Azores, Madeira, and Portugal

April 2024

Map of tour
© Overseas Adventure Travel

The Azores, an archipelago in the Atlantic and an autonomous region that is part of Portugal, had been on our "bucket list" for many years; now we were finally going to see it. (The Azores are about 870 miles west of Lisbon, 2/3 the way across the Atlantic from the US.) We chose "The Azores & Madeira: Portugal's Unspoiled Archipelagos" from our favorite tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel. We had been to Portugal twice in the past. In 2013 we did a Douro river cruise with Uniworld that started in Lisbon and headed north through Coimbra to Porto before joining the ship, followed by a week in Madrid (photos). In 2018 we returned to Lisbon as the origin for a small-ship cruise south along the coasts of Portugal and Spain, ending with a week in Granada, Spain (photos).

As we had already seen some of the north of Portugal, we skipped the pre-trip extension, but did select the post-trip extension into the south-central Alentejo region of Portugal. The tour began in Lisbon, OAT then flew us to the Azores islands of Terceira and São Miguel, to Madeira (another Portuguese island not part of the Azores), and then back to Lisbon, where we then began the post-trip.

This travelogue features a selection of the photos I took during the trip. Click on any one to view it larger, or see the entire album collection on Flickr.

April 7-8, Lisbon

Our TAP Air Portugal flight left Boston for Lisbon at 10:30PM, and inexplicably, they proceeded to serve a three-course dinner at about midnight. We passed, having eaten our dinner before leaving home. (A light breakfast was served an hour before landing.) The flight was a fairly quick six hours - there must have been a good tailwind. Although the forecast for Lisbon called for "81% chance of rain", it was sunny and clear when we landed, though it obviously had showered earlier.

We cleared immigration and customs quickly, and were met outside baggage claim by an OAT representative who showed us to the waiting car (a Tesla Model Y) and driver who would take us to our Lisbon hotel, a "boutique hotel" part of the H10 group. Even though we arrived well before normal checkin time, our room was ready. We had chosen to arrive a day before the tour started to give us a chance to recover from jet lag - this turned out well.

After initial unpacking we went back out to wander the neighborhood, which was in the bustling center of the city. We found a mini-market a few steps away where we bought some water, and then went out in search of lunch. Using Google Maps (I had learned earlier that Yelp was not very useful in Europe), I located Pils Grill Eatery, for which reviews said they had many local varieties of beer on tap and a decent food menu. When we got there the place was empty, and we were served promptly. Leslie had locally-made sausage with mashed potato, I had a beef steak (made from the cow's neck I was told), with a peppercorn sauce and potato salad. Leslie loved the sausage; I found the beef interesting but fattier than I like. Beers were a hit - I had a microbrew Porter, Leslie had a Chimay. We would return there three more times before we were done.

Pils Grill Eatery, Lisbon

We then walked around the area and into a large park. Leslie thought it looked familiar, and as we got into it we realized that we had seen it from the other end on a previous visit to Lisbon. The skies were sunny and temperatures were in the 50s, but the wind was gusty, making a windbreaker a good choice. For dinner we wanted a sit-down restaurant - many were closed on Monday, so we selected Block House, a steak house about a 20-minute walk away. What Google Maps didn't tell me was that it was on the top floor of an indoor shopping mall, and we spent another ten minutes or so going back and forth until we found it, tucked in a corner. The meal was just OK, not worth the journey.

Statue of the Marquis of Pombal
The Marquis of Pombal, Lisbon mayor 1750-1777

April 9, Lisbon

As we often do when we have free time, we walked through interesting-looking parts of the city. When we found Jardim Guerra Junquiero, a beautiful park with many different trees, benches and statuary artwork everywhere, we stopped for a coffee at a small cafe in the park. Seated next to us were two men, about our age or a bit older, and their small dog who wandered back and forth. They had moved to Portugal from Canada (one of the men was originally from England). We had a great conversation about political climates living in various countries, observing the 20-foot-tall rope-spider-web climbing structure in the nearby playground and the small kids reaching the top (something not uncommon in our youth, but would never be allowed in the US nowadays), and sharing travel stories.

After we parted, Leslie and I walked around the park, noting the many benches and places to just sit and enjoy the day. We passed a young woman sitting on a bench and chatting on her phone, with a container of strawberries she was snacking on - ah, that's the life. Leaving the park, we walked down a rather steep street that the men had suggested. They mentioned that the sidewalks, generally paved with marble blocks, were found to be too slippery in the rain so on this street the marble blocks were mixed with granite for a bit more grip. It was fun to see the impressive street art, including on buildings adjacent to a parking lot. We stopped for lunch at an Indian restaurant where, once again, we were the only patrons; the food was delicious.

Botanical Garden of Lisbon

Botanical Garden of Lisbon





Then it was time to meet Mafalda Sousa, our Trip Experience Leader, and the rest of the tour group, some of whom had been on the pre-trip. Mafalda was a delightful young woman who lived in the Lisbon area. When she introduced herself at the group orientation the next morning, she led with what she said was the question on everyone's mind: how old was she, really? (Much of our group was of the age where we wonder when they started giving drivers licenses to infants.) The answer was 25; Mafalda had a degree in tourism and had been working in the industry for several years already, with a couple of years for OAT.