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Algarve Coast Highlights

TravelShannon Guerrero8 Comments

During any trip to Portugal, you should definitely visit Lisbon or maybe even Porto, but if you choose to go anywhere else, the Algarve should be at the top of that list.  I knew the Algarve is a beach area but I don’t think I realized how beautiful it was going to be.  Before we went, of course I goggled it but you never know if you can trust the professional pictures of a place.  But those pictures did not lie.  I kept having to pinch myself when I was standing there staring at the ocean.  

The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal.  The coast is lined with gorgeous white sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs.  And at the other end of the ocean is Africa! Well, at least my friend and I thought that was cool.

Of course with a short time period in the Algarve, we didn’t get to see everything, but I do feel like we did get to see some pretty amazing things.  I’ve put together my highlights of the Algarve below!

COAST BOAT TOUR

The best way by far to see the coastline is by a boat tour.  You could Kayak along the coast, but you really won’t get to see as much as you can with a boat tour.

The tour we went on was pretty awesome.  The boat was super unassuming since it literally just looked like a blow up boat, but man that thing could move.  I swear we were going at speeds of like 50mph.  I have no idea if that’s an accurate guess of how fast we were actually going, but all I know is that the wind was blowing by so quickly.  Felt like it a roller coaster and it was awesome.

This is the tour company we went with.

BENAGIL CAVE

There are three ways to see this cave.  You can take a boat, kayak in or swim to the Benagil Cave.  We initially tried to rent a kayak to get to the cave, but unfortunately due to choppy waters they weren’t letting anyone rent kayaks.  We quickly decided on a boat tour thinking it would be too far to swim.  I had read a few blog posts prior to visiting and they all made it seem like the cave was a pretty good distance to swim.  Since I’m not a swimmer, the boat tour really was the only option.  Only catch is, on the boat tour, the boats do not actually land inside the cave.  They just pass by for a minute before heading down the coast.

We later realized the swim is actually really do-able, even for non-swimmers.  So swimming would have been a good option.  In the picture above, it's literally around that cliff.

PRAIA DO CAMILA

Praia do Camila located in Lagos is probably one of the more well known beaches in the Algarve.  I know I had seen a ton of photos of this beach before heading there myself.  There is a cool tiered staircase that leads down the cliffs and finally lets you off a the umbrella covered beach.  

I’m not sure if this a European thing, but I did not realize how my people flock to the beaches.  I mean you end up laying about six inches from the person next to you.  Or maybe I thought this beach was larger from the pictures, but I did somewhat feel like a squished sardine.  Then I would look up and realize what a beautiful place I was lucky enough to be laying on.

There is a small walkway through the rocks you can use to get another small beach.  Thinking about it now, all of the beaches were pretty small in diameter because they were just nestled in between the vast amount of cliffs.  There are plenty like this one to be explored, but this one is definitely iconic.

PRAIA DE FARO

If you’ve ever been to California, especially Newport Beach in Southern California, that is what the Faro area reminded me of.  To get to this stretch of beach you have to drive across a one way bridge.  It’s a super quaint little beach town.  

We stayed in an AirBnb in Faro just feet from the sand.  It was pretty much the jackpot of all AirBnb’s.  For everyone who asked about the place we stayed, here is the link!

 

I really wish I could have just driven the coast in search of beautiful places in the Algarve which really would have been at every turn.  I’m so happy I was able to experience it in the best ways possible, by boat and by laying in the sun crowded up next to other sunbathers.  It is definitely a place I want to go back to.

Yours Truly // Shannon

Weekend in Lisbon

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

My first very stop on my month long Europe trip was to Lisbon, Portugal.  I don’t know why Portugal was never on my radar before.  I mean I’ve still never been to Spain, so Portugal hadn’t even crossed my mind.  This seemed a bit like most of the places I visited on this trip.  Slovenia? Who’s ever even heard of Slovenia?  Malta?  Where in the world is Malta?  I kind of like the idea of traveling to lesser known areas that are virtually undiscovered by crazy tourists.  This way you really can get to experience a place and not just visit it even if you do have a short amount of time.

It seems crazy that this beautiful country isn’t necessarily one of the first places people think of when they think of Europe.  The more common places that people think of going on a European vacation are usually Italy, France, England and Spain.  Fact is, Portugal is absolutely gorgeous.  The people, the land, the food.  You’ll want to go back before you even leave!  I know I would go back in a heartbeat.  

I think I’m pretty good at seeing as much a physically possible in a short amount of time when I travel.  Most of us only have a certain amount of time to travel, right?  Here’s a weekend rundown of the top things to see and do in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

DAY ONE

STOP 1: BELEM TOWER

First trick for seeing as much as possible and visiting places without the herds of people, get up early!  I went to the Belem Tower and had the entire place to myself.  Best part was getting to see the sun rise and that warm light shining on Belem Tower.  You can continue to walk along the water and take in that beautiful morning light.

STOP 2: PASTEIS DE BELEM

After sunrise and strolling along the water, head across the street towards Pasteis de Belem.  Its about a 15 minute walk.  If you’ve never heard of a Pasteis, you really have been missing out.  I had never heard of them and let me tell you, I don’t know how I’ve lived without trying them.  I really couldn’t even tell you what I was eating when I ordered them.  They just melt in your mouth.  Basically, it’s just an egg/custard tart pastry.  Trust me, you can get these anywhere in Portugal, but you have to try the original Pasteis de Belem.

Make sure you do get there early because if you come too late the line will be around the block.  But you're going to get up early to see the Belem Tower, so that won't be a problem, right?!

