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Portuguese culture

Best European country to visit

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Best European country to visit

Portugal won first place at the USA Today “10Best Readers’ Choice” contest for ‘Best European Country” to travel.

According to the editors, “Portugal is less iconic than other well-known countries, but it offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers: charming villages, great food, fascinating regional music, cultural opportunities, a beautiful coastline and even world-class surfing.”

They also wrote, “Much underrated Portugal has all the trappings of a pretty European country: cobbled villages beneath the shadows of medieval castles, sun-kissed beaches, a delectable culinary tradition and plenty of history to explore. Whether swimming in the turquoise waters of the Algarve, sipping a glass of port at a Porto cafe or listening to the melancholy lament of a fadista in Lisbon, Portugal’s understated beauty becomes obvious.”

The other countries that made the top 10 list include Italy, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, France, Iceland and Switzerland. All nominees were chosen by experts in the Travel Industry.

The USA Today “10Best” provides its users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content on top attractions, things to do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

Source: Portuguese American Journal

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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Portugal voted top destination once again

For the second consecutive year Portugal has been chosen as the best country in the world to visit by one of the world’s most prestigious travel magazines, Condé Nast Traveller. 

Online voters of the luxury travel publication chose Portugal for its winning combination of culture, gastronomy, excellent wines, beaches, history, golf courses, and for its friendly, open and very sincere people. Readers also described Portugal as having an impressive variety of landscapes.

This distinction comes a month after Portugal’s capital city scooped another accolade when the Post Office City Costs Barometer 2014 revealed a trip to Lisbon is the best for value in the Eurozone, being half the price of a visit to Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.

While a three-course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine in Lisbon would set visitors back £34.48, a similar meal would cost twice the price in Paris, at £68.97, £89.35 in Stockholm (Sweden), or £99.06 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it said.

Thirsty travellers can expect to pay an average of £1.12 for a bottle of beer in Lisbon, with the same costing £3.80 in Belfast, £4.31 in Dublin, and £6.73 in Moscow, Russia.

These latest reports and awards serve to substantiate Portugal’s excellent showing at the most recent World Travel Awards. The Algarve was chosen as Europe’s best beach destination and also scooped the top prize for best boutique resort (Vila Joya, Albufeira), best luxury resort (Conrad Hotel), best golf resort (Hotel Quinta do Lago), and best villa resort (Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sagres).

On a national level, a further six awards were given to the Algarve. The Ria Park Hotel & Spa took the title of Portugal’s best business hotel and best hotel for conferences; the Martinhal was voted Portugal’s best family resort, while the best golf resort in the country went to the Hilton Vilamoura.

Hotel Quinta do Lago emerged as Portugal’s best overall resort, while the Blue&Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort took best spa resort.

The rest of the country also made a good impression, with Lisbon taking the title of Europe’s Leading City Break Destination and Madeira taking the title of Europe’s Leading Island Destination.

The Vine Hotel, also in Madeira, was voted Europe’s Leading Design Hotel, while the country as a whole was chosen as Europe’s leading golf destination.

Source: The Portugal News

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Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

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Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

We ate arroz de marisco, a Portuguese seafood rice, saucier than paella and without the crusty bits, a number of times in Lisbon. Inspired by it I also made a version with chicken, chouriço and blood sausage while we were still there.

Portugal is abundant (perhaps not as much these days) in seafood – shrimp, prawns, clams, shellfish like langoustine, crab and lobster as well as fish. Substitute seafood according to what you have available and the occasion. Frozen seafood may also be used.

I enhanced the sauce by using chopped anchovies, they dissolve in the sauce but impart a saltiness that I find adds depth you can’t achieve with anything else, except perhaps Asian fish sauce.

Adjust the chilli to your liking.

I have been sharing stories about beloved Lisbon, a city I fell in love with in 2008 and in which I based for three months earlier this year between travels, for a while.

I want to share these images with you and for all the reasons I miss Lisbon, click on the link to read more.

My ode to Lisbon and other recipe and travel posts were picked up and translated into a story about the time I spent there, in the local Get It magazine.

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Here’s an excerpt:

“I miss the tiled pavements, that goes without saying. Each tile telling a story, many nautical in nature – an art from artisans of a bygone era. I miss the convenience of purchasing fruit (even two plums and a banana being acceptable) just two doors down. I miss the clack-clack-clack of heels on the pavements or the unmistakable rumble of the ramshackle trams. I miss seeing so many old people (and I mean really old) go about their business independently, with everyone else. The impossible hills and the slopes I encouraged us to climb especially after large dinners. The people we met, so warm and welcoming.”

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Gate to Praca do Comercio
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The Recipe

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This recipe has several steps and does take a bit of time to put together, but is so worth the extra effort. Making the stock base with the fried prawn heads is crucial to the taste profile of this dish. Budget about 3.5 hours to make this dish in a relaxed and leisurely fashion- from chopping and prep to cooking through the steps. Read through the ingredient list, set everything you need out/store what you don’t need for a while in the fridge (seafood) and go over the instructions to familiarise yourself with the steps. I do hope you enjoy making this dish.

Ingredients

6-8 servings

12-16 large prawns, deveined and shell on, heads chopped and kept aside

300 g fresh mussels, cleaned

1 medium green pepper, diced

1-2 t chilli pepper flakes

4-5 Mediterranean Delicacies anchovy fillets, chopped

300 g firm white fish (e.g gurnard, dorado or kingklip)

1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander (or mix) finely chopped

extra lemon wedges

For the stock base:

1 T olive oil

12-16 prawn heads

1 large carrot, diced

3 T finely diced onion

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

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2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

410 g fresh ripe tomatoes or a can peeled and chopped Italian tomatoes (best quality), pureed

1 t sugar

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

2 mild red chillis, chopped

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt, to taste

For the rice:

1.5 cups short- medium grain rice (I used arborio in this recipe)

strained stock, plus extra water (if needed)

410 g can chopped, peeled and pureed Italian tomatoes (best quality) —add 1/2 t sugar

3/4 cup dry white wine

Method

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1. Tap the mussels a few times. Discard those that are still open. Steam cleaned, de-beared mussels in 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and lower down to a simmer- process shouldn’t take longer than 4- 5 minutes. Discard those that don’t open. Retain 1.5 cups of the steaming liquid (add more if necessary but not too much as the liquid released by the mussels will become diluted)

2. In a frying pan on medium heat, add prawn heads, carrot, chopped onions and garlic. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and blend in processor or with hand held blender until smooth. <keep prawns and fish in fridge >

3. To a large pot add the ground prawn mixture, chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, 1 can or 410 g tomato, sugar, mild chillis, 1.5 cup mussel liquid, 1.5 cup water, lemon juice and salt. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Then lower heat slightly and cook for 40 minutes, stirring.

4. Set stock aside, it will have reduced by more than half. Strain through a sieve, pushing the onions and other soft bits through, a little. Don’t force them.

5. In a paella pan or large, deep frying pan add the rice on medium heat. Then ladle the hot stock, bit by bit until it has absorbed, the way you would with risotto. Keep stirring the rice. I prefer to alternate hot stock with wine and the tomato puree until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped anchovies and chilli pepper after the first 5 minutes. [The total process should take around 40 minutes.]

