September 4, 2015

Arenilha Guest House Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Located right in the centre of the old town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, the pleasant Arenilha Guest House makes for an excellent place to lodge whether it is for a night or a longer stay.

Arenilha Guest House Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal.

The rooms for two people may be a little on a small size but the Arenilha is clean and well-kept with friendly staff. There is a pleasant terrace outside on the street that is lined with restaurants and bars. Adequate free Wifi is provided.

Vila Real de Santo Antonio is very much a family-orientated resort and noise is at a minimum not much after dark making for a good night's sleep.

Arenilha Guest House Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

The Arenilha Guest House is about 15 minutes on foot from Vila Real de Santo Antonio railway station and only about five minutes from the bus station on the river front next to the ferry across the Rio Guadiana to Ayamonte and Spain.

From here there is an EVA bus to Seville in Spain at 9.35am as well as local buses to Monte Gordo.

The main places of interest in the town are within easy reach including Praça Marquês de Pombal, the City Hall, the Tourist Information Office and the 18th century parish church.

Arenilha Guest House Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Arenilha Guest House
Rua D. Pedro V 55, 8900-29
Vila Real de Santo António

Rua D. Pedro V is off Rua 5 de Outubro near the post office.

Arenilha Guest House, Algarve.
Budget Hotels - Portugal
Hotels in Portugal - Agoda

September 3, 2015

Manta Rota

Manta Rota is a small seaside resort west of both Monte Gordo and the border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio. The pretty sandy beaches at Manta Rota form part of the larger Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

Manta Rota, Portugal.

Just to the west of Manta Rota is Cacela Velha (Old Cacela) an historic fishing village which has become better known, though not over-crowded in recent times. The village is known for its annual Noites da Moura Encantada (Nights of the Enchanted Moor) festival held in early August. The beach here is popular with gay visitors. The four-star Robinson Club Quinta da Ria close to two golf courses is the upmarket place to stay. Other recommended hotels in the area include the Hotel Turoasis and the Cabanas Park Resort.

There are bus connections to Manta Rota from both Monte Gordo and Vila Real de Santo Antonio to the east and from Faro and Tavira to the west. The nearest train station is Cacela on the local line between Faro and Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Before the onset of tourism the area's economy was geared to fishing especially the local sardines and tuna. The town's restaurants serve excellent fresh fish and seafood done in the Algarve style.

Manta Rota, Algarve, Portugal.
Budget Hotels - Portugal
Hotels in Portugal - Agoda

May 30, 2015

Guarda Cathedral

The most striking attraction in Guarda is its fortress-like Sé, a massive, medieval cathedral built in granite between 1390-1540. The Sé in Guarda is remarkable for the number of different architectural styles in its construction, its Gothic exterior combined with intricate Manueline flourishes.

Guarda Cathedral, Portugal.

 The interior of the cathedral is distinguished by a beautiful Renaissance, white marble altar and carved by French sculptor João de Ruão.

Bishop Vasco de Lamego began construction of the church we see today, the third cathedral to be built in the city, during the reign of King John I.

Guarda Cathedral, Portugal.

Guarda's cathedral stands adjacent to the town's main square - the Praça Luis de Camões - and a statue of Dom Sancho I, who founded the city in 1199. The main square has a number of cafes and includes Guarda's turismo.

Sé da Guarda
Praça Luís de Camões
6300 Guarda

The friendly though basic Casa da Se guesthouse is right in the main square.

Guarda Cathedral interior.

April 29, 2015

Casa da Sé Viseu

Casa da Sé Review - Viseu

Nicky Reiss

Are you looking for something a little different, a unique place to stay, where you can enjoy friendly service, luxurious bedding and exquisite antique furniture for a reasonable price? The Casa da Sé is that place, a self-described "small luxury hotel" where you will feel tempted to stay for longer than planned.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Arriving in Viseu by bus from Guarda, I walked up the hill to the old town, and without GPS finding the hotel was a challenge. Once you know the roads, however, it is easy to find and conveniently located; I suggest taking a taxi from the station, or taking a good look at the map first.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

There is no hotel parking (there were no cars when it was built), but there is free parking in the vicinity. The receptionist who greeted me spoke fluent English and was friendly and helpful, taking my small suitcase into her care as I had arrived well before the check-in time.

