We have been living in Portugal since September 2009. These pages mainly cover trips we have made around the country. For news on our house renovation and regular blog go to The Story of Casa Azul.
In the middle of the boiling hot summer that was August 2016 we decided to take a few days away in the mountains of the Serra da Estrela. We had managed to book a house in the village of Videmonte, not far from Guarda, big enough for two adults and two hairy ones. It was a fairly short drive so we decided to stop off on the way in Guarda for lunch and a bit of a mooch.
Spring is the time for many wild flowers but our favourites have got to be the orchids. As well as being one of the most interesting, advanced and beautiful of the flowering plants they also belong to one of the largest families with over 25,000 species. In Portugal, the orchid family (orchidaceae) has 16 genera. All these photos are of orchids taken within walking distance of our home. We feel very lucky to have so many (fourteen at the last count) so close.
One of the best things about Central Portugal and amongst the first things we discovered since arriving here were the river beaches. All over Central Portugal the local municipalities have selected a local beauty spot and improved upon it. In the main they have dammed a river, or partially dammed it to make a swimming area and then included some facilities, a cafe usually and picnic areas and places to lie out in the sun. All are unique in their own way and a fantastic way to cool off during the hot summer months. This page has a few of our favourite ones.
May is when Jackie’s parents generally come to stay for a couple of weeks and therefore our chance to get away for a camping trip. We chose the Alentejo again (we went to Marvao last year) because it would be warm, there would be plenty of places to take the dogs walking, there are a few interesting towns and we could enjoy the last of the spring wild flowers.
We had been putting off going to the Algarve primarily because it is the most popular area of Portugal by far. So I was worried it would be packed with foreign tourists, expats and all that goes with them. However, a good friend of ours had a holiday home in a less-touristed part of the coast and so we thought we would give it a try. After all you can’t malign a place properly until you’ve been there yourself, can you?
We occasionally go for walks with a group of locals known as ‘Portugal friends’. Obviously the hairy one is a popular participant in these events, but is rather lacking, shall we say, in fitness. Therefore me and Gordon (the hairy one’s new moniker because of her excess weight) have been doing more training in the local countryside. On our latest meander, I took some snaps.
We’d just bought a new supa dupa BIG tent and so to test it out we went up to the Serra da Estrela for a night. We weren’t disappointed – either with the landscape which was stunning, or the tent which was massive. Only problem was, I had mislaid the stopper to our blow up mattress so it was a night spent on the hard ground. Just as well then, it was only one night.
Recently we had friends staying at Casa Azul and that meant we could leave them to look after the chickens, bees, veggies and the hairy one (we only had Jussi then) and enjoy a few days camping. Everyone we knew in Portugal said the Minho region was gorgeous so we decided to head up north.
Marvao is a beautifully restored old hilltop village in an area of many other beautiful hilltop villages. The surrounding countryside is littered with interesting megalithic monuments. Perfect for a short camping trip.
After months of desert-like conditions in Central Portugal (we had no rain at all even in September), a week of rain was forecast for the first week of October. Therefore we decided to make the best of our last day of sun and headed to Nazaré. It was our first time there and well worth it.
Our friend Sarah (an American, living in Paris whom we met in Jordan) was over for a short stay, so it was the perfect time for our first visit to Tomar, home of the Knights Templar of Crusader fame. Having done little research prior to our trip, in many ways made it even more enjoyable.
Paul de Arzila is a little known conservation area near Coimbra and the Mondego river. We spent some hours down there observing birds in March including the Marsh Harrier and herons. The villages nearby are also quite interesting with a number of old churches.
Talasnal is one of many Shist villages in central Portugal, named after the slate from which they are hewn. Most are fairly inaccessible but set in stunning mountain and forested scenery. They lay abandoned for years but are slowly being renovated and developed as weekend getaways. They also have networks of walking trails to explore.
We only spent a few days in Porto but it was enough to enjoy this beautiful city. Not as chic or as gentrified as Lisbon, Porto had a real old world charm. The down at heel suburbs by the river had an almost Dickensian feel to them. One of the highlights of the holiday was to sit on the waterfront sipping a cold white port enjoying the warm early evening sunshine.
We hired a car in Lisbon and then took off for Central Portugal. We had booked a holiday cottage in the village of Alvorge deep in untouristed central Portugal. Nearby is the pretty village of Penela.
We first came to Portugal for three weeks in May 2009. Our hols kicked off in Lisbon where we stayed with our friends Jo and Nigel. We enjoyed several days of warm spring sunshine and the highlights included a day at the beach and some tram rides up and down Lisbon's famous hills.