During my ten-day trip to Portugal, I spent the first three days with my friends Jon and Jackie at the Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort. The resort is centrally located between Óbidos, Nazaré, and Peniche all places we were interested in visiting in Oeste Portugal.
Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort
While normally I would not pick an American Hotel in a foreign country, we had an enjoyable stay at the resort, a top 100 golf resort in Europe. As we were busy sighting seeing in Oeste Portugal, we hardly took advantage of any of the resort amenities, but we enjoyed a remarkable dinner at one of its restaurants, Emprata.
The way the menu was priced, it was only about $5 more to get a three-course tasting meal, than an appetizer and an entrée, so we went all out. We were all thrilled we did. The plating, garnished with edible flowers, was exquisite. And all our food…divine!
At times, we weren’t sure exactly what we were going to get with some English lost in translation on the menu, but our waitress did an excellent job describing the dishes. From the pumpkin soup, to the pork belly, to the unique desserts, the chef paid attention to every detail. The meal was reminiscent our dinner at one of the top restaurants in the world, Hiša Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia, where I learned that each piece of food on the place should be eaten together for the full flavor.
Along with the excellent food, the Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort features a lovely, sand beach beneath imposing cliffs. The resort’s grassy lawn leads to wooden stairs that drop down to the silky shore with icy Atlantic waves. When the tide is low, guests may walk from Praia do Pico da Atena to Praia do Beltico. I took stroll one afternoon after a half day in Peniche.
Peniche is a rocky peninsula located west of Óbidos and south of both the Marriott and Nazaré. The city of 15,600 inhabitants is known for its windy beaches prime for surfing, its fortress used as a coastal defense, and the Berlengas Islands, 6 miles off the coast.
Forte da Luz
There are also some hiking trails on the cliffs overlooking the battered shore as well as old fort ruins and a lighthouse. After a brief stop on Baleal Island, to get a view of Peniche, we began our morning of exploring at the Forte da Luz ruins.
The fort was constructed in the 16th century as the northern most defense structure on the Peniche peninsula. Though it was reinforced in the 19th century during the Portuguese Civil War, its placement on crumbling cliffs and exposure to the elements has left it in disrepair. Beyond a fun photo, the fort is nothing to write home about, but the seaside cliffs afford some fantastic views and interesting history.
San Pedro Alcantara Shipwreck
Just west of Forte da Luz is Limbo do Leste which means eastern limb. The hiking trails here lead to a point that overlooks the former San Pedro de Alcantara shipwreck site from 1786. The ship, which was heading to Spain from Peru, was carrying over 150 tons of gold and silver, 600 tons of brass, as well as cannons and 6.5 tons of cocoa. 128 passengers died. The Spanish Crown launched a huge rescue operation to recover all the goods. 180 years later, another ship sunk in the same place.
Farol do Cabo Carvoeiro
Following the road around the Peniche peninsula, take visitors by many beaches, cliffs, and camping opportunities. Soon it reaches Farol do Cabo Carvoeiro, one of the oldest lighthouses in Portugal. The lighthouse, which is 27 meters high and can project light 15 miles was constructed as a result of the San Pedro de Alcantara shipwreck.
After our super slow exploration of the coast, we visited the Fortaleza de Peniche which now houses the Museu Nacional Resistencia e Liberdade. Unfortunately, we could not enter as it was temporarily closed for renovation, but we enjoyed some nice views and ended up on the ocean front where tours go to The Berlengas Islands and many seafood restaurants line the harbor.
We took the recommendation of a volunteer at the beautiful church, Igreja da Misericordia de Peniche, and tried Miramar. I recommend trying some place else! My swordfish, boiled potatoes, and “salad” entrée was a disappointment.
Tour in the Oeste Region of Portugal
While we explored Peniche on our own, we joined a full-day tour on Tripadvisor to see Nazaré, Óbidos, and some other places so Jon didn’t have to drive too much. Driving in a foreign country is stressful! And when we did drive, we got to know the roundabout by the airport in Lisbon very well.
Anyway, as I mentioned our tour took us to both Óbidos and Nazaré, about which I previously posted. On this tour, we also ate at Taberna do Manelvina in Cruzes which is popular among bullfighters, strolled through Buddha Eden Garden of Peace, and tasted wine at Quinta das Cerejeiras in Bombarral.
Rui, our guide, probably drove us 30 minutes between each stop and we spent around an hour in each location. While I normally prefer exploring just a couple of places in more depth, I would have a couple really cool places, especially the Buddha Eden Garden of Peace.
Buddha Eden Garden of Peace
The Buddha Eden Garden of Peace, with 35 hectares, is the largest oriental garden in Europe. The garden was created in protest of the destruction of the Giant Buddhas of Bayman by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
An estimated 6,000 tons of marble and granite has been used in the buddhas, pagodas, central staircase and other statues. The sculpture garden also features a Koi pond and a section of African Art which made me miss my bi-annual safari trip, with the last being an amazing visit to Chobe, Khwai and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The African statues include, but aren’t limited to wildebeest, buffalo, giraffes, crocodiles and elephants, one that had “five” legs. Just kidding, it was very well endowed!
Given we just gorged on a huge lunch and were still getting over our jetlag, it was a great location to stroll through the trees while admiring the artwork.
Taberna do Menelvina
As I mentioned, we ate at Taberna do Manelvina in Cruzes. It seemed a little random to leave Nazaré, full of restaurants, to go to this one restaurant in Cruzes, but it was about half-way between Nazaré and the Buddha Eden Garden of Peace and somewhat unique.
The easiest way to explain it, is to say the restaurant is similar to Fogo de Chao, except Taberna do Manelvina is not a chain and has been around longer than the Brazilian rodizio-style steakhouse.
At Taberna do Manelvina, courses just kept coming. We started with an excellent tomato salad and a variety of sausages. Then we got as many servings of black pork, white pork, and steak as we wanted. We ended the meal with pastries, liquors, and a choice of pudding desserts and met the owner.
Quinta das Cerejeiras
Our final stop on our tour was at Quinta das Cerejeiras. Quinta das Cerejeiras is one of three estates operated by Companhia Agricola do Sanguinhal. The company was founded in 1928 by Abel Pereira da Fonseca and is still family run, presently by the 4th generation.
Quinta das Cerejeiras boasts pear orchards, vineyards, a historic house constructed in 1916, a garden, a chapel, a museum, a shop and old grape scales. The museum is full of historic equipment used for wine production. And the chapel was used as the main church of the village of Bombarral from 1924 to 1953, after a fire burned the church of Bombarral.
While Quinta das Cerejeiras is best known for its D.O.C. Óbidos Grande Reserva, the two-bottle tasting we experienced included a white and a red from its sister estates, Quinta de S. Francisco and Quinta do Sanguinhal, respectively. Both wines were good and affordable!
Overall, we really enjoyed our full day tour of Oeste Portugal, our half day exploring Peniche, and our three night stay at Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort. ETB
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