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  • Writer's pictureKiah May

Portugal: Tiles, Palaces, and Many Pasteles de Nata

Hello friends!


I hope you all are well! For those of you in school, I hope the semester is finishing up well and I wish you the best of luck on your finals. You've got this!


In the second of 3 posts from what ended up almost being a spring break month, here is a little recap of our time in Portugal!


Lisbon:

After leaving beautiful Madeira, we arrived in a very rainy Lisbon. We had a lovely dinner near the hotel and had the first pastel de nata on the mainland at one of the recommended places, Manteigaria (we had one on Madeira, but it was too sweet and rich, unlike what we had read about the more traditional ones which are supposed to be flaky and a bit more runny).


On Thursday, our first real adventure was to the Lisbon Tile Museum. Portugal is known for these incredible tile works and it was interesting to see the history of the tiles and their evolution. The museum had tiles from as far back as the second half of the 15th century.

Example of Portuguese Tiles (from Porto Cathedral)


Next, we walked through and up (as many of Lisbon's alleys are just staircases) the Alfama Neighborhood, and visited the Lisbon Cathedral, and the Arco da Rua Augusta and Praça do Comercio. Throughout this trip, one of my favorite things was wandering through cute neighborhoods. We also needed a quick snack along the way and stopped at Fábrica da Nata for more pasteles de nata. This was one of the places known for the best in Lisbon so we knew we had to try it!

Arco da Rua Augusta and Praça do Comercio

Historic Tram 28 in Lisbon


Friday consisted of more exploring. We began by having a wonderful breakfast at Parioca Cafe then headed towards the town of Belém where we saw the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. It was a really beautiful area, there were just so many people because there was tons of tour bus parking. Due to this, we decided not to go into the Jerónimos Monastery and just admire it from the outside.

Jerónimos Monastery

Belém Tower (and the crowds)

Padrão dos Descobrimentos


We then headed to the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda which was one of my favorite things in Lisbon. The Portuguese crown jewels are stored here and they're incredible. The Palace itself is very decadent and on a similar (but slightly lower) level to the Royal Palace in Madrid. In need of another snack, we stopped at Landeau, which we heard had some of the best chocolate cake in the world. I have had many a chocolate cake in my life and I can say that the cake at Landeau is in fact some of the best I've had. It was a very moist, soft cake with a creamy chocolate frosting and a dusting of cocoa power. With a bit of cake in our system, we headed to the MAAT (The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology). The building that houses the museum was an old thermoelectric power plant and a lot of the original machinery is still there as part of the exhibition. Of course, being engineers, Sam and I had a blast looking at everything. There was also an interesting exhibit called Mar Aberto (translation: Open Sea) which was a collection of photographs taken at different depths in different places by the artist who is a scuba diver. It showcased how climate change is affecting the oceans.


For dinner on Friday night we went to a super cute, very local place called Lisboa Tu & Eu (translation: Lisbon You & I) for Portuguese food. I have a lot of favorite restaurants from this trip, but this is one of my favorites because of the environment, the vibe, and the food, of course.


Sintra and Colares:

On Saturday, we headed out of the city a bit towards Colares and Sintra. Our first stop was a small winery in Colares called Adega Regional de Colares. The winery is a co-op with local vineyards, at one point almost 400 strong. Today there are just 12 participating vineyards. This region is very interesting for a couple reasons. The grapes are the only grapes in the world that are not grafted. This is because they grow in the sand near the beaches and therefore the grapes were protected from the diseases that struck other vineyards around the world. We learned how they actually make their wine and we got to do a tasting of a red and a white from their cellar. I'm still working on liking wine, but I did enjoy both of the ones we tried here.

Adega Regional de Colares


After a lovely time enjoying the wine, we headed towards the Monserrate Palace and gardens. The Palace's design was influenced by Mudéjar Moorish Revival and Romantic styles and completed with Gothic elements. The walk through the gardens to the palace itself was stunning. I kind of wish I could have similar gardens, but that means I would have to take care of them, so I think I'll just stick to a small garden.