6. When the rice is 3/4 cooked, add the green pepper. The fish will take 6-8 minutes to cook and the prawns 5 minutes, so time this accordingly. You add the seafood directly to the rice and stir around gently, once or twice with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to break the fish up.

7. Switch heat off and add the mussels at the end, adjust seasoning and allow the mussels to infuse with the flavour for 15-20 minutes before serving.

8. Add more water if the rice is too stodgy, stirring carefully. Stir the herbs through.

Serve with lemon wedges and cold beers or lemonade. This dish will continue to deepen in flavour over the next two days. Store in the fridge when it cools.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this four part food and travel series with Medi Deli. 

Source: www.foodandthefabulous.com

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Portugal: a Destination to Discover!

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Portugal: a Destination to Discover!

Vacationing in Portugal is not just about Lisbon and Porto.  While I agree that these cities are definitely must-sees for first-time visitors, I have to admit that for even a small country, you are really missing out on so much more if you don’t venture beyond these areas!  If you take a look at this Basic Regional Map, Portugal is firstly divided into 5 distinctly different geographical regions, but then these are further split into.

Sub-Regional (Right) & District (Left), with the districts named after their capital city.  These smaller divisions represent how even more different they are from each other within not just geography, but also architecture, culture and cuisine (including wine!).  That then gives you a perspective of just how much of Portugal you’re actually missing out on experiencing!

I read recently that it used to be that most tourists in general searched for a vacation spot according to the three S’s- Sun, Sea and Sand, which is still apparent on Portugal’s long coastline for being a tourist hot spot.  But now, more and more people are shifting to looking for a vacation with the three L’s- Land, Lore and Leisure, meaning they prefer to stay in a place that best represents the land around them, to learn about the place’s history and folklore while being able to enjoy it through relaxing leisure activities. And for me, this one seems to fit my natural inclinations very well.

For the last 3 years, Miguel and I have maintained a tradition of taking two mini-vacations around Portugal, one in the summer (June/July) and one in the winter (November/December).  And each time, we have made sure to go as deep into the country as we can, in search of finding a hotel that provides those three L’s, along with some other preferences we have.  For example, a comfy bed is a must, as I don’t know how one can relax on vacation without a good night’s sleep!  Also, we prefer a room with a balcony, specifically one with a great view of the land around there, so I guess you could say we normally tend to go to the mountains.  And lastly, if we go in the summer months, a hotel with a pool is usually nice to have.

All of this you can easily find in a hotel using my favorite search site, Booking.com, just put in your dates and type “Portugal” as your destination then scroll down to the map and Portugal Overview where you can search by cities or provinces/regions or even closest airports.  You can also check out Wonderfulland.com which recommends great Portuguese guesthouses and pousadas (luxury boutqiue hotels built within hisorical sites like castles, monasteries etc.) or Pousadas.pt directly for the entire list of pousadas.  However, I find that these sites tend to be pricier to book with for the same hotel that you can almost always find on Booking, so I suggest that if you find a hotel on one of those latter two sites, look it up on Booking next to compare prices before reserving.

So now you may be asking yourself, when do you recommend the best time to go?  What do I look for exactly?  Well below are the guidelines I like to go by when choosing a hotel:

My Guidelines For Picking The Right Getaway Hotel in Portugal For You:

1. Avoid going in August at all cost!

EVERYONE in Europe goes on vacation in August, so most hotels, especially on the coast, are 2-3 times more expensive than other months.  And even if you’re willing to pay the money, it’s almost guaranteed that your hotel will be packed to the brim with lots of families and screaming children….not exactly ideal for a relaxing getaway, you’d almost be better off staying at those people’s empty homes!

If you want the beach without so much of the craziness, try booking in late September/October when it’s still quite warm most of the time and the water has had the opportunity to heat up all summer   Just saw a room at a 5-star hotel in Sagres for more than a €100 less per night in mid-October than if you had booked it in mid-August!  And of course, staying during the week versus the weekend will always be cheaper.

2. Always check the hotel’s room photos carefully to see exactly what you’re sleeping in/on.

I’ve encountered some gorgeous little hotels in the most absolutely beautiful locations to find out that their rooms look like creepy medieval dungeons.  Maybe some people think it’s cool sleeping on a 500yr old piece of history but I prefer my relaxing getaway bed NOT to be a rock-hard tiny mattress that’ll break you’re back as you stare up at a giant gnarled black crucifix.  About as romantic as staying at your deeply-religious grandmother’s house for vacation….Pass!

3. Order your search results by highest rated, NOT most popular.

You don’t necessarily want the most popular hotel, especially if the popular vote comes from families with screaming children.  However, you do still want an overall high rating for your hotel to begin with, as this usually narrows down your search to places with high-quality service and facilities.  I usually tend to not go below about a 7.7 out of 10.0, however I have found exceptions to that before.  If you want to really be sure, read several of the comments from past guests, making sure to read specifically the comments from your specific guest profile.   As I said, it may be great according to families but not so much for young couples looking for a relaxing, romantic getaway.  Also, older couples and families with small children tend to complain the most about any little thing, such as rating the place a 5 out of 10 just because there was no TV in the room.  I think these are unfair complaints when they could have easily chosen a different hotel with those desired features beforehand, instead of crapping on an otherwise fantastic place to stay!

Bottom line, if you spend a little extra time searching, narrowing down and looking in detail at the placese  you have in mind, you’ll have a better chance of choosing the right hotel in the right area that you´ll be satisfied and happy with after. 

So, are you looking for some recommendations to start with? Well, if you have similar preferences as the ones I stated above, then check out the 5 hotels below that I’ve stayed at on my mini-vacations in the last 3 years!

Hotel Folgosa Douro-Folgosa, Douro Valley (Norte) | http://www.hotelfolgosadouro.com/en/

This small but modern 3-star hotel was just a little over a year old when we stayed there for the first time in November, 2009.   Situated in the tiny village of Folgosa, near Peso da Régua, it’s in the heart of Douro wine country.  Which is what we mainly did on our vacation there, spend the day driving up and down the mountains exploring the area and checking out the all the wineries and vineyards and the breathtaking views of the valley.  We liked this place a lot for it’s location right on the river with a great view of the mountains and neighboring villages.  The cleanly decorated rooms have comfy beds and nice mood lighting and the bathrooms have huge bathtubs that made for a great bubble bath to soak in after a day of wine tasting in the colder months.

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The staff were very nice, offering us a complimentary glass port upon arrival and were very accommodating throughout our stay.  The small restaurant serves inexpensive, good food presented nicely in front of their large window with a great view of the river.  And if you’re willing to splurge, you got the famed Restaurante DOC by Chef Rui Paula just across the street from the hotel!

Hotel de Caramulo-Caramulo, Viseu (Centro)

This hotel is basically the only one perched at the top of the Caramulo mountains, just outside of the town of Caramulo.  Don’t be turned off by its lower rating, this is mainly because the hotel is on the older side and some of the facilities need some fixing up but they have plenty of other reasons to make up for it.  The rooms are modest but large and if you book a room with the “Valley View”, you get two double door windows opening up to a large balcony with a table and chairs and of course that GORGEOUS VIEW.  The balcony was also great sitting out there in the evening in our hotel bathrobes and slippers breathing in the delicious mountain air under a star-filled sky with the towns all lit up below.

