By Seth Fera-Schanes
Portuguese airline’s (TAP) new partnership with Jetblue has made travel to Portugal easy. Running 1 direct flight a day from Terminal 5 out of JFK, you can (and I did) slowly make your way to the airport after work on a Friday for the 11:30pm overnight to Lisbon.
Time to arrival: 6 hours. Let that one sit with you for a minute. In 6 hours, you can cross the Atlantic and be sipping an espresso while you munch on a pastel de nata in Europe’s westernmost country the following morning.
So how do you plan for a 7 day adventure in Portugal?
There are a couple approaches:
Planners – The spreadsheet people who can tell you where they are staying with check in times, train schedules and all tickets purchased in advance.
Ad Hoc-ers – Those who just show up and see where the day takes them. Not for everyone but everyday will be an adventure (for better of worse.)
Semi Planners – You have your flight and first day accommodations. You have a small handful of activities that would be nice to do but are open to see what happens.
I tend to be a semi planner. I thought Lisbon in the south, Coimbra in the middle of the country and Porto in the north would provide a nice cross section of the country. There are also multiple trains running each day between all these cities so I wouldn’t have to worry about when to leave or travel wait times.
I decided to use mostly public transit and walking to feel better acquainted with each city. I averaged 10 miles of walking a day which might have been overdoing it a bit. I came in at 70 miles over 7 days and felt pretty accomplished.
My food choices did require a little advanced planning. What are the cultural dishes of Portugal? What do locals in each city eat? I put my list together before I left and made the effort to find them. I also used a rule if I came across something on my list, I bought it so as to not miss out later.
Tours and Activities
These can require a little advanced planning. For example, a port wine cellar tour in Porto starts every hour. You can show up for an educational experience, it won’t cost a lot and you get to have some wine. A day trip to the port wine region is actually a little difficult if you don’t have a car (and I ended up not going.) Half day outings such as to Sintra, Guimarães and various beaches require public transit and are relatively easy (especially in Portugal.)
Portugal is one of the more affordable countries in western Europe. An espresso is .65 cents. Not sure if this is an economic indicator but it carried through to all my food and drinks. A whole grilled fish with potatoes and a little salad was around 10 euros. This includes tax and a service charge. That is around $12 USD and about $20 dollars less for the same meal in NYC. Wine was around $1.50 euros and a beer was in the same range. Accommodations (obviously depending on your travel preferences) were very reasonable. I could get a single room in a centrally located pensao with a view for around $50 euros a night.
Categories: Escape from New York: Extended Travel