Highway toll payment

They say it ensures greater speed of circulation. Sure. But in my humble opinion the actual Portuguese toll system on highways is complicated and a nuisance for drivers with a foreign license plate or a rented car.

Some roads become a electronic toll road without the possibility of changing our itinerary. Friends keep asking me: Can I pay afterwards? And how do I avoid this in the future?

How to manage toll in Portugal?

Well, you have a choice!

Via Verde device

Rent a Temporary Via Verde device! The rent-a-car companies will offer you to hire such a device (normally 1,5 euros a day with a maximum of 15 euros). I vividly recommend renting a Via Verde when travelling in a rented car.



If you want to visit Portugal shortly (long weekend) and you are driving a ‘light vehicle’ use tollservice and buy a ‘vignette’. This prepaid system allows you to travel three days on Portuguese highways.


You don’t need to leave your car if you are entering Portugal from Spain at the following locations:

A28 – Viana do Castelo

A24 – Chaves

A25 – Vilar Formoso

A22 – Vila Real de Santo Antonio

At the border posts you sign up for the EASYtoll system. This system associates your credit card (Mastercard of Visa) to the license plate of your vehicle. By entering your credit card at the payment terminal the system automatically associates the vehicle’s license plate to the bankcard. The toll rates owed are now directly debited to your bankaccount.


The TOLLCard is an “on the shelf” product, activated through an SMS, with a fixed amount to be consumed depending on circulation. This solution allows payment in cash or with bankcard and is valid for one year. You can buy a pre-loaded card with 5, 10, 20 or 40 € (with an added service cost of 0.60€+VAT for each purchased card).


Paying afterwards

You didn’t use  a tollcard, the easytoll sytem, a vignette or a via verde device when travelling by car? You passed electronic toll without paying? There is always the possibility of chekcing and paying your toll afterwards. Around two days after passing an electronic toll barrier you ask at a local Post Office what you have to pay. Or visit website www.pagamentosdeportagens.pt in order to pay online (much easier!).

Toll locations and rates

See here the toll locations and rates in Algarve, Baixo Tejo, Beira Interior, Beiras Litoral e Alta, Costa de Prata, Grande Porto, Interior Norte, Litoral Oeste, Norte Litoral, Pinhal Interior and Transmontana.


portugal-electronic-tolls-signPrepare your trip

Before travelling to Portugal by car? Check the webistes mentioned, information can be out-of-date. Website Portugal Tolls can be of great help!


Friends ask  if I know  a reliable rent-a-car company frequently. We use to rent ourselves at Sunny Cars and we are very satisfied. The company policy includes fully comprehensive insurance (damage to glass, roof, tires and underbody are covered, as well!) and unlimited mileage. So at the airport I needn’t wory when rent-a-car employees try to scare me in order to sell more insurances!

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For readers in Dutch: on Zin in Portugal you find many blogposts in Dutch!

Interested in being mentioned on Do you like Portugal? Or any special event coming up? Contact me by sending an e-mail to fadodistante@gmail.com.



Lisbon: foodcourt in market halls

In former market halls near Tagus river there is  a huge foodcourt these days. Part of the Mercado da Ribeira is transformed in a culinary hot spot, called Time Out Market.


On a December evening we travel by metro to this place opposite the metro/trainstation Cais do Sodré. It’s around eight o’clock when we arrive and there is hardly any place left at the long tables. We walk around and see a lot of variety: special hamburgers, sushi, pizza, pasta, but also Portuguese food, pastry and, of course, pastéis de nata!



But we end up in a restaurant on the first floor. Apparently this is restaurant Pap D’Açorda (it moved after 35 years in Bairro Alto to this new spot). So if you don’t want to share a table downstairs, go upstairs! But be aware: prices are high ( the most inexpensive glass of wine is 4,25 euro). Food is good, but to say the truth: we  know places where we have experienced better price/quality.

Restaurant Pap D’Açorda is on the first floor
The plumcake dessert was delicious!

Useful information

Link to Time Out Market and special events: Mercado da Ribeira/Time Out MarketMercado da Ribeira/Time Out Market
Address: Avenida 24 de Julho – opposite railway- and metrostation Cais do Sodré

Time Out Market is open every day till midnight and Thursday, Friday and Saturday till 02.00 hours. So if you arrive late in Lisbon and you still want to have some food….

