Winter getaway in Portugal

Posted on January 20, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Like always after the busy Christmas season, I longed for a holiday/getaway to revitalise myself. As I discovered, January is the perfect time to travel to the southern part of Europe; it is warmer, sunnier, less touristy, and best of all, much cheaper than London.

Portugal has become one of my favourite getaway destinations in recent years. I first visited Lisbon with a friend in 2009, and I was smitten by this historical, charming, laidback and friendly city. A few years ago, I visited Porto with another friend for a long weekend; and again we had a wonderful time and spent many hours port tasting at various port cellars!

Whilst planning my trip, I wanted to revisit Lisbon but at the time venture beyond the city. I decided to spend some time by the seaside and explore other provincial cities/towns away from the hustle and bustle.


I didn't realise how much I had missed the sea and the beach until I saw it! I am not into sunbathing/sun-seeking holidays, but I love hearing the sound of the waves, and seeing the sea and beaches alone fill me with immense joy.


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I spent two nights (which was too short) staying in a studio minutes away from the beach in Estoril (half and hour's train ride from Lisbon), and I strolled to the nearby Cascais along the promenade everyday (which took about 45 minutes). With the sun on my skin, the sea next to me and joggers running past me, I felt mere bliss and gratitude to be there.


Historical city & town

I left the Lisbon region and traveled eastwards to the Alentejo ( also known as the "bread basket") region, where it is especially well known for their wine, olive oil, cheeses, smoked hams, cork and marble (apparently, Portugal is the second largest exporter of marble in the world). I first visited the Unesco World Heritage site Evora, and then took a bus to the nearby marble-town Estremoz.

There were few tourists about and thus I was able to enjoy these places in a relaxing pace and observe the locals getting on with their daily businesses.


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Blue sky & white walls

Traveling in this region, the colours that you are most likely to encounter are: blue and white. The blue coloured sky is so sharp that it reminds me of the TV screen when it goes all blue at times, which creates a huge contrast against the white walls and buildings. Estremoz is known as “Cidade Branca” (white city), not only for its traditional white houses but also for its marble architecture. Arriving into the town via a local bus, I was astonished to see an entire bus station built from marble including all the seating, flooring and toilets!

To call this town 'sleepy' would be an understatement. With an university situated in Evora, one can still see young people; in Estremoz, I seldom saw people under the age of 50 on the streets. There was not much to do or places to visit, so I spent most of my time wandering around the small town and randomly stepping into public places with their doors opened!


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Portuguese are one of the friendliest and hospitable people I have encountered throughout my travels. Perhaps it's to do with the weather and their laid-back attitude, most of the people I met are welcoming, patient and calm. People here enjoy a slower pace of living; they are more concerned with the quality of life and this is something I miss living in the stressful and unfriendly London.


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I always enjoy visiting parks and gardens whenever I travel. Yet I didn't expect to see chicken walking freely, nor peacocks posing complacently on a wall of a ruined former palace within the public gardens! And even in the midst of winter, there are still tropical plants and flowers to be admired, as well as orange and lemon trees everywhere.


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Quirks and unusual sights

There are always quirky and unusual sights to be found while traveling. One of the quirkiest was when I came across a front garden covered with about 20 or more soft cuddly toys on sticks! Unfortunately, there was an elderly couple in the garden and I couldn't take a proper photo of the garden, but I found the idea utterly amusing!


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It is rare to be able to watch beautiful sunsets on almost daily basis while traveling, but I was able to do so on this trip. The sunsets in Portugal are mesmorising and the colours are stunning; whether I was by the sea or up on a hill, these were precious moments that would stay with me for a long time.


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Silent nights

It is not easy to enjoy silence and solitude in cities like London at night. Yet there were times during my travel when I noticed that the streets were almost empty, it was strange for someone like me who is used to seeing people around or hearing traffic all the time except for when I am in the countryside. Silence and solitude is something that city dwellers require from time to time, as it is the best time to wind down and clear our minds.


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To be continued...


This post was posted in Travel, Nature, Portugal and was tagged with nature, sunset, Portugal, beach