Monserrate Palace

Hallway of Monserrate Palace

Waterfall in the Monserrate Palace Gardens

Flower from the Monserrate Palace Gardens


We then headed to Pena Palace. We had a couple minutes to spare before our entrance to the palace itself, so we wandered around the gardens surrounding the palace. As with most palaces, the gardens were absolutely gorgeous. For much of the time, we were the only people on the path which really gave us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the nature.

Pena Palace Gardens


Next, it was time to actually go into the palace. To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed comparing it to many of the other palaces I had seen. The stunning part was the colors of the outside and its starkness against the green mountains (and the blue sky).

Pena Palace

Pena Palace seen from Castelo dos Mouros


Our last adventure in Sintra was the Castelo dos Mouros, a medieval castle built in the 8th and 9th centuries. From this viewpoint, we could see most of the city of Sintra as well as all the way out to the sea in the East. It was fascinating to see how well preserved these types of constructions are even after 12+ centuries.

Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros

Quinta da Regaleira (seen from Castelo dos Mouros)

Another Castle (seen from Castelo dos Mouros)


We then headed back to Lisbon for dinner. Ironically, one of my family friends happened to be in Lisbon at the same time so we met up with them for dinner. We had a lovely evening at Sinal Vermelho. Like all the food we'd had so far, this dinner was amazing. Sam and I really like Portuguese food. It was always possible to find the "classic" Portuguese food and it was always good. We especially like the octopus (each of us ordered it at least twice).

Dinner at Sinal Vermelho


This dinner was a perfect way to end our time in Lisbon. On Sunday morning we headed for Porto on a beautiful train ride through the country.


Porto:

In Porto, we were staying at a cute, historic hotel called Hospes Infante Sagres. After dropping our bags, we headed out to explore. We walked down to the Ribera district along the Douro River and walked through some super cute neighborhoods. For dinner on Sunday night, we went to a place called Wine Club Restaurant. It was super cute and a great environment for dinner. After dinner we went to the Royal Cocktail Club, which Sam found, for a drink (virgin for me, of course). The environment here was also super cute and it was really nice to hang and chat with Sam.

Porto City Hall

Drinks at the Royal Cocktail Club


Monday held the bulk of our exploration of the city. Before heading out we had breakfast at Do Norte Cafe, which was super cute and had a Nordic theme. We then saw the Church of the Clerics (and a beautiful view of the city from the Tower), the Porto Cathedral, and the Bolsa Palace (Porto's Stock Exchange Palace).

View of the City from the Tower at the Church of the Clerics

Room in the Stock Exchange Palace


Our last dinner in Porto was at a cute little place just down the street from the hotel called MUU. The food here was amazing. It was one of my favorite dinners on this whole trip and I'm so grateful to Sam for finding such great places for dinner and food in general.

Steak and Desserts from MUU


Tuesday in Porto was super rainy so we visited the National Museum Soares dos Reis (the fine arts museum). I'm not the biggest fan of older art, but this museum had some cool landscapes from different artists and I really enjoyed it. Getting stuck in the rain, we decided to duck into a coffee shop called SO Coffee Roasters and were able to relax a bit before heading to the airport.


Portugal has been my 2nd favorite country on this entire adventure, only behind Spain (coming soon!). It was great to explore more with Sam and eat some amazing food.


Final Pastel de Nata Count: 7

In my opinion, the best one was at Fábrica da Nata in Lisbon with a dusting of cinnamon.


Huge thanks again to Sam for a lot of the photos!


I miss everyone!


Com amor (Portuguese again),

Kiah


Hotel Recommendations:

Hospes Infante Sagres (Porto)


Restaurant Recommendations:

Lisbon:

Manteigaria (pastel de nata)

Fábrica da Nata

Lisboa Tu & Eu


Porto:

Royal Cocktail Club

MUU

Do Norte (cafe)



Activity Recommendations:

Lisbon:

The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology

Palácio Nacional da Ajuda

National Tile Museum


Sintra/Colares:

Pena Palace

Castelo dos Mouros

Monserrate Palace

Adega Regional de Colares


Porto:

Bolsa Palace


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