Ker & Downey’s Katy Heerssen traveled to Portugal in November and spent some time in Lisbon with a short jaunt to the Alentejo region. Despite some rain and fog during her trip, she was able to see some of Lisbon’s most colorful sites and surrounding areas, including the whimsical town of Sintra.
She shares some of her top highlights from her trip below.
Where were you? Lisbon and the Alentejo region of Portugal in November 2018.
What was a highlight of the trip? In Lisbon, I walked with Nuno, a local guide who knew all of the shortcuts up to the walls of Castelo de S. Jorge and all the way back down through the maze of Alfama. It started as a foggy morning and as we went, more and more of the colorful city was revealed beneath the clouds. Each viewpoint was a new angle, the Tagus and the white dome of the National Pantheon keeping us oriented as we explored. Tiled facades and bright splashes of paint kept me intrigued, and as the sun came out, the whole city gleamed.
Favorite Activity? I spent a morning at Joao Portugal Ramos Winery, getting a peek behind the scenes at the harvesting, bottling, blending, and aging process. Joao Portugal Ramos still processes its grapes the old-fashioned way… by foot! During the fall harvest, visitors can suit up and climb into the massive vats to stomp. With the help of a set of funnels and breakers I also tried blending, tasting, and bottling wines – it was arguably the best kind of grown-up science experiment. I was further sated by a hearty lunch served family-style in the cozy dining room… alongside more wine, of course.
Don’t miss… The Forte da Graça near Elvas is worth the trip. Complete with murder holes, a dry moat, and massive openings that once housed shrapnel-firing cannons, it was never fully breached by intruding armies. It’s also a UNESCO-listed monument, officially named the Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications, and is surrounded by a lot of history. From the Governor’s House at the top of the complex you have a panoramic view of additional fortifications, an aqueduct, secluded monasteries, and indeed all the way into Spain. I couldn’t get enough of its spooky corners and fascinating design, and I was there for hours without seeing any other tourists.
Anything else you want to add? Alentejo is home to the Alqueva Dark Sky Route, an area that is quickly becoming known for its excellent stargazing. Thanks to low light pollution and favorable atmospheric conditions, the universe’s far-away clusters, galaxies, and nebulas are easier to point out in the night sky in Alentejo. Even while I was in Marvao, to the north of the darkest parts of the Dark Sky Route, the stars twinkled like magic in the crisp night air.
Contact your Ker & Downey designer to start planning your customized journey to Portugal in November or any other time of the year.