1. Portugal is the world’s largest producer of cork. Cork oak trees are protected by law, and so the cork oak forests are some of the largest forests in southern Europe. They support dozens of endangered species.
2. Europe’s only tea plantation, Gorreana,is found amidst the mild climate of the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores. The climate contributes to the tea’s outstanding flavor.
3. Portugal is “Pottery Heaven”: Regional pottery from Portugal shows up in gourmet shops like Williams-Sonoma because of its high quality and style. Check out “Provencal Platters” or “Alhambra Platters” at that store—just two examples of regional styles, which can also include the fine porcelain of Vista Alegre, the earthen colors of Redondo, and the black pottery of the Centro region.
4. Many gourmet and organic food shops in the U.S.? offer Portuguese cheeses because of their quality, variety, and flavor, and the traditional methods still used to produce them. The best way to find the best cheeses is to travel the country and sample them. Look for the hardy goat’s cheese of the Alentejo, the rich sheep’s cheese of the Beiras, the sharp cow’s cheese of the Azores, or the miraculous “Serra” cheese of the Estrela Mountains.
5. Forget Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon—how about some new grapes? Fresh, complex and unique, distinctly Portuguese grapes include Louriero, Alvarinho, Bical, Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Baga.
6. Portugal has about 400 miles of sandy beaches--all on the Atlantic and all inviting.
7. Some of Europe’s coolest new spaces, such as Porto’s Casa da Musica and Lisbon’s Casino, are in Portugal.
8. Portugal has its own architectural style, the Manueline, which was popular from 1498 to 1540, and transcended Gothic and Mannerist styles.
9. Some of the best, most luxurious new hotels in Europe are being built in Portugal, from rural Montes in the Alentejo region, to the banks of the Douro River. One luxury hotel—the Douroazul--is a floating one, a cruise on the Douro River.
10. Be cool. Some of Europe’s best new chefs, coolest new places to eat, and best nightclubs are in cities like Lisbon and Porto.