Overland Portugal – through the belly of the beast

Exploring the farer reaches of Portugal was always on my to-do list. Unfortunately, given the constraints of time, it wasn’t going to be the slow meander through the countryside, with stop-offs in wine country, or a night or two in a local town like I had hoped.

Instead, Pablo the Peugeot and I set our hustle to eight hours, up the belly of the beast to Porto in the north, with a couple of stops to stretch the legs and have a quick explore.

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In general, should you want to actually visit some semi-interesting places in central Portugal, you have to drive quite a bit off the freeway, so my stops, though worthwhile, were brief, as the towns I found were rather small.

My first stop was in the cute little town of Alcacar do Sol. Graciously laid out over the right bank of the Sado river, the town is filled with castles, cobblestone streets and a tiny little set of cafes.

I refuelled on a strong coffee to keep the brain is gear and then continued my journey on.

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For the most part, the internal Portuguese landscape is pretty dry and baron. In recent years it has suffered from a debilitating drought, as well as wildfires that have burnt much of the country.

Fun fact: goats have been brought in as Portugal’s very own back burners, left to graze on land where scrub has gotten too long, creating a natural fire barrier. More here.

5 hours in and keen to get to Porto before sundown, my second stop was in a very small town, where I spread my picnic lunch of cheese, dips, olives and bread under a tree.

Cheese fan? Azeitão is a national treasure (or should be), creamy, bitey and so delicious! Spread on bread or biscuits and just feel your soul enrich. Also, I can not recommend enough taking reusable bamboo cutlery with you next time you travel (I actually now just carry them around in my handbag). Not only are they super handy but also great for the environment.

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I finally rolled into Porto about 5.30pm, and after 4 or so laps around the city and a mild heart attack to try and find a park, I found my bed at Hostel One Ribeira and headed off to join Chloe, who I met all the way back at the pizza party in Lagos, and her friends for Sangria on the river.

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