So our travels were over. We had not had a train journey holiday since 2013 in Puglia in the south of Italy so it was good to get back on the tracks!
We flew into Lisbon and spent four days in the capital city, it was oppressively hot but we enjoyed it all the same.
If I was to do anything different I would have visited Belém rather than Sintra. Sintra is just too commercial and touristy.
After Lisbon we headed north out of the city to our next stop at the city of Tomar. Here is a top tip, buy train tickets in advance because at peak times it is a nightmare using the automated machines and you have to allow at least thirty minutes to shuffle tediously along the line.
Apart from the ticketing system the trains in Portugal are punctual and efficient and our planned itinerary was a complete success.
If you are planning travels through Portugal be sure not to miss out Tomar and maybe find some time for the nearby pilgrimage site of Fatima but that is a bit difficult without a car.
After Tomar the train took us to Coimbra, maybe the third largest city in Portugal or maybe not (Braga also makes this claim). A good place to visit, two or three days is just about right.
And then to the city of Ovar and the nearby seaside resort of Furadouro. Ovar is not really on the main tourist trail but it certainly gets my recommendation for a visit especially if you are lucky enough to bag a place on the Ceramic Trail Tour.
Next to Portugal’s second city Porto which is a must visit city on a holiday such as this except that we had been there twice before so it felt as though we were just going over old ground. We wished instead that we had stayed in Aveiro as an alternative stopover.
If you are tempted to do this journey then be sure to do them both!
Leaving Porto we took the train to our final destination at Vila do Conde from where we hired a car and visited the cities of Guimarães and Braga, two more must visit places.
We had a wonderful time in Portugal and would certainly do it again. Not my first visit and almost certainly not my last. I went to the Algarve in 1986, 1987 and 1994 which is a long time ago so I really need to go back. In 2009 I visited Northern Portugal and fell in love with the people, the towns, the beaches and the food. If there is anything like a certainty in life then I will return to Portugal.
On the final morning we woke early and prepared to leave Vila do Conde. We risked indigestion and snatched a hasty breakfast and then made our way to the metro station for the final time and took the tram to the Airport. Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport is just outside of the city. Interestingly, Francisco de Sá Carneiro was for a short time the Prime Minister of Portugal in 1980 and some people have questioned the appropriateness of naming an airport after someone who died in a plane crash!
Anyway, we didn’t concern ourselves with that, just wasted away the waiting time and reflected fondly on our very successful 2017 visit to Portugal.
My next few posts will be a return to the island of Malta…