Casa da Sé may be overlooked by some because it is listed under "Viseu Bed and Breakfast" in Trip Advisor; however, I recommend taking a close look at what it has to offer before making your choice of a place to stay in Viseu.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

The location in the heart of the old town is perfect for anyone who enjoys walking around old narrow streets and absorbing the history of a city. It is just yards away from Viseu Cathedral, the church of the Misericordia, the tourist office, and the Museu de Grão Vasco. The Portugal Visitor recommended restaurant, O Hilario, is also close by - I ate lunch there twice and enjoyed the friendly, family-run restaurant.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Each of the twelve rooms in the Casa da Sé is unique, with its own furniture and decorations, and with varying sizes of rooms and ensuite bathrooms available. I was traveling alone and had a comfortably-sized room on the top floor, with a spacious ensuite bathroom (large shower, no tub), located next to the guests' lounge. The sheets and towels were all of the highest quality, soft, plentiful, and luxurious. There is also a bridal suite – a good excuse to come here and renew your wedding vows if you missed your chance the first time around.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel. Just off the lobby there is a small lounge room where drinks, tea and coffee, and snacks are served. The breakfast room, also off the lobby, is cosy and boasts a large continental-style buffet.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

I have coeliac disease and had informed the hotel in advance. To my delight (I love breakfast) they went out of their way to make a gluten-free cake, provide gluten-free bread and also gluten-free cereal. I have never been treated so well anywhere else. Their breakfast buffet is a large smorgasbord of breads, cereals, cheeses, cold meats, yoghurt, and many other delights. I was only sorry not to be able to eat more.

Casa da Sé Viseu.

One word of caution: the square around the hotel hosts several popular restaurants and bars where people stay out enjoying themselves until the early hours. The windows of my top floor rooms were the original old style and offered no sound proofing.

In reviews elsewhere I've noted complaints about the noise, however I also read reviews stating that the sound proofing was effective. I believe the rooms on the lower floors have modern, and more soundproof, windows. Do check on this when making a reservation; otherwise, if noise bothers you, bring earplugs. Casa da Sé is still an experience to be cherished and enjoyed.

I stayed at the Casa da Sé, Viseu, in August 2014.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Casa da Sé
R.Augusta Cruz, Nº12, 3500-088 Viseu, Portugal

April 14, 2015

Getting From Salamanca or Madrid to Porto by Bus

There are buses from both Salamanca and Madrid in Spain to Porto in Portugal via Guarda.

Getting From Salamanca to Porto by Bus.

Buses are operated by ALSA/Internorte and take 6 hours and 15 minutes from Salamanca and 9 hours, 15 minutes from Madrid. The bus station in Porto where these international buses depart is at Casa da Musica on the Porto metro.

Presently the bus leaves Salamanca bus station at 12.45pm and arrives in Porto at 6pm. Returning to Spain from Porto the bus leaves Casa da Musica at 10.15am and should arrive in Salamanca at 5.30pm.

Getting From Salamanca or Madrid to Porto by Bus.

The bus from Portugal to Spain usually goes via Aveiro. Price for a one-way ticket is presently 44 Euros.
(Note: there is an hour difference in time between Spain and Portugal.)

The bus stops on the Spanish side of the border at a service station for a break for food. There are occasionally delays at the border.

Madrid to Salamanca is pleasantly done by train and then bus to Porto. If you are doing the whole leg by bus the journey takes 10 hours. The bus leaves from Av. de America at 9am and arrives in Porto at 6pm. Single is 50 Euros with the return fare 84 Euros.

April 11, 2015

Aqueducts in Portugal

Portugal has long been dry and arid especially in the south. Portugal has a number of historic aqueducts that were built to bring water from the hinterland to the cities. The Romans were the first to build aqueducts in Iberia and there are remains of 3km-long aqueduct in Conimbriga near Coimbra.

Aqueducts in Portugal.

Aqueducts in Portugal can be found in Vila do Conde (Aqueduct of Santa Clara), Serpa, Evora (the Aqueduto da Agua de Prata), Elvas (Aqueduto da Amoreira), Braga (Sete Fontes), Obidos, Tomar (Aqueduto de Pegões) and famously in Lisbon (Águas Livres).

Aqueducts in Portugal.

The 18th-century Águas Livres that brought water to Lisbon was 18km long. Construction began in 1731 under Italian architect Antonio Canevari and finally brought water to the capital in 1748 after work was continued by a number of Portuguese architects until 1799.

Aguas Livres aqueduct, Lisbon, Portugal.

April 10, 2015

Igreja Matriz de Mertola

The Igreja Matriz de Mértola in Mertola in the Alentejo region of south east Portugal is only one of two churches in the country that have been built over mosques following the Reconquest in the 13th century. The other is in nearby Serpa.

Igreja Matriz de Mertola, Alentejo, Portugal.

The Igreja Matriz is registered as a National Monument and retains the Moorish arched doorway and the mihrab - a niche pointing to Mecca.

Igreja Matriz de Mertola.