PICTURE PERFECT PORTO

[PORTO, PORTUGAL] — The Bridge. The Bridge is everything in Porto. It looks like the Eiffel Tower on its side crossing the lazy Douro River — which makes sense since it was designed by Gustave’s company. It’s hard to believe that this beast has been carrying traffic since it was built in 1886. At that time, it was the largest bridge span in the world.   Such a stunning setting, which is why, when looking where to stay in Porto, I found a hotel that had the above amazing view  on TabletHotels, my favorite go-to hotel site. This was literally the view

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IN SEARCH OF THE BIG WAVES IN PORTUGAL

[NAZARÉ, PORTUGAL] — I’m not a surfer, obvs, but I’ve always been captivated by stories of Big Wave surfing, where weather-watching, nicely-tanned people drop everything and fly across the world to try to catch big swells. I’m fascinated by waves. Even have read awesome books like The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (which I highly recommend). And most recently, this awesome new book on waves and water: How to Read Water. (more highly recommended, so enlightening.) One place that is almost always on the list is Nazaré on the west coast of Lisbon, where nearly

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LIVE OUT YOUR OWN GAME OF THRONES FANTASY IN THIS COOL CASTLE VILLAGE IN PORTUGAL

[OBIDOS, PORTUGAL] —  About an hour south of Porto is the small castle town of Obidos. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, which I’ve never really seen, you may recognize this place. But if you’re just a normal castle-loving gypsy, you can stay in the nice pousada inside and get an extra use out of your traveling Glastonbury/Burning Man/Coachella flower bonnet and feel like a queen. They charge extra for swords, I hear, but available. Ravens on advance request. A good friend of mine recently stayed in the Pousada Obidos and absolutely loved it. And all the tourists empty out

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A SEXY DESIGN HOTEL BUILT AROUND A RESTAURANT BUILT AROUND A FARM

[Outside Santa Cruz, Portugal] — It’s the smells that hit you first… After pulling into a sparse car park, no sign of life. You walk up to the huge, heavy wood doors — all big and Asian-y and intimidating, makes you feel like a bible salesman at Larry Ellison’s house — and they’re locked. Oh no, are they closed? Did I get the date wrong? Then you notice the small buzzer. And buzz. A big clanking noise and the antique rusted door latch opens up for you and the big door swings open. And that’s when the smells hit. Wood fire.

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IN SEARCH OF THE BEST BEACHES OF PORTUGAL’S WESTERN ALGARVE

[Lagos, Portugal] — The winding two lane highway runs all up and down the western coast, tucked just under a constant high berm of low hills that act like a windbreak from the coast. The car weaves in and out of clumps of wooly cypress trees, their wide trunks like the fuzzy legs of a herd of mammoths, crossing small bridges and dodging farm trucks heaving from the local fields. It’s kind of weird, actually. The sun is bright as can be, yet you’re in shadows most of the time in the early afternoon. You can feel the salty ocean breeze but

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THIS COOL BOUTIQUE HOTEL IS WHERE YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE ALGARVE

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  AFTER POSTING THIS, I JUST FOUND OUT THAT THEY SOLD THE HOTEL AND WILL CONVERT IT INTO A PRIVATE VILLA RENTAL> SO BUMMED.  OH WELL, ENJOY THE PICTURES!]   [LAGOS, PORTUGAL] — After landing in Lisbon all stinky from the flight, you jump in the rental and haul ass straight down the A2, crossing the rugged mountains that keep all the cold air from the North trapped on the rightside of the equation and make the Algarve warm all year. You book across the Algarve on the A22, toll after bitchy toll, slavingly following the GPS because your brain

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TAKE A TOUR THROUGH THE TERRACED VINEYARDS OF PORTUGAL’S DOURO RIVER VALLEY

[DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL] — I see all these Instagram peeps hitting Porto taking pictures of the big bridge, climbing up its steep hills, drinking some port and then bolting. But really what they’re missing is a day trip (or longer) up the Douro River to visit the incredible, hilly stair-step vineyards of the Douro Valley, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. I dunno, I’m over wine tours, once you see a few, they’re all the same to me — “Is that French oak or American? How long in stainless??” — poke me in the eye with a stick…but

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ON THE COAST OF PORTUGAL, ONE OF THE TOP TEN BEACHES IN THE WORLD

[GUINCHO, PORTUGAL] — On the west coast of Portugal, only an hour or so outside of Lisbon and right below the farthest western point of the European continent is Guincho. Rated one of the top ten beaches in the world, it’s a dream.  Strong winds, perfect sand, large waves and incredible sunsets (I’ve been told, which I missed) it just all adds up.  Easy to get to, with parking along the road and multiple coves (I’m actually not 100% if there is one single Guincho, or a bunch) you can just drive, park and burn. I hear the winds are

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You should do this amidst the hills and neighborhoods of Lisboa

[LISBON]  — Portugal was never really high up on my list, but over the last couple of years, the more and more I read about it, the more it moved up.  Conde Nast Traveler, Monocle, Travel & Leisure, AFAR, they all pointed to the rise of Portugal.  Despite its government tenuous position, all pointed to the rise in living standards, infrastructure and standard of living…and that it was somewhat undiscovered compared to the rest of Europe. This article by Frank Bruni in the New York Times sold me…as he was sold on Lisbon.  That moved Lisbon to the top. I

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If I could build my own castle, it would look like this.

