On the Road resources > Travel Notes by Country > Portugal









Currency: Euro (.80 Euro cents : $1USD)


Favorite Food

Barbequed sardines with baked potatoes and salad

Chanfana (baked lamb and or pork marinated in red wine) with tomato based rice dish

Cabrito Assado (roasted lamb with special marinated sauce from Alentajo region)

Bacalhau (salted cod) con natas (baked bacalhau with potatoes and a light cream sauce)

Bacalhau greladho con batatas a murro (grilled Bacalhau then baked with potatoes and onions)

Fruit salads

Molotov (meringue dessert topped with caramel sauce)

Frango a pidi-pidi (barbecued chicken with spicy pidi-pidi sauce.

Fresh bread

Sopa de legumes and calde verde


Cost of goods and service

plata de dia:: 1 dose of fish or meat for two people includes salad and bread: 7 euros.

Unlimited soup: .75 euros

Sagres beer in bar: .70 euros

large Carlsberg draft: .80 euros

Espresso coffee: .60 euros

Meia de liete coffee (half cup espresso and half cup warm milk): .80 euros

Bottle of Ferriera 10 year port wine: 8.50 euros

Bottle of Vinho Tinho from Alentejo and “sparkling” vinho verde from Ponte de Lom area: 2 euros.



The summer of fun at the beach with family and friends at the Costa Nova; having dinner and visiting with all of Therese’s family and seeing Peter and Paul have an incredible time intersecting and playing with all their cousins; the opportunity to see the many incredible sights of Portugal with Fernindinha, as our lead guide, Valter and Isabel; the food; staying 3 days along the Douro River valley in the small town of San Joao do Pesqueira; the Convento do Christo in Tomar in the late afternoon light was a photographers dream; the living towns within castle walls at Obidos and Mansaraz; walking the staircases up the hill in Lamego and Bom Jesus; the courtyard and monastery at Alcobaca; thinking about relocating to Portugal; getting a chance to be in one place for two months and really getting to know the area and the people;


Trip Notes

We arrived overland by bus from Salamanca, Spain through the rural mountains of east Portugal. The trip took about 5 hours entering Portugal through Villar Formosa and arriving just north of Aveiro where Therese”s parents and cousins picked us up for our final leg to Ilhavo, a small, ex-fishing town just south of Aviero. Our travel throughout Portugal has been day and weekend trips with family and friends.  The churches and castles scattered throughout this country are extraordinary with historic significance from the era of discovery, the Moorish control of the Portugal, and the ruling kings.


Brief descriptions of the places we visited (* Designates my must see sites)

Lisboa*: We took a day trip into Lisboa and centered our time in the Belem district seeing Mosterio dos Jeronimos, Torre de Belem next to the Rio Tejo and the momument of Discovery. We then went up to the Alfama area and walked around before heading into the Castelo de Sao Jorge for a dramatic sunset view overlooking Lisboa.


Aveiro: For us, Aveiro was the “larger” town we went to from Ilhavo when we needed something. Only 8 kilometers away from Ilhavo, this larger town is packed with museums, a beautiful, modern shopping mall, canals with boats, and is a fantastic town to walk in. The train station has incredible tile work from around the area. This is a small, university town that is a great place to hang out.


Obidos*: Is yet another UNESCO listed site. Obidos is a living town within the walls of an ancient castle. The colors and atmosphere of this town are magnificent. Peter and Paul and myself walked around the entire town atop of the castle walls for a incredible view of the surrounding countryside.


Monsazar*: Is another one of my favorite places in the Alentajo region of central Portugal. This living, walled city set on top of a hill overlooking the vast Alentajo region near the border of Spain is a magically place to walk around in. The effort to get here is well worth it.


Evora: Evora is another UNESCO listed walled town made for walking with cobblestone streets and numerous churches and sites. Don’t miss the incredible Capala dos Ossos (The chapel of Bones) whose walls are constructed from bones and skulls of people.


Coimbra: Coimbra is a historic town with a lively atmosphere based on having the oldest university in Portugal, which sits on top of the main hill overlooking the city. The university itself is a great tourist site and walking up and down the cobblestone streets of the older part of the city provides lots of reminansce and churches of the past. Mosterio de Santa Cruz houses the first king of Portugal and is a great church to visit in the old part of town.


