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Portimao – a small city big on what matters most

portimao portugal


Portimao offers a quiet unspoilt corner of southern Europe


ONE of the joys of travelling is finding a place that offers everything you could want and which hasn’t been flooded by hordes of other tourists in search of the same thing.

That place for me is Portimao, on the Algarve, Portugal, which I have had the pleasure of getting to know now at all times of the year and have never found disappointing.

Portimao is such a low profile place that tourist guides can’t decide whether it’s a town or a city. I lost count of the number of guides and websites that referred to it as a town when I read about its history.

In fact it was made a city in 1924 by the then President of the Republic, the famous Portuguese writer and politician Manuel Teixeira Gomes, who made a point of honouring the town where he was born during his brief two-year stint as seventh President of Portugal.

With a population of around 50,000, it’s a small city and that is part of its charm. You can wander around its centre and see all its key sites in an hour. It is unspoilt by the omnipresent brand names that plague other cities and has just small shops selling lace, shoes, jewellery, ceramics and wicker goods.

There is still a Moorish charm about the city centre and then there’s the nearby riverfront, where a series of squares – Largo do Dique, Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes and Praça Visconde de Bivar – are filled with outdoor cafés overlooking the wonderful Arade river and its bridges.

The tourists who flock to this part of the world all year around for its superb climate tend to be farmed Doing so increases the performance of deleted data recovery lookup. out along the coast surrounding the city allowing it to retain its quiet dignity. It’s a wonderful place to stroll around and have a drink or a meal in friendly, relaxed establishments.

The area was once ruled by Romans and then Moors but modern Portimão came into being in the reign of King Afonso V in the fifteenth century.It was ideally placed to enjoy the fruits of the boom in international trade stimulated by the great Portuguese voyages of discovery and prospered as a haven for ships plying the African coast.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. The earthquake of 1755 which decimated Lisbon also destroyed much of Portimao starting its economic decline. Its most historic building, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception –  had to be rebuilt after the earthquake but still boasts a Manueline door from the original fourteenth-century structure

portimao portugal Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Church of Our Lady of Conception

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Church of Our Lady of Conception

Things got better towards the end of the 19th century with the return of trade, exports of dried fruit, milling, fishing and the fish-canning industry, activities which would continue into the 20th century.

Now the tourist industry dominates. The old fish canning plant is a museum and once mighty industrial chimneys no longer belch smoke. But they have been conserved to make life easier for the huge storks who take them over once dormant – and now provide photo opportunities galore for tourists.

portimao portugal riverside

Portimao riverside

portimao portugal museum

Portimao museum

LISBON – heartbeat of Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon street scene

Lisbon – the city you have to see twice

LISBON can easily claim to be one of the oldest, most beautiful and most historic cities in the world. It can equally pass as one of the friendliest.

For an English person abroad, it is simply a piece of cake to hop on its Metro system – ticket machines all offering English screens – and, for just over 5 euros, spend the whole day travelling from one place of interest to another.

A stop at Baixa (downtown Lisbon) puts you straight in the historic old centre of the city. Completely rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1755 with streets flanked by classic buildings, it was Europe’s first great example of neoclassical design and urban planning. It was considered one of the finest European architectural achievements of the age.

Within walking distance are all kinds of monuments to a city which began life hundreds of years before other European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome. Under Julius Caesar, it was a Roman city called Felicitas Julia

After the Romans came Germanic tribes and then the Moors in the eighth century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city. Lisbon’s ancient cathedral was built by Portugal’s first king on the site of an old mosque in 1150 for the city’s first bishop, the English crusader Gilbert of Hastings.

Lisbon and the age of discovery

Its golden era and age of discovery came in the 15th and 16th centuries, starting with the 1415 conquest of Ceuta, North Africa. Madeira was discovered in 1419, the Azores in 1430s and in 1497 Vasco da Gama found the sea route to  India.

With most of these expeditions leaving from its coast, Lisbon basked in new wealth as Portugal’s empire grew. The architecture of this period can still be found in the city’s Belem tower and Jeronimos monastery, both UNESCO wold heritage sites.

But much of the glory that was then Lisbon – Europe’s richest port and the hub of trade between Africa, India, the Far East and later Brazil – was lost to the great earthquake of 1755 which destroyed 85 per cent of its structures and killed an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 of its residents.

