It was awesome to trade the Cape Winter for 2 weeks of summer in this beautiful vibrant country! My mom (who is an organiser of note) planned our itinerary and I just went along not really knowing what places we were going to visit so I was constantly left surprized and in awe of all the treasures we saw a long the way :) Every evening before going to sleep I would grab the Eyewitness travel guide and absorb all the info and facts I possibly can before the next day’s outing. Since I love stories (and History of course) I simply have to share a few details about some of the amazing places we saw :)

These were the cities / towns we visited:

Lisbon (Lisboa); Towns close to Lisbon: Sintra, Belém, Cascais, Obidos; Oporto (in the North); Coimbra (their oldest university town) and Tomar

A short history of Portugal

1. One of the oldest Nation States in Europe – founded in 1139

2. When the Roman empire collapsed in the 5th century Hispania (the whole Iberian peninsula) was overrun first by Germanic tribes, then by the Moors from North Africa (you see a lot of Moorish influence in the Portugal architecture – such as the abundant use of tiles for interior and exterior decorating) and then in the 11th century by the Christian Kingdoms from the North – during this time the small county of Portucale was established.

3. Portugal reached its Golden Age during the reign of Manual I (you can immediately recognize the Manueline architecture in the buildings – it is very gothic and ornate and makes use of Maritime symbols such as ropes, shells and anchors to decorate) which saw the great accomplishment of Vasco da Gama‘s voyage to India (and of course the Cape of Good Hope!) in 1498

4. In 1755 a massive earthquake struck Lisbon and the whole city had to be rebuilt. The ruler at the time, the Marquês de Pombal, rapidly drew up a modern grid system for the city’s reconstruction.

5. In 1928 the dictator, Antonio Salazar, came to power until 1968. Portugal’s democracy was restored in 1976 and the country joined the EU in 1986.

Old and new buildings are often decorated with beautiful tiles:

Sintra (40 minutes by train from Lisbon)

The palácio Nacional de Sintra:

Quita de Regaleira:

(This beautiful building was built during the 1890’s by an eccentric millionaire – the gardens are a maze of whimsical structures such as underground passages and a deep well )

The Palácio de Pena

(This eclectic, colourful palace was built in the 1800’s for Queen Maria the 2nd. Unfortunately my camera was watched with hawk’s eyes inside so I have no photos to show of the rooms which was left in their original state)

Belém (25 minutes by tram from Lisbon)

The impressive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (a massive monastry and cathedral close to the coast line built in 1501 after Vasco da Gama’s return from his historic voyage to India)

Next to the Monastry is the Museu de Marinha (Maritime museum) where mariners took mass before embarking on their voyages. I simply had to visit this museum since I have a slight obsession with maritime history :)

This photo (which is a bit unclear) is of a section of the royal yacht, Amelia, built in Scotland in 1900 for King Carlos and Queen Amélia:

Photo on the right: The monument to the discoveries with Henry the Navigator (Hendrik die Seevaarder in Afrikaans) ‘leading’ the discoverers.

The Museu Nacional dos Coches (the Coaches museum) – apparently the finest coaches in the whole of Europe are displayed in this museum. I was amazed by the intricate wood and paint work on the coaches. For a moment I felt like I could actually hear the hooves of the horses and the rattling of one of these coaches on an old cobble stone road :)

The beautiful sea town of Cascais (I had the best ice cream that I have ever tasted here!)


(trams are a poplar mode of transport for shorter distances) I was in love with the trams and took quite a lot of photos of them :)

A view over the Alfama (a historic neighbourhood of Lisbon)

Festive decorations in Alfama to celebrate Saint Anthony’s day

Praça do Comércio: The picture on the right is of the Elevador de Santa Justa – an early 20th century Gothic style elevator!

