with spouses and children will find special group tours being arranged
for them by the Tourist Office in Evora. There is plenty to see and do
so no one will be at a loss for how to occupy their time, only what to
select next! Some of the offers will include; bike rides, horseback and
carriage rides, as well as tours of museums, cathedrals, palaces, historic
and cultural sites, gardens, hot air ballooning, a puppet theatre and
swimming. Special requests can also be made.
FAMILIES, FRIENDS AND FUN:
Portugal 2000: A Voyage of Discovery for Everyone!
© Bob Tope, 2000
What better way to spend a vacation than to bring your family or friends with you to Portugal next Summer. While you take in the meetings and workshops of the Guild's International Conference in Evora, Lisbon and Sagres, your spouse, children and friends can be enjoying the vast variety of options that Pedro and his committee have arranged for them to select from. Those who are more adventurous can head off on their own to explore the countryside and quaint villages of Alentejo. And when it comes to the field trips, cookouts and banquets, sign them up! Everyone is welcome to join in the experience of a lifetime. No matter their interests there is plenty to see and do. The only problem will be finding enough time to see it all!
This journey is important for me, but how can I make it enjoyable for my child? Begin planning with your child as you begin planning for yourself. Involve them at each step of the way. Once they become a part of the process they will begin to find points of interest of their own. These are excellent clues for you to zero in on and incorporate in your overall plans. For younger children this may be as simple as going to the library and trying to find a storybook about Portugal or castles, or princesses, or sitting down to read about the country with your child. For older children you might have them find Portugal on the map or globe, read histories and study guidebooks on their own and share their interests with you.
By far the best general guidebook that I have seen on Portugal for kids of all age is the Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal with Madeira and the Azores. This 480 page well written, designed and colorful guide details the sites like no other book. It is actually fun to look through with cut-away views of cathedrals and castles, beautifully hand painted maps, great use of photographs and art along with clear, concise writing. The depth and range of topics make it a useful guide for a seasoned traveler.
You might even surf the Internet together, following your child's lead. Not only will they feel more excited and personally involved in planning, but you will get a keen sense of exactly what they enjoy most and make it fun for all.
If your child has a special interest in dance or music seek out performances of traditional dance and music. And of course the GNSI informal European Ball in Évora is an excellent place to start. Perhaps your child is a kings knight or a pretty princess show them that there are coastal forts with cannons, ancient castles with towering buttresses and royal palaces glittering with gold, all waiting for them to explore and live out their fantasies. Perhaps you are a soccer momor dad. How about attending a professional international soccer game and see how it is really played!
And for the industrious student consider that a special report on Portugal might just be worth extra credit at school. With or without a report, I think Portugal is worth an A+.
Id like to bring my child but it is such a long flight, do you have any thoughts about how to deal with this? Sure, consider buying a new toy or two to bring along for each child, but dont let them see it until you are in route and other distractions have worn off. That's a great time to pull out the, "Glad you are traveling with me" gift. Your child will be pleased that you are so thoughtful and happy to have the new toy, game or whatever and it will occupy their time for a while longer.
What about small children? Should they come? Well only you can decide, but they are certainly welcome in Portugal. The Portuguese people adore children, so your kids will feel at home instantly when your hosts greet them with broad smiles and open arms. Children of all ages are seen as a blessing and never viewed as cumbersome or intrusive. Since many Portuguese speak English your children will find it easy to be understood and who knows, perhaps theyll pick up a little Portuguese themselves!
What are the best places to stay with families? This will vary with your personal needs and budgets, but generally speaking pensões (low price hotels) offer a nice balance between budgets and convenience. Many hotels and other accommodations will discount the price of a childs stay by half if they are under 8 as long as they stay in their parents room. Staying at farmhouses might offer additional activities such as horseback riding, swimming, bicycling and walking in the countryside and might be of interest. However be prepared to pay more for their added luxuries and book as early as possible. Whatever your personal needs or interests be sure to contact the travel service that has been contracted to assist with accommodations in Portugal they can assist with all forms of travel and advise you on all your concerns.
Ok, now that I have my family in Portugal what about feeding the kids? No problem. Kids will find plenty of new foods on the menu that are tasty and without spices or only mildly spiced. And there may be some recognizable items as well such as toasted cheese sandwiches and hamburgers with fries. Most restaurants will offer childrens portions at a lower price, if it is not posted on the menu, just ask. Do take into consideration that many Portuguese restaurants open for lunch at 12:00 or 12:30 and for dinner at 7:00. These hours may be later than your child is used to but there are several ways around it.
Most restaurants have a soup ready to serve the instant they open the doors so you may ask for a bowl as soon as you arrive. And dont hesitate to speak with the waiter if you are having difficulty finding something on the menu that your child might like. Chances are that the cook will make a special effort to prepare something that your child will enjoy. There are also a variety of ethnic restaurants such as Chinese available for variety if you wish. And if all else fails you can find McDonalds, KFCs, Pizza Hut and other fast food restaurants in Lisbon.
Give some thought to carrying snack foods with you such as cheese, bread, fresh fruit and water. Other recognizable foods are available in groceries everywhere. This way no matter where you are, when the hungry hit, you are prepared with something to tide them over. From personal experience I know that a well-fed child is a content child. So be prepared.
