The best way to visit Portugal and see more places

Pit stops in Portugal: I visited Portugal last year and loved it. Lisbon had been on the list of places to visit for a whisights but I wasn't prepared for how much the rest of the country had to offer.

A melting point of cultures built upon Spanish, Roman, Moorish, Dutch, French and English influences and one of the first great empires, which colonised Africa, Indonesia and the Americas among others. Interestingly, this is most evident in Brazil and San Francisco, where the landscape, such as the seven hills both Lisbon and San Francisco are built on, the famous Golden Gate bridge has a twin in Lisbon known as the 25 de Abril bridge, the similarities between the Christo Rei and Christ the Redeemer in Rio and the yellow cable cars that amble up the quaint narrow pathways leading up the hills.le as I’d heard amazing things about its culture, nightlife and 

Portugal’s food, music, heritage and culture are fascinating, making it a must see for more than the just the lovely beaches of the Algarve. Portugal is home to the most westerly point in Europe, many ancient buildings, fortresses and of course, golf courses, if that's your persuasion!

Our visit had to tick a lot of boxes, as we wanted beach time, a short hop into Lisbon, to see some of the many world heritage sites that Portugal boasts in places like Sintra and generally have a nice time eating and drinking our way around, as you do on holiday!

This led us to choose a hotel in the small coastal town of Estoril, which has a train station and direct rail to Lisbon, beaches and a short walk to a bit more life in a bigger town further down the coast.

Estoril itself, we found, doesn’t have a lot to boast about other than an enormous casino which was interestingly the inspiration behind James Bond Casino Royale, as the author visited Portugal and learned of the popularity of the town for spies and agents, due to Portugal’s neutral position in the world wars. We just had to order two martinis shaken not stirred! We were told that on a weekend locals would gather for beach parties, fires and merriment, so there were a few nightclubs around but we tended to prefer bars and instead watched the young locals getting well oiled.

The beaches are small but satisfactory and largely man made here but suited our purposes for lounging and catching rays, however the walk to the beach was sometimes too much so we made use of the pool at our hotel.

On an evening, a 20-30 minute walk along the gorgeous promenade took us into Cascais, which was a bigger and slightly more lively destination than Estoril. We loved our evening walks taking in the scenery and watching the roaring waves strike the sea walls repeatedly but doing this there and back may have been out of some people’s reach. Luckily there is a train station with regular trains running between the two and taxis are affordable.

Once in Cascais we found a great selection of restaurants, a few bars, shops, markets and some lovely surprisingly quirky offerings.  Being a vegetarian I’m always pleased to find decent offerings and we stumbled upon a charming place called House of Wonders, which offered a hearty but vegan menu, amazing cocktails and had the most stunning roof terrace to watch the world go by. They also made and sold crafts.

We also found a fantastic tapas place which had strong cocktails in jam jars and a local delicacy, flaming spicy sausage, which my other half was delighted with and made quite the spectacle on the table. Many other diners commented and then ordered the same thing.

Another highlight was a gorgeous Indian restaurant which is a trip advisor favourite and got our custom a few times during our visit.

During our time there a few festivals took place, with beautiful red Chinese lanterns strewn across buildings and balloon puppets floating across the sky. Locals and tourists mingled together to enjoy the festivities, which made for a very authentic taste of Portugal. Some destinations can feel very touristy and leave little of the original culture behind but I felt Cascais managed a happy compromise.

Lisbon and Sintra deserve blog posts of their own as there were so many amazing bits, so until then….TTFN

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