Lisbon + Santiago/Galicia 2 week trip ideas?
We're in the very beginning phases of planning a trip to Lisbon and Galicia. We've switched out plan around a bunch of times (it started as a Basque country road trip, then moved to Seville, and now we're thinking Lisbon, Santiago and points in between). It will probably be 11-14 days in March and/or April.
We LOVE to eat! (of course! That's why I post on Chowhound!) and want to get the best feel for the true cuisines, flavors, textures and colors of the region. We've never traveled in Portugal or Spain (I was in Madrid for 1 day for work about 10 years ago) and want to sample a mix of local, down-to-earth cooking, with maybe a finer experience mixed in here and there plus, since we'll probably rent a car for the second half of the trip, we want to find some out of the way towns with special food things in them.
(Also, my wife is a food blogger and writer and I am a writer of outrageously long CH trip reports, linked from my profile, so we will definitely be reporting back on all our experiences!)
Galicia has a bunch of nice small cities, Ourense, Pontevedra etc. The tapas hours can be fairly small (Ourense) yet really tasty, during our 2 weeks in Galicia we only had a repeat of Albarinio once. We liked the Sunday market in Padron. It was half brocante/schmate and 1/2 food. As you enter there are 2 large tents w/pulpo vendor, also serving local wine from the keg. Breakfast! Many
Did you lose something at the end there? The "Breakfast!" got me excited... Thanks for the tips so far. I'm pretty psyched. Definitely liking the sunday market. Any idea what the season for it is, or is it year-round?
Also, all the restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor for Pontevedra are in Spanish... a good sign!
Lisbon and the other parts of Portugal between it and Galicia, plus Galicia itself, is so full of complex food specialties and experiences -- wine too - that I'm guessing you already know that 14 days will just barely scratch the surface.
There is a quite a variety of food experiences in Lisbon itself and you can find threads from the past year that will begin to cover the waterfront of traditional Portuguese dishes plus the opportunity to sample flavors of Goa, Mozambique, Brazil. It is also worthwhile I think to track down the old posts of VinhoTinto for Lisbon in addition to the excellent recent reports and recommendations.
As a food destination, I would say skip Porto unless, if you can at all swing it, spend a night there at the Yeatman, have some port cocktails, eat at the highly regarded restaurant for your finer experience. That is where I would lay down some money, because otherwise you can eat in Portugal very inexpensively very well.
I loved eating in Lisbon but the very best meal I had in Portugal was in Guimaraes, in Historico.
For March or April I would not expect the weather to be great in Galicia (or northern Portugal), so you might need to adjust your ambitions and be flexible in your plans if you are driving. For my trip (last September), I didn't set foot in Santiagio de Compostela, so can't help you there. Lugo is often touted as the best food destination in Galicia, and I loved my lunch at Verruga there and wish I had stayed several nights for tapas. I enjoyed the tapas scene in Ourense greatly, but above all I loved the tapas scene in Pontevedra, which is really robust and extensive in the center of the historic town.
If you don't know anything about the regional Galician specialties of octopus, percebes, or alheira in Portugal or pastries and bread, it is worth tracking down as much information as you can, as well as info about the wines of that region, including port.
You'll have a hard time I think covering all the territory you want to cover in 14 days. If you do not plan to go to the Yeatman in Porto, you might see if you can get a plane or train from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela (or Vigo or A Coruna) and rent a car there.
15 days to cover this distance is not going to give you much time to enjoy the local cuisine. I live in Galicia and quite honestly I could give you more than enough places to visit and really experience in those days, without Portugal. Not only can you sample local recipes but you could also try the local wines: Be it in Portugal or Galicia.
Here we have 5 areas of wine. The 2 regions that are perhaps the best Galicia can offer is either the Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra.
Cuisine; the coastal area is better know for its fish and inland more for it’s meat. Have you read Everything but the Squeal? Well apart from pork there is also Lamb and beef.
To be honest there si far too much to write in one posting, especially as I have a feeling you have to make a choice between Galicia and Portugal.
Non food stuff: If you are driving in Portugal you should be aware of the electronic toll road system. It is not too complicated if you hire a Portugese registered car. Use a reputable company. If you hire a non Portugese car then it becomes a nightmare.
Thanks for all this info. I would love to have 2 months rather than 2 weeks but that's just not the way the world works! (At least not the part of the world where I hang my hat!) But we were thinking that two weeks for this region would be a great experience, if not exhaustive. In the last couple years we've done 9 days in Mexico City, 6 days each in Prague and Reykjavik and 5 days in Krakow. We didn't exhaust any of those places, not even tiny Reykjavik, but I feel like we got a really good sense of all of them. At least we're not doing one of those 2 week London-Paris-Berlin-Barcelona-Rome trips for which our countrymen are infamous! ;)
I'll try to hone our choices and post them. Pontevedra is sounding really good to me...
