Traveling with Mom Series
Portugal Snapshot: 12 cities in 10 days
By Gisele Ribeiro
My mom and I chose to travel by TAP in May due to better prices for the “mother’s day” season. Although May is still far from the summer months the weather is pleasant enough, not that cold. Flight tickets were above average for this time of the year due to the Pope’s upcoming visit to Fátima city in an important mission: Francisco and Jacinta Marto’s canonization on May 13th. Usually, prices are way lower.
Alert for whoever travels by TAP! You must register in the Victoria program before travelling for you to earn miles. If you travel and try to register afterward you won’t get any miles.
I was impressed by the extremely affordable standard of living in Portugal if compared to New York, especially regarding food and beverage. For example, a water bottle of 59 Fl oz (1.8 QT) costs less than one-quarter of a dollar in a popular supermarket like Pingo Doce. And a traditional Portuguese sweet called cream cake from Belém (sold near the Belém Tower where its name comes from) sells for less than 3 dollars.
We stayed in a hotel located a few blocks from Bull Square (Praça de Touros) in Little Field (Campo Pequeno). Right after checking in our hotel located at Laura Alves Street, we hopped on a cab straight to the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) to catch the sunset by the Tejo river. Over there we were introduced to the cutest transportation ever, the tuk-tuks. Even the name is cute! These tiny motor cars drive tourists short distances, and that’s how we headed to Jeronimos Monastery (Monastério dos Jerônimos). One thing I regret not doing was to visit São Jorge Castle with Gray Line Lisbon Sightseeing hop on hop off Castle line for $14. Other tour options are Yellow bus and Dianatours.
According to Portuguese law it is forbidden to kill bulls in front of the audience at the end of bullfights even though the bull ends up being killed afterwards anyway. The ticket at the Bull Square ranges between $25 and $50. Half price for seniors and youth. If you are through seeing animal atrocities you still can satiate your curiosity by visiting the museum located at the stadium. It tells you a lot about the history of bullfights in Portugal and has an impressive collection of clothing.
Next day, we took a full day tour called Sintra Deluxe offered by Travel Quality which included Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais, and Estoril. Besides the obvious peculiar architecture of Pena Palace, the Stained glass collection of King Ferdinando II was a glowing highlight. The bus took us from the colorful Pena Palace to the enchanting alleys in Sintra which have several options for souvenirs and local crafts shopping. Unlike adverse opinions, I found those narrow alleys easy to walk even for people with difficulty moving around. The ideal scenario is to bring a foldable wheelchair with you for better comfort.
The stop at Cape Roca (Cabo da Roca) is a traditional stop after Sintra for it is the westernmost point of mainland Europe. But heads up regarding the itineraries offered by the tour companies. Between the end of October until the beginning of March, this stop is switched for Hell’s Mouth (Boca do Inferno) just 5 minutes away from Cascais. This tour did not provide enough time to visit much of the city in a relaxed pace for touristic attractions are far away from each other, so we decided to enjoy a view of Ribeira beach (praia da Ribeira). On the way back to Lisbon, the bus passes by Estoril where we can see the mansions and tranquil beaches. However, there are no stops for pictures.
Obidos, Nazaré, Fátima, and Batalha
If I had to rate the most difficult site to visit if you have mobility problems I would choose Obidos for its cobblestone alleys and streets. Not to mention the fact that the excursion bus leaves us very far from the castle entrance. The good news is that Zero Co2 Tours rents small vehicles that are allowed to pass through narrow alleys. One must have a driver’s license and be older than 16. One hour ride costs $25.
In Nazaré my suggestion is not to follow the tour guide if you rather slow down the pace. We decided to walk on the beach just half way and find a quiet restaurant to eat and enjoy the view. The visit to Alcobaça Monastery was also rushed, so be alert not to waste any time and be prepared to keep moving the best you can. Luckily there was plenty of time to attend mass in the apparition chapel of Fátima.
People with reduced mobility are allowed to visit Batalha Monastery in Leiria for free. This monastery is considered one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites along with Alcobaça’s. Batalha Monastery was transformed into the first Portuguese royal mortuary temple. João I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster, dead in 1433 and 1415 respectively, have their geminated hillocks there.
