Europe Gala Ceremony 2009

17 October 2009 – Obidos



If you want to experience the real, unspoilt Portugal while enjoying the luxury of five-star surroundings, then Praia D'El Rey Golf & Beach Resort on Portugal's gorgeous and rugged Silver Coast has it all, less than an hour by car north of Lisbon airport.

Nearby Peniche, a pretty and unspoilt ancient fishing port, that as late as the mid-16th century was an island in the Atlantic but, following hundreds of years of silting up, is now joined to the mainland. The town is best known as one of Portugal's surfing must-visits and is also noted for the sprawling landmark fortress overlooking its harbour.

Head out of Peniche, making for the peninsula's western headland (two kilometers from the town) and you arrive at Cabo Carvoeiro, a favourite spot for sun downers seeking panoramic views of the Atlantic and the strange-shaped rocks of its eroded coastline.

But while the days are hot, the area around Praia D'El Rey is prized by sunbathers for its empty, pristine beaches, especially those near Baleal, a small island village five minutes from the resort set around an idyllic fishing cove reached via a beach causeway. From Baleal, on a clear day, you can see the islands of Berlenga, rising up out of the Atlantic 12 kilometers offshore.

Another tourist magnet is Caldas da Rainha, famed for its spa which, bubbling with sulphurous pools, has enjoyed four centuries of noble and royal visitors. The nearby towns of Cucos and Vimeiro are also famous for their therapeutic waters.

Almost every town near Praia D'El Rey can trace its history back to the 12th century but the 'jewel in the crown' is Óbidos, 15 minutes from the resort but a whole world away. Its untouched town centre is medieval in feel and many of its buildings date back to the time of the Conquests, their whitewashed and ochre walls and blue-framed windows and doors crying out to be photographed. Flower pots sit on verandas, swing from walls or cascade from terraces.

Óbidos castle, which contains a beautiful 'Pousada' (boutique hotel), looks over the town ramparts towards the plains and the sea beyond. And during the year Óbidos is the hub for numerous events, including an August music festival, a July Medieval Fair and a February Chocolate Festival.

The region's weather is temperate and mild and the area near Praia D'El Rey offers sports lovers a wide choice of activities. Along the clear coastal waters there is good fishing, exceptional surfing, deep sea diving near the Berlenga islands, and abundant fauna and flora as well as waterskiing, windsurfing and rowing on nearby Óbidos Lagoon. The surrounding hills and beaches make good walking country and golf is a growing attraction in the region with three courses already open and others in the pipeline, plus Praia D' El Rey's famous golf course on your doorstep. Take a virtual tour of the course here.

But the biggest news about the Silver Coast is the improved road links to Lisbon and the rest of Portugal. Not only does this make getting to Praia D'El Rey easier, but the new motorways have made some of Portugal's famous religious and historical centres just a day trip away – including Fátima, Batalha, Mafra and Sintra. And if you're boat rather than car bound to the Silver Coast, the marinas in Nazaré and Peniche usually have plenty of cheap berths for yachts.

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