I visited Europe’s West Coast and the charming country of Portugal. I quickly learned that Portugal is a much underrated destination. Its charm begins when one understands how diverse it is and how intertwined the past and present are with its long cultural heritage and today’s simple joy of living. The Portuguese have a relaxed and carefree spirit, they enjoy their jagged coast line of sandy beaches and the rolling hills of the inland areas. They are proud of their historic villages, museums, Cosmopolitan cites, sophisticated cuisine, great chefs, good wines and world renowned portos.
I began in Lisbon is a very easy city to navigate, it is best linked with the Portuguese maritime explorations in the 15th and 16th centuries. Part of the wealth from these expeditions was used to build magnificent monuments in the area of Belem, where you can overlook the Tower of Belem and the Monument to the Discoveries. However the cosmopolitan Chiado area is the cultural center with a variety of shops, theaters, bars and restaurants.
My favorite museum was the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo a restored monastery that’s houses the entire hand painted tile walls from many private palaces. These tiles are specific to Portugal and their history.
Sintra is not far from Lisbon, a World Heritage Site in natural surroundings on a mountain. Driving there takes you though romantic villages and is one of Portugal’s main landmarks.
The Douro Valley is one of the most wonderful landscapes in all of Europe. The terraced hills along the river are covered with one of the country’s most valuable treasures, its vineyards. One of my favorite hotels in the world is located here. I would like to return to Portugal to soak up more sun, eat sardines, listen to their music, have more time to appreciate their museums, people and countryside.