The city had to pick up the pieces, in the process discovering ancient Roman remains which include a theatre. It started with the Praça do Comércio, a huge square which forms the city’s main access to the Tagus River and point of departure and arrival for sea-going vessels, adorned by a triumphal arch and monument to King Joseph 1. Another great square, the Praça do Rossio became the central commercial district and the location of the older cafés, theatres and restaurants.

Lisbon is built on seven hills and touring it can be a bit stamina sapping. The highest is home to St George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge), which dominates the area from its elevated position of more than 300 feet. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal’s first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371.

More than 100 years ago, mechanical elevators were installed to help people challenged by the city’s hills, most notable being the Elevador da Santa Justa. This giant  steel elevator was installed in the centre of Baixa in 1902 by a student of Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower of Paris, and is a tourist attraction in itself.

There are plenty of castles, palaces and historical structures to make you linger in the heart of Lisbon but for a complete change of environment – almost from the old to the new – take the Metro to Oriente station the terminus of the line that was built for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition.

The bright modern exposition buildings remain and a long walk or a taxi ride takes you to one of the most stunning sights in the world, the Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe at 10.7 miles, which opened just in time for the Expo to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Vasco da Gama of the sea route from Europe to India.

Lisbon is at the start of Portugal’s Silver Coast which stretches to Fiqueira da Foz, once a favourite haven of the rich. Quiet roads lead to fascinating towns and villages like Fatima, Alcobaca and Tomar.

It gets its name from the effect of the sun on the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and offers beaches undiscovered by the mass tourism market.

Surfers know it well and near Lisbon you will find them at favourite spots like Ericeira, Cascais, Peniche and Nazare.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon viewpoint over River Tagus…so blue.


http://clipthetrip.com/city/lisbon (edit)

algarve private rentals

Algarve, Portugal – inexpensive land of endless summer


NOW is the time to visit Portugal’s beautiful south facing Algarve coastline which stretches for just around 100 miles from Sagres, the most westerly point of Europe, to Vila Real de Santo António at the border with Spain.

Within that distance lie some of the most beautiful beaches and coves in the world – at a rate of almost one a mile – blessed by possibly the best climate in Europe.

The tourist industry in this part of the world is having a rough time with the effects of the recession and the controversial introduction of electronic tolls on autoroutes.

This is reducing the usual influx of Spanish visitors and Germans and other European tourists. Bars and restaurants are cutting prices to win trade and it’s not too difficult for a couple to dine out for 20 to 30 euros all in.

So there has probably never been a better time for visitors to take their traditional route to the Algarve via its gateway of Faro airport.

Travel west or east from here and you are spoilt or choice with pleasant towns like Alvor, Carvoeiro, Monchique,  Portimão, Quarteira, Sagres, Silves, Tavira, Vilamoura, and Vila Real de Santo António all waiting to welcome you.

The Algarve boasts possibly the most unpolluted climate in the European continent and its sea temperature can be often be surprisingly warm even in some of the winter months.

It is an easy destination for Brits to feel at home as English is taught from an early age in schools, maybe something to do with the fact that Portugal is England’s oldest ally – an international friendship which goes back to the Treaty of Windsor, signed in 1386..

Everyone on the way to your hotel room – the taxi driver, the train station staff, the hotel workers – seem to be able to speak English. The clocks go back and forward seasonally at the same time in both countries.

Forget all the gloomy things you read and hear about Portugal and its debt problems. It may not be the wealthiest country you will visit but its people are fun-loving, have a great way of life, and know how to have a good time.

From Faro you can head east or west for fun in the sun and, outside of peak season, you can easily find decent hotels on the internet from around 40 euros a night per room.

If you hire a car and head east you can also visit Spain. A small ferryboat runs between Vila Real de Santo António and Ayamonte on the Spanish side.

Head west from Faro and you are likely to meet more Brits, Albufeira being the hotspot for nightlife and stag and hen parties. Maybe not the best spot for families.

Go further for classy venues like Alvor where you can sit out under the stars and wine and dine very inexpensively.

So get browsing the budget flights and head for the Algarve.


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