Traveling without a car in Portugal – Day trips in the Sintra Natural Park

February 28th, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Guincho Beach High Tide

There is so much to tell you about the Sintra Natural Park, so tidbits about the rest of Portugal will just have to be on hold for a while.

About 70% of our guests at Colina Flora,  www.colinaflora.com  our  “green”,m vegetarian/vegan friendly guesthouse in the heart of the Sintra Natural Park, do not hire cars.  We  arrange for airport transport and then they walk, bike and use the excellent public bus which stops nearby.  Or we shuttle them.

A  favorite day trips is to Guicho Beach, and the 7 km or so flat coastal path  to Casa da Guia on the outskirts of Cascais.  Guincho is a wonderful large expanse of sandy beach very popular with surfers of all  kinds and walkers.  Mostly we shuttle our guests down to Casa da Guia where there is a free bike lending spot.  Guests usually hop on the bikes and ride along the beautiful coastal path, stopping at Boca do Inferno, an amazing cliff/rock formation, and heading to Guincho.  On a sunny day it wonderful to hang out at Guincho.  Stop for lunch and/or drinks at one of the bars and then head back and stroll about Casa da Guia   www.casadaguia.com  which is a former manor house and park with beautiful vistas of the coast line.  The Manor-house has been converted into shops and art galleries, cafes and restaurants: a creperie, a Swedish Restaurant, several  traditional Portuguese restaurants and interesting cafes.   Then continue to ride along the coastal path into the old city center of Cascais leave the bikes at a bike collection spot near the station, stroll about the lovely historic downtown area.  Have some great Gelato at Santini Gelati, considered by many to be the best ice-cream in Portugal.  And then hop on the 403 bus to Pe da Serra and the 5 minute walk to Colina Flora.

Guincho Beach

Sintra Naturpark, Portugal — Naturpur, Meer und Mehr

February 20th, 2012

Hallo Leute!!

“Naturpur, Meer und Mehr…

Sicht vom Wanderweg Richtug Strand von Adraga

” so hat ein Gast sein Urlaub im herrlichem Sintra Naturpark, Portugal beschrieben.  Das “Mehr” hat sich auf unser  “gruenes”, kleines aber feines, Landgasthaus bezogen www.colinaflora.com  das im Herzen von diesem tollem Park gelegen ist.

Der Naturpark hat circa 14,500 ha und eine vielfaletige Naturlandschaft.  Felsige Meeresklppen, wunderschoene, verlassene Straende, dichter Wald, Huegel und  Taeler mit seltener Flora und Fauna, tolle historische Bauten  und  reizende, urige Doerfer.  Wanderwege erstrecken sich durch den  ganzen Sintra Naturpark, sodass man tagelang wandern kann.  Dieser Park ist wahrlich ein Besuch wert.  Man kann wochenlang zu Fusse unterwegs sein und immer wieder etwas Neues entdecken.   www.parquesdasintra.pt

Radfahrer, aber auch Surfer, Kletterer, Tennisspieler, Golfer, Reiter, Segler usw. koennen sich im Sintra Naturpark  bestens amusieren.  www.visitportugal.com

Auch ist Portugal sehr preiswert.  Das Essen in den Restaurants die von den Einheimischen bescht werden ist gut und reichlich.  Die Leute sind freundlich und hilfsbereit.   

 

Traveling in Portugal for Vegans and Vegetarians

February 14th, 2012

Hello Everyone!

 The lovely romantic city of Sintra

Eventhough we have written about this before, our guests have suggested to stress the fact that Colina Flora www.colinaflora.com, a “green” country guesthouse in the beautiful Sintra Natural Park of Portugal is a haven for vegans and vegetarians.  We serve a good breakfast and upon request vegetarian and/or vegan dinners and we have a list of restaurants which cater to vegetarians.

Many of the guidebooks are still stating that it is difficult to travel as a vegetarian/vegan in Portugal.  We beg to differ.  More and more vegetarian Restaurants, Cafes, B&B´s and guesthouses are offering vegetarian/vegan choices.  There are also several vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes  in  Almocageme and Sintra and quite a selection in Lisbon.  Larger Cities such as Porto, Evora, Tavira, Lagos and Faro have a fine selection of choices for vegetarians/vegans. 

www.happycow.com is a good website to consult before/while traveling.  The site offers reviews of restaurants and places to stay which cater to vegetarians/vegans.

Yoga is becoming very popular in Portugal, and many retreat centers, especially in Lisbon and the Algarve, have recently been opened.  And it seems that Yoga encourages people to consider being, at least partially, vegetarian/vegan.  Check out yoga retreat possibilities at www.responsibletravel.com or www.theretreatcenter.com

Great Slow and Green Vacations in the Sintra Natural Park, Portugal

February 6th, 2012

Abano Beach along the coastal path from Cascais to Azoia

Hello Everyone,

As long time members of Slow Food www.slowfood.com,  we embrace the idea of being slow and green when it comes to traveling, too.  The idea of traveling “slow” is to experience and explore on foot or bike and appreciate what is unique and special to that area, meet the locals, delight in tradionals foods and customs, learn about the flora, fauna and wildlife, tread lightly and become a friend of your surroundings.

