What Travel Writers Say

Ports and Inland Destinations Are Easy to Reach on a Portugal 'Straycation'
© Tom Douglas

Surfing beach at Sagres
Surfing beach at Sagres

Experienced travellers find that a 'straycation' offers the best of both worlds. Rather than changing hotels each time a new destination is on the radar, savvy vacationers put down temporary roots in one place and "stray" out for one or two days to other centres, taking only the bare essentials along with them.

For instance, snowbirds like Marilyn and Lyall Trites spend ten weeks each year in the small fishing village of Armação de Péra in the Algarve. Not only does this area on Portugal's south coast have a lot to offer, but the country is small enough that most regions can be reached quite readily. Even the islands of Madeira and The Azores are a fairly short and relatively inexpensive hop away by small commercial aircraft.

Here are a few suggestions, with many more opportunities listed at the country's tourism website www.visitportugal.com.

The Algarve
The climate is mild all year round, with about 300 days of sunshine. In fact, that's why snowbirds can find such inexpensive accommodation during the winter because the southern coast is a haven for the people of northern Portugal during their hot and humid summer. Hotels and spas empty out during the winter months and that time is a bargain-hunter's paradise.

The Algarve is a great place for golfers, beach walkers and cyclists. The region's capital city, Faro, offers such attraction as the twin-towered Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo church, completed in 1719. Behind the church is the 19th-century Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) built from the femurs and skulls of more than 1000 monks. Entry to the church is free but if you're into old bones, the chapel charges one euro to get in.

Lisbon (or Lisboa to the locals) is Portugal's capital city and has innumerable sights and sites to tempt travellers of all persuasions. A climb up to the Castle of São Jorge affords a view of the entire city. Also popular are strolls through the ancient Alfama area, a visit to the Oceanarium in the Parques das NaƧâes, a tour of the massive and opulent Coach Museum and a look at two World Heritage Sites - the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Balém.

After an afternoon shopping spree in the glamorous Chiado district, dinner in the Bairro Alto provides an entire evening of relaxed entertainment.

This picturesque town set in the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra reflects the Moorish influence of centuries ago. The highlight of a trip to Sintra is a visit to the Palace of Seteais, built as a summer home for the Dutch consul to Lisbon at the end of the 18th Century. Now a hotel, it boasts a surrounding park where shrubbery and exotic flowers could win photo awards for even a rank amateur with a rudimentary camera.

Your tour guide will tell you that the term "Seteais" comes from the amalgamation of two Portuguese words: "sete" or seven and "ais" or sighs. Legend has it that, not unlike the story of the princess who never laughed, a nobleman won the heart of a royal princess by making her sigh seven times, causing a grateful king to give the loving couple this palace in which to live happily ever after.

Also known as Oporto in English, this northwestern city is the second-largest next to Lisbon. Known as the place where port wine was invented, it boasts monuments by a number of famous architects. There's Gustave Eiffel's Dona Maria Bridge, the Clerigos Tower designed by Nicolau Nasoni, the Casa da Musica of Rem Koolhass and Siza Vieira's Serralves Museum.

Needless to say, this lively city is brimming with restaurants and nightclubs where red and white port flow freely.


West Armacao Beach

Tom Douglas is an Oakville-based travel writer and Fifty-Five Plus' travel editor with many travel articles published on this website (see: Our Writers) and author of a number of books on Canada's military heritage. Read Tom's bio at: http://www.writersunion.ca/member/tom-douglas

Photo Credits
Marilyn and Lyall Trites

Find more about Weather in Algarve, PO
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If you go
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugal
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Portugal
Wikivoyage: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Portugal
About.com: http://search.about.com/?q=portugal&useSolr=false
Fiction: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/10648.Books_set_in_Portugal
Films featuring: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_set_in_Portugal
Music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Portugal
Places of worship: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Places_of_worship_in_Portugal
Sport: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_in_Portugal
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g3932272-Central_Portugal-Vacations.html

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznews...
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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