassy areas where the kids could play. We chose this location because it was close to the Benagil Caves, beautiful ocean caves that friends recommended we kayak to. A short 5 minute walk brought us to the nearest beach where we signed up for a guided tour of the caves. The tour was two hours of kayaking about 1.5 miles into 7 Benagil Cave, Portugalcaves, the last one was the famed Benagil Cave where we parked our kayaks and swam in the cold water, collected shells and took photos. After our rest we got back in the kayaks and a motor boat dragged us the mile and a half back. It was amazing! The food in Carvoiero was also fantastic, much more flavorful than what we experienced in Spain.  Portuguese bread is amazing, their tapas give everyone a chance to sample the foods and the wine is also a treat. You can eat like a king in Portugal for half the price of most places in San Diego.

Portugal has 1,115 miles of coastline, all of which have hidden treasures to be found. Drive up the Western Coast of Portugal and enjoy views of the Atlantic as you make your way to Lisbon. Lisbon is a beautiful historic old city on the Tejo River. As you cross the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge into Lisbon, you will be reminded of the Golden Gate Bridge, look back to the southwest and you can see the Sanctuary of Christ the King monument that will remind you of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

PortugalIf you prefer the countryside and mountains more than city life, I recommend staying in either Sintra (for the mountains) or Cascais (for the beaches) and making a day trip into Lisbon.  We chose to stay in Sintra to give us time to explore the many castles and fairytale gardens that can be found within the village, while also being just a 10 minute drive from the coast and the westernmost point in Portugal, the Cabo de Roca.

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Portugal

Portugal

If you like to gain local knowledge I recommend a withlocals tour. We had an incredible tour with Bruno, a history teacher and local resident of Cascais, who took us through the Moors Castle and Quinta de Regaleira gardens (not to be missed), bought us a local pastry from the oldest pastry shop in Sintra, drove us to Cabo de Roca and a few local beaches and shared his insights into Portugal, Sintra, Lisbon and all they have to offer.

Quinta De Regaleira
Quinta De Regaleira

Portugal

If you are adventurous and not afraid of steep hikes, the hiking along the coast is amazing; especially Praia De Ursa, my kids’ favorite hike and beach so far.

Praia De Ursa beach
The hike down to Praia De Ursa beach.

After a short week in Portugal we know we will come back to explore even more of what it has to offer. I’ve been told Porto and the northern coast of Portugal are places worth visiting, but we didn’t have time, and so we must return for a trip sometime in the future.

Estoril Portugal
The full moon rising over Estoril.

Google maps Portugal
Image: Google maps


 

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Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie is a recently retired Naval Officer whose first duty station brought her to Coronado in 1998.  A Navy Helicopter Pilot for 10 years and a Public Affairs Officer for 11 years, the Navy afforded her many incredible opportunities to serve her country in unique ways while seeing the world.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com
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