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If the view still isn’t enough for you, the hotel has a fully equipped gym, spa, sauna, steam room and both an indoor and outdoor pool.  The restaurant is a bit pricey but has good food, however their adjacent lounge/bar has a great mini-menu of soups and sandwiches and afternoon tea goodies that are great to spend a quiet, relaxing afternoon/evening with still that great panoramic view of the valley. 

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Hotel El-Rei Dom Manuel-Marvão (Alto Alentejo)

This was the last hotel we stayed at back in early December and also our first time vacationing in the region of Alentejo.  I must say, we couldn’t have picked a worse weekend to go, with the cold, rain and immense fog, it made it hard at first to appreciate one of the best aspects of the hotel (room) and area-the view!  But thankfully the fog did clear up enough for us to enjoy it and I can say it was definitely worthwhile after that.   

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This is only one of two hotels (the other is the pousada, which has a much lower rating) that are located in the historical village of Marvão, perched at the top of a large hill, complete with the ancient ruins of a castle. This makes it a perfect location to walk through the village and explore the castle and take in all the incredible vistas without ever having to worry about transportation.

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Most of the rooms are small and a bit old-fashioned in decor, but the added rooftop terrace of a superior double room evens it out.  The restaurant also serves good food, especially at breakfast and the staff are very hospitable.

Quinta de Moçamedes- São Miguel do Mato, Viseu (Centro)

Quinta de Moçamedes- São Miguel do Mato, Viseu (Centro)

This cozy, 10-room guesthouse located in a tiny aldeia (village) was rebuilt out of a 12th-century stone manor house and is run by incredibly hospitable Antonio Borges and his family, who live on premises.  All the rooms are spaciously decorated with extra-comfy beds and some with a private courtyard or an outdoor terrace overlooking the countryside.  Our room was located in the original stone house so we had the delight of the thick stone walls keeping our room naturally cool during the day and snuggly warm at night. 

The family puts out a simple but homemade breakfast every morning with local fresh fruit and fresh baked sweets and though there is no restaurant, you can request to have a meal prepared for you in the dining room or you may be invited to dinner instead, if they are already cooking for themselves.  This is what happened to us and the rest of the guests the first night and we had a casual, yet delicious family-style dinner, complete with Antonio and his family, they made everyone feel right at home! 

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The estate has an outdoor pool and you can also get recommendations from Antonio on local sports activities to do, such as hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, rafting, rapeling, BTT and more.

Casas da Lapa- Lapa dos Dinheiros, Serra da Estrela (Centro)

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This tiny 8-room boutique hotel was built totally out of local stone and is perched high up in the Serra da Estrela mountains at the top of the tiny aldeia, Lapa dos Dinheiros.  The super comfy rooms are stylishly decorated with even softer beds and furniture and all are equipped with jacuzzi bathtubs. 

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The outdoor pool has a great view of the valley and village below and since the hotel is so small, you almost feel like you’re the only guest there!  There are also two rooftop terraces for guests to sit out and relax on, sunbathing or taking in the great view.  The staff and service are impeccable and still retain the warm, local friendliness.

Breakfast is great and showcases a lot of local goodies, lunch is available and dinner can be arranged for you on their front terrace at your prior request.  The night that we arrived though, it was already quite late, but the staff the kind enough to offer us the dinner menu that another group of guests had requested before so we lucked out!

Outside the hotel, you can walk up and down the historical cobblestone streets of the village and there is a praia fluvial (“river beach”) a short drive/walk down through the woods with a crystal clear mountain lake with a local “pub” that’s great to watch the moon come up over the mountain at night   And of course, this place is perfectly located to explore all around the beautiful Serra da Estrela mountains and surround villages.

Boa Viagem & Happy Vacationing!

Source: http://americaninportugaltours.com

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5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

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5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

I wouldn’t say there are many “strange” things in Portuguese cuisine.  And by strange, I mean something that isn’t normally found or eaten in your own native country.  In general, I actually find Portuguese cuisine to be one of the most “likeable” cuisines, because just as in the much-loved Italian cuisine, they use a lot of simple, fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  And for the most part, every dish that has been put in front of me during my time in Portugal has looked delicious and made me instantly want to eat it.   

However, there have been a small handful of Portuguese foods and dishes that I definitely found, and still think are strange.  And it’s even more difficult for someone like me with a culinary background to get weirded out by something.  But these were foods that I either never knew existed or the combination did not look appetizing.  Though ironically, they are some of the most nationally known and loved foods in Portugal!  But since my parents raised me with the good manners of eating everything on my plate, even if I didn’t like it, I knew I had to try these things regardless of what I thought.  

Though now I’m glad I did, because then I understood why these foods are so popular here- they are indeed, really tasty!  Granted, the soft texture of these foods in particular was not very appealing to me at first, but once I stopped focusing on that and more on how delicious they tasted, I was able to let go and truly enjoy and appreciate what I was eating.  

It’s true, we’re all programmed to turn up our nose at things that look strange or unappetizing to us, it’s natural.  Would you believe that most Portuguese I’ve asked have never even heard of the classic American peanut-butter and jelly sandwich?  And even funnier is that after I explained what it is, most of them still found it strange and and wouldn’t want to try it!   The same way they found it funny and surprising when they heard my reaction to their beloved foods.   So bottom line, if we get over these cultural or personal hangups, as I eventually did, we’ll be able to enjoy so many more things that one would have never imagined to be delicious! 

Below are five popular Portuguese foods and dishes that I found very strange in the beginning but now love.  I’ve ordered them on a scale of “least to most strange”   So, on your next trip here, I encourage you all to give these foods a chance and try them like I did, as you never know just what might become your next favorite food!

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

The only bread I normally associate with soup are the croutons you sprinkle on top, so when I found out that bread was the main ingredient of this traditional Portuguese main dish, my first question was “why?”  Well, with the historically poor background of rural areas, one had to make sure you never wasted anything, so this was a way to use up old, stale bread.  Traditionally, the bread is soaked to some degree of softness, then either broken up and/or cooked with chopped garlic and fresh cilantro.  

There are two main versions of açorda. In the greater Lisbon and northern regions, they make Açorda de Gambas, where the bread is heavily soaked and mushed up, then cooked with shrimp.  Despite its great flavor, I’m not a big fan of this version (pictured second) because the look and texture reminds me too much of…er…vomit .  But I do love the Açorda Alentejana version (pictured first), which resembles more of a soup without cooking the bread.  Only a hot broth of garlic, olive oil and tons of fresh cilantro is poured over it and topped with a poached egg.  Many people also add bacalhau (saltcod) or other fish to it for a heartier meal.   Açorda Alentejana is so popular here that it was nominated as one of the 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia (7 Wonders of Gastronomy-hmm a future post?) and even though it didn’t win, you don’t want miss out on trying this!

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

Let’s get this straight- I love stone crab, in fact I loved it even before I moved to Portugal.  But I never had anything more than the claws, which can sometimes cost you a small fortune to get in the US.  Here in Portugal though, on the coast, sapateira is about as common and readily available as any regular fish, and much more affordable!  But get ready to eat the whole thing, which includes the shell of the body stuffed with its roe and insides.  Yes I know what you’re thinking, that really doesn’t sound lovely, and I made a face too when I saw it the first time…..but oh my god is it delicious!!!  This has become my favorite part of the stone crab now, because the flavor is so rich compared to the claws and legs, and when spread over some warm toasted bread and butter it’s just heavenly   Personally I prefer this stone crab stuffing plain, but most people mix it with a variation of the typical ingredients found in a classic potato salad, like mustard, mayo, pickles, egg, onion, parsley etc, even beer!