Douro River Valley*: If you have heard of Port Wine, then you know about the Douro River. The Douro River valley is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the growing of grapes and the manufacturing of Port Wine. The area is stunning with incredible small towns dotting the area, valleys covered in vineyards and the Douro itself cutting a large gorge through the landscape all the way to Spain. Each year thousands of people take 2-7 day river cruises up this incredible river valley. This is a must see area!


Coa Valley: This small, rural town and valley off the Douro River is home to prehistoric art drawings along the river.


Luso and the Bucaco area*: This area tucked in the foothills of the Bucaco mountains just outside of Coimbra is known for the pure water springs in Luso and one of my favorite buildings in all of Portugal, Palacio de Bucaco, a renovated castle. Continue up the hill to Cruz Alta and an incredible view of the entire area.


Lamego*: Lamego is a small town tucked within rolling hills near the Douro River. Lamego is famous for the incredible staircase that descends up a hill with tiled paintings, fountains, gardens and a grotto along the way to a cathedral situated at the top. Early morning and evening visits will give great lighting for seeing the town below.


Ucanha : Near Lamego, is the small and picturesque village of Ucanha . This town in the foothills has a beautiful bridge over a meandering, pastoral stream. The town has beautiful, old cobblestone streets and unique paintings on the ceiling of the cathedral located near the top of a small hill.


Fatima*: Located near the cluster of Tomar, Batahla, Nazare and Leira, Fatima is a famous pilgrame site where Mary appeard to three small shepard children over a period of 6 months.


Tomar*: Tomar is home to the UNESCO listed Convento de Cristo, which is the immense home of the Knights Templar and worth as many hours as you have for exploration.


Nazare: Nazare is a picturesque resort town with a huge sandy beach on the central coast of Portugal. The view from the top of the cliffs overlooking the town and the small town located on top are not to be missed.


Alcobaca*: Near Nazare, the incredible Mosteiro do Santa Maria de Alcobaca is another cathedral that is not to be missed. Take at least a good 1-2 hours and walk around the entire complex. This is home to one of the great, tragic love stories. Find out about it.


Braga*: Braga is a beautiful small town in the foothills north of Porto claiming to have the most churches of any town in Portugal. The incredible Escadaria do Bom Jesus is a cathedral overlooking the valley with a architectural wonder of a staircase leading up to the cathedral. Further up the hill is Santuario do Nossa Senhora do Sameiro with another beautiful church and visita of the valley.


Costa Nova*: About a 15 minute drive from Ilhavo, the Costa Nova is the premier seaside resort town of northern Portugal. With traditional parallel stripped colored homes of primary colors (yellow, reds, blues and greens), a wide promenade, plenty of sand beaches and a boardwalk on the beach that connects the south and north areas of the town, Costa Nova looks and feels like a vibrant beachside community with everything you need for an extended stay. Each year, Therese’s aunt, uncles and cousins come here for an extended family vacation of 3 weeks or more. We were extremely delighted to be part of this summertime getaway and be part of the atmosphere, excitement and play that has been going on for several generations.


Porto and the San Joao do Porto festa*: We went to Porto for a day trip and to participate in the San Joao do Porto festa during the night. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal with the Douro River and older town areas being UNESCO world heritage sites. The city has a look and feel of being antique with numerous large churches, a university, hilltop vistas, and the port wine district near on the Douro River as places to walk and visit. The San Joao do Porto street festival in late June is an incredible experience. Music stages are setup throughout the Ribeira district along the Douro and in the upper areas for local bands and entertainment, barbeques are grilling fresh sardines along all streets and thousands of people are walking along enjoying the atmosphere and “bonking” each other with a harmless plastic hammer in the spirit of friendship and introduction. Around midnight an incredible display of fireworks from several barges located in the River illuminates Porto. This festival was a highlight of our trip. The energy and excitement and setting are worth returning to each year.


Ilhavo and the surrounding area: Ilhavo was our home base in Portugal, as we stayed with Therese’s parents in their apartment. At one time, Ilhavo was the hub of the cod fishing industry. Several of Therese’s cousins live and work here and being a small town was a great place to establish our home base. The city is easy to walk for strolls to the main Jardim (city park), cafes and restaurants. We also enjoyed a new library with internet access and for sports, a basketball gym and indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and soccer field.