2013 03 - Unique Experiences in Portugal

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Let’s be honest…  Portugal is far more than just another destination.

This country of contrasts also boasts unspoiled natural vistas, rich traditions, intoxicating culture, adrenaline-pumping adventures and some of the most serene retreats in all of Europe.

It is a destination of timeless appeal – as inviting, complex, and enjoyable as a glass of Port wine. And, it is an affordable, approachable, and a safe place for Americans to experience European culture and history.

Geographically, Portugal is closer to the United States than anything else in Europe – both on the mainland (Lisbon is continental Europe’s westernmost city) and in the Atlantic Ocean (the Azores Islands are just four hours from Boston).

So, here are some amazing things people can do in Portugal - fantastic experiences that are sure to be unique.

++ For an unprecedented cultural experience, look no further! Be Portuguese for a Day offers one day, on-location experiences. The program offers a portfolio of tailored packages that include winemaking, cooking, fishing, surfing by the Sines coast and more, so you can explore what genuine Portuguese culture has to offer. The business prides itself on its attention to detail, quality of service and authenticity. Whether you are after a team building weekend or simply want to experience the real Portugal, look no further: Portuguese for a Day has brought together the best resources available to provide everything you need. http://www.beportuguese.com/

++ The village of Montoito, in the Alentejo, is the home to a tourism project considered unprecedented in Portugal: one dedicated to the world of horses and bullfighting, an investment of more than 700 thousand euros. The Lusitaurus Equestrian and Bullfighting Center is set on a small farm in Montoito near Redondo. The owner of the center, António Martins, calls the project "unprecedented" in Portugal, and that this market segment is "not yet explored" in the country.  "It's an area with little or no competition and as the horses and bulls are quite entrenched in Portugal’s culture, so we decided to focus on this aspect," he said. The Lusitaurus Center will offer all kinds of equestrian activities, such as riding lessons, workouts for riders, lessons in bullfighting on foot, Forcado training (the art of bull wrestling) equestrian touring and horseback riding. The space is equipped with a swimming pool bar, restaurant and eight apartments with 10 rooms. “This is a bold investment that is unique,” Martins said. http://www.lusitaurus.com/

++ Portugal Bull Fighting - Meet Pedro Santos Lima, former president of the Portuguese Bull Breeders Association, and the Portuguese cowboys, or campinos, on his ranch in Ribatejo province, 20 miles north of Lisbon. After a welcome from them, they will take you on a tractor safari through the farm to meet the fierce Iberian fighting bulls face to face. Then, feast on a lunch of Portuguese specialties known only to the campinos. After lunch, learn the art of bull fighting from Pedro and take part in a mini bullfight with one of Pedro's baby bulls. Olé! http://www.quintagaio.com/actividades.html

++ Be a Forcado - What happens to the bull at the end of the fight? In a tradition that dates back centuries, nine young men will bravely jump into the bullfighting arena. They form a line and, in step, slowly approach the bull.  The lead man, called the "Pega," must call to the bull, which will begin to charge.  The Pega then must throw himself around the neck of the charging bull, a horn under each arm. The remaining eight members of the team jump onto the bull and bring him to a stop, with the last man grabbing the animal by the tail and digging in his heels. With luck, the other men then run free.  This process can take a few minutes or longer, if the bull is a cautious sort. This nine-man team is called the Moços de Forcado, or "Forcados" for short.  They have trained for this craziness in a local club.  Their traditional role was once to protect the king, his court and the spectators from the bulls, which might jump the arena fence. Click here to watch the Moços de Forcados in action.

Does this sound like fun? If you'd like to try it yourself, you can attend spring training at the Group de Forcados Amadores, one of the oldest such clubs.  Each spring in Santarém, the unofficial capitol of bullfighting in Portugal, the camp is open to anyone brave enough to step into the arena. More information: Grupo de Forcados de Santarém - Pedro Figueiredo "Graciosa" - Phone: 351  917263825 e-mail: cabo@forcadosdesantarem.com

++ Detective Film - Be the director of your own movie and chase a murderer, princesses and mysterious creatures through the narrow streets of Lisbon. http://www.limits.pt/en/what-to-do/on-the-earth.html

++ Cooking Lessons from A Neighbor - Discover the secrets of Portuguese cuisine under the guidance of your personal Portuguese neighbor/teacher, from whom you'll be borrowing more than just a cup of sugar! After deciding upon a dinner menu with your chef/guide from a list of numerous local and regional dishes, spend the morning shopping in Lisbon's centuries old Mercado da Ribeira for the day's freshest offerings of fish, meat and fruit. Learn from your chef guide about what ingredients you are purchasing, and then head to the local gourmet market to pair wines, cheese, breads, and desserts with those flavors. After working with your neighbor/tutor/chef to prepare your chosen dishes in the afternoon, enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Starting at $930 for up to three people, which also includes three nights’ accommodation in a private apartment and excludes the cost of all ingredients. Contact Visiting Portugal Vacation Homes for more information. http://www.visitingportugal.com/lisbon-cooking-classes.htm


