lunch in Lisbon

This week’s guests Dan and Linda spent some time exploring the north of Portugal last year and had a great time in Porto and the Douro region before heading south to Lisbon and Sintra. Read on for their tips for food, drink and accommodation and the highlights of their trip.

Can you tell us a little about yourselves, please?

We’re Dan and Linda Bibb, a couple of 50-somethings who left America in 2010.  We originally left so Dan could do some consulting work in Bali.  We were there for four months and then moved to Panama, where we’re currently based. We are foodies who like to travel, so we have created a photo-travel blog to inspire other people who would like to see the world, too.

 When did you last visit / travel in Portugal and how long did you stay?

We were in Portugal in September, 2012, and stayed for 10 days.  It was our first visit to the country.

 Did you come for business, pleasure or something else?

That’s a hard question to answer.  We treat our blog as a business but we enjoy travelling so much that it’s a pleasure.  We chose Portugal as a destination because we wanted to attend the Travel Bloggers Unite conference that was being held in Porto.

Bridge in Porto
Bridge in Porto. Photo by Dan Bibb, As We Saw It

How did you get here?

Only KLM and Iberia offer nonstop flights to Europe from Panama City. This time we flew to Lisbon via Amsterdam (KLM).

Whereabouts did you stay?

Because of our conference we spent most of our time in Porto and northern Portugal. Once it was over, we took a train south so we could spend a few days exploring Lisbon and Sintra.

And what sort of accommodation did you have? How was it?

We stayed at a variety of places – hotels, pousadas, and rooms through Airbnb. The pousadas were fabulous and, with all their character, definitely our favorites.

How did you get around while you were here?

It was easy to take Portugal’s fabulous train system between Lisbon and Porto. It’s a very pedestrian-friendly country, though.  When we were in the cities we walked almost everywhere until our feet got tired, and then we took trams.  And besides that, we also were able to take a boat up the Douro.

What research, if any, did you do before your trip?

Because we like to feature our travel photography we studied photos of the areas we were visiting to see what looked interesting. We also focus on food so we read up about the local dishes and wines.

Where did you find the most useful information?

Travel blogs, Google images, and VisitPortugal.com.

What were you most looking forward to doing or seeing in Portugal?

Going to a fado bar in Lisbon was definitely on our list, as was visiting the Douro wine region. We always make it a point to sample the local cuisine, so in the food area we were especially looking forward to trying a variety of bacalhão (cod fish) dishes, vinho verde (young wine) and Ginja (cherry liqueur).

Of the places you visited, which would you recommend to other travellers and why?

The entire northern area of Portugal is underrated. We would recommend Porto and the Douro wine region. Further south, there’s Sintra, which we loved so much that we’d even consider living there. Not only is it beautiful but the climate and people are very pleasant.  All three are UNESCO world heritage sites, by the way.

Sintra Pena Palace at night
Sintra Pena Palace. Photo by Dan Bibb, As We Saw It

Is there anywhere you think people should avoid?

None that we know of.

Did you pick up any practical or money-saving tips for travelling in Portugal that you could share with us?

Portugal offers so many different choices that you can be as extravagant or as budget-conscious as you want.  Try the small local restaurants on the side streets instead of the big ones on the main drag; the food is often better priced and more tasty.

Also, don’t miss staying at a Portuguese pousada. Portugal has been blessed with many historical buildings that are now absolutely beautiful hotels. These hotels are now part of a chain, and the prices are far more affordable than you might think. They even have a “passport” that gives a discount for multiple stays.

Is there anywhere or anything that was a letdown? Why?

There’s a lot in Porto that we didn’t have time for, but the biggest let down was not having enough time to sample the ports over in Gaia.

What about the food – did you try any local dishes? Any you’d recommend?

We’re total foodies so we always try the local cuisine, beers and wines.  Our first dinner in Portugal was at a bacalhão restaurant. It’s amazing how many ways people can prepare dried cod, and how different they all taste! In our opinion, you’d miss out on a huge part of the Portuguese culture if you didn’t try their national dish at least once.

We also highly recommend grilled sardines which, thank God, are nothing like those things that come in a can.  Also, anyone who drinks alcohol should try Ginja, port and vinho verde. Actually, all the Portuguese wines we had were exceptional.

Did you buy any souvenirs? What / Why not?

We only travel with one carry-on each. We almost bought a bottle of Ginja anyway, but there wasn’t enough room for it.

Could sum up your experience of Portugal in a sentence, please?

Portugal is one of the most underrated and affordable destinations in Europe; we would live there if we could.

What would you do differently if you could do this trip over?

We’d spend more time in the smaller towns like Guimarães, and less in the larger cities. And we’d have visited a port cellar on our first day in Porto.

Would you like to come back to Portugal? If the answer’s yes, where in particular?

We’d like to see the places we weren’t able to visit this time around. Tops on our list are the Azores, the Algarve and the eastern part along the border with Spain.

Blogger Bio: As We Saw It is the visual travel blog where food, travel and culture meet. With inspiring photos and stories of places to go and things to see, we show you how to enjoy it yourself. Eat. See. Travel.

You can also connect with Linda and Dan on Facebook or Twitter: @aswesawit

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