Metro Lisbon: Metropolitano de Lisboa

Have a look at the short vlog I made  if you want to experience Mercado da Ribeira/Time Out Market on a December evening:

And don’t leave Mercado da Ribeira/Time Out Market without tasting a Pastel de Nata at Manteigaria. I dare say these Pastéis de Nata (pastel = singular, pastéis = plural, by the way) are as great as the ones of the famous Pastelaria de Belém!

Manteigaria has two spots where you can their taste their delicious pastéis de nata. One at Mercado da Ribeira and one in the Bairro Alto, at Rua do Loreto 2, near metro station Baixa-Chiado (and Largo Luís de Camões). So forget Pasleraria de Belém and its waiting queue and have a pastel de nata at Manteigaria!


For Dutch visitors: read  more about Lisbon and life at Portuguese Silver Coast on my blog in Dutch at Zin in Portugal

Lisbon: Hotel Real Palácio

We didn’t expect to get a Downton Abbey-feeling when I booked a hotel in Lisbon. But room 135 in the old part of  Hotel Real Palácio unexpectedly provides us one. The hotel is divided in a recent and old building. Our room for tonight is room 135, in the old part. Luckily this ancient city palace, with a beautifully tiled staircase, has survived the vile earthquake of 1755.


The room is styled in a way we tend to see in series like Downton Abbey and gives us a royal feeling. I have no idea of the rooms in the newer, bigger building are styled in the same way. But our room provides us a pleasant feeling of being part of ancient history.




Staircase to breakfast

From the hotel you walk easily to Park Eduardo VII, the Gulbenkian museum, the shopping mall of El Corte Inglês, michelin star-rated restaurant Eleven and Marquês de Pombal. And from the round about of Marquês de Pombal you walk along the Avenida da Liberdade to downtown Lisbon (A Baixa).

And those who don’t like to walk: metrostation Parque is not far.


We choose to walk from the top of Park Eduardo VII (magnificent view over Lisbon) to Marquês de Pombal on this sunny December evening and to have dinner at the new hotspot near Cais de Sodré: Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira).

Marquês de Pombal is a hub in the metrosystem of Lisbon. There we buy a ticket which is valid for 24 hours from the moment you start travelling (costs 6 euros). Before going to Mercado da Ribeira we stop at Baixa Chiado. We want to visit the old bookshops in Rua Garrett (one of them is the oldest in the world!). Besides that, Rua Garrett is a nice place. You can always change plans and decide to have dinner in Bairro Alto!

Rua Garrett (metro Baixa-Chiado): the oldest bookstore in the world. Those who read Nighttrain to Lisbon will recognize the name of the street!

But first we take a picture of Fernando Pessoa. He is waiting, in bronze, for a coffee at Café Brasileira and look around. On this lovely December evening buildings are beautifully illuminated.

December in Lisbon: Rua Garrett

After this short stop we continue travelling to Cais do Sodré. Opposite this train/metro/boat station is Mercado da Ribeira, the foodcourt in an old market hall. It’s called Time Out Market and there is plenty of food for every taste. But more on that in a next blogpost!

Pastéis de Nata: famous Portuguese custard cakes. Opposite the hotel, at the corner, you can eat a warm Pastel de Nata!
1,80 euro for two delicious Pastéis de Nata!

Useful information:

Link to the hotel: Hotel Real Palácio Lisbon
Rua Tomás Ribeiro 115, Lisbon
E: Email: realpalacio@hoteisreal.com
T:  (+351) 213 199 500

Short vlog on room 135 in Hotel Real Palácio:

And no, I wasn’t paid to write about this hotel. The stay in Lisbon was a Christmas gift of my mother and coincided with the celebration of our wedding day.

Roasted apple (maçã assada) recipe



A traditional Portuguese dessert is ‘Maçã assada’, roasted apple. It’s not difficult to make yourself! And it can be served cold, but I personally prefer a ‘roasted apple’ when it is still a bit warm.

