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Sintra – Portugal’s fancy-pancy palaces II

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

The picturesque landscape of Sintra is rightfully classified UNESCO Heritage and located in the Sintra Mountains, just a day trip away from Lisbon (30 km) and only about 15 km to the east of the Atlantic Ocean. The beauty of Sintra lies in its royal buildings and estates from early medieval times to the romanticism of the 19th century. The city of Sintra is an exquisite mountain village and if it wasn’t for us tourists, it would have been ghostly empty. SINTRA NATIONAL PALACE Location: Largo Rainha Dona Amélia, 2710-616 Sintra. Admission: Our combined ticket for four palaces (Monserrate, Sintra, Queluz and Pena) was 32,50 Euros per person. The National Palace in Sintra dates back to Arab rule in the 10th century but the building, as it stands now, was constructed mainly in the 15th century by King João...

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Queluz – Portugal’s fancy-pancy palaces I

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

A wonderful delight, the ultimate palacemania can be found in Portugal. For the most unusual noble residences I urge you to visit Sintra and its whereabouts. We started our one-day palaces tour from Belem, our home in Portugal’s capital, with a rented car, to see the National Palace in Sintra, the Palace of Monserrate and to make a stop over for the Palace in Queluz, on the way to Sintra. The distances are pleasantly manageable. Before we disembark for the residences of people who had way too much money on their hands, I must note that for those financially less blessed, renting a car cheaply in Lisbon does not come easy. To pick up our car, we ‘traveled’ for two hours and three buses. Sixt, located at the airport, by my research the most competitive car rental, charged us 140...

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Japanese tempura is Portuguese

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Tempura are delicately battered and deep-fried vegetables and seafood. All around the world, tempura is known to be a Japanese dish. How surprised I was to hear that Japanese tempura comes from Portugal!  What? Exactly. Whatever culinary crown Portugal was wearing once, it seems centuries ago, as apart from salt, sugar and cinnamon (the latter two, mainly in their pastry shops), I cannot see restaurants pushing culinary boundaries to catch up globally. Portugal once was a culinary forerunner. Maybe. It sure was the leader in the spice trade and had an empire of colonies in Africa, India and Asia, with a flourishing exchange of edible goods (and slaves and missionaries – but let’s focus on the food). There are African and Indian influences, like pepper, chilli and coriander and maybe they got soy from Macau… but Portuguese kitchens are...

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Fado in Lisbon – Museum, Alfama and concert

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

To understand Lisbon’s musical vibes it is essential (for the Fado amateur) to visit the Fado Museum, conveniently located in the heart of Alfama – the district breathing Fado tradition. To feel Fado, you got to attend a live performance of black clothed Fado singers, creating an atmosphere of mystique and elegance. Here is our Fado know-how (for beginners). THE FADO MUSEUM Location: Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, Alfama district, Lisbon. At the Fado Museum, they have this cool wall picture of famous Fado singers. You can pick a singer, put the number into your audio guide and listen to songs by icons like Amalia Rodriguez or contemporary stars such as Mariza.  Fado roughly means destiny or fate. Fado is Lisboa’s song, melancholic and empathic. Tunes that catch and carry, creating thoughts about love affairs, the misfortunes of...

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Lisbon’s treasures of the Portuguese empire

Posted by on May 18, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Today we dived into the exorbitant wealth of Lisbon’s past. When you walk the streets of the capital, the prosperous past oozes through the streets. And through holes of neglected walls. On every shabby corner of Lisbon you can see that it was a powerful empire, playing a first class role in the orders of the world. During the Age of Discovery Lisbon flourished with riches pouring into Portugal, which saw the construction of great monuments like the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery – the latter I show you in this post. Portugal derived massive earnings and gold from its spice and slave trade, starting in the 15th century. Decolonisation is a fairly new thing. Independence to Portugal’s African colonies was granted not before 1975. While on our trip to Macao, I learned that the country had...

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Portuguese Easter Eats

Posted by on May 17, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Easter is a big thing in Catholic and miracle-abuzzed Portugal. If you come to Portugal during Easter, like we did and like to try out some edible Portuguese traditions,  like we would have liked to do… …but couldn’t because on Easter Sunday stores were closed, commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death, rather than filling the stomachs of those dying of hunger… …the traditional Portuguese Easter munchies are: pão de ló  and folar de pascoa. Pão de ló is airy textured sponge cake made with an awful lot of eggs. Folar de pascoa is Portuguese Easter bread, sometimes stuffed with ham and adorned with hard boiled eggs. Eggs feature heavily in Portugal’s pastry-bakeries. Not only on Easter. Folar de pascoa. Fresh and fluffy pão de ló cake. And smelling of raw eggs. Plain version. Chocolate version. Where to buy Easter...

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Try this food in Portugal

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Apart from fantastic pastelarias and (sometimes) fine tourist menus, here is my list of local delicacies, most of which we bought to cater for ourselves and most of which you can buy at a Portuguese supermarket. Gastronomic specialities of Portugal (a list of 12 foods to expand – feel free!) 1. CHEESE Portugal is batting high in the cheese department. The local cheese variety is delicious. The soft versions are to die for. My favourite cheese is the fresh soft cheese, packaged in small plastic containers swimming in water, which you can get at most supermarkets or well-stocked local grocery shops. Queijo Fresco is made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk and comes in whole or skimmed. The more fatty ones are clearly my taste bud winners. Queijo Fresco is good for breakfast, sliced on bread, or for dinner...

