Portugal is a beautiful country, and even though we only had a few days there, I knew I wanted to see more than just Lisbon. Some google searches led me to a company called We Hate Tourism Tours. With a name like that, it's gotta be really good or really, really bad. But we decided to take a chance and booked their X-day tour which allows you to see the areas surrounding Lisbon and soak up some Portuguese culture.
We were picked up bright and early by the most enthusiastic guide I've ever met driving a bright yellow van. Our group was a mix from all over the world, ranging from college kids on summer break to an Indian art dealer. We all got along well and started off for our first stop, Sintra.
written on the inside of our van...confidence inspiring, no? :)
Sintra is a small, romantic town outside of Lisbon located in a micro climate. As we drove in, we noticed it was very lush and green (Portuguese explorers brought back many exotic plants) and the whole city was covered in a thick fog. You couldn't see much of the sites, but it gave it a mysterious feeling that was pretty cool.
First order of business was sampling the queijada, a local pastry made with cheese, eggs, milk, and sugar. Oh man was it good! Riding our sugar high, we set off to explore the city center.
it's the treat on the left, we had nearly devoured it before I thought of the dear readers of blogland :)
We roamed around Sintra for a little bit, but since a huge Jehovah's Witness convention was in town (seriously), we escaped the tourist hoards and headed for Quinta da Regaleira, a garden/castle/millionaire's fairytale playground. Fionn and I spent an hour like little kids, exploring the caves, waterfalls, castle, and hidden pathways. The fog added to the ambiance!
As we walked around, we came upon a cave. It wasn't very well lit, but according to the map it was an underground passage, so we decided to go for it, ending up at the base of a really tall tower (which of course we had to climb).
We took a separate cave tunnel in the opposite direction, and ended up in a grotto!
From there, we took a quick look around the castle before heading back to meet up with our guide.
Once regrouped, the next order of business was lunch! Our guide drove us to a little picnic area and laid out a spread of Portuguese red wine, bread, chorizo, local cheese, and olives. He kept our wine glasses full and soon we were all chatting like old friends (it didn't hurt that everyone was really nice...and the wine was good).
Picnic on wheels
We all piled back in the van, chatting away, and made our next stop in Cabo Da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe and what was once considered the edge of the world. The view was incredible.
From there we visited Guincho beach (too chilly for swimming!)
As we made our way back to Lisbon we stopped in Cascais for what our guide called "the best ice cream in Portugal" and a quick look at this cute little seaside town.
Raspberry and coconut..it was pretty good...
Final stop was in Belem, where we checked out the tower of Belem, the Portuguese Exploration Monument, and caught some pretty awesome views of Lisbon.
Finding Georgia on the map of Portugal's explorations
From there we walked across to the Jeronimos Monastery before getting our final surprise from We Hate Tourism Tours...
Grave of Vasco de Gama, famed Portuguese explorer
As we exited the Monastery, our guide was waiting with a Pastel de Belem, the famous custard tarts from this area. They were pretty dang good.
With that, we ended the tour, said goodbye to new friends, and headed back to pack up before our flight back to Germany the next morning. I was so blown away by Portugal after only a few days there that I was really sad we had to head home already. I think it's going on our "would return again" list!
This was such an awesome way to end our trip to Portugal. The guys running this company are really fun and you can tell how much they love their city and want to share it. It wasn't a traditional guided tour, but if you want to have fun, see a lot, and feel like you're traveling with a friend instead of a tour guide I'd check them out. And no, they didn't pay me to say that, I just like to give credit where credit is due ;)
You can check out We Hate Tourism Tours if you're planning a trip to Portugal anytime soon!
So, that wraps up our epic summer vacation! What did you think? Are you inspired to check them out?
Don't worry, this isn't the end of our travels...you know Fionn and I can't stay put for very long ;)