The basic ingredients are always the same: apples, sugar, cinnamon. My recipe of maçã assada has a personal touch: I add Port – or even better ! – Ginja (a kind of sour cherry liqueur you can buy in the Óbidos-region or at airports). I am sure you will be overloaded with admiration if you serve your tableguests ‘maçã assada’ one of these days!

6 apples
6 tablespoons honey
6 teaspoons Sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Ginja or Port
Extra: cinnamon icecream and whipped cream

And, of course:
Oven Dish
Apple corer


Use the apple corer and put the apples without cores in a oven dish


Pass the cinnamon sticks through the honey (put the honey in a small glass to make this easier)


Press the cinnamon sticks in the wholes made by the apple corer. Cover the apples with what is left of the honey.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar and pour it over the apples. Fill the cores with Ginja or Port. Don’t be thrifty:  use the bottle and pour enough fine Ginja or Port in the apples and casserole. End with a spoon of water.




Put the oven dish in the oven (200 degrees). As long as the apples are in the oven your kitchen smells deliciously (and attracts everyone in the house!). It takes around 40 to 50 minutes before the apples become puffy and softer.


Serve the apples with (cinnamon) icecream and whipped cream. And don’t burn your mouth by being too greedy…


A special thanks Esther Lankhaar from Esther Lankhaar Art and Illustrations. She made the lovely illustrated card with the recipe you see on top of and below this blog! You can start following her by liking her Facebookpage.


Interested in the Dutch version? Please go to Esa Caldas – blog Zin in Portugal or like the Esa Caldas – Facebookpage

Vindima: grape picking season

The weather was particularly dry this year. Since the beginning of March it hardly rained, leaving farmers rather desperate. Those who irrigated the vineyards in August were able to save most of their harvest luckily.

Failed harvest

The grape picking season normally starts mid September and goes on to half October. At our family farm, ‘quinta‘ as we say in Portuguese,  we start picking grapes in one of the last weekends of September. But not this year. The grapes matured much earlier, so the ‘vindima’ was in the second weekend of September.


Grape picking at our family farm is hard work, but the ambiance is gay and pleasant. Especially during lunch, of course! Working on both sides of the row helps a lot: it makes talking easy and we hear a lot of gossip and news while picking.

Franciso helps us harvesting every year. He is 80!

Grape pickers

But you have to be careful and pay attention not to make deep cuts in your fingers or in the palm of your hand. That’s why we tell friends and family who help us during the harvest not to start picking putting their fingers at the grape stalk. No, the best way to do it, is to hold the bunch with your left hand from underneath and to cut with your right at the top of the stalk.

Picking Alicante Bousquet

Some varieties of grapes leave your hands coloured as if they are bleeding. When I am picking the Alicante Bousquet it looks like I have been slaughtering a pig. I easliy fool my friends on Facebook showing my fingers!

Picking grapes

While the pickers on the field are filling one basket after another, a tractor collects full baskets bringing them to the ‘adega’, the wine grange. White grapes are pressed immediately. The juice goes into barrels, where later on the fermentation takes place.

Wine press

Sugar in juice

The success of the winemaking process depends greatly on the amount of sugar in the juice. So when we see a percentage of 14 before the juice goes into the barrels we feel quite happy actually.

Mouse drinking abafado

In the Silver Coast region farmers produce a kind of Port called ‘Abafado’. This little mouse (left on the photo) is extremely found of the Abafado in the oak barrel. She came out every night to enjoy drops falling from the tap. Little mouse was so addicted that she didn’t bother having people watching her.

Tinta Roriz
The winemaking of the red grapes is different. Next harvest I will explain how we make red wine out of the Tinta Roriz-grapes . This grape variety is also called ‘Aragonês’ and related to the Spanish Tempranillo from which Rioja is made. I do hope you visit my blog again next harvest!

‘Do you like Portugal’is the English version of ‘Zin in Portugal’ (Dutch). Do you have a particular interest in Portugal? Wanting to visit Portugal?  Follow writer’s Esa Caldas blogs by subscribing (right, in the corner you see a ‘follow/volg’-button). And no, you won’t get any spam.
Or like 
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Why don’t you go to Mafra?

Everybody goes to Sintra. But why don’t you visit Mafra? From Lisbon Airport it’s only a bit more than a half an hour drive. And by the way, Mafra is close to Sintra. So go to this little town! Mafra welcomes you with a breathtaking view of a huge palace.

