Travel under the radar

Travel tips, observations, etc. from your columnist, who finally got out of the damn house.

Travel note numero uno—Portugal. I just returned from a 10-day stay in this overlooked European destination. I have some friends who are so crazy for this place that they bought an apartment in a nifty little beach town. They said, “We’re going over in March. Feel free to drop by and abuse the guest room.” A most inviting set-up.

In a word—wow. If you’re thinking Europe, and you like great food, great people, great scenery, great cathedrals, great castles, great beaches, great desserts, all at noticeably lower prices than you would find in Spain, France, Britain, etc., you might consider Portugal, a country that flies way underneath the radar of Americans abroad. Lisbon is loaded with all that good European historical jazz, and the countryside reminds me of coastal California when it greens up in spring. We found March to be a nice time. The weather was damn near perfect—sunny, 65-75—and the main attractions were delightfully thin of humans. The Germans and Brits overrun the place, I’m told, in July and August. But if you’re ever free to go European in March/April, Portugal is probably gonna be nicer than Holland, Switzerland or the Czech Republic.

Vital stats—our dollar, unfortunately, is getting thumped. I plunked down two Benjamins in the Newark airport and received 130 Euros in return. Granted, the broker took a slice, but still. Airfare, Reno to Lisbon, was $911, purchased via Orbitz, 18 days out from the flight.

Travel note number two—an alternate route to Vegas. When Northern Nevadans drive to Vegas, we choose one of two ways: (1) to Fallon, then down 95 through Schurz and Hawthorne or, (2) to Fernley, then down alt. 95 through Silver Springs and Yerington before cutting over to 95. Recently, an old desert dog suggested I try a third route: Drive through Fallon heading east on 50 past Sand Mountain until Middlegate. Turn south onto 361 through dusty old Gabbs, and hook up with 95 at Luning, about 25 miles south of Hawthorne. It was only about 15 miles farther than the Fallon/Schurz route. A couple of things made that extra 15 minutes worth it. (1) The Middlegate roadhouse, a most hospitable joint that makes a good burger. (2) No 18-wheelers hammering your tailpipe on that 100-mile stretch of 95 from Fallon to Luning. Those guys can be relentless, driving 85 mph while chucking another freshly-filled bottle of “Golden Gatorade” out the window. Nobody drives on 361, so it becomes your own private highway taking you through a grand desert moonscape.