Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Portuguese Paradise: Part 1


After our memorable 24 hours in Paris, and a full five days in Portugal, I'm pretty sure I'm still recovering from our full-to-the-brim week away. As a matter of fact, I've been up since 4:30 am today due to not quite being re-adjusted to South Carolina time just yet. So I poured an extra cup of coffee and continued looking at pictures of our trip, which takes me right back to all the special moments I was lucky enough to share with my hub. And trust me. There are a LOT of pictures. I'm pretty sure no one else in the entire world cares to see all of the ooooh-aaaaah vacation and scenery photos I shot. But maybe just a few? If not. I get it. And totally understand if you close out your browser....now.

Hello? Still there? If so, off we go. To Portugal!

I think the best way for me to document this trip (for my own selfish, trying-to-remember-every-second reasons) is as a day-by-day account of our comings and goings. 

Really? You're still reading? Okay, then. Prepare for photo and vacation overload. 

Day 1
We arrive to our hotel in Sintra, Portugal, which is a breath-taking little town just outside of Lisbon. I mentioned before that this was a virtually free trip for us (as far as travel, lodging, excursions, and nearly all of the meals go) given that it was a reward for my hub for making his company's President's Club for his work from last year. Otherwise, it is highly unlikely that we would just jaunt over to Portugal for a week and have these kinds of experiences. 

Thank you, Thomson Reuters, for the wine, cheese, and postcards that awaited us in our hotel room.

But I digress. 

We stayed at Penha Longa, a beautiful golf and spa resort with the best, most accommodating hotel staff I have ever encountered. Also? Part of the hotel grounds used to house a 14th century monastery. This made for some beautiful sight-seeing around the hotel. It was, in a word, awesome. 

One view of our hotel 

More of the gorgeous hotel grounds

 The green view from our balcony

Ancient meeting ground of the monks? I think so... 

This old, stone table was encased in a stone cave that sat atop a steep, winding hill. I was not able to get a picture of the enormous, beautiful rock formation it formed, with a very old cross at the top. But it was amazing. 

An old prayer garden on the hotel grounds 

I loved the meeting of old stone with overflowing flowers 

Another beautiful prayer garden

After checking in and settling in, it was soon time for the welcome reception Thomson Reuters hosted for the 150 employees and their guests who were attending the trip. We were treated to a delicious meal with a wide range of dishes (I do NOT recommend eating cuttlefish. Ever. And the other guests would definitely agree! But the rest of it was very yummy.) and an endless bar. It made for, as we Southerners say, some good eatin'. And it was the perfect end to an amazing first day in Portugal.

 Ready for the welcome reception. And excited to get to dry my hair, paint my nails, and get dressed up each day in clothes I didn't have to worry about being spilled on or worn on the knees from crawling around with my kids. :)

Day 2
My hub had a (his only) business meeting for an hour-and-a-half that morning; so, I opted to  throw on some running clothes and go for a nice jog around the hotel grounds. Needless to say, the views were breath-taking. After his meeting, we decided to spend an afternoon at Cascais, a little coastal town nearby. We met two couple friends who had made the same plans; so, we decided to grab some lunch and do a little sight-seeing as a group. 

Ready for some Cascais sight-seeing 

 The street tiles were amazing!

 One of my favorite photos from the day

Yet more thrilling tourist photos that others may not enjoy. But I do. :) 

And another. 

At this point, it is worth mentioning that, you can't actually just grab a quick bite to eat in Portugal. The Portuguese people like to taaaaake theeeeeir tiiiiiime when eating. So, we actually spent close to two hours eating lunch and chatting. And we decided to try sardines. They tasted very...well...fishy. 

Throughout the afternoon, it was raining and misting. But. We weren't going to let that stop us. So, we walked around, ultimately getting soaked, but were able to make it to the Boca de Inferno (translation: "Mouth of Hell." No really! That's what it's called!). It is a place where the ocean has carved out this sort of cave in the rocks along the shore and the waves crash up upon them. 

Faux Boca de Inferno

As we found out a few days later, this actually wasn't the Boca de Inferno. It was about a 10-minute walk further up the road. But. Our friends who saw it assured us it looked much like what is pictured in the above photos. 

Soon after our (wet) afternoon in Cascais, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for another company dinner that night. While it was really fun dinner with great company and more delicious food,  we were pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel around midnight. And ready for the next day of fun!


But ready for fun!

Day 3
Wine tour day! The first half of the day was spent touring the Quinta de Santana winery. Although the weather was overcast and drizzling at times, it did not distract from the beauty of the vineyards. 

This wisteria arch was bee-u-ti-ful

One of the gorgeous buildings on the property

The altar of a stunning chapel on the property

We tasted a LOT of different wine and the winery owners insisted that we finish each glass of wine they introduced. That made for a lot of wine drinkin'. Before noon! We weren't complaining, though. It was delicious, and we immediately bought three bottles to bring home and save for special occasions. They also served a delicious lunch afterwards that included some of THE most scrumptious desserts I have ever had. I may or may not have wrapped some up and stowed them away in my purse to eat later in the day. May or may not have. 

The fun didn't stop after the wine tour. No sir-ee. That day was the only day we were on our own for dinner. So. We decided to take advantage and travel into the little town of Sintra to check out the sights, do some souvenir-shopping, and eat another delicious meal. 

When we first arrived it was raining pretty hard, but we weren't going to let that dampen our spirits (Get it? Dampen? Okay. My work here is done.). We stopped in a little cafe for some Espresso and danishes and then headed out to see the sites and shop the shops after the rain had stopped.

 It was so fun navigating the hilly, quaint streets as we perused the shops

I loved all the bright, colorful buildings


Portugal is known for its beautiful tiles

Hmm...if only we spoke Portuguese.

So beautiful seeing dilapidating areas surrounded by lush greens 

 One of many castles we saw during our time in Portugal

Although all of the towns and cities we visited in Portugal were beautiful, Sintra was my favorite. The personality of the town, and the mix of bright, colorful buildings with ancient castles and beautiful, lush, green landscapes was just breath-taking. Not to mention the food was so tasty, and the shopping was very tourist friendly. All in all, a great day! 

Alright. Pretty sure that's enough of a picture overload to last a lifetime. And yet? Part 2 of our Portugal trip is up next. I'm sure everyone is waiting on pins and needles, right? Right? Well, if nothing else, this has proved a good way for me to document our trip for my own (selfish) memories. 

And also? I promise in the last installment of our trip documentation I will explain exactly what shenanigans were going on in our home in our little town back in the States. Teaser? It is going to require some home renovation. Little stinkers.

Part 2 coming soon...


  1. I know ZE-RO about Portugal, so I loved seeing the sightseeing pitures! Looked amazing!!!

    1. Haha! I knew nothing about Portugal either. Nothing! So glad someone other than me is enjoying the pics. And some of my very favorites are coming up in the "final installment." Stay tuned... :) :)

  2. what a whirlwind vacation! beautiful place to visit!!
    LOVE all the history and culture you got to see.
    I bet the run was pretty amazing being in a totally different country with totally different sights!!

    1. Thanks, Misty! It really was breath-taking. I just tried to take mental snapshots (and some actual snapshots) and remember each moment, ya know?