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Portugal

    A Pocketful of Porto Recommendations: Eating and Drinking

    With the time we had in Porto, and a definite manifesto of nothing much with a side of custard tarts, we sampled as much of the local cuisine as we could. Especially as we were in the namesake city of my favourite fortified wine. Known as a hub for foodie travellers, for the most part we simply let local recommendations and google guide us, and in the process discovered a few lovely spots to settle into that didn’t break the bank (in line with the challenge we were set).

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Nb: when planning your days, everywhere we went was really lovely, but rather laid back – so don’t expect London-style hustle – except in tourist haunts where they’ll want to flip tables as soon as they can (but why would you want that?)

    Brunch:
    Googling furiously in the mornings for recommendations, we found three cute spots to park ourselves whilst planning the day:

    Apartamento – Rua de Cedofeita

    Low-key, great coffee, angry birds for decoration and crepes drizzled with condensed milk. What isn’t to love?

    Hungry Biker – Rua das Taipas

    Ranking on Tripadvisor for the keywords ‘brunch’, ‘chia’ and ‘smoothie’, we spotted this little hipster gem on our first wander through the city, and had to go back. The walk up the curving hill was worth it though, when our chia laden dishes came out – tropical porridge for me, French toast for the RunawayKiwi.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Noshi Coffee – Rua do Carmo Across from the tile-laden Church that we must have passed a gazillion times on our wanderings around the city, Noshi Coffee was a really cute find – if again a little slow. We ordered our breakfasts of pancakes (quite delicate, accompanied by goji berries and nut butter) and toast respectively, and my honeyed ice coffee was really scrumptious.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Late Lunch/Dinner


    Grupo Desportivo Infante D. Henrique – Cais da Estiva

    My second favourite meal we stumbled on by accident. With a name almost longer than the restaurant is wide, this is a locals haunt that doesn’t really speak English (bar on the chalkboard menu.) But, it most definitely isn’t a touristy spot (as we were warned to avoid them) and between the amazing sunset views and butter and garlic infused prawns I want to return already.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Barão Fladgate restaurant, Taylors Wine Cellar – Rua do Choupelo

    We didn’t actually see much of the Taylor’s Port wine cellars in the heart of the historic area of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from the old city centre, but we did settle in for a delicious lunch overlooking the terracotta rooftops and Duoro river below. The Barão Fladgate restaurant was a welcome respite from the sunshine, with a light and intriguing menu. My salad was perfectly executed, Rebecca’s lamb looked perfectly cooked and our raspberry desserts were scrumptious.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And the terrace view was ok, I guess.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    After lunching at Taylor’s, we made our way down the hill towards the river, sampling port as we went (and going downhill is definitely the right order to do it rather than struggle further up hill later in the day!)

    Where To Enjoy Port
    The historic area of Vila Nova de Gaia is where the infamous port caves are, and we just followed the signs and wandered in for a taste here and there. We tried Taylor’s dry white port with lunch, a tasting flight in Osprey’s, the delicious rosé port in Croft and a cheeky quick snifter in Augustino’s.

    Our joint favourite was the rosé, so one night we arranged for a bottle and a few pasteis de nata to join us for an evening feast celebrating our last night.

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Where to eat in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So, Porto definitely is delicious. Oh, and forget the organised port cellar tours – just hop across the river and take yourself on a self-guided wander.

    { pin for later }

    Where to eat and drink in Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Portugal: A Peaceful Long Weekend In Porto

    One of the few regrets I had about my long weekend last year exploring Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais was not being able to fit a trip to Porto into the diary. I mean whilst you’re in Portugal, you should be exploring as much as possible, right?

    Or is that just being greedy?

    What to do on a long weekend to Porto Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were press guests of Cheapflights in Oporto, but all planning, mischief and thoughts are totally mine (and to be fair, Rebecca’s). 

    Luckily enough, a few weeks ago I was set a challenge by Cheapflights to book a long weekend away in Porto for two adults for the princely sum of £550. Nope, not each, that’s split between us. Keeping things easy, breezy and on the affordable side for a slice of sunshine, all for the cost of a night in a gorgeous luxury hotel, or pair of designer shoes, we spun out a lovely little break from London.

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    Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal – one of the world’s most insane castles

    Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal is one of the world’s most insane, beautiful and fantastical castles.

    Around about this time last year, I scampered off for a long weekend in Lisbon. Not telling anyone that I was off on a solo adventure for the first time in years (the husband was on a boys weekend in Madrid – hilariously in the adjoining country) I girded my loins, arming myself with a tome of printouts + backups on my phone + backups emailed around the world, and settled in for a chilled out break entirely on my own terms.