[SINTRA, PORTUGAL] — Sintra is not just a single town, but an entire wooded (unusually so in these arid parts) nature preserve about an hour and a half outside of Lisbon. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding.  Plan a half a day, at least, to make the loop through the forest and the half dozen towns and castles and sites within the preserve. From Moor forts (damn Moors were everywhere!) to ornate castles to other follies; the sites are mind-blowing. The must-see is the Castelo da Pena featured

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If I were to build a fort, it would look like this

[LISBON] — High overlooking Lisboa, is the Castelo de São Jorge, one of the coolest forts I’ve seen. Lots of excellent shooting points, areas of properly dispersing hot oil and other general harassment.  It’s a great thing to do in the morning or sunset.  You can take the trolly up, or walk the zigzag streets. Excellent views of the red roofs of Lisbon.        

A classic hotel in a quiet seaside Portugal town

    [CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — Another great hotel in Cascais, is the Villa Italia, just outside of the town, and right along the rock coast.  Within walking distance, it is a perfect location to serve as your base of operations for exploration all along the Lisbon coast.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, they upgraded me…and not to just a suite, but the entire $3,000/night penthouse!  A two bedroom, several thousand sf sprawling series of rooms at the top of the hotel, with it’s own hot tub overlooking the pool, ocean and the coming and going boats. Thank you!  Everyone was

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A brand new pousada, built into a really old fort

[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — In a cool old fort ringing the Cascais harbor is the Pousada Cascais, a brand new hotel voted on Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List. Lot’s have been written up about it and it is certainly a cool location, nice and new but I was a little overwhelmed.  It is a little sterile, but still nice. More like a convention hotel on the inside; a little stark, but certainly nice. The location can’t be beat. Make sure you book a room with a harbor view, the inside rooms are a bit cold; my first room opened up onto

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A quiet beach town along the Lisbon coast

[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — About a half-hour outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great little beach town along the coast and the perfect base to explore the entire Lisbon coast. You can rent a car or the commuter train from Lisbon can drop you right smack in the middle of the town and the beach. It’s not the most picture-perfect place — a lot of English pubs and shops selling tat catering to package tours from England — but certainly has many charms.  The best of which is its location, easy to ride a bike or taxi out to the killer

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You Should Eat Here in Cascais

[Cascais, Portugal] — There are a number of great restaurants in Cascais. And a lot of bad English-touristy ones. You just need to know how to find them. My favorite was Gulli, highly recommended by everyone, right off the main square. Cool patio, great people watching and really, really good Italian — perfect for a breezy summer night. My friends that live in Cascais, Goncalo and Rita, also told I must eat at Don Manolo, a humble outdoor place right off the main square. As Goncalo quoted from an English travel show said “There are three things in Portugal: the

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A BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD ON TOP OF IT ALL IN LISBON

  [LISBON] — Barrio Alto is it.  The perfect neighborhood to stay, to shop, to eat, to walk. Shop along Principe Real with all the cool local shops. Look over the city at one of the best parks. At night, all the pedestrian streets turn over to outdoor cafes, bars and excellent tapas joints. You should go here.                      

A HIP DESIGN DISTRICT ON THE SPRAWLING GROUNDS OF AN OLD LISBON FACTORY COMPLEX

[LISBON] — In a tucked away corner of Lisboa, in the no-man’s land between the core of Lisboa and Belem, is the bustling new design and arts district, the cornerstone of which is the LX Factory.  Set on movie-set looking ground of an old manufacturing district, the LX Factory is a great place to get away from the more tourist parts and hang out amid the design firms, production studios, restaurants and shops — all having a design-centered focus.  Very cool retail and restaurants, even a hotel, all tucked under the constant roar of the off/on ramps to the Big

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A SWANKY OLD SCHOOL OASIS HIGH ABOVE LISBON

[LISBON] — Coming back through Lisbon on the flipflop back to the airport, got to spend a night at the Lapa Palace, a fancy Old School hotel in the Lapa District, the Embassy quarter high above Lisbon. Best part about the hotel is the expansive grounds and pool stepped below the rooms overlooking the city.  It is movie-quality, like a CIA meet up place or where they’d film an Embassy party in a spy film.  Very cool. And great to come back for a dip after traipsing all over the hills of Lisbon. They were very friendly, even though I

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A perfect hotel in the heart of Lisbon’s Barrio Alto

    [LISBON, PORTUGAL) — The Hotel Barrio Alto is one of the most perfect hotels I’ve stayed in. A small hotel right of the main Praca Luis de Carnões square near Chiado, it’s the ideal location to explore all the shops, restaurants and sites of winding streets of Barrio Alto. The decor is elegant and understated, with muted tones and colors, exquisitely detailed furniture and a color scheme that just makes you want to lay down and take a nap. The bathrooms are my new favorite, of any hotel I’ve staying in. Elegant simplicity at it’s finest. Every single person

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