Globe Trekker: Season 7, Episode 13

Portugal and the Azores
"Lonely Planet" Portugal and the Azores (original title)

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Portugal Has A Rich History
26 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

One of the former great European empires, Portugal takes up a fairly large chuck of real estate on the western Peninsula of Spain. The country's territory includes the Azores islands.

Meghan McCormick starts up north in "Peneda Geres," the country's only National Park. She and her guide "Pedro" show us some spectacular scenery up high where the clouds are touching the mountain tops.

From there, her first stop going south on her train trip is through the beautiful Douro Valley - with one vineyard after another - to the coastal city of Porto. Those vineyards, by the way, deal exclusively in "Port" wine. Porto is a wealthy city and the second-biggest in the country. Life is based around the river, not the ocean and is also famous for its five great bridges, one of them built by the man responsible for the Eiffel Tower.

"Portugal is famous for having potholes the size of moon craters," Megan points out as she rides a bus to her next destination: Santarem, where they have their big bullfighting ring. The trip isn't easy. "They also have the highest rate of deaths on the road in all of Europe. It is incredibly terrifying. I suggest don't look at the road, just enjoy the views.".

At Santarem, we learn a few interesting facts about bullfighting. In Portugal, there are two big differences that what you would see in Spain. Here, they don't kill the bulls and the matador is aboard a horse!

Next stop is Fatima, "one of the holiest places in the world for Catholic people. Four million people every year make this journey here. One walks to get there and is a long walk. Sad to say, the place is very commercialized. Pilgrimage sites are big business, she says.

It's on the to the capital, Lisbon, where you might think of San Francisco, as the main bridge was inspired by the Golden Gate bridge. Also, being a hilly city, like San Francisco, there are a bunch of cable to take you up and down the steep streets.

After a quick look at a unique cathedral in Evora, our host heads to the southern tip of Portugal to the beaches of the Algarve, "the French Rivera of Portugal" and the most popular tourist spot in the country. It has year-round sun, decent beaches and some "sweet" villages, as Meghan puts it. The Moorish architecture is nice on the eyes: beautiful white buildings.

The final trek, a two-hour plane ride west, is to the Azores - nine islands and the westernmost point of Europe. Except for the short story about the 13-month volcanic eruption hundreds of years ago, nothing was that exciting portion of the trip. In fact, the last 20 minutes of this episode, I felt was the host emphasizing herself a little too much. I hate it when the host of travel documentaries tries to be the hit of the show instead of letting the scenery do the job.


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