Our expert Holiday Creator for Portugal and Madeira, Christopher Yianni, gives us his thoughts on this diverse country…
“Portugal is a very sophisticated destination. The level of organisation in terms of the general infrastructure really lends itself to making you feel comfortable on holiday there – it’s not that different to how things are here at home.
There’s a long history between Portugal and England – we have one of the oldest international treaties – so there’s a real affinity between us.”
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I first went to the Algarve five years ago, and I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was that you don’t need to go far to find the real, authentic traditions and customs – they have them on show.
The tourism is subtle, and you feel like you’re experiencing traditional Portuguese culture and cuisine – because you really are. I would recommend people visit Guia, the birthplace of piri-piri chicken!
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Cascais is where the Portuguese themselves holiday, it’s the Portuguese Riviera, and our hotel here is in one of the most sought-after areas.
Plus it’s really close to Lisbon – only 25 minutes on the train, so it’s like a city break without having to be in the city! So you can have a whole week, relaxing in the sun on the beach, then jump on a train and head for Lisbon for a few days, it’s brilliant.
The affection between Portugal and the UK is evident very strongly in Oporto, where the big port houses were founded by British families.
Taylors, Grahams – you can see them there today, so the legacy still exists. Oporto itself is a very compact city; it’s got everything you could want, which is why it tends to be the hub of all our tours.
Carnival in Portugal is big, really big – in some cases, bigger than the Rio de Janeiro carnival, and the Portuguese really do go for it.
Quarteira, where we have a hotel, isn’t a massive tourist destination – there’s only a few hotels, so its mostly locals.
Our hotel, the Dom Jose Beach Hotel, sits on the promenade, and the carnival passes right in front of the hotel, so you can really join in and be part of the festivities.
Did you know…
- You pronounce the ‘J’ in Portuguese, unlike in Spanish, which is worth remembering when staying in the Dom Jose Hotel!
- The footballer Luis Vigo is from the Algarve and he has a restaurant in Vilamoura
- Everyone loves the Pastéis de Nata (an egg custard tart) – have it with a bica (a smooth Portuguese espresso) for the ultimate Portuguese pick-me-up
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