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Portugal had been familiar to me from my earliest youth, for my road to and from Spain had often lain that way, and circumstances had made me conversant with the language and history of the country; and yet this book is not the outcome of any such previous knowledge, but mainly of one short voyage in search of change and health. It happened in this way. As oft befalls men who in this striving world have to wring their brains for drachmas, the completion of a particularly arduous book had left me temporarily a nervous wreck, sleepless and despairing. The first and most obvious need dictated to me by those who settle such matters, was to forget for a time that pens, ink, and paper existed, and to seek relaxation in a clime where printers cease from troubling and reviewers are at rest. But where? Spain certainly would offer me no such a haven: France was too near home, Germany I disliked, Switzerland was trite and overrun, the novelty of Italy I had long before exhausted, and Greece was too far away. A sea voyage was xiia desideratum, but it must not be too long, and as the autumn was already verging towards winter the south alone was available.

Then in the midst of my perplexity the happy thought suggested itself that, often as I had passed through Portugal, I had never seen the country. Why not try Portugal? I had some prejudices to overcome, prejudices, indeed, which up to that time had prevented me from seeking a deeper knowledge of the land and people than could be gained by an incurious glance on the way through. For I had been brought up in the stiff Castilian tradition that Portugal was altogether an inferior country, and the Portuguese uncouth boors who in their separation from their Spanish kinsmen had left to the latter all the virtues whilst they themselves had retained all the vices of the race. But, withal, I chose Portugal, and have made this book my apologia as a self-prescribed penance for my former injustice towards the most beautiful country and the most unspoilt and courteous peasantry in Southern Europe. Portugal and the Portuguese, indeed, have fairly conquered me, and the voyage, of which some of the incidents are here set forth, was for me a continual and unadulterated delight from beginning to end, bringing to me refreshment and renewed vigour of soul, mind, and body, opening to my eyes, though they had seen xiiimuch of the world, prospects of beauty unsurpassed in my experience, and revealing objects of antiquarian and artistic interest unsuspected by most of those to whom the attractions of the regular round of European travel have grown flat and familiar.

It is impossible, of course, to pass on to others the full measure of enjoyment felt by an appreciative traveller in a happy trip through an unhackneyed pleasure-ground; but it has occurred to me that some record of my impressions on the way may lead other Englishmen to seek for themselves a repetition of the pleasure and benefit which I experienced in the course of a short holiday trip through Portugal from north to south. I am not pretending to write a guidebook: those that exist are doubtless sufficient for all purposes, although I have intentionally refrained from consulting any of them, in order that my impressions might not be biassed, even unconsciously, by the opinions of others; nor do I claim to speak of Portugal with the fulness of knowledge exhibited by Mr. Oswald Crawford in his books on the country where he resided so long. My object is rather to treat the subject from the point of view of the intelligent visitor in search of sunshine, health, or relaxation; to suggest from my own experience routes of travel and points of attraction likely to appeal to such xiva reader as I have in my mind, and to warn him frankly of the inevitable small inconveniences which he must be prepared to tolerate cheerfully if he would enjoy to the full a holiday spent in a country not as yet overrun by tourists who insist upon carrying England with them wherever they go. If he will consent to “play the game,” and not expect the impossible in such a country, I can promise my traveller a voyage full of colour, interest, and novelty in this “garden by the side of the sea,” where pines and palms grow side by side, and the stern north and softer south blend their gifts in lavish luxuriance beneath the happy conjunction of almost perpetual sunshine and moist Atlantic breezes.

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