You can find sapateira recheada on the menu of any marisqueira-seafood restaurant, all along the coast, but note: it’s a common belief here that stone crab and most shellfish are only best eaten “in the months with an ‘r’” (September-April) so try to save this for a treat in the colder months. 

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

These not-so-luxurious fish eggs typically come from pescada (hake) or bacalhau (saltcod) and honestly, if you saw these whole- raw or cooked, they look absolutely disgusting.  But when sliced up and made into a cold salad mixed with onion, tomato, bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar and fresh cilantro (as pictured above), they are much more pleasing to the eye and very tasty.  Many Portuguese also recommend eating plain, boiled ovas when you’re sick, particularly if you have tummy problems, because they are mild and easy to digest.  You can find salada de ovas served at many fish and seafood restaurants as an entrada-appetizer.

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

Snails, either you love em’ or hate em’, but most Portuguese absolutely love this seasonal late spring/summertime bar munchie.  Unlike the French escargots, caracois à portuguesa are much smaller- normally about the size of a dime and are slow-cooked in a delicious broth of olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper and sometimes a pinch of piri-piri for a slight kick.  They are best enjoyed with a cold glass of Portuguese draft beer and a basket of bread to mop up all of that finger-licking broth.

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

Utterly strange, not even edible looking and more expensive than most seafood….who in their right mind would want to eat these things??  Yup, exactly what I said at first, but plenty of people eat them here, including me now!  Goose or goose-neck barnacles can be found growing on the rocky cliffs all along the northwest Atlantic coast but are most appreciated in Spain and Portugal.   Due to the dangerous area they grow in, they are a lot of trouble to collect- hence the hefty price.  Just a tiny appetizer plate of them at your local marisqueira here can cost around €8-10.  And they’re not that easy to eat either, since you have to take off the rubbery outer layer first, which can get a bit messy as you might get squirted by their red juice if you’re not too careful!  You can check out exactly how percebes are harvested and eaten in the video below from Gordon Ramsay’s show The F Word, when he went to Galicia, Spain (just above the northern border of Portugal) and you’ll see that he agrees with me that although percebes look totally unappetizing, they really are delicious.  In my opinion, I would describe them as having the cleanest, most pure, unadulterated flavor of the ocean- refreshing! 

Happy Adventurous Eating in Portugal! 

Source: http://americaninportugaltours.com

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The Place Behind the Port: Diving into the Douro Valley

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The Place Behind the Port: Diving into the Douro Valley

Do you remember as a kid in the playground, climbing to the top of a slide and looking down to the bottom, thinking how high up you were? Well, standing at the top of any of the near-vertical vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley is a similar sensation!

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The Douro Valley runs west to east, 70km inland from the coastal city of Porto, and sits along the winding Douro River. The scenery in the valley is some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in a wine region. Not only because of the precipitous nature of the vineyards, which are striking in their own right, but also as you stand on the top of a vineyard and look around, you see a kaleidoscope of shades of green much like tiles of quilt, made up of individual plots of vines, olive trees and shrubbery, all tied together by the meandering jade coloured river.

It is from these vineyards that some excellent red table wines are produced along with one of the world’s most revered wines, Port, for which the region is renowned.

Demarcating the Douro Valley

The Douro Valley is one of Europe’s oldest demarcated wine regions, meaning there have been regulations in place for over 300 years to protect the styles of wine produced there. It was back in 1756 that the Marquis de Pombal, then Prime Minister, instituted a sequence of actions to standarize the sales of Port, and amongst many of the things he did, was restrict the area within which the grapes planted for Port production could be grown.

There are three distinct regions within the demarcated area of the Douro Valley and we visited all three on a recent trip. Every quinta (farm) that produces port, or dry table wines, must be located within one of the 21 municipalities within these three areas. As I tried not to get car sick as we wound our way along narrow mountain roads and around stomach-churning hair-pin curves, we discovered that each of the 3 areas produce wines of different styles.

The vineyards in Baixo (by-sho) Corgo receive the most rainfall and therefore produce a lighter style of wine with less ageing potential that are used mainly for cost-effective, entry level ruby ports. As I tried not to get car sick as we wound our way along narrow mountain roads and around stomach-churning hair-pin curves, we discovered that each of the 3 areas produce wines of different styles. The vineyards in Baixo (by-sho) Corgo receive the most rainfall and therefore produce a lighter style of wine with less ageing potential that are used mainly for cost-effective, entry level ruby ports.

In the middle of the valley lies the Cima (see-ma) Corgo. A few of the wines produced here will become dry wine, but most are used for some of the region’s best ports, including Late Bottled Vintages and many of the premium vintage ports.

Vineyards in the Douro Valley

The Douro Superior, on the very eastern end of the valley, close to the Spanish border, has numerous vineyards whose grapes are destined for port, but its main claim to fame is it produces the best dry wines of the trio.

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As you can imagine, harvesting these extremely steep vineyards is not easy. Historically, when the vineyards were first planted, two or three rows were grown horizontally across the hillside on terraces. These were similar to large steps carved into the hillsides and built with the support of high brick walls. This worked well enough, but the vineyards had to be harvested by hand as they were too narrow for a tractor to pass between them.

Terraced vineyards still exist, but these days you will also see two other types of vineyard orientation: ‘patamares’ and ‘up-and-down’. Patamares are the modern answer to terraces. The vines are still planted horizontally across the hill, but there are no more walls, instead the rows of vines are connected by sloping ramps which are wide enough for a tractor to drive through.

The third style of vineyard you’ll see amongst the patchwork scenery, is the most common in other wine regions – the multiple rows or ‘up-and-down’ plantings. Tractors can rarely scale such heights, so these have to be harvested by hand by pickers who, while doing the back-breaking work, also have the added degree of difficulty of trying to keep their balance! We got out into the vineyards and tried our hand at picking grapes which was great fun for about the first 20 minutes, any longer and you start to wonder if you’ll ever be able to stand upright again!

One piece of advice I’d offer if you ever go to the Douro Valley, (do it if you can!) – travel as often as possible by boat or train, instead of driving along the winding roads by car, not only because of the tasting you’ll be doing at the quintas you visit, but, because experiencing the landscape from these different vantage points is exhilarating and it will prevent you from turning as green as the river, like I did!

Rating Douro Wines

A fact about the vineyards in the Douro, which I found interesting and that very few wine drinkers are aware of, is that they are classified by a rigorous rating system. The better the vineyard site, the better the rating, the better the perks for the winemakers.

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There are twelve features that are taken into account and points allotted, based on such elements as aspect, exposure to sunlight, soil density, gradient, age of vines – and according to Quinta do Tedo owner, Vincent Bouchard, the most important element in attaining a high rating is the vineyard location.

So what are the benefits of having a good rating? The main one is that quintas with the highest scores are allowed to make more wine that those with a lesser grade which means they’ll have more to sell.

