We wanted to make sure we saw some of Portugal’s beautiful coast while we were in Lisbon, so I opened up my number one travel go to, the Viator app, and checked out what was on offer in the custom tours section.
Cruising the coast in a vintage VW convertible immediately caught my eye, so we booked that and Luis arrived right on time at our hotel in a super cute VW bug on a sunny Lisbon morning. After a quick whip around Lisbon for orientation (we’d only arrived the night before) we headed down the freeway to beat the crowds at Pena Palace.
After a short queue for tickets we took Luis’ advice and sprinted up the hill once the gates opened to get to the Palace itself, so we could wander through before the crowds built up.
It was just stunning inside and out, with chandeliers, and ornate embellishments throughout the interior, plus the outdoor walkways with their stunning views down to the coast.
After taking a bajillion photos, we headed back to our chariot to drive down to Sintra, where we wandered around the old town and ordered far too much tapas for lunch.
The cork shop across the street was the first flag about the important role cork plays in the Portugal economy.
Now I’m a big fan of cork in it’s champagne popping persona, but I have to admit I’ve never given it much thought beyond that. Let’s just say there is nothing you can’t buy a cork version of in Portugal, with my particular favorite being this cork suit, which I only have a picture of as both kids flatly refused my kind offer to bring them one home as a souvenir of our trip.
This is a cork tree – fun fact courtesy of Luis, you can only harvest the cork once the tree is 25 years old, and then only every 9 years! It would take a massive forest of cork trees to produce large numbers of those cork suits, maybe that’s the reason they haven’t taken off….
We drove back to Lisbon along the coast, stopping at Cabo da Roca, the most Western point of continental Europe for a quick photo opp, where I was struck by the similarity of the coastline to the Shipwreck Coast in Western Victoria, where my grandparents lived when I was a child.
That similarity was reinforced when we returned to the coast a few days later, with our Uber driver turned tour guide Antonio, who took us to the beautifully named Boca Do Inferno, or Hell’s Mouth.
He also took us to a fantastic seafood resturant for lunch, where we tried barnacles for the first time. Apparently their are only a few places that serve them, because you have to wait till the tide is out, scurry down to the rocks to harvest them, before taking them straight to restaurant where they’re best served fresh steamed with a little lemon and olive oil.
They were absolutely delicious, and it was the perfect way to celebrate the Lions season opening win against the reigning premiers!
We also stopped off in Cascais, which we were told was the Saint Tropez of Portugal. It was a beautiful place to wander around, with plenty of tiles, a bit of Top Gun style beach volleyball on display, and the option for a paddle board, which was very tempting. We didn’t have time, and I have a suspicion that once I’d put a toe in the water the temptation would have lessened as it was only the second day of Spring and still pretty chilly, so that’s one to save for next time too.
The colours, the views, the food and the people – it’s fair to say we absolutely loved our first time in Portugal, and it definitely won’t be our last.