"Enjoy, rejoice, take pleasure, delight, bask on.." these are some of the possible meanings of "disfruta" in Portuguese.
Despite the limitations, let's delight and learn how to use our new website. We will have online sessions on how to log in, reset our own password, consult the IWP events and activities as well as pay for our membership, all via the website.
Let's rejoice in the few activities which are still on-going such as the walks in the Paredao, Sintra Walks, the Book Club meetings and other activities - keep an eye on our online calendar for more details: https://www.iwpportugal.org/events-directory
Above all, bask in the sights and experiences that come from living in such a beautiful country. We are publishing below three different articles written by IWP members who went on road trips and are sharing with us their experience.
Perhaps you also have a tale to share with us? We would love to hear from you!
We hope you enjoy the IWP September newsletter and feel encouraged to send us more ideas for activities and perhaps the tales of your own Summer adventure? We would love to hear from you!
Stay healthy and stay safe!
Executive President of IWP and the members of the IWP Exec Board
What did you do this summer?
Article written by Oonagh Hughes, Summer 2020
We have been living in Portugal for a year and decided that it was time to explore the north of the country. Although Portugal is a small country, I have found that around every corner there is another view, surprise and a friendly face. Just as well really, with my limited Portuguese; the locals have shown themselves to be a patient people.
We decided to head for the Parque National da Peneda Geres near the Spanish border, stopping at a few places on the way to explore.
The driving on the highway is easy as there is little traffic and we made good headway on the first morning and stopped at the charming town of Aveiro. They call it the little Venice, which may be a slight exaggeration, but there are motorized barges and trips along the waterways and out into the estuary where you can view the blue and white striped houses. We lunched by the canal in a little restaurant featured in the book Boa Mesa, Boa Cama. [This is like a Michelin guide book for restaurants and hotels and is very useful.]
Driving on, we reached Braga for our first overnight stay. I am sure several of you know it well and I can only say that it is a beautiful city with lots to see. Every square and main avenue was planted with amazing yellow and orange marigolds. There is a pedestrian center and it’s easy to walk around. We didn’t have time to visit everywhere so plan to go back.
We took a detour to see the palace and castle at Guimaraes which was very worthwhile. As we ventured further north we started to see very different countryside, it became a mountainous region with deep ravines and spectacular views.
Arriving at our hotel in Misarela after a winding drive through the mountains, over barrages and rivers, past waterfalls and little villages, I was delighted to dive into the infinity pool. Over the next few days we explored the locality. It was very hot at 35 degrees so long hikes were not on the agenda. However , we drove around stopping at viewpoints and looking out for eagles and other wild life. However ,they saw us first and headed for the hills! It is a truly amazing place and we haven’t seen much of it so more visits are going to be planned. Near our hotel was a pretty walk through woods down to a river fed by a cascading waterfall. The water was icy but refreshing!
After a few days of tranquility in the parque we headed on for Guarda the highest medieval city in Portugal. It has a lovely historic square with a Cathedral dating back to 1390! The surrounding buildings are in need of repair but the town council is active and encourages local artists and musicians. They put on shows every weekend in the summer and we were well entertained by a group of daft musicians. They were pretending to play Pink Floyd while wrapped in parcel wrap sitting on a wrapped electric car and jumping out to engage the onlookers by wrapping them too.
I wondered if the following night would be a bit tame but I’ll never know as we drove on the next day.
We then did a route suggested by the Michelin guide that took us through pretty countryside passing various castles and fortified towns and then stopping in the delightful town of Belmonte. It has a great castle where they have an amphitheater for music and plays. They were currently featuring some Fado music in the evenings.
It’s well worth a visit.
We drove on to our last stop in Marvao which as many of you will know is a lovely fortified village high on a hill, with a splendid castle. We stayed for two nights and had a lovely time.
On the whole trip we encountered only a few tourists and they were mainly Spanish or French. Many places had shuttered shops and it was strange to be able to visit without queuing. We plan to return to the north several times as there is so much to see.
A trip to the Algarve
Article written by Barbara Schafer, February 2020
At long last, we rented a car here in Portugal. We've been saying for a year now that we really should do this... just rent a car and hit the road, exploring some of the places that are hard to get to on public transport. So when school broke for Carnaval, we took the plunge and took a trip. It was great!
We drove down south on the side roads, expecting to see ocean views on the way. Much to our surprise, most of the road goes well inland, through rolling hills of cork oak and pine trees, past industrial areas on the edge of towns, and through some beautiful farmlands and pretty villages.
