Wild life in Mafra

June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

TapadaMafra2

When the Portuguese kings and queens stayed at the Mafra Palace, they enjoyed hunting at a local game reserve called Tapada de Mafra. The Tapada is now a national park that offers many fun activities for kids. There are train rides, donkey rides, archery lessons, and falconry demonstrations. You can see deer, wild boar, foxes, and other animals in their natural habitat.

Our favorite activity at Tapada is taking horse-ridding lessons. A 30-minute lesson costs only 5 euros. But riding an elegant horse in the beautiful Tapada grounds, always makes us feel like royalty.

 

Click here for the Tapada’s web site. Mafra is an easy 40 km drive from Lisbon on the A8 highway. Horse-ridding lessons are offered between 9:30 am and 12:00 pm. It is a good idea to call in advance to make reservations (Tel. 261 81 4240 or reservas@tapadademafra.pt).

The art of seeing

May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pedras na praia

We can be artists without drawing, painting, dancing or playing music. All we need is to see the world with child-like wonder. Here’s how Lourdes de Castro, a great Portuguese artist, demonstrates the art of seeing:

“When the tide is low, I hear the sound of the waves pouring over the stones, rolling them day and night, for years, centuries until pieces of basalt become smooth. A pebble is a work of art!”

Portugal’s landscape is an immense canvas inviting you to become an artist. Come and see!

A memorable sandwich

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sandes de leitão da Mealhada

The Earl of Sandwich is credited with the idea of placing food inside two slices of bread. But it was Portuguese peasants who turned this aristocratic whim into something sublime.

In ancient times, peasants in Mealhada, a town in the Bairrada region, used to offer their largest pigs to the nobles who owned the land. The peasants were left with small pigs called “leitão” (“laytaoum”).  They roasted them in wood ovens, seasoned with garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, and plenty of white pepper. The meat, cut into slices and served inside country bread, produced amazing sandwiches.

One of our favorite side trips from Lisbon is to drive the 90 km to Mealhada to enjoy a freshly-made “leitão” sandwich, accompanied with local sparkling wine. On the way there, we visit the beautiful Batalha monastery. On the return, we stop by the enchanting Bussaco Palace for coffee and pastry. The delicious food and beautiful scenery always make for memorable trips.

There are many good restaurants in Mealhada serving “leitão à moda da Bairrada” (leitão Bairrada style). Two of our favorites are Meta dos Leitões (IC2, Estrada Nacional 1, Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 540, email: casadesarmento@gmail.com) and Pedro dos Leitões (Rua Alvaro Pedro no 1 Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 950).

Taberna da Rua das Flores

May 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

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The name of this restaurant on Rua das Flores (flower street) combines the Portuguese word for tavern with the title of a famous novel: Tragedy on Rua das Flores, by the great 19th-century writer Eça de Queiroz.

The Taberna serves traditional home cooking. If you’re adventurous, try the excellent “iscas” (marinated liver).  Otherwise, you’ll find many other great choices, such as carrot and coriander soup, pork with sweet potato and zucchini, duck rice, and roasted codfish. The quirky antique furniture helps create an unpretentious atmosphere. Prices are modest, so every meal has an happy ending.

Eça de Queiroz complained, through the words of one of his characters, that Lisbon lacked a fun place to eat supper after the Opera. One century later, this place exists: Taberna da Rua das Flores.

The Taberna is located on Rua das Flores 103, tel. 351 21 347 9418, email: tabernadasflores@gmail.com. 

Olive oil tastings

May 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Azeite Gallo

Olive oil bottles make great gifts. We recently tasted two interesting, delicious, affordable olive oils. The first is Gallo Azeite Novo. It is made from olives that are still green, giving the oil a spicy, fresh taste. The second is Gallo’s Moonlight Harvest. It is made from olives harvested at night and pressed while they are still cold. It has a smooth, fruity taste.

The quality of olive oil can vary greatly from crop to crop, depending on rainfall and temperature throughout the year. That is why, to ensure consistency of quality and taste, Gallo blends olive oil from different regions.

Each year, Portuguese farmers wait nervously to taste the new olive oil in a ritual called “tiborna.” They dip warm country bread into the oil and, to bring out the flavors, season it with a pinch of salt or a pinch of sugar and cinnamon.

You can invite some friends and enact the same ritual at home. Which olive oil do they prefer? The freshness of young oil or the smoothness of midnight oil? You can peer into their souls by observing their choices.

 

It is generally a good idea to buy the olive oil at the airport’s free shop and take the bottles inside the airplane as a carry on.

Divine sweets from Aveiro

May 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

Doce d_ovos Pastelaria Versailles

Aveiro is a picturesque town in the center of Portugal, known for its canals on the delta of the Vouga river. In ancient times, Aveiro lived from the production of salt and the gathering of seaweed that was used to fertilize the land.

Aveiro’s claim to fame is its “ovos moles” (soft eggs). To make this dessert, pastry chefs separate the yolks from the whites. The yolks are combined with sugar to make the filling. The whites are used to make the same wafers that, once blessed, are served in holly communion. The filling is placed inside two wafers, which are then molded into various shapes. And that is how the profane yolk reunites with the sacred white to make divine “ovos moles.”

Loving Ericeira

April 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ericeira Summer 2013

Beaches are like people, they have different personalities. Portugal has 1,115 miles of coastline, but no two beaches are alike. Some are popular, always crowded with sun worshipers. Others are shy and choose their friends carefully. One of these shy beaches is Ericeira, 40 miles north of Lisbon.

Everybody loves Ericeira when the sun is shining and the sea is balmy. But Ericeira tests its visitors to make sure they deserve its beauty. So, there are cooler days to discourage those who complain that Winter spends the Summer at Ericeira. And foggy days to see who appreciates the joy of walking on a misty beach. Sometimes the sea is rough to see who is in awe of the ocean roar. Other times, the wind blows to see who feels invigorated by the ocean smell.

If you fail these tests, Ericeira is not for you. If you pass them, you understand the true beauty of Ericeira and you’ll never trade it for any other beach.

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