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FC: Christmas 2011

1: Mom, I really wanted to do something special for you this year. A lot of things crossed my mind, but I wanted it to be about more than just "stuff". I wanted to do something that would have some lasting memories. I hope you will be as excited about this as I am. I hope you know how much I love you. Merry Christmas and happy (very belated) birthday, Kuschy

2: You will find your itinerary for two weeks in Portugal outlined in the following pages. We leave on April 17 and Return May 1. I will meet you in Toronto the afternoon of the 17th, and we will travel together throughout the remainder of the trip. Everything is already booked and paid for. You need only worry about some spending money if you want to do some shopping.

3: We will spend the first five nights in Lisbon. Late April is said to be one of the nicest times to see the city. The temperature hovers around 19 degrees during the day with a low of 15 at night. The flowers are in bloom and most of the tourists have not yet arrived, so sights can actually be seen.

4: We are staying at the Eurostars Das Letras, one of the top rated hotels in Lisbon, for this portion of the trip. The hotel is right off of one of the main "drags" and a less than a five minute walk from a metro station. A buffet breakfast is included as part of our stay.

5: Lisbon has some legendary cafés and fresh fish is on every menu. While you can get some Micheline rated meals, the best restaurants serve peasant food - grilled fish and a variety of stews. | The Portuguese are also known for their pastries and custard tarts. We will be there right after Easter, so the shops will likely have traditional desserts in abundance.

6: And of course, there is the wine... | A little Vinho Verde on a terrace, a bit of red while at a club listening to Faro, a little Port after dinner....

7: In keeping with the food theme... The Lisbon Fish and Flavours food and wine show is an annual event that takes place over 11 days in central Lisbon. Micheline rated chefs from New York, London, Spain and Portugal's top chefs offer cooking demonstrations. Local restaurants offer tastings and, if we so choose, we can take cooking classes or wine pairing workshops. While this year's date has yet to be confirmed, I have booked our time in Lisbon based on the timing of past year's events.

8: After we see some sights, some shopping will be in order. Lisbon is known for it's handpainted tiles and ceramics. Textiles, gold and leather are also beautifully done and reasonably priced. All of the gold sold in Portugal is at least 19.2 karats.

9: We will leave the city on the 23rd to head to Cascais, a former fishing village (now a suburb) of Lisbon. It is known for it's beaches, beautiful historic center and local restaurants and bars. The weather should run in the low 20s, but bring something warm for the evenings.

10: We have a suite at the Casa Vela Charm Guest house - a boutique hotel with 15 rooms. It is located very near the historic town and the water. The hotel has a hot tub, and all rooms have large windows looking onto the pool or garden. A buffet breakfast is included with our stay and some of the best restaurants are found within a five minute walk from the hotel.

11: We stay in Cascais for 2 nights/3 days. Of course, there will be more food and shopping, but what it is really known for is it's beaches and magnificent landscapes. While it does attract tourists, it is said to have retained it's character as a fishing village. The daily catch is still auctioned in the harbourside and colourful square boats bob in the harbour.

12: Right next to Cascais, is the town of Sintra. Sintra is now a UNESCO world heritage site, and was once the royal town of the country, surrounded by hills and lush countryside. The town itself is known for its pedestrian feel and historic center which has remained intact. The tourbooks say it is a must see while in Portugal. It can be a daytrip if we like while in Cascais.

13: We leave Cascais on the 25th. We will be taking the train to Lagos, the southern most point of Portugal where we will stay for 4 nights. Lagos gets more sunshine than California. The average temperature at this time of year should be a low of 14 with a high of 22.

14: We have a double room with a terrace and garden view at the Dom Manuel residence; buffet breakfast is included. The hotel also offers a sauna a steam bath The hotel is located 500 Meters from one of the most famous beaches in Lagos, and Lagos castle is 600 meters away in the other direction.

15: Lagos is a small fishing town with a rich history. Despite it's small size and wealth of historical sights, the city is known for having the best nightlife in the region, with a good mix of bars, restaurants and an easygoing pace.

16: Lagos is dotted with secluded beaches and sand-covered cliffs and small coves. The beaches are considered the best in Portugal. There are several restaurants built into the cliffs offering rather spectacular views. There was an article on Lagos in the Globe and Mail a few months ago. It is what inspired this trip.

17: Finally, we head back to Lisbon for two nights (April 29 to May 1) for a last round of sights, shopping and eating before heading home. We are stying in the middle of the historic district, at the Orange 3 house B&B. The hotel is close to everything with a wealth of cafés and shopping right outside the hotel. Our room has a terrace and river view; breakfast is included. And yes, we have a private bathroom.

19: NOTES: ** I will send you your ticket electronically. You will need to tell Air Canada your Aeroplan number. **While the weather should be relatively good, you will need to bring a rainjacket - preferably something with a hood, as well as some light sweaters and long-sleeved tops. **In addition, bring some warm weather clothes and a bathing suit. It tends to be warmer in Lagos than in Lisbon. **Please bring your leg brace and comfortable shoes. I don't care if its ugly. While I have done my best to book things that are centrally located, we will be doing a lot of walking. **If at all possible - get a NEXXUS pass. It is a bit of a process and takes a while, (6-8 weeks) so if you are going to do it, do it right away. This will make getting through customs in the States (as well as security in Canada) A LOT easier and faster. I will send you the link.

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  • By: Karen K.
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