The vast and beautiful Sintra Natural Park which reaches from the awesome coastline near Cascais up into the magical forests to the romantic city of Sintra is a great area to retreat to for a slow, relaxing, inspiring vacation/holiday.  It is possible to walk, do bike and Segway tours, public transportation and  thereby slowly enjoy this circa 14, 500 ha (about 40,000 acres) nature preserve.  www.visitportugal.com .  This area of Portugal can easily be reached by train and bus from the wonderful city of Lisbon. www.parquesdesintra.pt

Colina Flora, www.colinaflora.com  a “green” country guesthouse located in the heart of the amazing Sintra Natural Park assists its guests in organizing a slow and relaxing  retreat in a mild sunny climate.  Walking and biking trails begin right at our front gates.  We have maps, walking sticks, lots of suggestions, good organic vegetarian/fish and vegan dinners upon request and a guest kitchen for those wishing to self-cater.  Yoga, massage, vegetarian cooking classes, de-stressing sessions, music/dance therapy are all available. 

Lots of sports: Golf, tennis, rockclimbing, surfing, riding are abailable year round besides the great walking and biking.

view from the coastla trail

 

Portugal – Waerme, Sonnenschein, Sport und Spass im Winter

February 6th, 2012

Liebe Leute!!

Wandern auf dem Kuestenpfad

Hoffentlich laesst die  jecke Kaeltewelle im Norden von Europa bald nach.  Eines der Hauptgruende fuer unsere Ansiedlung in der Sintra Gegend von Portugal war das schoene milde Klima.  Heute scheint die Sonne und wir haben 15 grad – doch viel angenehmer als -22 und mehr was gerade in Nordeuropa gemeldet wird.

Super ist auch, dass man das ganze Jahr lang alle moegliche Sportarten betreiben kann: Wandern, Fahrrad Touren (Mountainbiking), Klettern, Tennis, Golf (Portugal hat einige von den schoensten Golfplaetze Europas), Reiten, Surfen, Paragliding, Segway Touren, und natuerlich auch “Sightseeing”.  Und die Preise bis April fuer Uebernachtungen sind wirklich erschwinglich sei es im Hotel, Gaestehuas oder in einer Ferienwohnung.  Die Restaurants bleiben das ganze Jahr geoeffnet und man kann gut und preiswert Essen und es lohnt sich portuguesische Weine zu kosten.  www.visitportugal.com

Colina Flora hat Sondertariffe bis zum 31 Maerz   www.colinaflora.com

Sicht vom Wanderpfad ueberhalb von Praia AbanoStrand von Abano

Lisbon and surrounding area in GOOP´s “Go-Lisbon” guide

February 5th, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Lisbon, one of Europe´s greatest and  most wonderful cities and the Sintra Natural Park are mentioned in Gwyneth Paltrow´s fantastic and always interesting E-newsletter: Goop.  Her “Go-Lisbon Guide” is informative, a good read and our own Colina Flora (a “green” country guesthouse) is mentioned.  www.goop.com

Lisbon Guide

I became friends with Randy Poster when we did The Royal Tenenbaums together—I acted, he did the music supervision. Randy has parlayed his talent for discovering and appreciating music into a real job! (Selecting songs for films.) Many of the films he has worked on have become famous for their soundtracks, like Boardwalk Empire, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Darjeeling Limited. Randy and I further bonded when we worked on Country Strong together a couple of years ago, not only over music but over food and travel, our favourite hobbies. When he told me he was going to a film festival in Portugal (a country I have always wanted to go to but have not yet been to), I asked him to gather his recommendations so that I could plan a trip. And then I thought you might like to see them, too. He brought his old friend and muso George Drakoulias… And by all accounts the adventure was excellent. I can’t wait to get there myself.

Love,
gp

George and Randy’s Excellent Adventures in Lisbon

In November, I was invited by my friend Paulo Branco – world champion equestrian, prolific film producer and an eloquent character – to the Lisbon Estoril Film Festival.


That’s me at the Film Festival
This year’s festival includes a Wes Anderson retrospective as well as a screening of Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce (all films that I’ve worked on). Paulo invited me to introduce these films and talk about the music within each one.

I have always wanted to go to Portugal, so I enlisted my dear friend, inveterate traveler, and renowned record producer George Drakoulias, to be my consort. These are the details of our excellent adventure.

You might want to tune into Randall’s Fado-infused mix for some atmosphere while you read on.


