Just back from… Portugal and Spain

by on 08/08/16 at 9:29 am

Joe Sintra

Who wouldn’t feel like the king of the world with a view like that? © Joe Davis

Joe Davis, Online Marketing Coordinator at Lonely Planet, is just back from a flash road trip through Portugal and Spain.

Tell us more… I spent a weekend in Lisbon before driving 800 miles down the west coast of Portugal, through the Algarve to Seville and back. While in Lisbon I was staying in a huge converted wine warehouse that is now an artist’s commune called GRILO, where we lived alongside a dog (of the same name), chickens and people from all over the world. It was all very makeshift – I like to think of it as indoor camping.

Defining moment? Walking up on to the roof of our hostel to spend an evening overlooking the amazing architecture of Seville. I’d been driving all day, navigating the cobbled streets in the middle of the city that were certainly not paved with cars in mind, so to relax with a pint of sangria (it was happy hour) in 30°C heat by the pool was well deserved.

joe Seville

Not a bad spot to relax after a long day’s drive © Joe Davis

Good grub? The custard tarts in Lisbon are delicious and only cost one euro each – it’s safe to say I consumed too many. The best meal of the trip was a fresh tuna steak with coconut sweet potato in Sagres. I also tried an authentic Portuguese meal in Lisbon, in a restaurant we found down a back alley – the menu was written in Portuguese in gel pen on a piece of card, but the gamble paid off.

You’d be a muppet to miss… The Palácio Nacional da Pena. The king who built this glorious mish-mash of architecture was inspired by iconic buildings from around the globe. The result is a breathtaking palace perched high above the trees, it was like something out of a fairy tale. I would recommend spending more than a day exploring this fantasy-land.

Joe Sintra 1

The colourful turrets and ramparts of the Palácio Nacional da Pena © Joe Davis

Get any souvenirs? I like to collect beer bottle caps and postcards to document where I have been, but you only really have two choices of beer wherever you go in Portugal – Sagres or Superbock. Unfortunately my bag was too small to cram in some custard tarts as well.

Fav activity? While in Lisbon you have to hop on the iconic number 28 tram. It was great fun rattling through the tangled streets of Alfama and narrowly missing startled pedestrians. You have to fight for a space, but it’s worth it.

Joe tram

No trip to Lisbon is complete without a ride on the number 28 tram © Joe Davis

Bizarre encounter? Encountering cowboys on horseback and dingy saloon bars in the region known as the ‘Wild West of Spain’, El Rocío. I’ll never forget the road disappearing under layers of white sand as I drove into landscapes that felt almost biblical. In stark contrast, El Rocio is situated on the edge of the marshes of the Doñana National Park, with just a boardwalk separating the sand and (often flamingo-filled) vast wetland.

If you do one thing go to… Seville. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a spontaneous visit (we decided the night before), but I fell in love with the place. It’s everything you could want from a city – tropical parks, historic architecture and maze-like streets. We got lost down the colourful cobbled alleys with the promise of quiet, hidden, cafe-lined squares at every turn.

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