Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition

After fourteen days of intense travels through Portugal, I’ve decided to give an overview of the spots I enjoyed most, aka “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition!” If you’re planning your itinerary or just want to learn more about what Portugal has to offer, then this is for you! So let’s take a look at the very Best of the West — of the Iberian Peninsula, that is!

First, let me plot the course of our expedition.

Where I Laid My Head

My most-recent Europe trip started in mid-June with five nights in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. The first two nights I spent on my own doing pre-tour independent explorationsThat was followed by three additional nights in Lisbon as part of a 12-day Rick Steves’ Heart of Portugal tour. Spoiler alert — Lisbon was a fave. More on that in a bit.

After those beautifully busy five days, it was time to say adeus to Lisbon. Our route continued on with a night’s stay in a town the Romans had occupied millennia before us:

Évora!

Praça do Sertório square in the heart of Évora

Évora is cute! It’s a whitewashed UNESCO-World-Heritage town with Roman-aqueduct remains.

Here I am, single-handedly holding up Évora’s old Roman acqueducts.
You’re welcome, Évora. You’re welcome.

But the spot that gets the most visitors is Évora’s Capela dos Ossos: a Franciscan bone chapel that’s on the macabre end of the spectrum, but fascinating!

In a morbid kind of way.

Those Franciscan monks of Capela dos Ossos had a real sense of esprit de corpse.

Continue reading “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition”

The Ten-Pound Note’s New Face (It’s not Mr. Darcy!)

Although the review in my handy Rick Steves’ England guidebook wasn’t exactly a glowing one, I decided to make the visit anyway. I had grown up on Jane Austen novels and their television and film adaptations. Besides that, I also thought the underappreciated 2013 comedic film, Austenland, was rather a hoot. So why not check out the Jane Austen Centre as well?

After all, it’s not everyday I get to visit the Georgian-Era spa town of Bath, which my guidebook tells me has more “‘government-listed’ or protected historic buildings per capita than any other town in England.”

In fact, I had only ever visited Bath once before, on my thirtieth birthday, to be precise. I had managed to escape from the seafaring toils of my then floating home and workplace, the RMS Queen Mary 2, by escorting a passenger tour from Southampton, where the cruise ship was docked for the day.

This May, almost exactly ten years later, I was looking forward to revisiting the lovely English city, including the Royal Crescent, which had left quite an impression on me the first time around.

The Royal Crescent is a Georgian-Era row of 30 terraced houses — the seven-year-long construction of which was completed just two years before the US gained its independence in 1776. (Back when it was still just an unruly colony.)

the-royal-crescent
The Royal Crescent

From the expanse of manicured green lawn within the embrace of the crescent’s arc, one enjoys a fine example of the beautiful symmetry you’ll find all over Bath.

Georgian architecture, incidentally, gets its name from the time span of its reign, which coincided with that of four successive “George” monarchs: George I, George II, George III, and George IV, between 1714 and 1830.

By Jove, that’s a lot of Georges! Continue reading “The Ten-Pound Note’s New Face (It’s not Mr. Darcy!)”