August 2013

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 intense in July and June and are perfect in September. I was lucky that one day it was Kite Surf City and too intensely windy

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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 used his article as a virtual tour guide. As well as these others. They obviously have been running press junkets due to the recent influx

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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 a lot in these pics. You can stop and have a nice tourist-clogged lunch in Sintra before heading out and a nice castle there, too.

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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 supremely nice and amazingly helpful and attentive. The pool is what makes the whole hotel. The perfect place to come back for a post-hike/post-beach dip

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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 the inside of the fort and faced the glass-walled workout room, so you kinda have to keep your drapes closed…which is what you don’t want

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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 Guincho beach or shoot up to Sintra, about 40 minutes away in the inland mountains. the in-town beaches aren’t the best, more convenient than pretty, but

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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 sun, the sea and Chicken Peri Peri at Don Manolo.”  It was delish. And cheap. And still run by Don Manolo, a 90ish man who

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