Vineyards are given a score between A-F, and only about 2-2.5% of the vineyards have top ratings of A or B, the majority fall into the C and D categories. This doesn’t mean the wine are inferior, just that there’s not as much of it.

Grapes of the Douro Valley

We’ve talked a lot about the vineyards so far, so now let’s take a look at the grapes themselves. Incredibly there are over 90 varieties growing in the Douro and all of them are permitted for use in the port blend as stipulated by the Port and Douro Wine Institute (IVDP), which is charged with overseeing the modernized regulations set forth by the Marquis de Pombal.

Through several series of tests over the years, five grape varieties have been recognized as the ones best suited to Port production (many of which you’ll also see on the labels of bottles of dry wine from Portugal). They are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain), Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca, but there are many others used including Sausão, Tinta Amarella and Tinta Carvalha.

Historically vineyards were planted with a mixture of varieties all growing in amongst each other, to the point where even the growers weren’t sure exactly which ones they had on their land! This is still the case today and such vineyards are known as ‘field blends’. We picked grapes in a field blend and to our untrained eyes all the grapes looked the same – they were purple! But on closer inspection, the size of the berries varied slightly and when you crushed the grapes between your fingers and rubbed the skins together, some had dark, staining skins while others were juicy and pulpy with barely any colour at all.

Many of the newer vineyards are planted with just one variety simply in order to ensure all the grapes reach maturity by harvest time, since not all grapes in a field blend are as ready to be harvested as others.

The Extreme Douro Valley Climate

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One thing all the varieties grown in the Douro Valley have in common is their ability to withstand extremely warm temperatures. Summer in the Douro can see the mercury rise to over 40˚C for days at a time. Manuel de Novaes Cabral, President of the IVDP, describes the climate in the Douro as “9 months of winter and 3 months of hell!”.

Even though we visited at the end of September when the weather is usually still very hot, we got an early dose of winter with windy, cool conditions and didn’t experience the savage summer heat. It is the unbearable high temperatures that compelled Port shippers in the 18th century to send the wines away from the Douro Valley to age. They wanted to avoid the roasted characters, known as the ‘Douro bake’, that are associated with wine matured in the oppressive heat. The spring after the harvest the wines were always shipped down to the coast and the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, which lies across the river from Porto near the Atlantic coast.

‘Gaia’, as it’s referred to, may be considered the spiritual home of Port. Even though no wine is actually made there, the city is intrinsically tied to the Douro Valley, not just by the winding thread of the river, but because up until a couple of decades ago, every bottle of port produced in the Douro Valley had to be exported from the city of Gaia.

The Famed Port Lodges

We walked around the town amongst some of the vast lodges (cellars) owned by the big port shippers like Taylor’s, Cockburns, Grahams, Ramos Pinto, Sandeman, enjoying views of the long, slender Rabelo boats that used to bring the wine from the valley down to Gaia, before trains took over. We paid a visit to Taylor’s and saw the hundreds upon hundreds of barrels of port of all shapes and sizes resting in Gaia’s moderate climate, which unlike the heat of the valley, is ideal for ageing these special wines.

Until only a few decades ago, all the wine made in the Douro Valley had to be sold and shipped from Gaia, meaning many of the 32,500 winemakers had no choice but to sell their entire production to one of the big shippers who could afford to own a lodge in Gaia. Thankfully this restriction was lifted in 1986 and people like the fabulous, young, passionate Oscar Quevdeo can now ship his family’s wines directly from the Douro Valley, which is great for them and even better for us!

The Douro Valley and the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are fascinating – dramatic and striking is the landscape, alive and enthusiastic is the passion of everyone involved with port production (and almost everyone is in one way or another!) and steeped in tradition yet contemporary and refined is the wine.

There is great history and pride in every bottle of port and dry wine from the Douro Valley and whether you drink one in the steep vineyards or at home with friends, each one brings us a sense of pleasure in much the same way as slithering down that slide gave us as a kid.

Source: www.catavino.net

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A Tour of St. Anthony's Lisbon

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A Tour of St. Anthony's Lisbon

SÃO VICENTE DE FORA MONASTERY | SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH

SÃO VICENTE DE FORA MONASTERY | SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH

His life is celebrated every year on June 13th but the presence of St. Anthony is felt every day in Lisbon. Matchmaker and protector of the poor, he’s the most beloved saint of the city, although the patron saint is St. Vincent. St. Anthony died in Italy, in Padua, on June 13, and although many people outside Portugal think he was Italian he was in fact Portuguese. Born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in 1195 just a few feet from the cathedral he was later renamed Anthony. On the site where it’s said he was born is now a small church with his name, hiding a crypt which was the room of his birth, visited by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Next to the church is a small museum showing several images of the saint and in the cathedral behind it is the font where he was baptized.

He lived by the castle until the age of 15, when he moved to the Monastery of St. Vincent and later to the city of Coimbra before embarking on a voyage that led him to the north of Italy. Outside the castle walls is a street in his honor: Rua do Milagre de Santo António (Street of the Miracle of St. Anthony). On the façade of one of its buildings are tiled images of the saint and his miracles. As a city icon, you’ll find many more in craft and gift shops, as well as on a walk through Alfama.

SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH | A TYPICAL TILE ON REMÉDIOS STREET(ALFAMA)

SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH | A TYPICAL TILE ON REMÉDIOS STREET(ALFAMA)

SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH

SANTO ANTÓNIO'S CHURCH

SÉ | MILAGRE DE SANTO ANTÓNIO STREET

SÉ | MILAGRE DE SANTO ANTÓNIO STREET

ANTONIANO MUSEUM

ANTONIANO MUSEUM

Source:http://www.lisbonlux.com

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What is Portugal? 10 words that define an indefinable country

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What is Portugal? 10 words that define an indefinable country

RESILIENCE

The country with the oldest borders in Europe, the first to adopt its local tongue as its official language, has against the odds survived nine centuries of battles, wars, earthquakes, revolutions, the creation and loss of the world’s first global empire. The Portuguese resilience and adaptability makes certain that no matter what crisis the country goes through, there will always be a nation named Portugal, a bright city called Lisbon, the Tagus, the Douro, and the hills of Sintra

MONSARAZ | VILA VIÇOSA CASTLE

MONSARAZ | VILA VIÇOSA CASTLE

GLOBAL

With such an inviting coastline, Portugal has never been limited by its borders. Being the first Europeans in so much of Asia, Africa and the Americas allowed the Portuguese to transplant their culture in every corner of the globe. The result is that now Portugal has the broadest global spread of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country. There are Portuguese forts, churches and other monuments in the oddest, most unlikely of places – from China to Iran, Morocco, India, Malaysia, Kenya… And walk around Brazil and you’ll feel Portugal in a more tropical climate, including in Rio’s beaches, with their Lisbon-inspired wave-patterned pavements. Go to Thailand and the desserts you eat are of Portuguese influence. Learn Japanese and you’ll find that many words originate from Portuguese. Portugal is, more than any other, a global country.