++ Be a Shepherd or a miner for a day or participate in the harvest process

The Herdade da Malhadinha Nova Country House & Spa in the heart of the Alentejo is offering its guest a variety of ways to enjoy their stay. Activities include learning to be a shepherd or a miner for a morning or do a picnic in the country side. Be a shepherd: Put your senses to the test while you walk through the vineyards and enjoy the charm of the Alentejo plain just like a typical "Alentejano" shepherd. (including shepherd kit) . Be a miner: Relive the times in which Neves Corvo mines were active!  Price per pax: 35 EUR. http://www.malhadinhanova.pt/spa/ing/index_ing.htm (under activities)


++ Harvest time in Douro Valley, Porto and North of Portugal region - September and October are the months for the wine harvest throughout Portugal, complete with grape stomping and parties. This year, the harvest takes on special meaning in the northern regions of Douro and Minho, which just celebrated 250 years of wine production. Along the hillsides and through the vineyards, men will carry grape-gathering baskets on their backs, while the women chant traditional songs. At the vineyard Lagarada in Douro, visitors can even join in the grape crushing at The Quinta da Pacheca, every day at about 6 p.m. Similar offerings can be found at the Quinta de Santa Eufémia, Quinta de Marrocos and Quinta do Portal. For reservations contact the Estates directly or the Association Rota do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Route) at http://www.rvp.pt. Reservations with 48 hours advance notice are advised.

More information:

http://www.quintadapacheca.com http://www.qtastaeufemia.com




Quinta Nova offers a "harvest program" for guests who want a hands-on experience with the Douro Valley's celebrated grapevines. http://www.quintanova.com/client/skins/english/vprodutos.asp?id=63

++ Horseback Riding With Royalty: Take private horse riding and grooming lessons on the rare and precious breed of Lusitano stallions with Dom Francisco de Bragança, cousin to the heir of the Portuguese throne and whose family ruled Portugal from 1640 to 1910. These private lessons can be in dressage, work-in-hand, or lunge, all taught by the world-renowned expert and royal at his estate at Quinta do Archino, 45 minutes outside of Lisbon. Accommodation and full board at the resort are included. Starting at 200 Euros per day for private lessons (2 Day/ 1 Night), 5 Day/ 6 Night courses are also available for 1, 150 Euros. http://www.quintadoarchino.net/?lingua=en

++ Companhia das Lezirias Takes You Back To Nature: At the vast estate that forms the agricultural business of Companhia das Lezirias, you will find an emphasis on natural values. From visiting the winery and enjoying a wine tasting, to learning about the Lusitano horse, to simply enjoying the beauty of the lakes and dams included in the farm, perfect for activities such as walking, biking, and canoeing, there is plenty to keep you busy.  Experience the tradition and quality of the Companhia das Lezirias’ products and services, which have been provided since the 19th century. http://www.cl.pt/htmls/pt/home.shtml

++ Portugal's Fortified Interior: Bike through the beautiful historic Centro region of Portugal’s remote interior with a guide to discover the medieval castles and forts that helped Portugal protect itself from the Moors, Spanish and other would be invaders for centuries. Visit and explore the historical villages Castelo Novo and Monsanto.  See the beautiful landscape of the Douro River International Natural Park. Experience the medieval walled village of Marialva and so much more! Starting at €790 for a 7-day self guided journey. http://www.a2z-adventures.com/site11/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=65%3Ambt_hvt&lang=en

++ Ports of Tradition: Blue Coast Bikes 6 days/5 nights guided bike tour that starts in the city of Porto and winds its way through the verdant Douro Valley - considered the oldest demarcated wine region in the entire world via boat, train and bicycle across towns such Baiao, Lamego, Pinhão, Alijo, Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Price: 2,795€ and includes across Baiao, Lamego, Pinhão, Alijo, Vila Nova de Foz Coa for 6 days/5 nights. Price includes trek touring/hybrid bicycle & helmet rental; support vehicle & guides; accommodations with breakfasts in charming river-front cottage, vintage house, historic manors, luxury hotel SPA, premium village resort; picnic lunches, dinners with wine, plus luggage transfer; wine tastings; rider’s insurance; BCB jersey & water bottle.  http://www.bluecoastbikes.travel/tours/ports-of-tradition#

++ Wine and Cellar Tour to Evora: This full day private tour gives you the opportunity to visit one of the most interesting regions of Portugal, Alentejo.  Visit the World Heritage Site of Evora, where you can experience major historical sites, such as the unique Chapel of Bones.  Visit and taste from some of the best wine estates in Portugal as you enjoy an exclusive and personalized guided tour.  Prices start at $154 per person. http://www.viator.com/tours/Lisbon/Private-Wine-and-Cellar-Tour-to-Evora/d538-3693WINEFDREG



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Miguel Carvalho

Portuguese National Tourism Office

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