There are some very attractive destinations to visit in Portugal, so let us begin by naming four of them. There is Estoril, a coastal resort near Lisbon. Estoril was a popular destination for royalty who had been forcibly retired by their subjects. If former kings and queens decided to spend their exile in Estoril, it must have had something going for it.
Then there is Oporto in the north of Portugal, the city that port wine comes from. There are dozens of different companies in Oporto producing port wine, and even more opportunities to taste and compare their various blends.
Then there is the university city of Coimbra, midway between Lisbon and Oporto. Founded in 1290, at about the same time as Oxford and Cambridge, the university dominates the area. It has filled the city with medieval monuments and writers and artists, not to mention tens of thousands of students.
Finally, there is Lisbon itself, the capital of Portugal, sitting on the banks of the Tagus just where that river flows into the Atlantic. One of the largest cities in Europe at the time, it was almost entirely destroyed by earthquake in 1755 and 35,000 people were killed. Although there was a record of prior earthquakes in the area, what seems to have hit Lisbon then was a tsunami. At the time of this destruction, huge waves were hitting the coast as far south as Morocco and as far north as England and Ireland. Yet, Lisbon was the center of the devastation. It has since been beautifully rebuilt.
|Christo-Rei in Lisbon
With such glorious sights to see in Portugal, I hesitate to tell you where I always finished up. Certainly I did visit all the fine cities mentioned above but, on my trips to Portugal every August in the late 1960s, I would always head for the Algarve.
Click on video below for more information on the Algarve.
The Algarve is the southern region of Portugal, the coast of which faces across to Morocco. The name derives from the Arabic words, Al Gharb, which means “the west”. The area was conquered by the Moors in 711 AD and remained under their occupation for the next 500 years.
|Cape St. Vincent
|Prince Henry the Navigator
Long before those battles however, Prince Henry the Navigator was based at Cape St Vincent. In 1419, he built himself a fine villa there and had Daddy (King John I of Portugal) appoint him Governor of the Algarve. Now I have always admired how explorers of that time, based in Portugal, undertook risky voyages to open up the sea routes of the world. There were Magellan and Columbus and Vasco da Gama and many others. I always believed that Prince Henry the Navigator was part of that brave tradition. In fact, he never went to sea. He never even left Portugal. He arranged for others to take the risks and the hardships, while he kept the comfort and the glory. Even though, he was a good man who led a long and happy life, am I alone in feeling a little disappointed by Henry?
Click on video below for more information on Prince Henry and his accomplishments.
|Fishing boats in Monte Gordo
This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on April 21, 2009.