STOP 3: JERONIMOS MONASTERY

Head a block down the street after stuffing your face full of Pasteis de Belem to Jerónimos Monastery.  It’s really just a beautiful building with gorgeous architecture for you take in.  You can take a walk inside if you’d like.  There’s also a large park with a couple of fountains to sit a while and people watch.

STOP 4: ALFAMA

Spend the rest of the day wandering around the streets of Alfama.  Just get lost roaming those streets.  You’ll find gems around every corner.  While roaming, we happened to stumble upon the cutest, smallest bar, ever. If you’re curious to see a bar with only 8 stools and the nicest bartender, make your way to Ulysses Lisbon Speakeasy.  We met the nicest people sitting in there sipping on wine.

Check out Ulysses Speakeasy, here.

STOP 5: ALFAMA CELLARS

After a few drinks, head over to Alfama Cellars.  It’s just a 5 minute walk up the way from Ulysses.  You will not regret it.  I am still dreaming about the octopus salad we had.  I would go back to Lisbon just for that octopus again.

Check out Alfama Cellars, here.

DAY TWO

STOP 1: RUA AUGUSTA ARCH

First thing, head over to the Rua Augusta Arch.  Especially if you want to snap some pictures without those crowds, get here early.  I love that this arch is just built between two buildings.  It sort of just sneaks up on you when you turn the corner.

STOP 2: COMERCIO SQUARE

Directly in front of the Rua Augusta Arch is Comercio Square.  It is seriously a giant square.  There are some beautiful sculptures in the middle of the square.  As you walk toward the water you’ll see some more sculptures and have a great view of the Ponte 25 de Abril.  Don’t be fooled, you may forget where you are and think you’re in San Francisco.  This bridge is identical to the Golden Gate Bridge.

STOP 3: CHIADO

After roaming the square, spend some time wandering the streets of Chiado.  It’s a great area to experience more of the cultural in Lisbon.  You can find a ton of shopping and stores in this area, too.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: SEARCH FOR TILE WALLS

This really could be said for everywhere in Lisbon or really just Portugal as a whole.  Tile walls can be found just about on every home and building.  The design and attention to detail is really just beautiful to see.

 

Hope you have fun visiting Lisbon or Lisboa as the locals call it.  Or I hope I’ve convinced you to add this beautiful country to your list.

Also, if you’re looking for a cute place to stay in a great location, check out my review of Gat Rooms Rossio Hotel, here.

Yours Truly // Shannon

Gat Rooms Hotel - Lisbon, Portugal

TravelShannon Guerrero2 Comments

My first stop of this crazy European Adventure of mine was Lisbon, Portugal.  I had the opportunity to stay with Gat Rooms Hotel in Rossio.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to have such a great hotel to stay at while in Lisbon.  Not to mention one as comfortable as this one to help me get through my jetlag.  

Speaking of jetlag – it doesn’t usually hit me on the way there.  It always gets to me when I return home, but this time was different.  The jetlag hit me hard the first few days abroad.

Back to the important stuff.  I know it's sometimes a challenge finding a hotel during your trip research, so I’m writing this in hopes of making your selection that much easier when looking to select your lodging for your next trip to Lisbon.

LOCATION

I really don’t think you can get a better location for a hotel in Lisbon.  Hotel Gat Rooms is extremely centrally located.  It was a 10-minute walk from the iconic Rua Augusta Arch, the Alfama area and the Chiado.  It was also just a 20-minute drive from the airport which was really refreshing considering airports are usually outside of the city limits making the commute pretty long and tiring after a flight.  

Do be sure that if you take an Uber, they drop you off on the main street where you then can walk between the restaurants to access the front of the hotel.  I was dropped off in the back, in front of a church and was a bit confused on how to enter the building.

ROOMS

I was really impressed by the great design of the hotel.  Well, to be honest, I’m conviced Lisbon should be known for its great sense of design.  Everything is so well thought through.  Even in the rooms, everything is very strategically placed with a minimal, hip look.  My room had this amazing window sill that looked out on the city with a great view of the São Jorge Castle perched on the hill.

I hope you noticed the empty birdcage with feather decals falling on the wall.  Gat rooms. Get it? A cat got the bird? I'm thinking Tweedy and Sylvester right about now.

FOOD

I think “breakfast included” is one of the best things hotels can offer.  I mean breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Breakfast is something Gat Rooms knows how to do, well.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spread that vast – meats, cheeses, breads, pasteis, eggs.  I’m still dreaming about the melty ham and cheese sandwich I was able to make and press myself.  Not to mention the freshly squeezed orange juice station.  I don’t think I could get through this without also mentioning the self-serve, make-your-own hard or soft boiled egg station.

HOTEL

I think I imagined a smaller hotel not having very many areas to socialize.  Gat Rooms really encourages social interactions in their many lounge areas.  The breakfast area has a bunch of bench tables.  The room room has a great modern vibe with all red seating areas.  The two outdoor terraces are possibly at the top of my list of cutest outdoor lounges.  One of them even has shade coverings that can be used during the day and pushed back at night.  I also loved the pops of color and multiple shades of green to follow with the Gat Rooms branding. Did I sound like a Graphic Designer there? Guilty.

Check out Gat Rooms Rossio, here.

And if you didn't notice by the name alone (gat=cat), there are subtle or maybe not so subtle cat icons throughout the entire hotel.  Exhibit A, the cute cat icon on the hotel key card.  If you like neon, too, you're even more in luck.  The hotel is illuminated in a green neon light day and night.
 

Yours Truly // Shannon

*Sponsored Post: My hotel stay was provided in collaboration with Gat Rooms Hotel! All opinions are my own.