View from the elevator down on the street below:

Next to the elevator you can see the ruins of a 14th century church – Igreja do Carmo (the ruins of this church is a reminder of the massive earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755)

Ok, if you ever visit Lisbon you simply HAVE TO do one of We Hate Tourism Tours’ (website | facebook) day or half day tours. The next few photos were taken on a ‘King of the hills’ tour with the vibrant, witty and very knowledgeable Ricardo (he grew up in the old historic town of Alfama)

This little van carried our small group of 7 people as we went up and down over the hills of Lisbon (a real joy ride!)

Obidos (about 2 hours by bus from Lisbon)

Beautiful view from the old Obidos castle walls:

I loooove bougainvilliea

OPORTO (in the North of Portugal)

The dining room of the old hotel in which we stayed over in Oporto:

We drank liters of sangria…yummy!

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(an university town located somewhere between Lisbon and Oporto) I absolutely loved Coimbra – such a charming and clean town.

The photo on the left is of the Biblioteca Joanina on the old university campus (I was not allowed to take photos inside, that’s why it is so skew :) This place is simply spectacular – it houses over 250 000 books and was built in the 1700’s. The gold arches are breathtaking – this library was one of my favourite sites!

The Sé Velha (located just below the university) The Eyewitness guide discribes this 1064 fortress style Romanesque cathedral as a ‘celebration in stone and regarded as the finest romanesque building in Portugal’. It is really quite something to see in real life!

The Sé Velha at night:

Tomar (somewhere between Coimbra and Lisbon)

I was in love with the Convento de Christo‘s whole eclectic structure first founded in 1160 by the Grand Master of the Templars (most of you have probably heard of the Nights Templar) and then various different architecture styles were later added to the old castle structure. The photo on the right is a brilliant example of Manueline architecture.

The amazing Charola – 12th century:

The exquistite Italian architecture of the Great Cloister at the Convento de Christo

I was so excited to fly with the A380!

Thank you for browsing through these pics! I will shortly be posting a wedding (which is taking place tomorrow, 16th of July :)

Photography notes: Every photo was taken with the Canon 5D mark ll and the 24-70mm f2.8 L lens

All photos were taken in JPEG and not RAW

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  • MartiJuly 15, 2011 - 2:35 pm

    Fantastiese foto’s van ‘n fantastiese land – ek kry sommer nou weer van voor af lus om te gaan! Portugal is ‘n wonderlike land om te besoek, want behalwe vir al die pragtige goed om te sien en te ervaar, is dit bietjie goedkoper as die meeste ander Europese lande en omdat dit relatief klein is, kan ‘n mens ook meer daarvan sien en ervaar tydens een besoek. En dit was ‘n reuse plesier en voorreg om dit saam met Nikki te kon doen!

  • VerieJuly 15, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    Wat ‘n wonderlike land was Portugal nie! Dit is die mooiste foto’s! Ek het nou weer so lekker saam met jou getoer! Ons gaan definitief weer terug daarheen

  • mandyJuly 15, 2011 - 4:31 pm

    i could just stop now and move to Obidos, i see you decided against greece. portugal looks just as stunning.. :)

  • LouisJuly 15, 2011 - 5:05 pm

    Ai, nou sien ek eers waarop ek uit gemis het!! Absolute stunning kleurvolle fotos.

  • pc benadéJuly 15, 2011 - 5:08 pm

    Sjoe Nikki, dit is ongelooflik mooi! Ek het regtig nie geweet dat dit so ‘n mooi land is nie. Sal beslis eendag daar ‘n draai wil maak! En die fotos is so cool :) Dink julle kan eendag net die wereld toe en vertel van die reise en boeke skryf! Baie baie cool :)

  • Gena DJuly 15, 2011 - 5:45 pm

    What a great trip you had – you managed to see so much in such a short time! (good thing mom is a good planner, as it’s the only way to do it, there is just too much to see and do…