“Fado Vianinha”
by Mariza

“Rebel Rebel”
by Seu Jorge

“Amor di Mundo”
by Cesaria Evora

Friday

We arrive safely in Lisbon after a nerve-wrecking flight on a twenty-seat prop plane from Porto. The great Paul Giammati was on the same flight, headed to the festival. In Lisbon, we’re greeted by film festival delegation and whisked away. Our driver, Artur (no ‘h’), asks if we want the fast or scenic route to our hotel. We opt for scenic.


Stop at Pastéis de Belém, which we later learn is the most famous bakery in all of Portugal. It is there that we are treated to our first pastel de nata, an incredibly delicious egg custard pastry that are made and sold at pastelarias throughout Portugal. We have what will be the first of countless bica, which is what you call a shot of espresso here in Portugal.

Pastéis de Belém
Rua de Belem, 84
1300-085, Lisbon
+351 213 637 423
www.pasteisdebelem.pt

Our hotel is beautiful. It’s the Grande Real Villa Italia in the town of Cascais. This villa was once the home of Umberto II, the last king of Italy, who was forced into exile after being king for only a month. He then lived in Cascais for 37 years. Set right on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s hard to imagine spending our time in dark rooms watching movies, but we will!

Grande Real Villa Italia - www.granderealvillaitaliahotel.com Grande Real Villa Italia
Rua Frei Nicolau de Oliviera, 100
2750 – 319, Cascais
+351 291 724 257
www.granderealvillaitaliahotel.com

The opening night at the film festival is a gala event. George and I meet festival jurors Don Dellilo and Luc Dardenne and take in the social sights. There is a dinner at the Estoril Casino, which is reputed to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, a gathering spot for espionage agents, dispossessed royals and adventurers. After dinner there is a screening of William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. I’m happy to see anything by Friedkin, who is feted here. His The French Connection is one of my favorite movies, and George’s, too.

Casino Estoril - www.casino-estoril.pt Casino Estoril
Praca José Teodoro dos Santos
2765-237, Estoril
+351 214 667 700
www.casino-estoril.pt

Saturday

George and I walk about and go for an early lunch overlooking the ocean at Mar Do Inferno, a seafood restaurant very popular with the locals. We feast on crab and at the waiter’s urging start drinking Vinho Verde, the young, ‘green’, Portuguese wine that people extol. We follow with bicas and move into the day renewed!


Here’s George at Mar do Inferno.

Mar Do Inferno - www.mardoinferno.guiadacidade.com Mar Do Inferno
Av Rei Humberto II de Italia
Boca do Inferno
2750-800 Cascais
+351 214 832 218
www.mardoinferno.guiadacidade.com

We head into Lisbon to show The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I’m excited to watch the movie with an audience that will understand Seu Jorge’s Portuguese versions of David Bowie songs!


A copy of The Life Aquatic translated into Portuguese.

A Q&A follows as young Portuguese film lovers grill me on all matters cinematic.



We have dinner in Lisbon with friends we’ve made the night before. Clams, tiny squid with garlic, and more crustaceans are served amoung other delicious food. After dinner we try and find a fado house. Fado is the traditional folk music of Portugal and is the matter of great debate among the Lisboans we meet. We discover a tiny restaurant that shuts its doors surreptitiously and presents the most sad and delirious music I have heard in a long time. Leaving and walking through the cobbled streets of old Lisbon, staring out at the stars above the ocean, the traditional fado (meaning fate) melodies ringing in our heads, we feel transported back in time…


Except we have been asked to do a late-night DJ set at Lux, what we are told is the most happening night club in Lisbon (owned in part by John Malkovich!?), so George and I make our way to the club armed with some music that we hope will translate on the dance floor.

We hit them with some LCD Soundsystem, some classic disco, a remix by our friend the great Jacques Renault, the Clash, Dr. Dre, Liquid Liquid, and a variety of beats that go bump in the night. Everyone seems to be having fun, including our dear Giammati, who joins us in the DJ booth…and our set draws to an end.

Lux - www.luxfragil.com Lux
Av. Infante D. Henrique
Armazém A
Cais da Pedra a Sta. Apolónia
1950-376, Lisbon
+351 21 882 08 90

We leave Lux after 5am, Portuguese kids still lined up at the door to get in! And, in search of late night sustenance, we find Restaurante A Merendeira where the specialties include a green soup (caldo verde) and fresh baked rolls filled with chorizo and cheese. “This Lisbon thing seems to be working,” George says.


A Merendeira
Avenida 24 de Julho 54G
1200 – 868, Lisbon
+351 213 972 726

Sunday


Weather is splendid and we connect with James Robb, father of our colleague, Gelya Robb. James is an American expat who has fallen in love with Portugal and he drives us around Sintra and the surrounding towns and villages. We hit all the scenic hot spots Guincho Beach, Cabo da Roca, Convento da Peninha, Adraga Beach, where we have a great lunch at the seaside restaurant.