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Mobile phone internet for travelers in Portugal

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 10 comments

If you are planning to visit Portugal for not longer than a month, you can get a very good offer from Meo – the Portuguese brand name for telecommunications services provided by Portugal Telecom. Meo sells a SIM card for €10 – that includes 10 GB of internet traffic and a €5 credit which can be used for phone calls and is valid for one month. We found the offer in one of Meo‘s mobile phone and internet shops at Lisbon’s Armazens do Chiado shopping mall. There are three different providers to choose from – one was Vodafone, the other Optimus but Meo clearly won. The super deal.   This start package was enough for our first four weeks in Portugal. Now, that we have decided to prolong our stay on Portuguese Madeira island, where no internet connection comes...

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For budget foodies in Lisbon

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

From what we have seen and tasted so far, Lisbon’s highlights are not of culinary nature. Main tourist spots – in prime locations – may shock you with hamburgers, hot dogs and low key fast food dishes. They are by no means cheap and let’s not even get me started about quality or health benefits. But there are just as many cheap-good value options. Look for a high frequency of locals and you will find yourself in one of numerous Portuguese PASTELARIAS. Those traditional pastry-coffee shops are popular places for a sweet breakfast, quick lunch, light supper. At any time of the day, locals step by to savour on pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). Accompanied by bica, a short and deliciously mild espresso – the Portuguese way to have coffee. My favourite choice though was fresh squeezed orange...

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Transportation in Lisbon and Porto

Posted by on May 10, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

The first day we arrived, we used public transport in Lisbon and bought tickets from the driver. We rode the bus, the train, tram and the old tram but if you buy single tickets on board you pay a lot more. We weren’t in the know. Locals were using the better alternative, a travel card which they scanned when boarding buses and trams. You can buy a travel card for 0,50 Euros, then top it up anytime at ticket machines. To get a travel card, we went to Cais Sodre Metro Station (but I think most stations do the job). At the ticket window we were informed about the price for a ride with a card, which was 1,40 Euros and I think it was double that without a travel card. To top the card up, you can either...

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Quirky sights of Lisbon

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

We saw many what I would call ‘unconventional sights’ in Lisbon today. Don’t-miss-dos are riding Lisboa’s old trams, the Santa Justa elevator, as well as finding one of those Portuguese miradouros. As a must-try I would add shredded bacalhau, the mazagran and awesome pastelarias to the list. The Elevador da Glória, is actually not an elevator but a funicular (an old tiny tram going up steep slopes)  that has been taking passengers up and down the hill between Restauradores Square and Bairro Alto. Dating back to 1885 the old tram has an antique wooden interior. The ride is very, very short and you can walk up yourself along the tracks, but only Scrooge would miss out on the rattling Portuguese experience. Our tram was adorned with crappy graffiti smears but along the way you can see more elaborate street...

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Top sights of Lisbon are in Belém

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Probably the best thing about our apartment is the proximity to all major sights in Lisbon. The magic place to go is Belém. The historic western part of Lisboa. Within walking distance to our apartment are most of Lisboa’s imposing sights. Will share them as we travel along! Top sights of Lisbon in Belém (and my ✮ rating) ★・・・・・・・★・・・・・・・・★・・・・・・・★・・・・・・・★・・・・・・・★ °☆ Jeronimos Monastery ☆゚  the World Heritage monument treasuring Vasco da Gama’s tomb ✮✮ °☆ Berardo Collection Museum ☆゚   classy examples of modern art (entrance is free!) ✮✮ °☆ Coaches Museum ☆゚  the world’s largest exhibition of magnificent royal carriages ✮✮✮ °☆  Belém Cultural Center ☆゚  where we enjoyed a sublime baroque concert ✮✮ °☆ Tropical Garden  ☆ nice garden with rare plants from around the world ✮ °☆  Belém Palace ☆゚ the office of Portugal’s president ✮ °☆ Ajuda Palace ☆゚...

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Lisbon – our Portuguese apartment, tiles and laundry

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 2 comments

We rent an apartment in Belém, Lisbon’s most monumental and historic hub. The area where you can witness the Age of Discovery, grandiose monuments and top museums. We admittedly don’t live right next door to those pearls, still we are on Ajuda hill in Belém where I can brag about the closeness to some prime Portuguese property. Ajuda hill is where the Portuguese king acquired a piece of land and build one of the most imposing residential palaces – Ajuda Palace… is the generic name. Maybe that is why it is off the beaten tourist track. Okay, the truth is from one side, the palace seriously looks like a miserable ruin… which… does not matter at all because I was going to show you our residence anyhow. Our area in Belém is very residential. And calm. It feels like being part...

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Lisbon – for the blind, antique collectors and the hungry

Posted by on Apr 27, 2014 in All posts, Portugal | 0 comments

Having just arrived in Lisbon (on the 6th of April, mind you), we dropped off our bags at the apartment in the historic western part of the capital, called  Belém. This district is most famous for the Jerónimos Monastery, the Tower of Belém and mouth-watering egg tarts, called pasteis de Belém. Resisting temptation, we took a close walk around our neighbourhood to the nearby Jardim Botânico da Ajuda. It is the oldest park in Portugal, dating back to 1768 and features a special area with various scented plants and flowers for blind people (and people with a nose for gardens). This is where I was introduced (by mum) to the curry plant – smells totally like curry sauce! Tomek facing scents. Did not get very close with this species. Apart from the (nicely-) smelly herbs and flowers garden, there is...

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