The drive took about five and a half hours, which included a stop for lunch and a couple of breaks. Roads are well maintained and traffic was light so the driving was easy. Chuck found a few of the signs a bit confusing but generally it was very similar to driving anywhere else in the world. (Just so you know, in Portugal you drive on the right side of the road, just like in the US.)
We stayed in the tiny village of Salema on the advice of Chuck's brother, Jim, and Rick Steves… It was a great choice. Salema sits right on the beach in a small bay; the Atlantic rolls in and out with the wind and the tides, and the views are spectacular. Our little hotel, Casa Praiamar, sat just above the beach. It's new, clean and modern, if basic.
The best thing of all was the food! We ate in a few places, all of which were good, but the one that wins the prize is Restaurante O Lorenço, a small family-owned place about three short blocks from our hotel.
We ate “cataplana” the first night and loved it so much that we ordered it again for the following night. It is an amazing combination of fresh seafoods, vegetables, potatoes, wine and olive oil, baked in a special shell-like pan.
We drove around the Algarve a bit, visiting some of the other beaches. The town of Lagos is near Salema; we went there for lunch. It's a big town, much more touristy and developed, with some interesting old forts and castles and lots of shopping. But we were very happy to return to tiny Salema and listen to the breakers on the beach. We stopped at Praia Dona Ana to take some pictures of the spectacular rock formations.
The Restaurante Camilo is at the top of the cliff. It looks out over the ocean and gets great reviews, but we were there too early. Next time we go down to the Algarve, we will definitely eat there.
There will be a next time, for sure. We will not go in July or August because of the crowds. Going in February meant that many things were closed, and the water was too cold for swimming, but we loved walking the nearly empty beach. It is very different from Cascais, a bit like going down to the Oregon coast.
For our drive back up we used the beautiful expressway. That route is much faster, taking about three and a half hours. It is pricey to drive on the toll roads; just going back to Cascais was about $30. When you rent a car in Portugal be sure to ask for a Via Verde, which is a sensor that is mounted to the rearview mirror. It tracks all the tolls and you will be charged on your credit card sometime after you return the rental. It is very efficient.
An adventure into Lisbon
Article written by Kathrynn Rawlings, August 2020
For those of us living in Cascais and along the linha, a couple of nights in Lisbon can be a small adventure during this State of Alert time.
After a couple of nights staying right on Largo do Carmo in Chiado, I wanted to give those who haven’t ventured into Lisbon for several months, an idea of what’s it like.
There are people about but compared to a ‘normal’ August, it is very uncrowded. The largest concentration of people we witnessed was on the train to Cais do Sodre. The station itself is pretty deserted - again - compared to any other August since I’ve been here.
A significant portion of the people on the streets in Lisbon are younger - very few older tourists are observed. A staff member in Paris em Lisboa commented there are few people purchasing in their store because they are younger with less money. Obviously, the more affluent tourists are absent.
Restaurants are following COVID recommendations, with staff masked, cleaning frequently, tables spaced further apart, etc. Shops are fairly empty, as are miradouros, buses, and trams.
While we didn’t go to any museums, I’m thinking this is a great time to see some of the more crowded (under normal circumstances) museums and monuments. There were virtually no crowds at the Belem Tower or Discoveries Monument.
It is also a great time to visit some of the fun restaurants in Lisbon because it’s much easier to get a table.
One of those restaurants that’s been ‘on the list’ for quite some time is Mini Bar. It’s located inside the Bairro do Avillez on Trindade in Chiado. We went there on a Friday night, and while there were people in the restaurant, it was not crowded.
It was definitely the highlight of the trip. The Tasting Menus (there are two) are meant as a fun, surprising way to have a meal. The menus consist of about 10, mini dishes and are creative, beautiful and delicious! Each dish is explained by the server and most very much needed an explanation.
I would almost make a trip into Lisbon just to eat at the Mini Bar again!
So, if you are tired of the constraints of Cascais, Estoril, etc. it’s a great time to play tourist in Lisbon.
News! Yesterday the Portuguese tracking app STAYAWAY COVID was formally launched at the University of Porto INESC TEC (Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência). The authorities consider it a significant additional weapon in the fight to contain COVID-19 by breaking chains of contagion without unnecessarily invading personal privacies. For more information, go to: https://stayawaycovid.pt/landing-page/
We also have a closed Facebook group (IWP Members Forum) for members to share ideas and fun photos of the activities they do together. Now you are a member, we will add you to the group. We look forward to seeing you there!