James Robb sent us a few images of the sites they saw that day:


Monserrate Palace


Pena Palace


Finally as the sun begins to set, James takes us to the beautiful inn called Colina Flora that he and his wife founded up in the hills of Colares. A totally scenic and rare spot, founded on green (eco-friendly) principles, the inn is a unique retreat and a perfect destination for those seeking spiritual replenishment. Beautiful flowers and setting with heroic ocean views. We make a plan to come back next year to partake in the yoga classes and convince James and his wife Aasta to let us establish a film club for the inn’s guests.

Colina Flora - www.colinaflora.com Colina Flora
Quinta dos Moinhos Velhos
Pe Da Serra
2705-255 Colares
T +351 219 293 025
www.colinaflora.com

Flores de Cabo - www.floresdocabo.pt

Nearby, and highly recommended by Aasta and James, is Flores de Cabo, a gallery, vegetarian cooking spot, concert venue, and yoga retreat all in one.

Flores de Cabo
Pé de Serra
2705 – 255, Colares
+351 21 099 7066
www.floresdocabo.pt

Monday

My last day in Portugal. George plans to continue on to Spain in search of the world’s greatest beefsteak while I will head home to New York City. I introduce Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce which they are showing at the festival in tandem with Michael Curtiz’s original from 1945 with Joan Crawford. The crowd is somewhat sparse, but sympathetic to the film and we are pleased with the reception.

Olivier Restaurante - www.restaurante-olivier.com

We spend our last night in Lisbon and we try and make the most of it. Dinner at Olivier, a very chic restaurant we’d been hearing about. George befriends the hostess (Olivier’s sister) and we eat and drink our way through the menu with great stealth and enthusiasm.

Olivier Restaurante
Rua do Alecrim, nº 23
1200 – 014, Lisbon
+351 21 342 29 16
www.restaurante-olivier.com


Photo: Ruggero Poggianella

After dinner we stop and have a bica at Café a Brasileira, one of the oldest and most famous cafes in Lisbon. A bronze statue of the great Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa sits in front of the café.

Café a Brasileira
Rua Garrett 120
1200, Lisbon
+351 213 469 541

Clube de Fado - www.clube-de-fado.com

Finally we prowl the hills of Lisbon for one last dose of fado and come upon the likely named Clube de Fado, where we are treated to another gorgeous set of songs. Heartbreaking and inspiring. We vow to let ourselves sink into these mighty and beautiful waves of despair more often. We toast the night with a final glass of brandy and make our way back to the hotel (by taxi.)

Clube de Fado
Rua S. Joao de Praca, 86 – 94
1100 – 521, Lisbon
+351 218 582 704
www.clube-de-fado.com

Tuesday

Train strike means leaving very early for the airport. George meets me in the lobby for a tearful farewell. We promise to pursue more adventures together and to detail them for the great readers of goop.

Goop’s Lisboan friends recommend a few
must-see shops:

A Vida Portuguesa - www.avidaportuguesa.com

A Vida Portuguesa

This shop sells mostly classic Portuguese products – from kitchenware to toiletries, to stationary, to… detergent and floor wax (in colorful and graphic old-school packaging, of course). It’s the perfect spot to find a gift or a souvenir, and their gift boxes (random assortments of perfectly kitsch products) are hard to resist.

Rua Anchieta 11
1200-023 Lisboa
+351 213 465 073
www.avidaportuguesa.com

Luvaria Ulisses - www.luvariaulisses.com
Photo: Margarida Martins

Luvaria Ulisses

Founded in 1925, and still open and remarkably unchanged to this day, is this charming glove shop located in a beautiful old building in Chiado. Even if you’re not in the market for a lovely pair of leather gloves, the teany shop itself is worth visiting.

Rua do Carmo, 87-A
1200-093, Lisbon
+ 351 213420295
www.luvariaulisses.com

Luvaria Ulisses - www.luvariaulisses.com

A Arte da Terra

Authentic Portuguese crafts from hand-painted tiles to puppets set in a gorgeously renovated former stable that’s now a rustic showroom is one of the more unique places to shop for homeware, kids toys or gifts.

Rua Agusto Rosa, 40
1100-059
+351212745975
www.aartedaterra.pt

Luvaria Ulisses - www.luvariaulisses.com

Conserveira de Lisboa

Opened in the 1930’s and virtually unchanged ever since, Conserveira de Lisboa (Lisbon Cannery), sells mainly brightly-colored vintage tins of fish. Quirky as it is, its charm is undeniable, whatever your culinary proclivities may be.

Street of Bacalhoeiros, 34
1100-071 Lisboa
+351218864009
www.conserveiradelisboa.pt

 

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