Traveling to Portugal with Family: Our Takeaways
In April 2018, my husband and I did the unthinkable.. and lived to tell about it.
Carry-ons in tow – yes, carry-ons; it’s honestly the most affordable way to soar these days.
We flew across the Atlantic and right into the heart of Europe, with our entire family of five.
But how does one gather up enough courage to travel with our children in the first place, you may wonder.
In other words, how did we survive?
Well, we not only survived, but we had a fabulous time, at that.
And you can, too! (No, really, you can!!)
We had practice, mind you.
We not only did it before, but we discovered that we could do it again and again (and still have fun!).
We make memories AND we have a blast.
You don’t need to be a millionaire to do it, either.
We pick up deals, where we can, using popular deal sites, and we don’t end up breaking the bank.
Before You Read On, Some Past Trips.
I started to write posts about our family adventures upon joining a large forum of physicians who travel, and because there was heightened interest in my photos and tips.
So far I’ve been able to cover such journeys as:
A Bar Mitzvah Abroad: Our Family Trip to Israel in More Than Words (iPhone photography images only)
And now, back to Spain and Portugal.
We landed in Lisbon, Portugal after an overnight flight. The children slept a bit on the plane – helpful for maintenance of sanity.
Pearl: find out ahead of time whether checked luggage will cost a fee. Our airline charged $100 per checked bag. For those of you who are able to travel light, you can certainly pack a week’s worth of clothes into the standard carry-on. I did. Just sayin’. I know not all of us can do with a single pair of shoes.
Rented car at airport, to start our drive to Seville, Spain – a 4- hour drive through the North-Eastern route. The route was beautiful, but rather barren. We mostly slept except for my hubby, the driver, of course. He needed to toothpicks in his eyes, to keep them open. Kidding, don’t do this at home.
Pearl: keep in mind that most cars are manual there and you will pay about double the price for an automatic, and there are limited numbers of those available. My husband didn’t sharpen his shift-stick-skills and we ended up stalled right outside of the airport, and needing a swap. Set us back an hour, at least.
If you have energy, stop at Evora, on the way. Our friends stopped there and said it was beautiful. We didn’t and therefore can’t vouch, but have heard others recommend it, too.
We stayed in the town, which is recommended, and rented an Airbnb.
It turned out that our Airbnb was not spectacular, as it wasn’t very clean, so I’ll take a neither-nor approach. I’ll just refrain from commenting on specifics. Online physicians reviewers, take note. There’s no need to bash. And you’re welcome to read a Healthline article I contributed to on this very topic.
The accommodations were one of the only ones left when I booked this trip so I didn’t really have much choice. Feel free to weigh in on your own Spain Airbnb experience, as I’d love to hear what other travelers have to say.
Pearl: No general parking, so you’ll need to pay for a lot, which is about 21 Euros, or around $26, per night.
We spent 3 days in Seville.
Basically, the town is filled with quaint, pebble-lines streets and beautiful colored doorways.
It is very narrow so that, in fact, when a car passes you by in some of the streets, you must either hop into a doorway crevice nearby or, if there isn’t one available, paste yourself onto the wall. Like playdough.
Or I guess you could simply get run over. That’s a third option.
Pearl: You’ll do a ton of walking. So pack sneakers. And maybe sneaker spray – less than 3 ounces if you’re doing carry-ons 🙂 and if you’re like me, you’ll simply pack one pair.
Things I Noted.
The Spaniards in Seville are elegant in the way that they dress and carry on.
You will see beautiful, unique clothing, and well-kept, fashion-forward women walking around, worthy of magazine covers. No one really dresses down, for the most part (except for me. I stood out like a sore thumb, in jeans and snickers).
The elegance may may have had something to do with our visiting over Easter, but I noticed this was the case even after the holiday ended.
I also noticed that there weren’t a lot of people who spoke English.
There does exist the possibility that
they pretended not to. That they literally did not want to talk to me (maybe the whole jeans and snickers bit? Maybe I looked like a peasant..) I’m not really sure.. I could simply just take offense, or simply state that most Spaniards did not speak English.