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Solo travel isn’t for everyone – it can be stressful, alarming when you’re left with your own thoughts and a bit lonesome when it comes to meals, but I really loved the change of pace (not that I don’t adore travelling with people). I simply tried to bear common sense in mind (not walking alone once night fell), made my journey to & from the airport as simple as simple as simple (a couple of metro trains) and booked in a couple of day trips where I was collected and chauffeured around.

    When we arrived, the sky was grey and dismal. Our ride had wound the way up the tiny, slightly vertiginous roads to an overwhelmingly disappointing view.

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But as luck would have it, the micro-climate of Sintra pulled a rabbit out of the metaphorical hat as we walked along the hilly pathway to Pena Palace.

     “The whole mountain road is a garden, a wonderful combination of nature and art, the most beautiful walk you can imagine,” Hans Christian Anderson

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Even thought I’d seen images beforehand, I really hadn’t been ready for the multi-hued magnificence of Palácio da Pena, or “Castelo da Pena” in the flesh.

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    One of the ‘seven wonders of Portugal’, the castle’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. 

    “Built on a rock [the Palace] seems to come straight out of a fairy tale ” Richard Strauss

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Located in the Sintra hills, the Park and Palace of Pena are the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, with clear influences from the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture (or so my research tells me). The palace was built is visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth (including New Zealand #represent).

    Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi Pena Palace Day Trip Sintra Portugal Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Each room inside is a work of art. Built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, the palace was meant to be a summer home for the Portuguese royals, and indulged the King in all of his favourite architectural styles. I particularly adored the thought that living there, when you got sick of one style you could simply move your chair 90° and find an entirely new one.

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Said to be one of the greatest examples of Romantic architecture, it isn’t hard to see how this dazzling combination of passion and grandiosity has inspired generations.

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

     Those hips don’t lie…

    “Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes In variegated maze of mount and glen. 

    Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen, 

    To follow half on which the eye dilates 

    Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken 

    Than those whereof such things the bard relates, 

    Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?”

    Lord Byron

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

     Quite. Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And the rest of this UNESCO World Heritage recognized town with two more castles isn’t so bad itself. Having exhausted our eyes, we wandered through the town (holiday speed setting 0.2km/hr)in search of lunch and the cakes that are a Sintra delicacy.

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I also made a new Australian friend on my tour who I cruised around Lisbon with for the next day or so. We discovered a few Lisbon highlights at sunset, sampled enough places to compile a ‘where to eat in Lisbon‘ list and talked each others ears off. 

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Lisbon in November sunshine was good.

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sintra Portugal Pena Palace Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Have you visited yet?

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    My greatest recent adventure – Solo in Lisbon – March Travel Linkup

    The sound of nearby accordion music floated through the warm early evening air. The balcony doors of my hotel room were open, letting in the last of the late summer sunshine lazily reflected off the house tiles across the medieval street. The crunch of biscuits was the only jarring note in this simple scene of Portuguese utopia.

    Well, actually, it was one of my favourite dinners of my long weekend in Lisbon. I had visited a few scrumptious restaurants, discovered local delicacies and spent one evening listening to the melodic rhythm of Fat Freddy’s Drop Ska, as delicious Banh Mi were devoured. But, a handful of lemon cookies washed down with lemonade whilst relaxing on my bed represented the best of solo travel – exploring all of the places that fascinated me without having to worry about someone else getting bored, and then selfishly eating the ridiculous dinner I fancied.

    My greatest recent adventure - solo in Lisbon - March Travel Linkup

    Sure, solo female travel seems to have become a buzzword on almost every travel blog under the sun, but it makes my heart happy to see women empowering themselves and taking courage to be independent. Solo travel isn’t for everyone for a variety of reasons, but if it’s something that interests you, why not follow that path?

    My first ever (adult) overseas trip was solo, nearly a decade ago. As a clueless 18 year-old I boarded a flight to Singapore (*cough* no idea about visas *cough*), moved to England knowing only 1 other person, spent 10 Christmas days in Bath with strangers and 10 days in Prague exploring on my own.

    Solo Female Travel My greatest recent adventure - solo in Lisbon - March Travel Linkup

    The practicalities that made me feel safe in all of these locations & reassure my family?

    • Picking a boutique, central hotel
    • Traveling during daylight hours to & from the airport
    • Catching the metro directly from the airport to my hotel (usually one of the reasons I select it)
    • Doing small group tours to destinations not easily accessible by public transport*
    • Ensuring there was a small grocery store nearby for biscuits, I mean drinks
    • Wearing a cross-body handbag smart enough to look more like a local than a clueless tourist 
    • Keeping in constant contact with my family (including one laughing call when I was locked out of my hotel for 2 hours)
    • Not wandering around late at night (though I won’t even do that in London) keeping to well-lit, busy areas
    • Knowing where I was going & nipping into doorways to check maps or just refer to my smartphone to look more local
    • Leaving the details of my flights, hotels & whereabouts with family

    Many of these aspects are taken into consideration for any trip I book, no matter who I’m with, but they seemed even more important when prancing about Europe on my own.

