Postcards From Portugal!

Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon, Portugal
Rua Augusta Arch, Lisbon

We aren’t exactly starved for sun in India. But there is something about the light in Portugal, in Lisbon in particular, that I am missing deeply as I write this from our airport hotel in cold, gloomy Frankfurt.

I am in love with Portugal. It is beautiful in a melancholic sort of way. To me its allure lies in its imperfections. The tired ode to an extraordinary history that once stretched all the way to the small town I grew up in. Mangalore, tucked midway between Goa and Calicut: Vasco da Gama’s first port of call on the Malabar coast. Street names echo surnames of some of my oldest friends. Albuquerque, Lobo, Fernandes, Pinto. No one here is familiar with Mangalore however, although everyone knows Goa. Even Diu!

There is much to love in this tiny strip of a country even without the allure of the familiar. First off, its warm, friendly, unpretentious people. The artful floor mosaics on pedestrian streets. The profusion of blue and white Azulejo tiles borrowed from the moors. The trams!

The quaint old shopfronts and antique bookshops around every corner. Lavish Manueline architecture rubbing shoulders with street art. The breathtaking monasteries that are UNESCO certified for good reason. The mournful strains of Fado streaming into our Coimbra apartment in the shadow of a 12th century Moorish tower.

We barely scratched the surface of what Lonely Planet terms Portugal’s ‘cinematic scenery’ in our four days in the Azores and on a day trip to the Douro valley. Another day trip to Braga (from Porto) has me determined to return on a road trip to exclusively explore the enchanting smaller towns someday.

Then there is the freshest of fresh seafood. And great coffee. All cheaper than anywhere else in Europe. The pastel de natas and the port were both far too sweet for our tastes. As were most egg based pastries and desserts. But a concoction of port and tonic (termed Portonic by Lisbon restaurants) smothered with ice and topped with slices of lemon was a delightfully refreshing discovery.

Most of all, I fell in love with the views. Marvellous perspectives every which way we looked in every city we visited. I doubt there is another capital city – barring Rio – that boasts more stunning views than Lisbon.

My only regret? Not having been able to time our visit around (Restless) Jo’s. It was lovely however to be able to catch up with Malaysian travel blogger friend Kathleen, in Porto.

Stay tuned for more posts from Portugal (and Belgium!).

View from São Jorge Castle, Lisbon
Vista – São Jorge Castle, Lisbon
Lisbon Tram
Alfama street scene
Old Bookshop, Lisbon
Atmospheric bookshop full of fascinating etchings and lithographs in Chiado, Lisbon.
Lion fountains and Carmo Church in Porto
Fonte dos Leões and the Igreja do Carmo, Porto
Looking towards Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia
View from Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto)
Azulejo Tiles in Sao Bento Station
Azulejo tile work in the vestibule of the Sao Bento Station in Porto.
Seafood in Matasinhos, Porto
Amazing grilled seafood in Matasinhos, Porto
Douro Valley, Portugal
Pinhao, Douro Valley
University Of Coimbra, Portugal
Portugal’s oldest and most important university in Coimbra
Basilica of Bom Jesus in Braga
Baroque stairway to the Basílica do Bom Jesus, Braga
Cloisters, monastery of Batalha, Portugal
Unabashed Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) detailing in the magnificent Monastery of Batalha
Lagoa Verde, Sao Miguel, Azores.
Lagoa Verde, part of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

81 thoughts on “Postcards From Portugal!

  1. You may have singlehandedly convinced me to return to Portugal with this post! I was there so long ago, during a period lived in Madrid, and at the time, I thought of Portugal as the poor cousin and did not appreciate or even take advantage of her many charms. I liked the connection between the country and your hometown (and the names!) – very interesting! And I learned a new word – Manueline – pretty word and pretty style!

    1. You must return Lex. We whizzed past Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais and Fatima on a whirlwind escorted tour over a decade ago and were surprised by how much we enjoyed the country this time round. Manueline was new to me as well, have some more stunning examples coming up 🙂

  2. Oh Madhu such beautiful photographs! And your writing shows your obvious love of Portugal. Don and I have longed to go there. It’s high on our list and this post just confirms again that it should be.

    1. Thank you very much Alison. Yes, Portugal is now on par with France and Spain, my two favourite European destinations. For such a small country it has an mazing variety of things to see and do. Have no doubt Ron and you would love it as well.

  3. Portugal is beguiling and its people, open, warm and genuinely pleased to meet visitors…lets hope tourism doesn’t swamp its peace and kindness…

  4. These are simply awe-inspiring, Madu, and if I never have the chance to visit there, I will at least have traveled there through your narrative and photography. Thank you! Hugs, Lauren

  5. It’s very nice postcards!
    In Indonesia, Portugal is not a favourite destination for euro trip. But I guess it’s just because we don’t hear many story about it. Personally, this country become my top wishlist after southern Spain.

  6. Love this post, Madhu! It brings back great recent memories and perfectly sums up all there is to love about Portugal. Thanks for the inspiration to finish writing the Portugal posts I haven’t yet gotten to!

      1. When we travel internationally, we try to stay as long as possible, to extend our travel budget, if you will. I look forward to learning more about Portugal.

  7. I’ve just returned from a week-long trip Down Under, but your photos and description of Portugal make me want to pack the bags and fly again! Despite the past, and often turbulent, connections between Indonesia and Portugal (as recent as the 1970s when Indonesia annexed the then Portuguese colony of East Timor), the European country is off the radar of most Indonesians I know. In my case, my curiosity toward Portugal started to grow after my trips to Macau and Timor-Leste. Visiting Goa and Malacca two years ago further emboldened my wish to explore the Iberian nation one day. Looking forward to more posts on Portugal (and Belgium), Madhu!

    1. Portugal isn’t all that popular here as well Bama. One reason might be fewer flight connections (which is undoubtedly related to lesser demand!), but there is a general perception of Portugal as ‘poor’! We laugh when we hear that from fellow Indians 🙂 I have a huge backlog of travelogues to finish. Trying to maintain a semblance of a schedule with quick photo posts. Should be able to get down to writing by next week. Thanks Bama.

  8. Hi Madhu, what a lovely introduction to Portugal 🙂 And thank you for mentioning me in your post! I have yet to start writing about my experiences in Portugal but am hoping not to delay too long especially with India trip coming up. Am looking forward to read your next Portugal post 🙂

    1. Thank you Kathleen. You have been travelling non stop since we last met! Looking forward to catching up with you again on my home turf 🙂

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