Our trip to Portugal would not be complete without me giving advice. I can't help myself.
Visa and Mastercard
We discovered that these are not widely accepted. It cost a Portuguese merchant 10% of each sale so many chose not to accept it. So bring cash or be able to use your debit card. Small restaurants and markets give more of the flavour of the country and they just do cash and debit. ATM machines are different from North American ones. They don't always have letters on the key pad. So if your pin is a word know the # version. We only had access to our chequing account.
Portuguese is not easy, but "Thank you" "Please" "Good day" and Hello are. The older generation knows French so if you know a bit of French try that and mime is always good not matter what the situation.
view from our apartment in Lisbon
Love them, much better then any hotel. But I find they do lack a few things, like spices. I love to cook the wonderful things I buy from the markets. A month in restaurants is just not a option when you travel with kids. So I bring salt, pepper and a bunch of other fresh spices in a container. That way you don't have to have a bland dinner or boring eggs.
The homes usually have a clothes washer but hauling around a jug of clothes washing liquid is a drag. Bring a couple of pods from home. I figured 2 per week. As well as a small amount of dish washing liquid. When a home says it has a clothes dryer it generally does not mean a tumble dryer.
Ziploc bags are the best things ever. Forget those fancy toiletry bags, we packed everything in Ziplocs and brought extras.
Soft sided luggage
The cars are small and if you have more then 2 people on your trip soft sided luggage packs into the back of a car way easier then the hard shell.
We were on the beach most of our trip, and you only get 1 set of bathroom towels per person and the humidity is high. We each brought a micro towel from Sea to Summit. They worked like a dream and took no room at all.
We flew KLM out to Amsterdam and had a 10 hour layover. Plan to leave the airport. We dropped our hand luggage in the lockers and spent some time in the city.
Air France was our airline to Canada. This airline was like old fashion travel. We had a 747 large seats and leg room. The staff start your trip off with champagne followed by the menu for dinner. The dinner was wonderful and served with your choice of wine. Dessert follows and so does a cognac. The refreshments are available throughout the flight and your don't need your purse or wallet. This airline gets 5 stars
Make sure you have the extra deductible insurance in addition to CDW for when your car gets damaged. It seems that everyone you meet has had a issue.
Don't leave home without one. We had android phones and purchased a sim card for each when we got to Lisbon. They were 10 euros each and we could text just within Europe.
My phone didn't always work well, it is a Sony. Sean's and Philippa's were fine (Moto G & Blu) Mariah had a iPhone and we did not turn it on as it was locked and would have cost a fortune to use.
I thought the holiday rental in Peniche was 5 stars
It was clean, all the appliances were top notch and full-size. The kitchens supplies were not from jumble sales, they were excellent. I went out and bought the same pots and brought them home.
The Lisbon rental was also 5 stars for the same reason.
Our beach home in Azenhas do Mar may have lacked a few things, but it made up for it in location. Goncalo has a couple of larger rentals and I will consider one of them for our next trip.
Bring a Friend.
And finally bringing a friend. Our daughters friend did amazing she was a real trooper. It is not easy to join another family for a trip to Europe and she was wonderful. She was game to try almost everything. I am pretty sure I could not have joined another family with a completely different lifestyle for a month when I was 13 so I take my hat off to her.
I am sure that the women who came up with the idea of the GPS must have realized the harmony that this device would bring to the front of a car.
We are now on our 3rd GPS for this trip and her name is Bernadette II, she gets it right most of the time, but the programmer who made the map for Portugal must have taken a few too many siestas.
So after getting very lost we were extremely happy to see the owner of our final destination waiting for us. The town of Azenhas do Mar is the kind of place holiday dreams are made of. Our little traditional cottage that is built in to the rock face is perfect.
Yes, it is small and yes, the fridge is the same size as the juice container I put in it. No, it does not have the clothes washer that we desperately need, but I am sure there is one close by. I love this place and it has a stove top coffee maker so nothing else matters.
We chose this house for a few reasons, we are 45 minutes from the airport in Lisbon, and very close to the beach as well as the town of Sintra.
Sintra is the holiday spot that Portuguese royalty frequented. Just driving through the area you get a flavour of the wealth in the area. We head into the town in the evening as we know it will be a hot spot for tourists.
The town is jaw droppingly beautiful; it seems everyone lives in some sort of castle. The castle that we are wanting to see is Palacio da Pena, it is up the familiar hill we are used to. But this time the hill is BIG so we drive up it. Sean is now a seasoned driver of Portuguese roads and loves the challenge of honking at every hairpin turn, my foot has made a dent where my imaginary break is! Yikes!
It’s high up and it is a clear night, but the castle is in the clouds. Weird.
We come back the next day for the shuttle to visit the castle.Poor Mariah is done, she does not want to see another castle, church or ruin. So she stays behind for a much deserved nap. We arrive in town via the trolley car and leave our car behind in the beach town. Parking is a nightmare in Sintra and the trolley is a neat way to see the area.
The castle is busy, these are the first line ups we have seen in Portugal. There is one more bus ride to get to the castle, but we opt for the walk up the final part of the journey into the clouds. The castle is lovely but it does not seem real, more like a movie set. It is exterior is too perfect, too freshly painted, too Disney-ish. I am pleased to have seen it but the rest of Portugal is not like this castle.
It is a bit hard to cook a meal in our beautiful home so we take Goncalo’s advice and visit the restaurant down the road.
Yup, this man knows his seafood. We have a lovely meal for very few euros. The girls on the other hand had Tele-pizza delivered to us via a Vespa.
I have wanted a pitcher of Sangria ever since we have arrived in Portugal, so Sean and I head down to the beach bar below our house.
The sun is setting, the World Surf Championships that were being held down the road are over and the bar has lots of surfing talent enjoying a beer. There is even have a DJ that has a collection of records that he spins. We watch the sunset to some great music and I start planning our next trip to Portugal that will include Azenhas do Mar.