  • nastassja harveyJuly 15, 2011 - 7:02 pm

    niksie, oh my word vriendin, ek kan heeldag sit en staar na hierdie ongelooflike fotos van ‘n ongelooflike trippie saam met jou Ma – WOW! hierdie is seker die beste travel pics wat ek al OOIT gesien het – weereens WOW! jy moet defnitief sommer vir jouself ‘n koffie tafel boek maak met al die historical info ook, dis amazing! ek is net so mal oor history en dis vir my so awesome hoe jy die fotos ook verduidelik het. baie dankie dat jy jou amazing trippie saam met ons gedeel het, het glad nie geweet dat Portugal so ongelooflik stunning was nie, ek sal defnitief eendag dit vir myself moet gaan sien! sjoe, STUNNING! x x x

  • TjasaJuly 16, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Stunning photos Nikki! Portugal is one of my favourite countries in Europe and your photos soooo make me want to go for another visit!!! Hope you will consider extending your portfolio with travel photography!

  • Ansa du PlessisJuly 17, 2011 - 12:17 pm

    Nikki, baie dankie dat ek so lekker deur jou pragtige fotos kon toer. Dit was nou ‘n wonderlike voorskou, want ek en Marius gaan Oktober na Portugal en Spanje en baie van hierdie plekke is op ons toer-program! Groete Ansa xx

  • Catherine MacJuly 17, 2011 - 11:21 pm

    WOW Nikki! It looks like you had an amazing time! Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos with us! I love the cute dresses through the shop window and all the exquisite buildings!! x x x

  • Claudia De NobregaJuly 18, 2011 - 11:56 am

    ahhhh Nikki this is amazing and so close to my heart! We are Portuguese and the last time I visited Portugal was in 2003 and these photos bring back so many wonderful memories for me!!!! :) Thank you for these beautiful set of images!! :) Love <3 Claudia xxx

  • BarbaraJuly 18, 2011 - 12:43 pm

    Wow what awesome photos of an awesome country. I miss Portugal SO much… Thanks for these lovely pics :)

    Proudly Portuguese

  • Taryn WardJuly 18, 2011 - 12:45 pm

    So beautiful Nikki!! Makes me want to go to Europe even more now! xx

  • AdelJuly 18, 2011 - 2:58 pm

    Dis asemrowende kiekies, Nix! Dit maak my net wil gaan en self ‘explore’ al die mooi dinge wat Portugal het om te bied! Dankie dat jy jou reise en ervaring met ons deel, dis baie spesiaal! :)

  • JennyJuly 18, 2011 - 4:32 pm

    Pragtige foto’s soos altyd Nikki!

  • Jani BJuly 20, 2011 - 9:03 am

    Oehhh hoe mooi! Moet definitief ‘n plan maak om daar uit te kom :)

  • danelleJuly 20, 2011 - 9:38 am

    Dit lyk absoluut hemels!!

  • IZAKJuly 20, 2011 - 9:47 am

    Sjoe, dit lyk na ‘n heerlike vakansie en die fotos is beeldskoon!

  • MinkiJuly 20, 2011 - 12:45 pm

    Nikkie, dit lyk of dit ‘n ongelooflike vakansie was!! Die foto’s nooi my om ook daar te gaan toer :-)

  • EloiseJuly 21, 2011 - 3:27 pm

    DIE FOTOS IS ASEMROWEND!!!! Elke foto trek mens so in voel of ek daar was!! ongelooflik!! die kleure is pragtig!! jy is net amazing!!!!!

  • Brenda WardallJuly 22, 2011 - 12:06 pm

    Beautiful photos of an amazing looking country – I have never been but feel like I just took a virtual tour of beauteousness! Thanks for sharing.

  • Nicola BesterAugust 10, 2011 - 9:43 am

    Sulke kleurvolle, ryk fotos Nikki! Laat my voel of ek dit self beleef! Kan nie dink dat mens wil terug kom van so ‘n vakansie af nie:)

  • Kate/MagnoliaRougeSeptember 14, 2011 - 11:00 am

    Wow Nikki these are amazing… I SO want to visit now!! I’ve been to the south but these places look incredible!!