Portugal. “When I get on a plane and arrive in Lissabon three hours later, I do feel just the same: Home”, I often find myself musing with others. My mind then wanders off thinking about my dear friends in Portugal, switching back to speaking Portuguese as if it was completely normal (read more here “about how & why this is possible here” :D), simply feeling relaxed. Happy. And calm. Portugal, my love, always has this quality of welcoming me home.
“And you, where are you from?” – “From the world”, I muse, smiling inside out. Just like the well traveled, multilingual Portuguese friends I know.
Quite obvious then, that a world citizen like myself speaking six different languages feels immediately at home in an old seafarers’ & explorers’ nation. And because every trip you take starts right at your doorstep, this is exactly where I want to take you this time: By the (local’s) doors and backyards of Portugal. Right inside Lisbon’s dynamic, up & coming Marvila district, located between the airport and the historic city centre. Up & away into the mighty Serra da Estrela, one of Portugal’s most well-kept secrets of nature travel. Down & deep with the delicious foodie tips of the locals in Porto, the country’s second-largest city to the north.
(My) Portugal: Always worth the journey.
Let us start with Singulartrips.com. What’s in a name, you may say? Patricia Canejo will tell you this: Singulartrips is all about getting to know the “other Portugal”.
“We focus entirely on small groups of travellers, designing custom-made tours”, Patricia tells me full of joy for the positive development of her creative travel enterprise in Lisbon. “Creative travel, food travel, travel with the locals in & around Lisbon, this is exactly what we want to promote thanks to our fantastic Singulartrips partners. Your book has been a great source of inspiration to me, dear Elena! This time, it is our turn to host you and your mum on one of our brand new tours: Our ‘Historic Downtown Food Tour‘ through Lisbon!”
Now, who is to resist an offer like this?
But the fun does not stop here. If you, like us, are set on getting to know the real Portugal, then go get lost with us in Serra da Estrela mountains.
Sure, there might also be other regions, such as the Alentejo, that are equally apt at promoting some of Portugal’s essence: Hard-working, smart and extremely friendly local people who have “made a difference” to themselves and their communities. On top of it all, Serra da Estrela in the Centro de Portugal region spoils us to the quality of yet another natural produce that might sound as unexciting as it is ubiquitous: Wool. Or let’s just say: Extremely high quality wool from the highest mountains of the country.
Check this out.
If you love a little luxury, great food, and local charm, you will not be disappointed from staying at Casa das Penhas Douradas, easily the most beautiful accommodation in the entire Serra da Estrela.
This luxurious (and at the same time, very down-to-earth) design & spa hotel breathes with the promise of peace and ultimate recreation. I swear: Up & out here, at some 1.600 metres above sea level, my mum and I found a Portugal we (and many among you, I presume) did not know existed. Fresh, cool air even during the heat of summer, the promise of eternal sunshine around all those sparkling little mountain lakes & lagoons, the excellent cuisine at the hotel, great value-for-money massages & treatments at the spa, extremely motivated and friendly employees starting with the cleaning ladies and all the way to João the owner taking us for a night-time stargazing walk: I am quite literally, mesmerised. All of our days passed way to fast, and at the same time, time is what really did not seem to matter here at all.
Do make a point of coming out here …
But once again, the fun does not end here. Heading even further north, we can find the “other Portugal” perfectly reflected in the dynamism of one of its great incubator cities: Porto, the second-largest city in northern Portugal.
If you know my blog, you will know about my love for this town and its people. Will have read, followed and sighed about just how deep I fell for its sweet, sweet temptations.
From a wine trip out into Douro valley, to the many creative culture & foodie travel experiences in & around Porto, all the way to my absolute highlight as a young, professional travel author: That’S Porto’s super famous bookshop, “Livraria Lello“, having managed not just to retail my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, but to sell it out in a matter of just a few days ..! Definitely a time to keep the happy flow going. 😀
Thank you so much, dear Hugo Cardoso & team, for your kind words: “Elena, your book is great. We want to have it in our bookshop. Please let us know all about the terms & conditions.” And this being named along the same lines as J.K.Rowling, who is said to have inspired herself at Livraria Lello for writing some of her famous Harry Potter novels … obrigada Livraria Lello, obrigada Porto! Still very overcome with emotion about this.
However, you can’t visit Porto without the one & only “Taste Porto Food Tour”.
It’s been a good two years since I first met André, of “Taste Porto”, and his network of avid foodies & #winelover friends in northern Portugal. Ever since, I have participated in this truly delicious “Food Tour” twice, and recommended it countless times over: The three and a half hour tour is definitely something you shouldn’t miss on your next visit to the city. At this third tasty visit of mine, several more foodie travel tips have been added to the game. Porto (as well as André) just haven’t stopped ..!
And should you still long for more – all of my travel pictures about Portugal are now published here, too:
Disclaimer: We have been invited by Singulartrips, Turismo do Centro de Portugal as well as Taste Porto Food Tours on our different tours and activities around Portugal. All opinions are my own.