Where do I find supplies for my child? Basic needs like disposable diapers can be found at all minimercados (small groceries) and supermercados (supermarkets). Pharmacies offer other supplies such as bottles and food supplements. Toys and clothing can easily be found at shopping centers. Vasco da Gama, the ultra modern mall at the Expo Center in Lisbon offers everything you can imagine. It is east to reach by subway and it is in a beautiful location along the shore of the Rio Tejo. What's more, all of the childrens stores are located on the lowest level next to one another so you will not spend all day wondering about looking for what you need. (And there is a nice day care center should that option appeal to you while you shop other stores.) Fine restaurants and attractions for the entire family are just a short stroll away as well. (If youve got kids or are just a kid at heart Expo is a "must-see" in Lisbonallow a day to play!
Are there reduced prices for children at the museums and on public transportation? Yes. You will find that pre-school age children are admitted to museums for free. The Portuguese rail system offers free passage for children up to the age of 4 and those from age 4-12 pay half price.
What should my family do while Im attending the conference during the day? The Conference Planning Committee has asked Évora and Lisbon's tourism offices to prepare several options for spouses, children and friends of GNSI members. These will range from simple walking tours of Évora, to a list of museums and points of interest. There will be carriage rides available, as well as museums, cathedrals, palaces, gardens, a puppet theatre, bicycles for rent and guided tours. For those with cars you can explore the countryside around Évora and the charming tiny villages nearby. And remember that your family and friends are welcome to sign up to attend the field trips, cookouts and banquets.
In Lisbon there are all of the above and much more including boat tours, old trolley tours, theatres, fado houses, beer houses, concerts, dancing, many fine parks and monuments. The choice will be what not to do!
My kids love the beach, but are they safe for swimming? If it is fun in the sun at a golden sand beach with tranquil turquoise water that you are dreaming of then your dreams are about to come true. Your only difficulty will be deciding which one! With half of the country fronting on the Atlantic Ocean the variety of beaches is nearly as endless as the sea. And dont be concerned that some of their beaches are "natural" (sans swimsuits) family beaches (with swimsuits) are abundant and respected. Do however remember to bring sunscreen, broad rim hats and beach shoes. The summer sun will be very hot.
As for swimming, some beaches along the Atlantic Ocean are known to have dangerous currents with strong undertows. Beaches may be flagged to indicate swimming conditions. Red means that the beach is closed to swimming. Yellow indicates that swimming is prohibited but wadding is fine. Green means that anything is acceptable. Be very careful about swimming at unflagged and unguarded beaches. You are taking a great risk and must assume total personal responsibility if you choose to do so.
What clothing should I pack along? Portugal is informal unless you are attending a wedding, funeral or high-class event. So suits, ties and fancy dresses should be left at home. Pack shorts and T-shirts and comfortable walking shoes. Sandals are OK as a second pair of shoes but expose your feet to the strong sun. A pair of long pants and lightweight long sleeve shirt will be useful in the field or on cool nights. Although rain is scarce in the summer, perhaps it is still wise to bring along a lightweight rain jacket for that rare thunderstorm. Swimming suits are advisable unless you are headed for one of the many "natural" beaches. And do remember to bring a beach towel. Hats are also useful as are sunglasses. Do try to keep your luggage at a minimum. Rental cars and public transit have limited space.
Are there any other safety issues that I should be aware of? It should be noted that many of Portugals historic castles and fortresses can be dangerous to those who do not exhibit prudent caution. Unlike many American attractions there are few if any barriers restricting people from getting too close to the edge of sea side cliffs or stepping out onto crumbling castle walls. This can be especially dangerous to kids who might enjoy running along the battlements and ramparts. Strong winds can develop suddenly catching people off guard sending them over the side. I URGE EVERYONE TO PAY ATTENTION AND BE CAREFUL. CARELESS ACCIDENTS ARE PREVENTABLE.
Is it wise for people with special needs or medical concerns to consider coming to Portugal? This is a difficult question as only the individual knows their personal limitations. However every reasonable attempt to make arrangements for their comfort and care will be made as long as the planning committee is advised of their special needs as early as possible.
It should be noted that anyone taking special prescription medications should be certain to fill their prescriptions prior to arrival in Portugal. Medicines in Portugal may be labeled differently or unobtainable. It would also be wise to seek a doctors advice if one is suffering any medical malady that might manifest itself into a major concern while traveling. Although Portugal has modern hospitals and qualified doctors, medical insurance plans may restrict access to certain treatments. Once again check with your medical insurance providers for specific details related to your needs.
As for getting around many of Portugals streets and sidewalks were made centuries ago of cobblestone. As beautiful as they are to look at they can be a bit uneven to walk on. As for curbs designed for wheelchair access and entry into public buildings via shallow sloped ramps, this is nearly non-existent. However you will find raised warning markers lining most subway boarding platforms. Within many of the historic and older buildings in Portugal you will find that people still use stairs to go from one floor to the next. Elevators and escalators may be found in more modern buildings however.
Water closet facilities (bathrooms) tend to be small and basicsometimes to the extreme. Yet modern flush toilets are common everywhere. Look for light switches on the wall outside of the bathrooms, seldom inside. As a precaution it is a good idea to carry your own TP just in case the supply has run out at the establishment that you are visiting.
What about staying for extra time before or after the conference? Of course you are welcomed and encouraged to stay as long as you wish in Portugal. Once you have paid the airfare your cost on the ground is nominal so the longer you plan to visits the better the value. Information concerning other sites beyond those of the conference may be gathered from GNSI's travel agency (see Hotel reservations). It is strongly encouraged that you make all hotel reservations as soon as possible as it will be high season for tourists throughout Portugal and the best facilities fill fast.
No matter how long you stay, or what you choose to do it is certain that you are in for an enjoyable journey. And best of all you will be sharing it with friends and family, what better way to enjoy a once in a lifetime adventure to Portugal!
© 2000 GNSI - Guild of Natural Science Illustrators - All rights