Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?
*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?
The other Portugal: Singulartrips, Serra da Estrela & sweet moments of seduction in Porto.
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.
Lisbon, surprisingly different this time: Out & about with Patricia Canejo, of Singulartrips.com.
Breathtakingly beautiful Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain district just under 2.000 metres above sea level.
Finally: Arriving with my dear friends in Porto. “Travelling back home” to Portugal, that is.
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?
My mum & my friend Antonia certainly can’t: Patricia’s tour takes off at the innovative start-up craft beer brewery “Dois Corvos”, right inside Lisbon’s trending Marvila district.
We then move on to explore “Casa do Alentejo” in the city centre of Lisbon …
… where we get to taste typical, Portuguese Chouriço …
… marvel at all the colourful veggie & fruit stalls around …
… before moving on to a delicious “Ginja” liquor tasting …
… ending our tour on a note of port wine, mountain cheese and a thick slice of delicious quince jelly : Mmmh !! The strong summer sun, I believe, has the power to bring out the aromas in all those delicious ingredients even more.
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.
Right up here, on almost 2.000 metres above sea level, my mum and I go exploring one of the country’s, well, modest ski resorts for our own Austrian standards …
… all made up by the wonderful, delicious Serra da Estrela mountain cheese that José has cut here for us.
We then move on exploring the “creative spinning” vibes of talented local enterprise, “Burel Factory” …
… specialised in high-quality sheep wool produce, such as blankets, decorative items, clothing, as well as footwear (!).
Visiting the wool “fábrica”, in the heart of Serra da Estrela …
… and listening to the owner Isabela is as inspiring as it is heartwarming: After many years in Lisbon, she has made it her goal to use her excellent networking and management skills to revive the old tradition of wool processing right here in the Serra da Estrela mountains – and provide much needed employment opportunities to the local communities.
Burel Factory in Manteigas: Truly worth your visit.
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 …
… because the “other Portugal” is calling: Beautiful breakfast terrace at Casa das Penhas Douradas in Serra da Estrela.
Already during breakfast, the clear connection of the hotel with its surrounding mountain landscape becomes evident (and palpable): Tasting that famous local mountain cheese again and again …
… praising the kitchen chef (who every night makes sure to come out and ask for the wellbeing of each and every individual guest) …
… as well as cooking beautiful meals, such as this slow-cooked pork loin served on a bed of vegetables and potato gratin.
Casa das Penhas Douradas won’t let you starve, that’s for sure: Here we are, tasting our way through the afternoon tea time buffet!
So all that’s left to say, is a big thank you (A Nossa! Prost) …
… for such warm-hearted hospitality here at Casa das Penhas Douradas …
… at the heart of the Serra da Estrela …
… located right above the small town Manteigas with its pretty little red-roofed, white houses.
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.
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.
Like I say: Obrigada, Livraría Lello & team …
… for having made it all possible: For me to sign more books for you, and for you to sell my book at your prestigious library: Go check it out on your next visit to Porto. 😀
However, you can’t visit Porto without the one & only “Taste Porto Food Tour”.
As for accommodation, I can recommend you stay at Flores Village Hotel & Spa right inside Porto old town (A Rua Das Flores) who next to a spa also offers a perfect summer garden as well as gorgeous breakfast, lounge and room areas.
Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you.
Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."
Ready for learning even more about creative travel?
Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
Women Walking The Way: Insights & Inspiration from the Portuguese Camino.
Fun, Food & Family Travel: Why we should all be #inCostaBrava right now.
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