Well, my global gecko adventure is nearly over and of all the places I’ve visited, Portugal is one of my absolute favourites – warm weather, sandy beaches, sleepy fishing villages, buzzing cities and some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. It’s hard not to instantly fall in love with this country. As for highlights? Here are my top 4 moments from another unforgettable adventure.
According to my guidebook, for over a thousand years Portugal was invaded by all kinds of tribes and civilizations including the Romans, Celts, Moors, Visigoths and Knights Templar – and they each built epic castles and forts to keep out their enemies! I guess Portugal wasn’t such a fun holiday destination back then, but today, tourists can have great fun exploring these ancient ruins.
If you visit Lisbon, make sure you check out Castelo de São Jorge – it was built in the 6th century and sits on top of Lisbon’s highest hill. If you don’t fancy the walk, there’s a tram that’ll take you right to the top – which was a major relief for a gecko with little legs!
With its soaring turrets, towers and bridges, Castelo de São Jorge looks like it belongs in a medieval fairy-tale – the perfect place to imagine you’re a knight in shining armour!
There’s also a part of the castle called The Tower of Ulysses, which has a periscope offering an amazing 360-degree view of Lisbon. For the best views of the city, this is definitely the place to come.
Wine Tasting in the Douro Valley
Before I visited Portugal, I’d heard about all the fantastic wine they make here – including their most famous one, Mateus Rose. Now, as a gecko, I only really drink water (maximum hydration is kind of crucial in a humid climate), but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So, I booked on to a wine tasting tour in a scenic part of the country called the Douro Valley.
We started off by visiting Mateus Palace. It’s the most lavish country house you can imagine and is full of grand antiques, paintings and furniture – and it’s also the house that features on the label of Mateus Rose.
After a brilliant guided tour, we sat down for our first wine tasting session. First impressions? Wine is delicious! Second impressions? It makes your legs feel dizzy and your head go funny. Gulping my first glass in one go was probably a mistake. After a lovely morning, we visited another two wineries, which included a traditional lunch, a boat ride along the Douro River and… more tasting sessions.
Well, by mid-afternoon, I suddenly felt quite sleepy and had to lie down for an hour. I think I may have overdone things slightly but wine tasting in Portugal was definitely a trip highlight! Although after quite a bit of wine, some details were a little hazy.
Gecko Playing Golf
If you love playing golf, Portugal is your dream holiday destination. As well as the great weather, they’ve got around 80 courses to play on including incredible courses that sit right beside the ocean so you can always head to the beach once you’ve finished your round. Now, I’d never played golf before, but I couldn’t wait to try!
I booked a round at Penha Longa Resort near Lisbon. It’s apparently rated in the top 30 courses in Europe, so a great place to start a potentially promising career as the world’s first golf-playing gecko – but after taking 63 shots on the first 5 holes, I got the feeling golf wasn’t the game for me after all.
It didn’t really matter, though. When you’re whizzing around in a golf buggy on a stunning course lapping up all the Mediterranean sunshine, you still end up having a brilliant time!
Deep Sea Fishing in the Algarve
My holiday in Portugal ended with a real highlight – a deep sea fishing safari in the Algarve. I’d heard the Algarve is amazing for sports fishing – with the chance to catch swordfish, tuna and monster-sized marlin. Me? I was just hoping I didn’t accidentally hook a shark. Apparently blue sharks, mako sharks and hammerheads also lurk beneath the waves – yikes!
Anyway, I must be a natural at fishing because within minutes of casting my line into the sea, I had my first bite. Quick as a flash, I leaped up and began reeling in my catch, but then my catch started reeling back!
Panic set in. My skinny gecko arms were beginning to shake. I’d hooked a monster that was about to haul me overboard! Luckily, another passenger stepped in and helped me land my first catch – a thrashing 10-inch mackerel!
After a hard morning of fishing, we took a coastal cruise to a secluded beach and tucked into a delicious BBQ lunch before spending the afternoon swimming and sunbathing on the beach – pure bliss!
After such a fantastic holiday, I was sorry to wave goodbye to Portugal, but I’m already packed for the last leg of my gecko global adventure.
Final stop, Cuba!
Published 4th March 2016