Well.....to be honest, I wasn't so sure Portugal was exotic enough for me to bother blogging about. After all, A Girl & A Bald Traveller is a blog focused mostly on exotic travel. (I use mostly, because an exception was made for "The Girl's" 1st Solo Trip to Japan)
Now, Singaporeans have this concept, that wherever the queues are the longest, the "food/discount/product" is probably the best. This "logic" applies not only for food and "good deals", but extends to holidays as well. Facebook feed flooded with Eiffel Tower or Roman Colosseum selfies? "Yeah, that's where we gotta be". (the recent trend among Singaporeans seems to be the Northern Lights, and Iceland. Istanbul? Man, that's outdated)
Which brings about the question. Why not Portugal then?
Photo from Channel News Asia. Singaporeans queuing because other people are queuing. Suddenly everyone is a connoisseur of "haute couture".
Don't get me wrong; we enjoyed Portugal. No doubt, it's touristy. In fact, based on the overwhelming hordes of tourists (from other countries) we saw, it's surprising we didn't bump into more Singaporeans than we did. (based on the above logic)
I mean, we do see the occasional "I'm in Portugal!" photo poping up on our Facebook page; but it's usually outnumbered by an "Eiffel Tower" or "Northern Lights" photo like a 1000 to 1.
People watching at the port while waiting to enjoy a Portuguese sunset
But anyway, lets get down to why Singaporeans should be bumping Portugal higher up the ranks of their "to go European destinations". (especially because so many tourists are there) Tourists mean a place is cool, and it's probably safe, that's why everyone goes there. Better Paris than Iran right? (and BTW, Iran isn't as dangerous as it name suggests) And yes, there's more to Portugal than just wine; and Cristiano Ronaldo.
1. Charming Cities Filled With Warmth And History
The main square of Lisbon
On the whole, Portugal is a nice blend of the Arts, scenic views, and some touristy experiences while not being overpriced like the rest of Europe. Lisbon reminded me of Budapest, Hungary.(with a litle more color)
Picture of Belam Tower from worldheritage.routes
We spent a full day exploring the city of Lisbon. If you plan it properly, a full day is pretty much all you need to see the major attractions the city of Lisbon has to offer, such as the Belem Tower (above).
Oh, be sure to take a ride on the trademark Lisbon Yellow Tram.......
The Girl in the streets of Almeda
......wander around the small lanes while shopping at the local markets for travel souvenirs.
Picture of Porto by htprivatetravel.com
and don't forget Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage city (at least a part of it). Porto is a 3 hour journey away from Lisbon, best accessed by either train or bus.
2. A Heaven For Cafe Hoppers
Picture from wikipedia. The Majestic Cafe, Porto
Lisbon & Porto, arguably the two most famous cities in Portugal, are littered with cafes and "al-fresco" places. There are so many cafes, you'll practically bump into one every 10 seconds! (alright, thats kind of an exaggeration, but you get my point)
Picture from tangoalantico.com. The interior of The Majestic Cafe, Porto
In Singapore, wine lovers (or posuers) have their own favourite hideout for them to gather and pretend to swirl their wine around, remarking on the "how best to appreciate wine".
Coffee drinkers gather at their usual "Starbucks and Coffee Clubs", spending their hard earned (or their parents hard earned) money on overpriced coffee. "Paying for the ambience/brand", they usually say. Some even swear the taste of a Starbucks is worth $5 more than a $1 Kopi (coffee with milk) in a coffeeshop.
Here, in Portugal, these "connoisseurs" can finally sit at the same table. Good coffee, good wine, and a great ambience at wallet friendly prices. (especially the wine)
Oh, and you people can look foward to the delicious world famous "custard tarts" (we call them Egg tarts in Singapore) that absolutely put those imitations in Singapore to shame.
3. Loads Of Instagram Worthy Picture Locations
Behold this. The awesome Cristo Rei monument in Almeda, Portugal!
Well, it's nothing on the version in Rio De Janerio of course, but still really inspiring in its own right. We were "wowing" the second we got off the bus! The top of Cristo Rei offers a magnificent view of the city of Lisbon. Still, before you take the lift to the top, (it costs 5 Euros by the way) you will find a number of decent selfie spots with a nice background.
Crosses.... And more crosses.
And a bridge that looks like the one I was at in San Francisco.....Who knows, if you take the picture right, you might even fool your lesser travelled instagram followers you covered both San Francisco and Lisbon on your holiday.
Our first glimspe of Cristo Rei when we got off the bus. From the back!
And be treated to a magnificent view of Lisbon from the top; after paying your 5 Euros of course!
Oh, and you get a close up with the statue as well.
Of course, as those "photographers" among you would know, (yeah, you with the huge SLR which just about emptied your bank account) weather plays a huge part in getting quality photos. In the photos above, we were blessed with great weather. In the photos below; well, not so good.
We visited Sintra, a place with interesting Portuguese history, palaces, castles, and of course, for its main attraction, the westernmost point of Europe; Cabo Da Roca. (not my picture as it we had terrible weather then. This is how it's supposed to look like)
Cabo Da Roca for us looked like this...
So yeah, while the locations are instagram worthy, but you might just want to check out the weather.
4. It's Really Really Cheap! (for a "touristy country")
I would rate Portugal (as a tourist destination and travel costs) somewhere between Albania and France. (I know, it's a silly comparison) In Albania, a platter like this would probably have cost us the equivalent of 20 Euros. But then again, Albania is probably the last country in Europe most Singaporeans would visit. France on the other hand, would probably be at the top of most Singaporeans travel itinerary. This would cost closer to the 100 Euro mark in Paris.
Anyway we had this seafood platter for our anniversary lunch (with wine, not in the picture) at a grand total of 35 Euros! Pretty cheap for a "touristy country" if you ask me.
My face looks rounder than usual in the photo above. (I don't think i'm that round in person) I'm not the star of the photo though, the glass of port wine i'm holding is. This wine cost me 0.80 Euros!
Portugal is a travel destination that should be mentioned in the same breath as Spain, France, Germany and Italy when it comes to "travel acceptability". By that I mean travel destinations which should be widely accepted by even people as picky as Singaporeans. That it lags behind it's equally "acceptable neighbours" is a real pity. For those who want something touristy, yet slightly different, you'll be pleased to know Portugal hasn't caught up in terms of its costs.
5. You're So Near To Africa! What Are You Waiting For?!
Yes Africa! It's really not that far away!
If you're going the tradtional way, you'll have to take a bus from Lisbon to Seville (Spain), Seville to Tarifa (still Spain) where you can catch a 40 mins ferry ride across the Straits of Gibralta (A narrow strait connecting the Alantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea) to Tangier (northern most point of Africa).
Sounds far? It real