Photo of the Week: Sunshine

IMG_4734Porto, Portugal

This weekend I turned another year older, inching my way to the big 4-0.  Recently I noticed that time seems to be flying by too quickly, so moments like this have to be appreciated.  This photo was taken last year in Porto, one of my favorite cities in Europe.  We walked to the top of Miradouro da Vitória and stopped to enjoy the warm sunshine.  

Every week, I’ll share a photo with you from my adventures around the world and at home.  Most of my photos have little or no post processing.  If you would like to see more, please click the Follow button.

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Trip Report: Portugal

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Portugal  is a small country nestled between Spain and the Atlantic Ocean at the westernmost point of continental Europe.  It was once a powerful seafaring kingdom that controlled many of the routes to Africa, South America, and Asia.  The home of world famous football player,  Cristiano Ronaldo, is filled with lush landscapes and striking scenery. Though not as well known as some of its neighbors, it is a country rich with culture, interesting architecture, and fairytale castles. The laid-back vibe combined with great food and cheap wine makes this a must-visit destination.   Here is the cost breakdown of our trip to Portugal to help you plan yours:

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  • Time Cost
    • Total Days In Portugal: 8 days + 1 layover day in London
    • Total Days Off From Work: 5 days
  • Monetary Cost
    • Hotel: $1100 + 8,000 Hilton Points + 7,000 SPG points
    • Flights: $815 pp +13,000 Avios
    • Transportation: $90 pp ($110 for car, $35 pp for train)
    • Admission fees: $80 pp
    • Food: $45 pp per day
    • Total Per Person: $1,800+ 4,000 Hilton Points + 3,500 SPG points + 6,500 Avios

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If you’ve been following along with our blog you’ll know that we usually try to maximize our travel days and minimize our costs.  This usually happens when we find a good flight deal with availability around the holidays.  This system has allowed us to travel more frequently to many amazing places around the world. Admittedly, this did not happen on this trip.  A series of mistakes cost us time, energy, and money in the form of unused hotel rooms and additional flights – read about our mishaps here. Even with all the disasters, our trip was very memorable for all the right reasons.

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There are a variety of things to do and see in Portugal, whatever your interests and tastes may be.  Visit the northern city of Porto and sample the famous port wine.  Zip over to Belem and indulge in the egg tarts.  Wander through picturesque castles hidden in the rolling hills of Sintra and feel like you’ve stepped into a Disney movie.  See the busy city from the rickety tram, and fall in love with the architecture of Lisbon.  Eat and drink until you are completely sated without breaking the bank.  To read more about our trip to Portugal, click on the links below:

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  • Read about all our rookie mistakes that we made on this trip
  • Alternative accommodation option with AirBnB

Porto

Lisbon

Sintra

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Check back next to read about our trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

AirBnB Review

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AirBnB is not new, in fact it’s been around since 2008.  We know people who have used the service and had glowing reviews; and others who did not fare as well (there are some horror stories).  In the past, we’ve always opted to stay at a Starwood hotel because our status gave us upgrades and other perks.  This year, however, that status has expired which was the perfect opportunity for us to venture out of our bubble and try something new. Continue reading

Exploring the Miradouros of Porto

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Porto – with its well worn buildings, colorful facades, and red rooftops that dot the hillside along the river Douro; is extremely photogenic whether you’re wandering through the streets or taking in the views from above.  There are many lookouts with different vantage points over Porto. These places are called miradouros in Portuguese and are usually high points with clear sights of popular landmarks amongst the sea of rooftops. These hilltop terraces are popular with locals and visitors for their panoramic views.  Here are a few of our favorite places for the perfect sweeping vista of the city: Continue reading

6 Things to Do in Porto

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Porto was love at first sight for me, and even spring showers did not make the city any less beautiful.  Everything from the lively riverfront, to the quirky street art, to the colorful azulejos made me smile.  I loved wandering down old alleyways and looking up at charming apartments that were just a little rundown.  I loved relaxing on the bench at Jardim do Palácio de Cristal, taking in the sunshine and the view.  I loved sitting in the rickety tram, watching seagulls soar over the Atlantic and breathing in the bracing ocean air. There are many things to do in Porto, most of which are free:

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Porto: Self Guided Walking Tour

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I have to admit, Porto was not high on my list of places to visit. I actually only came based on my sister’s recommendation, but in the end I couldn’t have been happier with that decision. I’ve  traveled to many cities around the world and indiscriminately loved them all, but there are few that hold on to my heart just a little bit longer, and Porto is one of them. It’s not flashy, but it doesn’t need to be and it exudes a quiet old-world charm and laid back vibe that some of the other cities lack.  

Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal, known for its Port wines. Portugal’s second-largest city comes with all the history and allure of Lisbon but minus the crowds, congestion, and price-gouging.   Not having gained the notoriety of other more well known European cities, it’s not as expensive as Paris or London, and it’s not as filled with tourists as Prague. 

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Eating in Porto

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A long drawn out dinner filled with good cheap wine and hearty food was our experience while eating in Porto, a city that is about so much more than port wine. The dining scene in Porto has evolved over the years to become the next food destination of Europe.  The unpretentious authentic northern Portuguese cuisine revolves around fresh local produce with delicacies such as francesinhas, sardinhas, and bacalhau taking center stage.  We had many memorable dishes from a cheesy, oozy sandwich to freshly grilled fish. Here are a few of the restaurants we’ve visited during our stay in Porto: Continue reading

Day 3: On the Road in Porto

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Porto is hilly, which means there are a lot of lookout points through the city.  This particular one was at the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.  On the left of the main park is a path that takes you down to these smaller gardens overlooking the Douro river and the Vila Nova de Gaia side. These secret gardens are pockets of serenity within the city, surrounded by flowers, large shaded trees, and amazing views.  Once in awhile you’ll hear a sharp cry, but don’t be disturbed, it’s just one of the peacocks signaling a mate.

Day 2: On the Road in Foz do Duoro

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On the second day we headed out to Foz do Douro and Matosinhos, small seaside towns just north of Porto.  It’s possible to walk there from the Porto city center by following the paved walkway that winds along the coastline, however it will take about 1-2 hours. On a nice day, you will find a lot of people out on the beach.  The aesthetic and layout of this place reminded me of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, which is not surprising since Brazil was settled by the Portuguese.

Day 1: On the Road in Porto

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We finally made it to Porto after a roundabout flight to London.  Having heard so much about this quiet city from my sister, I couldn’t wait to see it for myself and had high expectations. The city itself reminds me of a lot of other European cities, but the difference is that it’s laid back and not overrun with tourists.  I immediately fell in love with the rambling cobblestone streets lined with charming colorful apartments and their balconies filled with flowers.  The city is small and walk-able, a definite bonus.  Even with the rolling hills it was still easy to get around.  We spent the first day exploring the city and immersing ourselves in the local culture.  It doesn’t hurt that we are staying in an apartment instead of a hotel, making us feel even more like a local.