A novelist’s wine

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Eça de Queirós (pronounced essa de kaeroz) is a great 19th century writer whose novels cast a critical eye on Portuguese society.  Eça loved wine from the Colares region, and so do his characters. Here are the words of Teodoro, the protagonist of Eça’s novel, The Mandarin:

“What a day! I dined in selfish solitude in a private room at Hotel Central with the table full of bottles of wine from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhine, as well as liqueurs from every conceivable religious community, as if I were trying to quench a thirty-year-old thirst. But the only wine I drank, until I was satiated, was from Colares.”

Colares wine is made with a unique varietal called Ramisco. Farmers plant this vine on sand, digging a deep hole until they find a layer of clay to attach the roots. All this hard work paid off during the phylloxera epidemic because Ramisco was one of the few varietals to survive the disease.

If you’re in Sintra and you’re interested in wine, visit the nearby town of Colares to drink a glass of Ramisco at the local cooperative. It’s not everyday that you can taste a wine unscathed by both the phylloxera plague and the criticism of Eça de Queirós.

Adega Regional de Colares, Alameda Coronel Linhares de Lima, 32, Colares, tel. 219291210, email: geral@arcolares.com. Wine tastings by appointment. Click here for the Adega web site.

A perfect weekend in Oporto

November 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Perhaps you need a change of scenery to recharge your batteries, but lack the time and energy to plan a perfect weekend. If that’s the case, we’re here to help!

Book a flight to Oporto, a city in the north of Portugal. Then, reserve a room at the Freixo Palace, an aristocratic hotel where you’ll be treated like royalty. Next, check the program at Casa da Música, a great performance center designed by Rem Koolhaas, and buy tickets if there’s a show that interests you.

After checking into the hotel, relax with a glass of white port while enjoying the panoramic view of the Douro river. Then, walk to Aleixo for a lunch of laminated octopus and roasted veal. In the afternoon, visit Serralves, a modern art museum designed by Siza Vieira, a Portuguese architect who won the Pritzker prize. For dinner, choose Pedro Lemos or DOP, two restaurants that combine traditional inspiration with great artistry.

On the second day, go on a cruise of the Douro river. You’ll see many Oporto landmarks, such as the Dona Maria bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel. Enjoy a “cimbalino” (that’s what Oporto residents call an espresso) at the Majestic Café. After coffee, the obvious next stop is Arcadia, an artisan chocolate maker.  Don’t leave Oporto without seeing the Lello bookstore, the place where J.K. Rowling found the gothic inspiration for Hogwarts.  Enjoy a lunch of simply great food at Adega S. Nicolau and spend the afternoon visiting one of the port-wine houses.  For dinner, go to Paparico, a restaurant that always surprises and delights.

You’ll go back ready for a fresh start with sweet memories of a wonderful weekend.

Click here for Freixo Palace’s website and here for Casa da Música’s website.
Casa Aleixo, Rua Estação 216, Tel. 225 370 462.
Serralves, Rua Dom João de Castro, 210, click here for website.
Pedro Lemos, Rua Padre Luis Cabral, 974, click here for the website.
DOP, Palácio das Artes Largo de S. Domingos, 18, click here for website.
Majestic Café, Rua Santa Catarina, 112, click here for the web site.
Arcadia, Rua do Almada, 63, click here for website
Lello bookstore, Rua das Carmelitas 144 , Porto.
Adega S. Nicolau, R. São Nicolau, 1, Ribeira. Tel. 222-008-232.
O Paparico, Rua de Costa Cabral, 2343, click here for web site.

Chestnuts roasted on an open fire

November 12, 2012 § 4 Comments

November 11 is the day dedicated to S. Martinho (St. Martin), a Roman soldier who gave half of his cape to a beggar during a heavy snow storm. Impressed by this gesture, the sun came out and melted the snow. Centuries later, the star still remembers the saint’s generosity and shines with gusto to give us a taste of Summer in Autumn.

The Portuguese celebrate these warm days with a feast called magusto (magoostoo). We gather outdoors to eat roasted chestnuts and drink a small glass of jeropiga, a fortified wine. It’s an ancient tradition that reminds us that there’s no place like Portugal.

Fun on your doorstep

November 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

In 2005, the 18th century Hotel d’Europe was transformed into the Hotel do Bairro Alto. The result is a unique combination of aristocratic charm, modern comfort and superb location.

After checking in, you can relax on the top floor terrace and enjoy the fantastic view of the Tagus river. Once you walk out, ready to explore the city, you’re seconds away from Lisbon’s most famous café, A Brasileira, and two minutes from Santini‘s fabulous artisan gelato. You can shop for porcelain to your heart’s content at Vista Alegre or choose beautiful cutlery at Cutipol. You can walk to Bairro Alto, enjoy the view of St. Jorge’s castle, stop for a drink at the port-wine institute, listen to some fado, and check out the avant-garde scene at Galeria Zé dos Bois. Or you can go downtown to stroll on Rossio and Terreiro do Paço. Where else in the world, dear reader, can you find so much fun on your doorstep?

Hotel do Bairro Alto, Praça Luís de Camões 2, Lisbon, tel. 213 408 288, email: reservations@bairroaltohotel.com. Click here for the hotel’s website.

The resilient beauty of Lisbon

November 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

On November 1, 1755, Lisbon woke up with the rumble of a devastating earthquake. By the end of the day the city was covered with ashes and rubble, stripped of its magnificent buildings and opulent commerce. What was left? In the words of Alfredo Mesquita: “There was still the Tagus river, blue and bewitching, cloaked in velvet by the crystal clear sky which is studded with stars by night and gilded with sunlight by day. And the noble, melancholic majesty with which the city reclines, its feet bathing in the waters, elegant and regal, on the throne of its seven hills.”

Alfredo Mesquita, Lisboa, Empreza da História de Portugal, Livraria Moderna, 1903.

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