Businesses in Seville.
The Spaniards close most businesses during afternoon hours for siesta time, when they go home for a nap.
I’ve heard some refer to this as lazy, but to me, it’s genius. They really all seemed so relaxed. I wondered, while there, whether some of that was due to those extra zzz’s.
Siesta is approximately timed from 1-5 PM.
In addition, stores will sporadically be closed with a handmade sign that basically states, ‘Be Right Back,’ which, may or may not necessarily be true. I parked myself outside a store for while and watched as the man next to me downed three separate cappuccinos before giving up on any sign of life inside.
Food in Seville.
Eating-wise, many restaurants will NOT serve any food until dinner-time has officially begun – sometime around 7:30 PM or 8. They have the food, they just won’t serve it to you. From a business perspective, I don’t get it.
They will still be packed, mind you, with hoards of people who either sip on coffee or beer. But NO food for you. It’s just incredible.
In terms of food choices, you’ll find lots of tapas – mini servings of popular food – and especially meats.
They have sliced meat, in cold-cut form, which they often do live, right in the shop, with the leg of a pig stretched out in a contraption and sliced off the bone, in most restaurants. Not for the faint of heart.
Stuff to Do.
Plaza De Espana.
A breath-taking place, and the subject of many a-photographs. Inhale its beauty. But remember to breathe out, too (we need to stay alive!)
It is a large castle, with an inner moat on which you can canoe. We did this – pictured below – and I highly recommend this activity.
You can also alternately ride in a carriage, or cycle in your own little contraption, which we did, too, and the kids absolutely loved. There was a complimentary flamenco show for everyone to enjoy, but I’m not quite sure it’s an ongoing thing you can rely on.
They kicked off Spain’s bullfighting season while we were there, but we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to buy tickets to watch.
If you’re not of the faint of heart, and don’t mind watching as a bull is slowly put to death, then you can buy tickets to see it and cheer along.
It seemed to be extremely popular there, in Seville, and the locals packed the beautiful stadium. We ran into the matadors when they came out of the show and even succeeded in getting a picture with one. I’ll refrain from posting to avoid any hate mail.
Apparently in the other popular city, the sport is prohibited.
Such beautiful buildings, where you can get lost in the details of the structures themselves, if not in the fascinating history behind them.
Lots of gold. And questions from the kids.
Iglesia de El Salvador.
Beautiful cathedral. Very ornate. Overwhelming, no matter what your religion is.
If you want to see this bell tower of the Seville Cathedral – one of the highlights of the city – note that the line is super long.
Here was the key to cutting that line short (which in all honesty we didn’t do, because we got sidetracked along the way. We like doing our own thing and seeing where the day takes us, in general, and we don’t get upset if things don’t work out as planned – one of the keys to our success):
buy tickets at the Iglesia de El Salvador (above), which includes entrance to both, and then you don’t have to stand in line. Voila.
A wooden structure located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain.
It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer.
Very cool to see and you can climb to the top and peer down.
There are also yummy cafes and shops around the area, which are often packed.
It seems they work off those calories by all the walking and/or biking that they do.
We decided to cut our trip short by a night, in order to hit up the coastal towns of Portugal, on our drive back to Lisbon. It also helped to stay one less night at the aforementioned Airbnb. I’m not so sure the sheets were washed before we came. Just saying.
So we drove West back into Portugal, where we hit up the Algarve region.
First, we stopped at Faro.
Faro, Portugal (Algarve Region).
Beautiful coastal town in Algarve. Highly recommend.
Because it’s a less popular town, from what I understand, and was light, crowd-wise. We ate at a quaint cafe, walked around clean, pebbly streets, and just.. smiled.
Albufeira, Portugal (Algarve Region).
Also a coastal town, but the least favorite of mine, of the four we hit up.
The streets were still beautiful – winding up and down, narrow in some parts – but the section we dined in was very touristy and felt a lot like a sales area, where store owners catch their bait – hungry tourists- and try and lure them in with cheesy lounge singing and other gimmicks. It just didn’t feel authentic, for some reason. The surrounding area, however, was beautiful.
