I'm just back from a trip to Portugal...well a holiday but managed to squeeze in a fair bit of research too!
Lisbon was the first stop for a few nights, the tile museum
was a definite & well worth the trip out of the centre via taxi/bus. The 'Alfama' area was buzzing as they were having street parties for one of the local saints so there were streamers, sardine grills & live music 'til the early hours in all the winding, cobbled streets. A great place for watching the sun set with a cocktail is the totally unsign-posted 'Park'
bar which resides at the top of a multi-storey car park, great place! Onwards, to the coast there's some amazing & deserted beaches just north of Cascais (upmarket holiday town a 20min train ride from Lisbon), amazing tapas at Dom Diniz
, Cascais & great surfers beach at Guincho.
We then spent a couple of days in Sintra, the unesco world heritage site & land of secret gardens & palaces! On recommendation we visited 2 of the palaces, by far the best (in my opinion) was Quinta De Regaleira
or "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire" an opulently decorated palace commissioned to be built in early 1900 with everything internally & externally made to commission to the the designs of Italian Architect Luigi Manini
in the romantic style. Mosaic floors, carved ceilings & walls, ironwork, statues, garden grotos, lakes, fountains, all designed & made especially, true opulence! The 2nd palace we visited is the famous 'Palàcio Da Pena' that adorns all the postcards & apparently was the inspiration behind Walt Disney's Castle! After the opulence of 'Monteiro's Palace' this all seemed a bit pastiche in comparison but amazing spectacle & view at the top. Stayed in a great hostel
called 'Nice Way Sintra Palace' with a great chill-out garden & in an old renaissance villa,so loads of character & quirkily decorated.
Onwards to Viana Do Costello (North of Porto) which seems to be gearing up for a massive tourist explosion as lots of areas been cleaned up. Amazing architecture & the 'Santa Luzia' basilica is definitely worth a trip. Stayed in a great pensao & resturant called 'O Laranjeira
' (means 'orange' in English), true family business & lovely people. Then back to old fave Porto for a few nights, returning to Poets Inn
& generally wandering about loving all things tiled, sun bleached paint colours, narrow streets & elaborately guilded & frescoed churches, not to mention the daily 'Pastel de Nata' which I'll miss greatly when my duty-free stash is exhausted!