Mafra Palace

Bride in Mafra

Besides that, in Sintra it’s overloaded with tourist, in Mafra you walk through the palace like you are the king and queen yourselves, without having to share the rooms with tenths of others. I particularly enjoyed the many photo-opportunities in the Royal Palace and Convent of Mafra.

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

Mafra Palace

The baroque building accomodated not only kings and queens, but monks, as well.

Royal Concent of Mafra, infirmary

Many Franciscan monks lived and died in this Royal Convent. Luckily the areas, such as the infirmary, kithchen and pharmacy are open to the public.

Royal Convent of Mafra; kitchen

The royal convent : pharmacy

But the most impressive part of the Royal Convent is still to come: the magnificent library. The monks possessed over 36.000 books.

The Royal Convent of Mafra

Wandering through the palace and convent you understand why I recommend Mafra vividly. Sintra is just a smaller sister. The massive building of Mafra with 1200 rooms, 4700 doors and windows, 156 stairways and 29 inner yards and courtyards left me astonished. And I am not the only one. Nobel Prize -winner José Saramago wrote “Memorial do Convento”, explaining the origin  of this eighteenth century building. “Memorial do Convento” became “Baltasar and Blimunda” in the English version. The love story of Baltasar and Blimunda is set in a period Portugal suffered severely from the Inquisition.


But nowadays nothing reminds us of the pain the Inquisition inflicted. Mafra is a lovely town with rows of pastel coloured and tiled houses.



In front of the main entrance of the palace you can have lunch at the square. The bakery on the corner, Polo Norte, has excellent pastry, bread and a simple lunch menu (sandwiches, quiche, soup). Try also the ‘macarons’. They are delicious!

Polo Norte, Mafra

Close to Mafra you will find a 800 acres wildpark: Tapada de Mafra. In ancient time Portuguese kings used to spend days hunting in the forest. Nowadays visitors run, walk, bicycle in the park. And if you want to become a falconer, you follow a workshop learning how to train a bird of prey.

Meet the boss: eagle owl Safira.

But perhaps you are not interested in falcons, but in bees. In that case,  you choose the apiculture-workshop and learn all about bee-culture. Or you rather want to learn to shoot like a medieval warrior? Then go to archery. Horselovers perhaps want to explore the park on the back of a horse. Possible, as well. And in case you are thinking of getting married: the surroundings are magnificent for a wedding. Wanting to leave the urban stress and sleep in a forest? Rent one of the rooms and wake up in the park.

Still not convinced? Stay in Sintra and don’t go to Mafra…


Important information:

Palácio de Mafra 

Opening hours:
9.00h -18.00h (latest entry 17.00H)
closed on Tuesdays!

Terreiro D. João V, 2640 Mafra, Portugal
Telephone: +351 261 817 550

Free parking in the neighbourhood of palace

Do go to the site of Palácio de Mafra for up-to-date information about festivals, opening hours etc.

Website:  Palácio de Mafra

Wild park Tapada de Mafra

Opening hours:
9.00h – 17.00h
as far as I know, open all week

Tapada Nacional de Mafra
Portão do Codeçal
2640-602 Mafra

38.964797, -9.302733
N 38º 57.884, W 009º 18.162

Offices – +351 261 817 050
Reception – +351 261 814 240
E-mail: geral@tapadademafra.pt

Website: Tapada nacional de Mafra

In case you want one of the workshops: make a reservation in advance! Other activities (like exploring the park on the back of a horse) are scheduled as well. At the site Tapada Nacional de Mafra you can find this information.

View from a window at Hotel Borges
View from a window at Hotel Borges, Lisbon

‘Do you like Portugal’is the English version of ‘Zin in Portugal’ (Dutch). Do you have a particular interest in Portugal? Wanting to visit Portugal?  Follow writer’s Esa Caldas blogs by subscribing (right, in the corner you see a ‘follow/volg’-button). And no, you won’t get any spam.
Or like ‘Do you like Portugal’ or ‘Zin in Portugal’ on Facebook. So you won’t miss any new tips, stories or places to see and to stay in that lovely country in Southern Europe: beloved Portugal!