SAGRES (ALGARVE)

SAGRES (ALGARVE)

TIME

Money can’t buy time and Portugal values time. Everything is discussed and decided over a long lunch or dinner where eating is less about being fed and more of a social ritual meant to be well savored. Portugal feels confident and mature enough to just sit back and relax, like a wiser old man who’s had a long fulfilling life and pauses to appreciate the views or a good cheese and bread, a fresh fish just out of the ocean, a glass of wine… Making time, being present and enjoying the now is what makes Portugal so seductive. Spend a few days in Alentejo or even in Lisbon and you begin to feel the clocks ticking slower, telling you to enjoy the moment. Time is Portugal’s wealth.

CASCAIS

CASCAIS

INDIVIDUALITY

It’s Mediterranean but it’s on the Atlantic, it’s Iberian but it’s not Spanish, it’s European but focuses more on the ocean, it’s Latin but with a more reserved Nordic-like temperament. Portugal is difficult to define in familiar terms, a low-profile land with a feeling of apartness, in its own little world that’s more ocean than dry land, more an island than part of a peninsula. It’s a tiny oasis of peace that prevents it from showing up on the radar screen of world news, making it an inconspicuous, indefinable, often overlooked country in a world driven by flashes, categories and trends. It’s a soulful place with a rare individuality, with a consciousness of its unique character, and with little-known treasures that make it so enigmatic and magnetic.

QUELUZ PALACE | ALENTEJO

QUELUZ PALACE | ALENTEJO

DISCOVERIES

Portugal was the pioneer of world exploration, giving “new worlds to the world” five centuries ago, but the country remains a land of discovery today. It probably has the most beautiful places you’ve never heard of and it’s very likely that it has the biggest variety of landscapes per square mile in the world — from the volcanic craters of the Azores to the subtropical world of Madeira, to the plains of Alentejo, the mountains of the Beiras, the verdant parks of Minho and Trás-os-Montes, to the ocher cliffs of Algarve. If the Gerês National Park or the medieval villages of Monsaraz or Marvão were in Italy, France or Spain they’d be filled with tourists at any time, but they’re usually deserted in Portugal. This is a country of constant surprises and unexpected, unsung wonders.

CABO DA ROCA | PORTO

CABO DA ROCA | PORTO

SEA

A small rectangle on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula which only takes two hours to cross from east to west really doesn’t have an interior. Portugal is therefore just one long coastline, a natural port that’s the entrance and exit point of Europe with an endless stretch of sand. Best of all are the mystical capes of Espichel, Sagres, Carvoeiro or Roca which still give you the feeling of being on the edge of the Earth as they did centuries ago before everyone knew the planet was round. It’s not surprising that the Age of Discovery and globalization started here by crossing the horizon as the West looked for the East.

Portugal is still energized by the ocean and the rivers that flow into it, getting from them much of what it eats and drinks – from the Atlantic, the Douro and the Tagus. Some of the country’s biggest icons also float on water – the rabelo boats, the old caravels and the colorful moliceiros of Aveiro.

SÃO LOURENÇO'S CHURCH, ALMANCIL | ÓBIDOS

SÃO LOURENÇO'S CHURCH, ALMANCIL | ÓBIDOS

BLUE

You may paint the word “Portugal” blue. That’s the color that covers the country, and not just because of the Atlantic. It’s also the color of the skies (Algarve is the region with the most sunshine hours per year in Europe and Lisbon is the sunniest capital), the color of the Azores stunning lagoons, and above all the color of the tiles (“azulejos”) that decorate the country from north to south. They’re in almost every church interior (and exterior, as seen in Porto), in train stations, in palaces, and in ordinary homes around Lisbon. Blue also colors the edges of buildings in the many mostly-white villages such as Obidos and around Alentejo. Portugal is blue.

SÃO FRANCISCO'S CHURCH, PORTO | ALGARVE

SÃO FRANCISCO'S CHURCH, PORTO | ALGARVE

GOLD

Portugal is also golden. That’s the color of Algarve’s cliffs, of the profusion of jewelry used in Minho’s folklore and traditional costumes, and of the filigree of the local handicrafts. But then there’s the extraordinary gilding in the churches and palaces, perhaps second only to the azulejos as Portugal’s national art. And gold and blue often go together around the country, presenting some of the most artistic and unique baroque art in Europe (in fact, the word “baroque” derives from Portuguese).

ALMENDRES CROMLECH, ALENTEJO | MONSANTO

ALMENDRES CROMLECH, ALENTEJO | MONSANTO

STONE

One of the most curious and fascinating aspects of Portugal is its abundant use of stone and how well preserved its pre-historic heritage is. From the world’s biggest outdoor Paleolithic art gallery in Foz Coa, to the numerous dolmens and stone circles in Alentejo, to the dinosaur fossils and footprints around the town of Lourinhã that is a real Jurassic Park. There are also the works of art in cobblestone that cover almost every city, the marble towns of Alentejo (Vila Viçosa, Estremoz), the well-preserved Roman mosaics of Conimbriga, or the Manueline architecture that stuns for its carvings. And the countless medieval castles or entire villages made of stone like Monsanto, Marialva, Sortelha, or Piodão… And every town of any importance has a “pelorinho,” stone columns or pillories, symbols of municipal authority transformed into works of art, usually richly decorated with Manueline motifs.

ALENTEJO

ALENTEJO

“SAUDADE”

Using “Portugal” and “saudade” in the same sentence may now sound like a cliché but it’s true that one word defines the other. Saudade has no exact translation in other languages, and it’s much more than nostalgia or melancholy as it’s often explained. It’s an intense passion for life, an acceptance of the incomplete, an appreciation of achievements or generating strength from the good and the bad times. It’s being aware of the passage of time, knowing that you can’t always control the randomness of fate, an insatiable appetite for romance and romantic images; it’s closing your eyes for a moment as you enjoy the image of a fantasy that you don’t dare say out loud. It’s filling the heart with a good memory brought about by a smell or by a feeling caused by a sound. It’s enjoying the view, feeling the serenity of a moment of silence as you sit in the sun or gaze out to the sea and the horizon. It’s finding happiness in simplicity and in small pleasures. It’s living with passion in small steps and being at peace between reality and desire. All this is caused by Portugal, through its history, its geography, its Fado music, its traditions and its “gentle ways.” So to truly understand Portugal you have to be consumed by “saudade” and that only happens after spending some time in the country. Saudade is Portugal and Portugal is saudade.

 

Source:http://www.lisbonlux.com

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

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Amália, the Queen of Fado

 

Amália da Piedade Rodrigues, (July 23, 1920 – October 6, 1999), known as Amália Rodrigues (Portuguese pronunciation: was a Portuguese singer and actress. She was known as the Rainha do Fado ("Queen of Fado") and was most influential in popularizing the fado worldwide. She was one of the most important figures in the genre's development, and enjoyed a 50-year recording and stage career. Amália' performances and choice of repertoire pushed fado's boundaries and helped redefine it and reconfigure it for her and subsequent generations. In effect, Amália wrote the rulebook on what fado could be and on how a female fadista — or fado singer — should perform it, to the extent that she remains an unsurpassable model and an unending source of repertoire for all those who came afterwards. Amália enjoyed an extensive international career between the 1950s and the 1970s, although in an era where such efforts were not as easily quantified as today. She was the main inspiration to other well-known international fado and popular music artists such as Madredeus, Dulce Pontes, and Mariza.