    Solo Female Travel My greatest recent adventure - solo in Lisbon - March Travel Linkup


    Since I’ve been away there are a few times I’ve found myself with an empty tummy & an hour or two, and ambled towards one of my favourite London restaurants on my own. Practice you know. I’ve found that armed with a phone (and social media) to scroll through, and a Kindle to keep myself entertained, waiters/waitresses haven’t treated me any differently to popping in with company.

    There was one exception, I popped into an east London establishment for a quick bite of brunch on my own. Presenting myself at the early hour, despite a plethora of empty tables, the receptionist insisting on seating me either at the bar or along the kitchen service “to be able to chat with the chefs”. I kinda scratched my head at this – why would I want to chat with these (kindly) strangers or want to stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise empty restaurant? Not being able to convince her, I left and found myself an alternative meal.

    Solo Female Travel My greatest recent adventure - solo in Lisbon - March Travel Linkup

    PS. Actually, my greatest ever challenge probably occurred when I was about 11 – in New Zealand, we do a fundraiser once a year called the 40-hour famine, where we are sponsored and don’t eat for 40-hours for the World Vision charity. I decided to go one better and try not speak for 40 hours – and if you know me, you’ll understand the challenge this represented. I lasted 12 hours before I forgot, spoke 3 words and then practically taped up my mouth for the remainder.


    PPS. Funnily enough, whilst in Lisbon I actually ended up making friends with another girl
    travelling solo, all the way from Australia who put up with all the
    teasing, fancied a day dashing around Lisbon and having dinner with me one of the
    nights.



    PPPS. Apologies for the meandering nature of this post.


    PPPS. And apologies for the meandering nature of the footnotes.


    An InLinkz Link-up

    Have you ever fancied solo travel?


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    10 things to do on a Lisbon city break

    I’m sitting here on my couch, tea in hand, watching the weather warily as snow has been forecast in London. Snow. In late November. Luckily, I have around 15 billion scarves, a coat as cozy as a duvet and the accumulated commuter knowledge of dashing from pillar to post as quickly as humanly possible in 3°C temperatures.

    But, only a week ago I was standing in the sun-dappled Rossio square of Lisbon, wearing sandals, t-skirt and beach skirt, marvelling at 22°C clear blue skies and planning a long-weekend of mischief. Well, I say planning, but it’s a lie really. Normally I’m a research addicted nano-planner, but this trip was different – I booked the break last minute, asked around a few travel addicted friends and scanned Pinterest idly on the way to the airport.

    The question in a new location as ever is what to do…

    Things to do in Lisbon - Alfama neighbourhood

    1. Jump in the 28 tram with every other tourist in the city.
    The views over the Alfama neighbourhood are worth it (and the sheer joy of cheeky
    locals hitching a ride on the outside of the tram hilarious). Just watch your pockets…

    2. Eat a proper breakfast – I’m talking coffee and Pasteis de nata tarts fresh out of the oven sprinkled with nutmeg. Those weren’t all mine by the way…

    Things to do in Lisbon - Eat Pastel de Nata

     3. Linger a while in the Praca do Commercial.

    Things to do in Lisbon - wander the Praca do Commercial

    Things to do in Lisbon - wander the Praca do Commercial

    4. Take 7,123 photos of the beautiful housetiles. 

    Things to do in Lisbon - Lisbon housetiles

    5. Ride the trams, metro, escalators and busses along the steep, steep winding streets (pssst – buy a travel pass it’s much, much cheaper and accepted almost everywhere)

    Things to do in Lisbon - wander the Praca do Commercial

    (nb: don’t forget to enjoy the local sense of humour – spotted along the walls of a local metro station – you can almost hear the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland muttering “I’m late, I’m late, I’m very very late…”)

     Things to do in Lisbon - wander the Praca do Commercial

    6. Take a day trip or two – we split our time between the Pena Palace in Sintra…

    Things to do in Lisbon - Pena Palace Sintra

     
    7. …and an afternoon relaxing surfside on the beaches of Cascais (shirt optional as you can see)

    Things to do in Lisbon - Cascais beach

    8. Lean out over the windswept Roca Cape cliffs, the western
    most point of Europe “where the earth ends and the sea begins”.

    Things to do in Lisbon - Roca Cape Cliffs

    (Trust me though, try not to break into here, unlike me in search of entry to the lighthouse…)

    Things to do in Lisbon - Roca Cape Cliffs

    9. Plan to eat, eat whilst planning…

    Things to do in Lisbon - Timeout Mercado

    10. Dash along the St George castle ramparts for a rather verdant sunset – even out of prime sunset season (April-October I’m told..)



    Have you been to Lisbon?

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