Alright, so we're starting to whittle down the general flow of the trip. Here's what we're thinking. How does this sound:
Lisbon for 5 nights
Drive to Galicia, stopping in Pontevedra for the day and then staying in Santiago for 4 nights to explore surrounding areas and towns.
Drive to Lugo to see the medieval walls and continue to Leon for 3 nights, again including exploring surrounding areas.
Drive back to Portugal, lunch in Porto, one last night in Lisbon and then fly home.
ALSO! This itinerary has us in Santiago for Good Friday and Leon for Easter Sunday. Are these good days to be in these places? You never know if being in such a Catholic place on these important days means it will be extra exciting or extra dead.
I know that we're not even going to scratch the surface but I feel like this itinerary would be really exciting and offer a good overview of the region. Thoughts?
Since I didn't visit Santiago de Compostela I really can't comment on the realities of the food scene, but I will add that I delberately did not go to Santiago de Compostela just because I feared the food scene would be mediocre given the number of foreigners flooding the town looking for either budget eats or food that is more familiar to them.
However, there are obviously reasons beyond food that many people have for wanting to stay for days in Santiago de Compostela, none of which are permissable to discuss on Chowhound. I happened to be on a mainly foodie tour of Galicia.
A foodie plan for Spain that has you commuting in and out from a "base" for day trips means foregoing the tapas scene everywhere except for your "base." I walked around Lugo a lot at lunchtime before settling on Verruga (very good) as the place that offered me a chance to sample local specialties as opposed to a sit-down set lunch restaurant meal, which I really didn't want. I was sorry I didn't stay in Lugo for some nights since it has an outstanding reputation for food and tapas in particular.
Rather than lunch in Porto, I suggest a train from Lisbon to Porto so you can spend the night and sample plenty of port wine. You can't do that at lunch and then drive. (I'd pick the Yeatman to eat and drink, and for cocktails at a minimum.) Pick up a car the next day in Porto. Likewise, once you leave Galicia and re-enter Portugal, I would get rid of the car in the north (Porto airport?) and take a train or fly back to Lisbon (or Madrid) since you will have run out of time to stop anywhere and eat a great meal. Right now you are renting a car in Lisbon and using it to cover ground that would be more easily covered by train. You really don't need a car until you get to Galicia, and between the complications of Portuguese tolls, the price of gas and parking in Porto, you are robbing from your food budget to buy a lot of dull hard driving (possibly in the rain) for no foodie reward in Portugal.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I share some of your concerns about Santiago and after a similar discussion on Tripadvisor we're thinking of staying in Pontevedra for the wine region advantages and just making SdC a daytrip.
Also, Lugo is gaining a stronger foothold in our plans all the time! Although we have had Leon recommended by a prominent restaurateur as a place not to miss for its meats, so we're pretty interested in getting there as well... So much to do!
As for the driving/train pros and cons, that makes a lot of sense. On the wey up it would be great to take a train, spend a night in Porto and then drive... but how would we handle the return? Our flight out of Lisbon is 11am. This is a discussion for another site but fitting it all together is tricky.
Actually, now that I look at a map, if you are thinking of spending the night in Leon and driving all day to Lisbon with a lunch stop, I'm not sure it is realistic. You would be better spending your penultimate night in Guimareas, Portugal -- so you can have dinner at Historico -- then dropping off the car in Porto the next morning and taking the train back to Lisbon for snacks and dinner.
This is what I would suggest as an eating itinerary (subjet to your tweaking of course!)
Lisbon -4 or 5 nights
Train to Porto for dinner and port wine, spend night
Car pick-up in Porto, head to Pontevedra 2 nights (maybe lunches in Vigo and O Grove as recommended by bimbog?)
Head to Lugo 2 nights and have lunch in Santiago de Compostela en route (while in Lugo, see the Santa Eulalia de Bóveda crypt just outside of town, but eat in Lugo)
2 nights Leon
One night Guimareas dinner at Historico
Drop of car in Porto airport in the morning -- fly or train Lisbon for late lunch and dinner
The alternative would be to fly from Lisbon to Oviedo, which is just a 90 minute drive from Leon. Do your Galician tour in reverse, and drop off the car in Vigo and make you way to Porto by public transit for dinner + port wine in Porto. Next day train to Lisbon so you end up in Lisbon for dinner the night before your flight home.