The cape at the end of the world

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

When the Greek geographer Ptolomeu mapped the world in 2 A.C., Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most western point, was the end of the world. Today we know that the world does not end here. But the cape, located 42 km northwest of Lisbon, is still very much worth visiting. It is a place of stunning beauty created by the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, and the vastness of the ocean.

Great traditional cuisine in Oporto

July 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Looks can be deceiving. Adega S. Nicolau, a restaurant in the Ribeira area of Oporto, has no celebrity chef or design furniture. But it serves amazing food: grilled fish, fried sardines, roasted codfish, fried octopus, and much more. The star of the menu is the “posta de vitela arouquesa” a steak of veal from Arouca seared to perfection, the best we have ever had.

Everything on the menu follows traditional recipes, but the food is hard to imitate. It takes enormous confidence to trust the quality of the ingredients and let them shine through simple preparations. It is this confidence that Adega S. Nicolau has been building since 1930.

Adega S. Nicolau, R. São Nicolau, 1, Ribeira, Oporto. Tel. 222-008-232.

Sailing on the Tagus river

July 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

You can climb the seven hills, visit the ancient neighborhoods, stroll on Rossio and Chiado, marvel at the monuments in Belem, but you’ll not fully appreciate Lisbon until you’ve seen it from the Tagus river.

The easiest way to travel on the river is to board one of the Cacilheiros that shuttle passengers between the river margins. But nothing compares to the thrill of crossing the Tagus waters on a sailboat. Traveling in luxurious silence, guided by the trade winds, the currents wash away our cares and we feel like we had a month of vacation rolled into a few hours.

We follow the path of so many sailors who left Lisbon not knowing if they’d make it back. When these explorers survived the perilous seas and reached the blue calm of the Tagus river, they saw Lisbon as an echo of paradise, glowing in warm light, dressed in bright white and festive orange, welcoming their return.

To see the schedule of the cacilheiros click here. The best way to sail on the Tagus is to have a generous friend who has a sailboat and invites you to come along. If this method does not work for you, a second possibility is to email António Matos at topematos@hotmail.com. He is a sailing pro who can set you up with a boat and a crew. And he’s very nice, so you might become friends.

How the angels like it

July 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

The village of Alfeizerão, near Nazaré, is famous for its sponge cake. The original recipe came from the Spanish kingdom of Castile, so the cake used to be called Pão de Castela (bread from Castile).  When the Portuguese started trading with Japan, in the 16th century, they introduced it to the residents of the port of Nagasaki. The cake remains popular in Japan, where it is called Castella or Kasutera. In Portugal, the name of the cake changed in the 19th century to Pão de Ló, probably after a cook nicknamed Ló.

Pão de Ló is usually a dry cake, but the nuns of Alcobaça’s Cister Order developed a version that is wonderfully soft and moist. When the religious orders were abolished in the 19th century, the nuns gave their recipe to a family from Alfeizeirão that offered them shelter. Five generations later, the same family still uses this recipe to make Pão de Ló at Casa Ferreira in Alfeizerão.

During a recent visit, we asked our server at Casa Ferreira what makes their cake so special. She answered without hesitation: “we make Pão de Ló the way the angels like it.” We could not confirm the veracity of this claim but, after trying the cake, it struck us as completely plausible.

Casa Ferreira, Rua 25 de Abril, 215, Alfeizerão, tel. 262 990 719.

A legendary beach

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nazaré is a picturesque fishermen village where women once wore seven layers of brightly-colored petticoats. Its claim to fame comes from two legends, separated by more than eight centuries.

The first legend dates back to 1182. D. Fuas Roupinho, a nobleman, was chasing a dear on a foggy day. He was so engrossed in the hunt that, when the deer suddenly jumped off a cliff, he followed in pursuit. He prayed for his life and his prayer was answered for his horse stopped right at the edge of the cliff.

The second legend is very recent. Nazare’s north beach has one of the largest sea canyons in the world. This canyon produces enormous waves. It was here that, in 2011, the Hawaian Garrett McNamara set a record for the largest wave ever surfed.

McNamara says he will keep coming back to Nazaré. So will many other thrill seekers and beach lovers.

A Portuguese sardine answers the Proust questionnaire

July 13, 2012 § 5 Comments

A Portuguese Sardine, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

In the late 19th century it was fashionable to make a list of questions and keep a notebook with the answers supplied by friends and family. The answers of the French writer Marcel Proust were so admired that these lists became known as Proust questionnaires.

To our knowledge, no fish has ever answered a Proust questionnaire until now. Here are the answers offered by a Portuguese sardine.

Your favorite virtue: I’m rich in omega-3, but it’s hard to buy things with it.
Your main fault: Being a sustainable species. People think I’m replaceable!
Your idea of happiness: A world-wide ban on canning small, cute fish.
Your idea of misery: Being smoked; do I look like a cigar to you?
Your favorite food: Plankton!
Where would you like to live: The island of Sardinia.
What others misunderstand about you: There’s no need to chop off my head; I don’t bite!
What you don’t understand about others: Why they hate my guts.
Favorite expression: Let then eat hake!
Favorite motto: Salty is the new sweet, silver the new gold.

A Portuguese folk song

July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Milho verde, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

Milho verde (green corn) is a Portuguese folk song made famous by the singer José Afonso. It is a song that was probably sang by farmers, in sync with the rhythm of their labor as they tended the fields. This version uses the soundscape of a Portuguese farmers market as the background.

Pedro Rebelo (concertina and soundscape) and Sergio Rebelo (dobro).

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