Source: wikipedia.org

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Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year

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Lisbon Deserves Its Title As European City Of The Year

By Barbara Barton Sloane

Climbing down a dark,narrow staircase, I entered a tiny room lit by countless candles. Flickering shadows danced languidly across the walls and, as my eyes adjusted to the murky atmosphere, I saw two men playing guitars and a heavy-set, 50-ish woman swaying to the rhythm. Her eyes were tightly closed as she swayed to the music. When she began her song, the sound was low, guttural almost, mournful and seductive. This was Fado, the traditional music of Portugal and high on my bucket list of things to experience.

I recently visited Lisbon, Portugal and this year a prestigious award has been conferred on the city. The Academy of Urbanism bestowed on Lisbon the award of The European City of the Year, 2012. The Academy is an autonomous, politically independent organization whose goals are the recognition, learning and promoting of the best practices in urbanism; its award is presented yearly following careful and detailed inspection of nominee cities.

The fabulous capital of Portugal has always enjoyed the superb combination of a vibrant downtown, historic quarters with parks and gardens and cool, contemporary development. It has successfully managed to sustain its classical and modern architecture and has carefully invested in worthy urban projects. This, in combination with Lisbon's recent project to develop the River Tagus waterfront in a sensitive and responsive manner, has garnered this singular award for Lisbon.

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The city has still another reason to kvell. A few years ago, the Portuguese Parliament started an initiative to promote Fado as UNESCO's World's Heritage Cultural Patrimony and former Lisbon mayor Pedro Santana Lopes came up with the idea that Fado should be considered as a cultural heritage. The result: this year the UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity award has been conferred on Lisbon for its Portuguese Fado music. According to UNESCO, intangible heritage includes traditions and skills passed on within cultures. The UNESCO's committee of experts unanimously praised Fado as an example of good practices that should be followed by other countries.

This traditional art form, Fado, is music and poetry representing a multicultural synthesis of Afro-Brazilian song from rural areas of the country. It is performed professionally on the concert circuit and in small 'Fado houses in numerous grass-root associations located throughout older neighborhoods of Lisbon.

After my scintillating Fado experience in that tiny neighborhood boite, the next day I visited the

Museu e Casa do Fado located on Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, directly opposite the entrance to the Alfama. It's a small museum with a packed collection that includes many interactive exhibits. The permanent collection is a wondrous journey through the history of Fado -- the music, the singers, the musicians and instruments. I loved the room displaying hundreds of photos of famous singers as well as old posters and advertisements, each wall crammed with information on how Fado developed as a musical genre. My favorite room had an installation that recreated a Fado bar. I found myself alone in this room, dark and loaded with atmosphere. Lining the walls, original costumes worn by some of the great Fadistas like Lidia Riberiro, Maria da Fe and Amalia. As music played softly, I had the overpowering sensation of being an integral part of this scene. Leaving the museum and entering the bright, relentless sunlight of Lisbon was jarring, disconcerting. The cure: another visit to a Fado club that evening.

Mariza, a leading contemporary performer, multiple award winner and the ambassador for Fado's UNESCO candidacy said that, because Fado has been so honored, "perhaps we Portuguese will now take greater pride in who we are, especially in the so very grey times we currently live in."

2012 European City of the Year coupled with the luscious music of Fado - persuasive, inviting reasons to visit. But do one really need a reason? Lisbon, Portugal: reason enough!

Source: The Huffington Post

*Barbara Barton Sloane is the Travel Writer for The Westchester Guardian, The Westchester Herald and The Yonkers Tribune; a contributing Travel Writer for Bay Area Family Travel, Travel Savvy News, CEO Traveler, Travel World International Magazine, GlobalWrites and many other publications. She is a former Assistant Beauty & Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal, Associate Editor for McCall’s, and is presently the Beauty and Fashion Editor of Elegant Accents Magazine. In addition to travel writing, Barbara’s interests include running marathons, hiking and cycling. She is a volunteer for The Westchester Bereavement Center, The Lighthouse for the Blind and a member of North American Travel Journalists Association, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, Pacific Asia Travel Association, Cosmetic Executive Women and Fashion Group International. Favorite destinations are those that include family travel, light adventure, luxury/spas/resorts, incentive/business travel, wedding/honeymoon destinations and sites of historic and cultural importance both here and abroad. Barbara has a BA in Journalism from Ohio State University.

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Portuguese Calçada, Art in Cobblestones

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Portuguese Calçada, Art in Cobblestones

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One of the endearing hallmarks of Portugal's streets is their decorated pavements. Limestone is hewn into tiny blocks creating beautiful patterned compositions, traditional and modern designs, street numbers, and business logos.

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Other designs show armillary spheres, caravels and vessels, crosses, stars, and animals. It all started in 1849 after the completion of the wave design known as "the wide sea" in Lisbon's Rossio Square By the end of that year, the pavements of the Chiado district and Avenida da Liberdade were also completed. Eventually most of Lisbon's streets were paved this way, and it spread throughout the country. These pavement designs are also seen in Portugal's former colonies, with the "wide sea" design seen in Rio de Janeiro's famous beaches, and even in one of Macau's main squares.

calçada portuguesa rua augusta-001.jpg

The artform was also used in New York's Central Park'stribute to John Lennon, and in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in New Jersey. Modern examples can be seen in Lisbon's Parque das Nações, with images of "sea monsters" and more wave designs. Today the "Portuguese pavements" are still made by hand, and are part of the country's heritage and identity, continuing to decorate the streets and squares all over Portugal.

Source: www.golisbon.com

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The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

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The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

by Martin Page

the firts global village.jpg

When a book arrives on one’s doorstep as a gift, it has not only come from the sender, but it’s also arrived from the universe as a token of change and an opportunity for expansive knowledge. This is what The First Global Village by Martin Page became for me.

Before it arrived, my understanding of Portugal was extremely minimal; having never been there, nor ever having studied Portugal’s past or present, in my life time. I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. Southeast of that city is Lisbon and then Lisbon Falls – a place where the Androscoggin River rages during the spring, and a rock formation caused a natural waterfall. Once I realized that Lisbon was the capital of Portugal, it had a very quiet, subliminal influence on my life, but nothing that drove to me to get to the depths of the small western European country.)

Once in the wine business, I found myself researching Port for the obvious reasons. Beyond that reason, I had a completely empty slate. So, it is with great gratitude that I mention Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines for sending Martin Page’s book to me, which has allowed me to expand my world view a bit more. Delfim is Portuguese, and we met at the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008.

The title really tells it like it is, because of Portugal’s multicultural contributions to the world, much of it includes a food and wine lifestyle. According to Martin Page, the following are examples of Portuguese influences around the globe:

  • Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
  • The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
  • Portuguese is the third most spoken language in Europe (English, Spanish, then Portuguese), even before French and German. It’s the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities on the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
  • The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
  • Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g.,  Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christoper Isherwood, W. H. Auden.
  • When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.

Their foods and irrigation system for watering is still studied to day by northern European medical researchers for clues to what makes their heart-healthy such a study lot.

Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving.  This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be farmed and successfully introduced.

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.

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On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.

