Portugal has been on my travel wish list for the last few years and my husband and I decided this was the place to celebrate both of our 40th Birthdays and take a proper trip away from children for some much needed R & R. Between the endless beaches, the tranquility of the countryside and the amazing food and wine in the cities - this felt like the year. I packed up my MARYSIA suits and cover-ups and took off on my journey! #borntovacay
We decided we wanted to tour the country by car and enjoy some great playlists and Patti Smith’s Just Kids along the drive. We landed in Lisbon and headed inland, straight to an amazing hotel called São Lourenço do Barrocal in the countryside of The Alentejo close to the border of Spain. The property was formerly an ancient small farming village, carefully restored into a luxury “farm retreat”.
This is a great place to take your family, there are lots of activities for kids like horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, treasure hunts and bikes to enjoy the property. In case mommies (or daddies) need a little break and R & R, there is a gorgeous spa that features Suzanne Kaufman products. I happily signed up for the Barrocal Signature treatment
The historic village of Monsaraz atop a medieval castle is a must see before leaving the Alentejo. We stopped by a couple artisan boutiques, including a somewhat famous Mizette, pictured below, who has been hand making rugs and blankets for 50 years. Although her boutique was quaint and frozen in time with a small chair where she held court and entertained clients. She produces the blankets and rugs sold in the rooms of most luxury hotels throughout the Country. At night, we tried the local Alentejo cuisine at a restaurant called Sabores de Monsaraz
The Grandmother was the chef, her daughter the waitress and the granddaughter busied herself in a playground down the terraced hillside and hosted any children that were dining at the restaurant. It was truly a family affair!
I heard mixed reviews about the Southern Algarve and decided to stop in for a night and spend a day beach hopping. We found the beaches were too crowded, a lot like laying down a yoga mat in a packed class.
We stayed at Casa Mãe, the chic hotel in Lagos, that had a mix of modern furnishings, a cute boutique, homemade oat milk matchas, and an organic farm supplying the restaurant with fresh produce.
The drive north along the west coast was awesome, but the highlight was our afternoon stop in Comporta for lunch and some shopping. I hope to check out this area more on our next trip back.
Lisbon was a lively, cultural city with lots to do. This was the most progressive city in Portugal with an emerging natural wine, organic food and craft coffee shops.First night into town we stopped at Prado for dinner, but ended up eating at their smaller and more casual wine bar and market, Prado Mercearia. The bar played Devo and The Cure and was filled with a young mix of locals and European tourists, with amazing charcuterie served by the finest Portuguese hipsters. We explored local beaches, wearing my Marysia Santa Barbara bikini and then tossing on a my Nantucket tunic for a bite and wine straight from the beach. I recommend checking out Belcanto for a fine dining experience and two natural wine bars that also serve food called Senhor Uva and Comida Independente.
Porto was an interesting metropolitan city, that felt like a European version of San Francisco. We stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast along the Duoro river and spent an afternoon checking out the local sites, which were a bit touristy for my taste, but we did wander into an amazing cafe called Ageda São Nicolau with a view of the river, where I thoroughly enjoyed oysters, an amazing stewed meat dish and fell in love with a refreshing local spritz called a Port & Tonic. It was my first, but definitely not my last before the trip was out. We missed checking out the Serralves Museum, which is on my list for the next visit.
In the evening we wandered around town, stopping at a boutique called A Vida Portuguese and another called NANANA for some local dishes, and housewares that our suitcases could barely hold.
At night we walked for sunset drinks at Base Porto, a rooftop outdoor bar, that was transformed into a park overlooking the city. One of the things I love most about this European nightlife is that it felt so ageless; an outdoor lounge that had everyone from college students and local hipsters to couples in their 70’s enjoying a night out.
On our way out of town the next day, we had my favorite meal of the entire trip at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova. It was a “Sea to Table” experience, with glass doors that opened to a rocky cliff and ocean view. We chose an 8 course tasting menu and each dish was delicious and artfully executed. With some great wine and seaside breeze, we barely noticed we were at a 3.5 hour lunch!
We ended the trip at a perfectly laid back and sun-swept hotel called Arieas de Seixo. There was nothing to do, but sunbathe, order my new found love, the Port & Tonic, and walk on the beach. We had lunch down by the beach, rented a palapa and ate fresh fruit popsicles and watched tourists take surf classes in the mellow waves. At night we enjoyed a glass of wine on hotel’s patio while we watched the sun set into the sea and planned our next trip back to Portugal in a few years, next time bringing the kids.