Douro Valley and Lisbon – welcome to Portugal!

A small state of grand explorers? How did Vasco Da Gama and his people feel in 1497 as they left to unveil the road to India? He probably didn’t expect he would become of the most well known explorers of his time. We also shouldn’t omit another prominent Portuguese- the PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR (1394- 1460)- who founded the navigational school, attended by many famous navigators just like Vasco Da Gama or Ferdinand Magellan.

We started our short several days trip in Portugal in PORTO – which is a charming and historical coastal city. Porto is very romantic during its sunset and well known for its majestic bridges as well as its PORT WINE production!

Good to KNOW:

  • ALTO DOURO is a Portuguese wine region situated on the DOURO RIVER, as it is located several hours from Porto.
  • Winemaking in the region dates back from the end of Western Roman Empire and its region’s vineyards expanded in 17th century – consequently, Port wine became the primary product of the location.
  • SANDEMAN Ruby Porto is still made traditionally and has brilliant red colors with a rich robust taste of red fruits, plums and strawberries! (a famous fragrance)

I have to say we had a fantastic day cruising along the river, looking around the beautiful landscapes and enjoying local food with the Port wine in Sandeman’s historical cellars (originally shipped by G. Sandeman in 1790), situated among many others across the Douro river!

Our next destination was – LISBON. This Portugal’s hilly capital is also a coastal city with amazing history and is known for its expressive FADO music – a traditional folk music of strong melancholic character. The music is performed by a female or male vocalist, typically accompanied by guitars and violas…

HERE is my list of MUST-SEE interesting places in Lisbon:

  1. JERÓNIMOS MONASTERY – is a unique, over 500 years old monastery and a great monument to the Age of Discovery (Vasco de Gama). The monastery was founded by King Manuel I. and you can contemplate its original architectural style – Manueline – a mix of flamboyant Gothic, Moorish and early renaissance influences.
  2. BELÉM TOWER – is a popular and famous symbol of the city and has a UNESCO status from 1983, originally built as a lighthouse, later turning into a defensive fortress.
  3. SAO JORGE CASTLE – is strategically positioned on top of the highest hill in Lisbon. For centuries, it was the main residence of Kings.
  4. SANTA JUSTA LIFT – is an iron and beautifully decorated public elevator, built in 1902 by the Portuguese engineer R. Mésnier, a student of G. Eiffel!

Portuguese CUISINE has a lot of variety depending on the region and uses a wide spectrum of exotic spices – vanilla, saffron! I did not try the national dish – BACALHAU – that is dried, salted cod. MY TIP for the lovers of seafood and fresh fish is – choose one of the many typical local restaurants and try delicious and fresh grilled sardines, mackerel, octopus or prawns!!! If you do not like it, you can for example try chicken- PIRI PIRI (spicy chili pepper) – a very popular and yummy dish. Do not forget to try the refined local wine!

And, of course, after a delicious dinner, it is impossible to leave that magic night city without listening to FADO music in one of the many little bars in BAIRRO ALTO or ALFAMA district (down town)… Vasco Da Gama would surely enjoy singing along even today, and make a toast with the Port wine, on behalf of his small country, that might have “only” about 10.5 million inhabitants but their language is official in 9 countries, counting over 230 million speakers worldwide!