We drove next to our overnight destination, in Salema, and stayed in a very nice complex called the Salema Beach Village, which apparently won several awards, but looked to me like an apartment complex from the West coats of the US. It did serve as a needed accommodation for recharging.
First thing in the morning, we headed to Sagres.
Sagres, Portugal (Algarve Region).
Known as the ‘End of the World,’ mainly because it’s the most Southwestern tip of Europe.
Breathtaking views kept us captivated for a bit, and then we lost interest and drove on to our next destination.
Lagos, Portugal (Algarve Region).
We walked the streets, ate lunch in a quaint shop, and took a boat ride to see the grotto. This was the highlight of the coastal towns and was beautiful.
I don’t think the company you book through matters, or whether you do it in advance. In fact, we got there closer to 3 and were told that because it was end of the day, we’d be the last ones out, and our fare was discounted to 15 Euros per adult and 7.50 per child.
Seemed fair for our hour boat ride, and was worth it.
I was surprised I didn’t get sea sick, as the boat was small and it was choppy that afternoon.
But lo and behold, no dramamine was needed and I managed to maintain color in my face.
At the end of our tour, we drove to Lisbon, about 2.5 hours away.
We arrived at night, and went straight for a meal, where we had our first lesson in Portuguese culture.
Pearl: Meals do not include bread, or any extras for that matter. Just because they serve you something, does NOT mean it’s complimentary. You will, in fact, pay for each piece of bread that is laid out on your table. Sometimes the butter. Other times, those little extras like olives, which they’ll lay out without asking.
Almaria Edificia da Corte – probably one of the more unique places we’ve ever stayed in, especially Loft B downstairs, where we stayed in an open area space, though it has no private space within the apartment.
An eat-in kitchen allows you to laugh with loved ones and host a supermarket spread, as we did one night, when we decided to stay in with friends we met up with there.
They even have a brown bag ready each morning, with a pastry and piece of bread, for each occupant. Sweet touch.
And the best part? That they seemed to have washed their sheets..
Things To Do.
We took a tour and it ended up being pricey. I actually highly recommend against this. Lisbon is easily walkable, if you like to do that, and there are even free walking tours in the center of town.
Eat Pastilles De Nata.
You’ll thank me for this. And especially if you visit Belem, and eat the Pasteilles de Nata (or Belem, if they’re from this city) – the best ones there are.
It is not humanly possible to stop at just one, so prepare yourself emotionally, and well in advance.
Tower of Belem & Sculpture of the Discoveries.
Time Out Market.
Belem Cathedral (Huge. Gorgeous.)
LX Factory. (Funky area, reminding me of hip Brooklyn areas).
Rides on Funky Street Cars.
Figaro Barber Shop
(a famous & funky shop where your little men can get quite an experience. David Beckham gets his cut there, too, so if you’re into that, it’s fun. And maybe you’ll run into him??)
(we didn’t get to do this because it rained, but our friends did and it’s worth an honorary mention. 20 minute drive from Lisbon and apparently worth it to see the castles there. Sorry, no photo.)
General Things to Remember.
Just walk around the streets. Seriously. Take in the colors. The smells. The food. The shopping. The fabulousness. Look forward. Glance up. Take a peek down at the floor. The sides, as you brush past entrances. You’ll be inspired, and maybe you’ll bring some of that inspiration back – to either share with your friends and family, or just to keep to yourself:
Last, but not least – smile. Enjoy (remember to jump or be a child in whatever way that you want to be.. and take a picture of yourself to remember it by. Always!):
We finally said our goodbye’s to Lisbon and drove back to the airport (20 minute drive), then flew back the 8 hours to the chilly weather of the Tri-State Eastern United States.
But not before watching some great movies on the plane. Have you seen ‘All the Money in the World?’ Highly recommend it for you adults.
That’s it for Spain and Portugal. Thanks for reading through my ramblings.
Please comment below if you enjoyed.
Or tell me about your own Airbnb experience, where they hopefully washed the sheets..
For your Pinterest consideration: