Archive for the ‘Beaches’ Category

Retreat Style Vacations

Wednesday, 27 October 2010, WET

Iberian Nasturtiums

We have been so very busy transforming our quirky, hilltop house into a   wonderful refuge for retreat style vacations.  The blog posts have been neglected.

If you are seeking an alternative to typically crowded tourist spots, or you  desire a relaxing get-away vacation, then consider Colina Flora, our soon-to-open “green” B&B at the edge of the Sintra Natural Park in Portugal – an ideal retreat just 5 minutes from wonderful beaches, quaint hillside villages, and the protected forest of this national conservation area, 40 minutes northwest of Lisbon. Portugal’s mild climate offers hikers/trekkers and bicycle enthusiasts wonderful trails/routes even during the winter months. And all types of surfers (kite, sail, etc) ride the exceptional waves here 12 months of the year.

Right out of our front gate one can take a scenic, but not strenuous, 8 kilometer bicycle tour along a quiet rural road through the protected forest, past huge moss-covered boulders and breathtaking vistas. Or one can hike from our back gate for 45 minutes through the woods to one of the best scenic views in the area at the former Peninha Convent overlooking the Atlantic Ocean below.

View of Ocean from Peninha

The historic town of Sintra (just 8 km by car) boasts several spectacular palaces and castles including Pena Palace said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland castle. It dates back to the 19th century and is a whimsical mix of architectural styles. King Ferdinand filled the royal grounds with oddities from around the world as a summer playground for his wife Queen Maria II. The historic center of the magical city of Sintra offers many other wondrous sites, convivial restaurants and cafes, interesting shops and museums, a world-class cultural center and lovely expansive gardens in which to roam.

A year round equestrian center has been refurbished and recently reopened in Sintra for those wanting to ride by the hour or take guided tours of the “Serra” (ridge of mountains) on horseback.

Portuguese Wind Turbine

After 10 months of reconnoitering our adopted homeland, Portugal still enthralls us. And for such a tiny country, Portugal has in the past been, and currently is, a model – a forerunner: By early 2011, Portugal will be the first in the world to have an electric car EV charging network throughout the country. There are special perks to purchase electric cars and for installing solar panels which sell electricity back to the grid. Currently Portugal produces 23% of its electricity via wind power and solar power, the most of any European country. And Portugal´s island of Madeira is the first area of Europe to be officially GMO free.

Colina Flora is being beautifully, sustainably refurbished into a comfortable country house and will begin receiving guests Christmas 2010. Please email us for further information or for available dates, amenities, and winter specials. Our room prices range from 69 € – 99 € per night which include sumptuous 100% organic breakfasts and afternoon tea.

Stay well, go slow and be “green.”

Beaches in the Sintra Area

Tuesday, 06 July 2010, WET

Portugal charms travelers with its easy manner of mingling century old traditions with modern amenities and its friendly people. This is a land steeped in many tiers of diversity and stark contrasts. There are also dramatic changes in landscape and climate within this small, westernmost country of continental Europe with over 1,000 kilometers of wonderful coastline.

We have chosen to settle in the region of Sintra because of its mild climate, verdant hills, amazing cliffs , many pristine beaches, its proximity to Lisbon and because it also offers many cultural activities.

Spectacular Coastline at Azenhas do Mar, beach accessible down a rugged trail

Several of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches are in the Sintra region. Each unique and worth exploring. Our favorites are:

Adraga beach is a majestic smaller beach, surrounded by craggy cliffs and flower-decked green hillsides. It is below the picturesque village of Almoçageme. A great restaurant flanks the beach. Their fish specialties are praised throughout the area and the lively outdoor bar draws folks who love to linger late into the evening enjoying the fine regional wines and spirits while being serenaded by the pounding of the surf. Behind some large boulders is a secluded area for those wanting to sun-bathe in the buff.

The beach at Adraga, at dusk

The amazing vast Guincho beach near Cascais is a 15-minute drive from Adraga along a breathtaking serpentine coastal road. Guincho is a beach paradise for swimmers, surfers, and sun-lovers. We go there several times a week at sunset to walk along the shore. There are several cafes and restaurants and hiking trails right above the beach.

The municipality of Cascais offers free daily bicycles enabling day trippers to pedal along the gorgeous 7-kilometer flat coastal bike path to Guincho beach, or 2 km in the other direction to Cascais proper with its many shops and restaurants.

The lovely Praia Grande, Praia Pequena, Praia das Maçãs, and other beaches are a few minutes drive north of Adraga beach and can also be accessed along the coastal walking path. Praia das Maçãs borders a village which hosts several good restaurants, bars, internet cafes, shops and tennis courts.

The larger beaches, such as Guincho, have life guards, sun umbrellas, lounge chairs, and surfboards to rent and usually cafes, bars and restaurants are close by. Guincho also has a surfing school. We see surfers riding the waves year round and several major surfing competitions have been held there.

Several secluded white sandy beaches can only be reached on foot and offer respite from summer crowds.

Praia da Ursa is below Ulgueira, reached by wandering for 10 minutes down a steep trail. It is absolutely splendid and mostly devoid of fellow humans. The Portuguese love their beaches which are well maintained and very clean. July through September is major beach time, but hardy folks swim all year round.

Coastal hiking trails connect these beaches and lead into quaint villages and to paths into the forest of the vast Sintra National Park. Avid walkers can spend days wandering through these magical woods, marveling at the panoramic views and diverse flora and fauna, and visiting the many interesting historical sites.

Amidst all this beauty, and after months of searching, we have found a wonderful site for Quinta Colina Flora, our elegant “green” Bed & Breakfast! We are currently negotiating with the seller for a beautiful, secluded property set in lush green wooded hills overlooking the ocean. We hope to open by Christmas 2010 with three of the five planned guest rooms ready for occupancy.

We will pamper our guests with tasteful, casually elegant, large sunny rooms (each with private bath), sumptuous organic breakfasts, luncheon picnic baskets, afternoon tea by the swimming pool, and delicious dinners served with local wines.

This property is located is only a few minutes from Adraga Beach in the tiny hamlet of Pé da Serra. Many days worth of wonderful hiking lie outside the front gate of this property. The spectacular historic city of Sintra, a UN World Heritage site, with its many castles, museums and summer music/theater festivals is just a 10-minute drive, and the very agreeable city of Lisbon only a 40-minute drive. Due to the mild, temperate climate, this part of Portugal is a great four-season vacation destination.