This blog is about days 9-12 of my Portu-Spain Adventure travel blog series through southern Spain and Portugal as I share my travel experiences. We left Lagos Portugal to embrace what was beyond the cobblestone of Evora, Lisbon, and Sintra. We visited a winery, had an amazing braised lamb lunch, and explored a chapel in the town of Evora before settling in Lisbon. We visited a Palace in Sintra, took a bus ride around Lisbon, and explored the city. On these final days, we enjoyed the local culture, history, and wonderful food. You can learn more about days 7-8 here or start from the beginning of our trip in Madrid.
Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Blog Day 9
The Santa Victoria Vineyard
On day 9 of our trip we had a long 200-mile bus ride up the coast to the final destination of our trip, the bustling city of Lisbon. As with all of our travels, Jose broke the drive up with some fun adventures along the way. Our first stop was at a beautiful vineyard for a wine tasting, Santa Victoria.
Established in 2002 the vineyard produces about 1 million bottles a year, 70% red and 30% white. They have 4,000 acres of land where they grow 16 varieties of grapes, olives, and fruit trees. They water their orchards from the man-made Alqueva Lake at the base of the Alqueva Dam that impounds the Guardiana River. It is the largest in Western Europe and helps to supply water to the surrounding towns, businesses, and farms.
Our next stop was for lunch at O Celeiro Reataurante TÍpico, where we were greeted by a wonderful wait staff. They started our table of 23 off with plates of local cheese, olives, salad, fresh bread, and pumpkin jam. Carafes of red wine were freely available as we were served a scrumptious meal of braised lamb and potatoes. The tender lamb seasoned with garlic and figs fell off of the bone and melted in your mouth. The dessert spread included a choice of chocolate mousse or cheesecake completing our unbelievable lunch spread.
Evora And The Chapel Of Bones
Our final stop was the more than 2000-year-old historical town of Evora just an hour from Lisbon. Its fascinating history dates back to Celtic times when Romans occupied the city in the 2nd century BC. Many of the ruins remain including the Temple of Diana. It is a charming town of cobblestone streets, white-washed homes, and colorful tiles.
We visited the Chapel of Bones located inside the 15th-century Sao Francisco Church. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. As the story goes, in the 16th century, 42 cemeteries took up too much space. To relocate the remains respectfully the monks removed the bones and used them to decorate the chapel. Their goal was to convey the message of how fragile life is.
A message above the chapel door reads “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.” There are about 5,000 corpses that showcase skulls and bones embedded into the structure.
We walked around the town before getting on the bus to Lisbon. There was a festival with music downtown and some of our group enjoyed snacks while I walked around taking photos. I came across this sweet man sitting on the steps of his home watching the people walk by enjoying the perfect weather.
There was a celebration happening in Lisbon and the center of the festivities was all around our hotel. The bus driver skillfully drove around the police barricades and cars parked along the streets to get us to the front door of the hotel. We checked into the 5* Hotel Turim, a beautiful hotel in the heart of downtown Lisbon.
Lisbon is one of Europe’s oldest cities dating back to 205 BC when it was first invaded by the Romans. It is the capital of Portugal despite there not being any official documentation on record. In 1255 it was declared so by Kind Alfonso III. In November of 1755, a series of earthquakes hit the city causing fires and a 20-foot tsunami that killed more than 30,000 people. The Roman influence is seen throughout the city in the oldest buildings and structures like the aqueduct from 1748 that supplied drinking water to the city up until the 1960s.
It was late by the time we cleaned up but we walked around the bustling streets with the sounds of laughter and partying to find a spot to eat. Jose joined our small group as we shared salad, pizza, and white sangria. Before heading back to the hotel despite my being stuffed to the gill, Jose talked me into joining him for some ice cream. The line was out the door but it was well worth the wait.
As I settled into my comfortable bed I could hear the sounds of people partying in the streets late into the wee hours of the night. I felt a little sad that our travels were almost over and I wished I had more time.
Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Blog Day 10
On the 10th day of our travels, we got on the bus after breakfast and visited the Belem Tower, a four-story fortress built in the early 1500s on the Tagus River. Its initial purpose was to help protect its people against possible invasion. The nearby Jeronimos Monastery is a beautiful Gothic-style monastery built by architect Diogo de Boitaca and is the resting place of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. He was the first European to reach India by sea.
Our tour guide shared the colorful history of all the historical sights in this area and then we walked to a well-known bakery, Pastéis de Belem to check out their baked bread and pastries. After our tour, my friend Theresa and I roamed the beautiful city streets taking in the sights of this capital city. The pastel-colored buildings that cover the hillsides in the distance offered a glimpse of how many people live in the area. We walked through the plaza near the Tagus River and then high up a hillside to eat a late lunch and drink some sangria at a cafe that sits at the base of the São Jorge Castle.
On our walk back to the hotel I was drawn to a store called The Fantastic World Of Portuguese Sardines that specializes in nothing but cans of sardines. Founded in Murtosa, Aveiro, in 1942, it is one of the largest Portuguese canning facilities offering 30 varieties in stores all over Portugal. The colorful artwork was what drew me into the store, it felt like a Willy Wonka factory of sardines. We spent 20 minutes just looking through the thousands of different sardine cans on the store shelves.