It is not difficult to go to Faro from Lisbon by train. A cab ride from the hotel in Campo Pequeno to Entrecampos train station is between $6 and $12. If you choose traveling tourism class you can save $12 and it takes 3 and one-half hours, without losing much in comfort. But for a longer ride such as from Faro to Porto, my suggestion is taking Alfa Pendular first class since we are now talking about a 6-hour trip. Seniors over 65 pay half price.
For a little over $3 you can take a Delgaturis tram (comboio turístico de Faro-351 289 389 067) for a sightseeing city tour in Faro. The stop at the main square in front of Formosa River (Ria Formosa). This tram is very popular between June and August but luckily was also available in May. The itinerary includes Old City (Cidade Velha), Church of Carmo, Lethes Theater and Algarve Regional Museum.
If you face Formosa River and keep walking to the left side along the river you’ll find a ferry going to Desert Island Lighthouse. It is a good option for a beautiful boat trip in warmer days for less than $12. It takes a little over one hour both ways. There are plenty of other options to other islands in the vicinity.
Although it is possible to visit the whole city in one and one half day, if you have more time, I would suggest visiting Museum Municipal of Faro and watch the show Fado in the Museum (“Fado no Museu”) every Thursdays 2:30 and 4 pm, promoted by Algarve Fado Association. Also for Fado lovers, there is a free show every Monday at the restaurant Castelo. Another suggestion is to base in Faro and visit other cities from there. You can take a bus (Eva Transportes) or train and visit Portimão. If I had to decide between Faro and Portimão, I would pick the latter.
If you were never before in Porto and time is short you may choose to buy one day ticket at CitySightseeing kiosk for less than $20. At the actual store, you’ll pay more. To make it easier, we stayed at a hotel located on the Conceição Street, not that far from Aliados Avenue (Avenida dos Aliados) where you find the kiosks.
The red route goes to Gaia mooring area, the most beautiful part of the city. And the blue spends more time passing by historical and picturesque buildings. Both routes take about two hours without leaving the bus. However, Gaia’s beauty makes it irresistible not to get out of the bus and walk along the D’ouro River. I loved the nice and cheap jewelry I found there.
Don’t miss visiting the interior of São Bento Station! The tile murals are breathtaking! Besides that, it’s where the best place to exchange currency. At the airport, there is a charge commission and taxes but not there.
São Pedro de Maceda Beach
Our cousins live in Maceda and my mother wanted to see again the beach where she and her parents used to do a picnic. The road that leads to the beach is surrounded by pine trees. Closer to the beach there are several wooden picnic tables. It takes around half an hour to forty-five minutes (about 30 Km) from Porto city to Maceda. It’s a gorgeous scenery this combination of sea and forest. The best way to get there is by car.
Lisbon – 3K Barcelona Hotel – Pleasant and presentable with comfortable accommodations, near public transportation and few steps to a cab stop. Located near inter cities train station Entrecampos which makes it easier to travel to other cities in Portugal. Breakfast (Pequeno Almoço) is buffet style with a huge variation of pastries, juices, sweets, fruits, bread and coffee, including a cappuccino machine. Excellent food!
Faro – Stay Hotel – Modern and clean look with rooms a little too small. Be careful with the showers for they are too high up and if not correctly adjusted you run the risk of sleeping in a flooded bathroom. Quite a bit of walking is required to get to the Formosa river sidewalk, so is not ideal for people with difficulty moving around. Breakfast is OK, including as a highlight fresh squeezed orange juice with real oranges!
Porto – Malaposta Hotel – Plain simple and acceptable for the price. Hotel room rates tend to be higher in Porto. There is a little restaurant in the back that offers a good breakfast. It was the first time I tried a barley, rye and chicory mix called BRASA made by Nestlé and manufactured in Portugal. It is located near Avenida dos Aliados where you can find kiosks to purchase city sightseeing bus tour tickets. The least attractive feature is that the hotel is located in a slope going downhill to get to the kiosks, which is not bad. But I suggest getting a short ride cab to go back to the hotel.
Gisele Ribeiro loves helping people who are above 50 and have mobility problems really savor their travels. She is always ready to enjoy equally both budget itineraries and luxurious destinations. Be alert to the tips and go with the flow! Visit her at Levenamala and on Facebook.