A big factor in my relationship with Florence is our mutual love of travel. The drive to see as much of the world as we want to see is certainly a strong one. Some might even call it an addiction.
But there’s no rehab or neat little Traveller’s Anonymous meetings where it can be resolved. One simply has to keep moving until that bucket list becomes shorter and shorter.
This compulsion to extract as much as possible from the experience of living certainly can’t be regarded as a bad thing, though travelling as a couple can have its downsides too.
So far wanderlust has brought me to 51 different countries, while Florence has visited 50.
That one country I have been to but Florence hasn’t is Portugal. It’s just a minor detail but it’s one that I’ll occasionally indulge in a little good-natured teasing over.
Would be rude not too!
I absolutely loved it and, despite the fact that I constantly tease her about it, I think it’s a shame that Florence hasn’t had the chance to experience it yet.
That said; we plan to visit Spain in September and if we can get cheap flights to Portugal, it might just be the perfect opportunity to nip across the border and finally be on level pegging with the countries that we’ve visited.
Here are some of the things that I loved about Portugal that make me excited to return…
Portugal is as far as you can go west on the European continent. The coastline offers spectacular views of the Atlantic, less dramatic than in Ireland, but with considerably warmer weather.
The mountainous interior has protected the picturesque villages from too much modern expansion. Thus you’ll be treated to cobblestone streets, antique buildings, stone bridges, wonderfully preserved medieval castles, and beautifully designed gardens.
Even in the capital city of Lisbon, there are areas that look more or less unchanged since the days when Columbus strolled these streets.
Elsewhere you’ll find thoroughly modern architecture and infrastructure, but you’re always within an easy walk of something interesting to see.
Due to its position, size, and historic rivalry with Spain, Portugal had little choice but to become a nation of seafarers and explorers.
Their explorations into Africa, India, south-east Asia, and South America, and extensive coastline of Portugal itself have created a cuisine with a passion for seafood and spices.
There’s no fair way to describe it. You have to experience it.
When you visit a restaurant, keep an eye out for pratos do dia, which are the daily specials that are always good value and worth trying.
Wherever you find yourself in Portugal, you should be able to locate traditional Portuguese foods like Bacalhau à Brás, Bacalhau à Lagareiro, and Pastel de Nata (which is also really popular in Penang and Melaka).
In Lisbon, you’ll find excellent Portuguese, Moorish, and Brazilian food in Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, a cobblestoned plaza flanked by three-storey shophouses and outdoor cafés.
In Porto you can try Franceshina, a slightly bizarre burger style sandwich served with sauce made from beer and many closely guarded secret ingredients that can be unique to each vendor.
Also you shouldn’t leave Portugal without visiting Algarve to sample Tarte de Amendoa and Figos Cristalizados.
A local speciality that inspired the famous Nandos restaurant chain is Frango Piri Piri, and trying the original is an opportunity not to be missed.
Music and Nightlife
Portugal is a great place to party. There are festivals everywhere and just as the cuisine has evolved as a result of a wide variety of international influences, so too has the local music style.
In addition to traditional music, Brazilian music is very popular, and with Spain just next door, there are plenty of visiting musicians from Spain and various South American countries.
Nightlife is more extensive and varied in Lisbon and Porto, but in all but the smallest of aldeias, you should be able to find a place to get your groove on.
Returning to Portugal will be great…
But still not as great as experiencing it for the first time, which is why I almost can’t wait to give Florence her first taste of this amazing country, even if it means I’ll finally have to give up my bragging rights!