  •     From Jonah to Julius Caesar (700 BC )
  •     Rome on the Atlantic (55 BC)
  •     Rise & Fall of Christianity (212 AD)
  •     Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe (712)
  •     The Christian Reconquest (1126)
  •     The Cistercian Peace
  •     Prince Henry the Misadventure
  •     King João and the Great Adventure
  •     Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
  •     Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
  •     India and Beyond
  •     The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
  •     The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
  •     Freedom Regained
  •     Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
  •     Playground of the great Powers
  •     The fall of the House of Braganca
  •     The Slide to Dictatorship
  •     World War II: Betrayal and hte Fight for Freedom
  •     Freedom at Dawn
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“Why were there so many invaders?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple. The first invaders discovered that this is a country rich in minerals, most especially gold and silver. the lure of gold has always set men into a frenzy of need to own.

It all begins in the Bible with a story we’ve all heard. When Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the sinners that God was angry, he didn’t want to go, and bought a ticket – supposedly – beyond God’s reach. Soon after the ship sailed, a violent storm erupted, and the captain and crew threw Jonah overboard. He was swallowed by a whale, and then spit out onto land. It was Portugal where he landed. Jonah traveled on to Tarshish, which today survives as a name of a small town in Spain, which is only 3 miles and 1281.6 yards from the border of Portugal.

By 230 BC, Hamilcar (father) was exiled to Tarshish. He took his son Hannibal (who was eight years old at the time, and wanted to go with his father). This was a costly mistake, as Hannibal would avenge his father by crossing the Apennines Mountains, win a major battle, and march toward Rome…

And so, their history begins, changing the pastoral landscape of a quiet people, who have managed to remain peaceful through all time, regardless of whom was the next to invade their homeland. The Portuguese were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them during each invasion. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness was created whereby widows and orphans are cared for, social welfare for all was created and has been maintained, all duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are as independent and self sufficient as some parts of the United State might be. It is a daily way of life, however, in Portugal throughout the country, not just pockets of social consciousness that we might find in successful regions of rural America today. Imagine – for instance – if this were our complete and utter culture during Hurricane Katrina. One neighboring town would not have closed out its neighbor in need. Our country would not have wondered what to do for a week, all the wheels would have begun turning without regard for anything else.

There is a lot to be learned from The First Global Village. Martin Page moved to Portugal for a reason, and I can only image as his eyesight failed during his last years, this culture would have made his disability more manageable, with a tolerant people, great food, and excellent wine.

My life is enriched by this Portuguese culture, which I plan to continue studying through Delfim’s eye. The universe has delivered an amazingly adventurous opportunity to my life.

Source:http://www.wine-blog.org/

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Bullfighting, a rooted tradition

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Bullfighting, a rooted tradition

Bullfighting or tauromachy (Spanish toreo, corrida de toros or tauromaquia; Portuguese tourada, corrida de touros or tauromaquia) is a sport that involves, most of the time, professional performers (generally called in Spanish toreros or matadores and in Portuguese toureiros) who execute various formal moves with the goal of appearing graceful and confident, while masterful over the bull itself; these maneuvers are performed at close range, concluding (in Spanish-style bullfighting) with the death of the bull by a well-placed sword thrust as the finale.

It is a ritual spectacle that is usually designated in Spain as an art, for others as a sport, as tallies are kept for the purpose of ranking the bullfighters. The art of bullfighting requires a significant degree of skill and athleticism, resulting in the widely held view of matadors as national celebrities.

The practice generates heated controversy in many areas of the world, including Spain where the "classic" bullfighting was born.

Origins of Bulllfighting

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Bullfighting goes back at least to Minoan Crete, where the bull-leaping ritual practiced by youths of both sexes is memorialized in the famous wall-frescos at Knossos. The frescos offer no hint of struggle or violence, and the Lunar Bull was a sacred animal commemorated in ritual and legends such as that of the Minotaur. Modern archaeologists tend to emphasize the danger involved in this athletic skill and may underestimate the extent to which the bull cooperated. The killing of the sacred bull (tauromachy) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. French ethnologist Dominique Aubier considers that there is no relationship between the Greek sacrifice which is an agricultural ritualistic celebration and the bullfight which is in Spain of pure paleontological hunting origins.

It is often linked to ancient Rome, when many people-versus-animal events were held as a warm-up for gladiatorial sports. The event's earliest roots are probably religious, as many bulls played an important part in the belief systems of many ancient Mediterranean cultures; compare, for instance, the Minoan reverence of the bull and the Greek and Roman practice of sacrificing bulls. It may have been introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 11th century, although there are other theories that it was introduced into Spain a millennium earlier by the Emperor Claudius when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial games as a substitute for those combats. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves. In its original Moorish and early Spanish form, the bull was fought from horseback using a javelin. (Picadors are the remnants of this tradition, but their role in the contest is now a relatively minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and also in the 19th century to France, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.

In the 18th century, the Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot, Francisco Romero generally being regarded as having been the first to do this, about 1726. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all time, who introduced a daring and revolutionary style which kept him almost constantly within a few inches of the bull. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte himself was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated.

Portuguese Style

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The Portuguese now practice a type of bloodless bullfighting which is in many respects different from its original form. A Portuguese corrida de touros has three main events:

  • Cavaleiro - A horseman (rider), dressed in traditional 18th century costumes fights the bull from horseback. The horses are Portuguese Lusitanians, specially trained for the fights. These horses are usually skilled in dressage and may exhibit their art in the arena. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandarilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull. Horseback bullfighters are usually members of old aristocratic families.
  • Bandarilheiros - Akin to the Spanish matadores (see above), but without the sword. These men simply play the bull with a red coat.
  • Forcados - The forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de touros (bull catch). The front man secures the animal's head (usually it is a violent choke) and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued. Forcados were usually people from lower classes who practice their art through amateur associations.

The bull is not killed in the ring and the fight is accordingly referred to as a "bloodless bullfight". After these three sets, the bull is removed from the arena alive and is sometimes killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. More often than not, many bulls are entered into other events, such as rodeos in California, or released to pasture until their end days. Nevertheless, tradition was so strong at the small town of Barrancos, where the bull was illegally put to death in the arena, that the government was forced to relent and permit the town to follow its ancient matador tradition and kill the bull in the arena. There are many forms of traditional, popular bullfighting in Portugal, differing from the "official" version, some of which involve groups of people doing a tug-of-war with young bulls, by holding large wooden structures into which the animals charge. In the Azores, bullfighting is often remniscent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, in which those most at risk are human beings, not the bulls themselves.

In Portugal, some bulls have their horns severed in a way that they do not present sharp points. This practice is believed to have been introduced by King Joseph I of Portugal after a tragic event in a bullfight he was presiding. The son and heir of the Marquis of Marialva was fighting a bull on horseback when the animal wounded his horse. The young man fell, was kicked by the bull and killed. The Marquis himself, then around 70 years of age, jumped from the royal cabin that he shared with the king, drew his sword and killed the animal.

Also in Portugal, the main stars of bullfighting are the cavaleiros, as opposed to Spain, where the matadores are the most prominent bullfighters.

Bullfights are not accepted in some parts of Portuguese society, as it is in some parts of Spanish society, and to that extent, has seen a decline in the number of spectators in those sectors. However, southern regions such as Ribatejo and Alentejo, and the Azores are traditionally more interested in the corrida de touros, than Portugal's central and northern regions, where it has little presence. Part of this decline is traceable, for good or bad, to the homogenization and uniform moral subjectivity of European culture and ethical standards.

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