Portugal was the first place I ever travelled abroad. It was with my family and I would have been about 6 years old the first time. We returned several times staying in or around Alvor, when we visited (a good 20 years ago) the place was a tiny town and fishing village. These days, I hear it is quite the tourist resort, and my memories of the tiny town are far removed from what is there now.
When I was a kid we would walk from our hotel complex through the residential area of town to one of the small- child- friendly- bars on the high street. On the way there every night we would pass The Oldest Portuguese Lady in the World. At the end of the week, we would tell her goodbye and she would give me an orange for my beautiful blonde hair. This happened every year, she recognised me the following the year that we went. I swear when I was 6 or 7 I thought she was 180 years old, she wore all black, had the longest grey hair and and sat watching out of her burnt orange shutters every night until I walked past and back home.
The complex we stayed on is still an operating tourist complex, it looks like it's now surrounded by other buildings, and I won't say where it was because of the story I am about to tell you... We stayed there twice, and about midway through the first week, both years, a hoard of gypsy's turned up. Each year we saw the owner come out and shout a lot in Portuguese gesticulating in the direction of the caravans. Then every morning after that, super early for a week we'd hear lots of splashing, followed by a lot more shouting as the gypsy kids jumped over the wall and into the complex pool. Each morning the owner, and varying members of staff, would chase them out.
I haven't been back to Portugal yet, but I would really love to return to Lagos. Every time people tell me they're going there, I tell them to visit the Golden Church, and every time I get the same response, "What's that?". Actually called Igreja de San Antonio, the building is one of the few that survived the earthquake of 1755. Check times when you get to Lagos, it depends on services and religious holiday's and costs 3€ to visit.
I'd also like to visit Lisbon, the capital city. With the 1920's style trams rattling around the city, up the insane hills and past the slippery mosaic pavements, it looks as old style as possible. If you want to avoid scaling the hills, you can hop on tram #28 Graca to Prazeres which takes in views of Alfama and Baixa. Though this ride is pretty touristy now and there are queues to get on it. If you don't fancy queuing try #25 an equally picturesque trip around Lisbon starting in Casa dos Bicos along the waterfront.
Places to check out the Neoclassical design are found in Baixa, most street's are pedestrianized with mosaic cobbles. Don't forget to check out the Alfama quarter the oldest part of the city. It has picturesque narrow alleyways, and beautiful views from the hilltops, and in spite of the popularity with the tourists, the locals still hang out there, too. If you're visiting on a Tuesday or Saturday you can wander around the city's flea market Feira da Ladra. You can also visit Sao Vicente de Fora for 4€. The church is a former monastery and all the Kings of Portugal, bar one, are buried here.
Have you been to Portugal? Where did you visit?