After a long day of exploring, a small group of us finished our day by having dinner, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. The Spanish and Portuguese people have a lot of energy, they get up early, take time to relax throughout the day, and stay up very late. The Portuguese however seemed to turn in a bit earlier than the Spaniards did.
Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Blog Day 11
Sintra And The Pena Palace
After breakfast on our final day in Portugal, Jose took us by bus into the wonderful resort town about 5 miles outside of the city called Sintra. The narrow spiral two-lane road winded through the foothills up the hillside among beautiful pastel-colored villas. The road was packed with cars and busses and at one point we sat for 15-20 minutes wondering if there had been an accident. With no way to turn around, I was worried this might be a disaster of a day but eventually, we made our way up to the top where the 9th-century Pena National Palace was located.
This colorful palace painted in bright red and yellow colors with unbelievable views was magical. As we started our tour I felt as if I had stepped back into time. It was completed in 1854 as a dedication to Our Lady of Pena as a medieval chapel. King Manuel I later built a monastery and donated it to the Order of Saint Jerome.
In the 18th century, the Palace was severely damaged by the great Lisbon earthquake but the chapel managed to survive without being ruined. Portugal King, Ferdinand II acquired the monastery and built the grand Pena Palace as a summer residence but after his death, his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla, later sold it to King Luis. It was purchased by the Portuguese State in 1889 and later became a national monument and museum.
This must-see Palace had me daydreaming of the lives of kings and queens in a Bridgerton kind of way! After the tour, we rode back down the mountain to enjoy lunch at Cantinho Gourmet in Sintra. I had a ham and cheese toasted sandwich with potato chips and white sangria. This small little restaurant was tucked back in a corner off of one of the cobblestone streets surrounded by other restaurants and shops.
On the way back to the hotel we took the senic route along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. I admired the beautiful beaches and homes along the winding shoreline. I went back to my hotel room to rest, shower, and begin packing for our journey home. Jose had a very special farewell dinner planned that evening. As our group met in the lobby and walked along the busy city street toward the restaurant the Portuguese holiday was in full swing. Laughter and music could be heard along the streets all around us.
We arrived at the restaurant, Elevador where Jose had arranged our tables to be set up outside on the lively, festive street in the center of the city. The wait team was friendly and accommodating and the food was delicious! As we ate, drank, and laughed together and as we said our farewells to the group, it was a perfect setting to bring our time together to an end.
Our view from our table highlighted a famous elevator called The Santa Justa Lift in the distance and was beautiful under the summer sky of glimmering city lights. This elaborate wrought-iron Gothic lift takes you 7 stories up from the lower level of the city up to the upper level of the city with stunning views of the nearby neighborhoods. It was completed in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of the Eiffel Tower architect Gustav Eiffel. It is one of four early 20th-century elevators still in operation.
As we walked back to the hotel the city had become even more lively and crowded with young old and families enjoying the outdoor holiday festivities some wearing goofy beer and fish hats. I made sure I had all of my things packed and ready to go for our early morning journey back home to Nashville.
I love how incredibly proud Spanish and Portuguese people are of their country and their culture. Their eagerness to share their knowledge and experiences with visitors, and how much pride they take in recommending their favorite places to eat, drink, and explore. The food is wonderful and they use fresh, local ingredients while taking pride in their culinary traditions. They take the time to enjoy life and appreciate the simple things, like spending time with family and friends.
There is a deep sense of community and joy of being outdoors enjoying the beautiful weather in these two countries. They make time to walk to their local public squares and parks where they gather, relax, and socialize with others, something I would like to learn to incorporate into my own life more often. Overall they all seem happier and less stressed than we Americans do and I know I will be headed back soon to discover more about their culture.
Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Blog Day 11
On our last day we rode the bus to the airport and on the plane I felt a little sad to be headed back to reality. Our flight back to Nashville, Tennessee had a long layover in Philly but luckily there were no flight delays. Once I got home I settled in and knew I had a lot of work ahead of me with the thousands of still and video images I had taken throughout my travels. I will forever cherish the time I spent with my friends on this amazing trip. I will miss the food, the wine, and especially the Sangria which was different at every single place because it is always a freshly made stew of personal ingredients.
If you have never been to Spain or Portugal you are missing out on something wonderful! Check out Jose Aznar’s future trips at Worlds Of Spain or book a flight and go explore on your own, you will be so glad that you did!
The Creative Push Vlog on YouTube
You can watch the Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Vlog Days 9-12 in this video.
The Creative Push Podcast
You can listen to the Portu-Spain Adventure Travel Blog Final Day’s 9-12 here or on The Creative Push Podcast!
Thank you for reading, if you liked my travel vlog story please share it with others. If you are interested in booking this southern Spain and Portugal trip feel free to check out my friend Jose Aznar’s site Worlds of Spain!
I hope that you will sign up to be a part of this creative TRIBE!
To listen to interviews check out The Creative Push podcast!
To see my photography visit Sheri Oneal Photography!
There are more stories on the way!!