A Travellerspoint blog

A Lazy Day in Lisbon

sunny 25 °C
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" Twas the day after Sant Antonio, and all through the town
Not a creature was stirring, not even a ...... Sardine!"

Foodie moment

We ventured out to try the famous Custard tarts of Pasteis de Belem, still being made using the ancient, secret recipe of the Jeronimos Monks. With cinnamon and icing sugar to sprinkle on top, we were not disappointed!

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We decided to stay in and try the advertised 'Hostel dinner'. For 10 Euros we were getting a starter, soup, main, desert and 3 drinks of our choice so it was a great deal... but you never know what the quality will be when cooking for a big group. Lucky for us the cook was a lovely Portuguese lady, who was a great cook!! Brie with honey on crackers, vegetable soup, chicken wrapped in ham and stuffed with pine nuts with rice and salad and a delicious chocolate brownie and ice cream for desert! So much food and so delicious!

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Cultural moment

Today we got to see the after effects of the partying at the San Antonio festival. All the shops were shuttered, the streets deserted apart from men in fluro vests doing the clean up, not a soul to be seen who wasn't a tourist! Needless to say it was a public holiday, so shops being closed wasn't that big of a surprise, but it just shows that they party hard in Lisbon... and then are more than happy to take the next day as recovery snuggled up in bed (Financial crisis or not!!)

Wow moment

We took the tram to 2 sights just outside of Lisbon today. The Belem tower was a fortress built in 1515 on the river to protect the nearby palace. The spiral staircases took us to the top of the tower for some amazing views of the water and bridge.

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We also visited the chapel of the Jerónimos Monastery. The most interesting aspect was the intricate carving on the columns, and the beautiful stained glass windows.

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What we learnt today

Throughout our trip we have come across A LOT of Americans also backpacking. They are often quite young (19-22), and either travel in big groups or gravitate towards each other at hostels. And unfortunately these groups don't do much to help counteract any of the stereotypes of Americans we hold - they are loud, cannot drink without a drinking game being involved, say incredibly ignorant things and can have the tendency to be quite obnoxious. Now, don't get me wrong we have met many great Americans who are none of these stereotypes... but in big groups, all around Spain and Portugal, Americans are driving us nuts!!!

Posted by travellinglise 07:41 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon belem_tower jeroninimos_monastery yes!lisbon_hostel_dinner Comments (0)

Celebrations with Sardines & Saints

sunny 22 °C
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"Hard to call it a party without sardines" - Brandon Mull

Foodie moment

We trecked off to find a restaurant Lonely Planet had suggested for dinner, 'Faca & Garfo', this is can be a risk as they write the reviews such a long time before publishing you have no idea what state the restaurant will be in now (could be shut down, raised its prices due to Lonely Planet popularity, new owners). Luckily this time it was a lovely little restaurant with a really friendly waitress and reasonable prices. We were given the English menu and I couldn't find any of the recommended dishes on it. When i showed the Portuguese names to the waitress she pointed out that 'Alheira de mirandela' (chicken sausage) was 'traditional Portuguese sausage', and 'Bife a casa' ( Steak with Cream and Port wine sauce) was 'Steak knife and fork' on the English menu!! Sometimes the English menu can help... sometimes it hinders!! Anyway, needless to say, the dinner was delicious and she even managed to upsell us on desert much to Mark's joy, Creme brulée and Chocolate Mousse. Very satisfied :)

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Cultural moment

The Portugese LOVE a festival, and everyone gets involved. They are either out on the streets partying, eating and drinking, or they set up a stall in front of their house and sell food and drink to anyone that passes. They stay out ALL night regardless of age, much more stamina than us wimpy Aussies who definitely didn't make it to sunrise!

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Wow moment

We had heard a rumor that there was going to be a festival in Lisbon on the 12th of June so we skipped Coimbra and headed straight there. I don't think we really understood how big the Festa De Santo António (Feast of Saint Anthony) was until we walked around while they were setting up in the afternoon, and they were constructing beer stall after beer stall, setting up bbqs lining the street and there were kilometers of tinsel hanging in the streets. Later that evening, we met a girl from Darwin named Jelise and a couple of Kentucky boys (who we just called Kentucky!) and we hit the streets. They were heaving with people, the air full of Portuguese music and the smell of grilled sardines. The town of Lisbon is incredibly hilly and we climbed and climbed all night, roaming the streets, enjoying the amazing atmosphere! We met a group of Portuguese guys who we chatted to for hours learning all about them, the language and having a laugh. It was a great night!!

What we learnt today

The Festa De Santo António is also known as the festival of Sardines. The reason for this is that the story of St Anthony tells us that when he was a missionary in Italy he became depressed because the locals wouldn't listen to his sermons, so he went to the lake to talk to the fish. Suddenly row upon row of fish came to the surface to listen to him talk. The townspeople came to see this and were amazed as the fish bowed their heads and opened their mouth in reverence to Saint Anthony! In response to this miracle the festival is based heavily around the grilling and eating of the biggest sardines I've ever seen!!! Plus they hand out Sardine hats to wear in the festivities, but these are incredibly rare. Jelise and I tried our hardest to get our hands on one all night, even offering money to confused Portuguese children for theirs (One Euro for a child, Jelise?!)... we finally struck luck when meeting our lovely Portuguese friends who gave us theirs at the end of the night! Success!!

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Posted by travellinglise 09:11 Archived in Portugal Tagged lisbon Comments (0)

Puffing and Panting up the Hills of Porto

rain 18 °C
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"Port strengthens while it gladdens as no other wine can do" - James Biancamano

Foodie moment

Tonight we headed out for a traditional Porto snack called Francesinha (translates as Little Frenchie), and is apparently the Portuguese version of the French croque-monsieur (ham and cheese toastie). It is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and cooked in a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Initial reactions, yum! After about half... oh my god, my arteries may not survive this! Final decision - it would make great drunk food when you're craving fatty food but otherwise... really not worth the calorie intake!!!

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Cultural moment

We are not sure if it is out necessity or they just have a better grasp of the language, but the Portuguese speak incredible English! Every person in a restaurant, bus driver, receptionist or hostel worker.. great English and more than happy to speak it to you! They are also incredibly friendly and willing to help you.. We love the people of Portugal!

Wow moment

Porto is the official home of Port Wine, and similar to Champagne in France, you may only call your product 'Port' if it is grown and manufactured in the Porto area. The riverfront is home to dozens of Port houses which will show you around their cellars and let you sample their various ports. We went to 'Calem' house as it had the next English tour and learnt lots about Port (See 'What we learnt'), the cellar sells a 1950s port through to the affordable 'Old Friends' collection.

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The river front in Porto is UNESCO listed and you can see why... even through the misty rain, the brightly coloured, skinny shops and house were a sight to behold.... Be prepared for hills though!!

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What we learnt today

We took a tour of a traditional port wine house called Calem today, one of many in the area. On the tour, the very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide taught us about the traditional ways of making port. They have both white and red port in Porto, and the two types of red port are Tawny and Ruby. The difference is that the Tawny port is removed from the huge 30,000 litre barrels into smaller 550 litre barrels during the fermentation process. It then has the opportunity to come in contact with the air and wood of the barrel more so than the Ruby port which matures in the huge barrels. This gives the Tawny port a clearer golden colour and more woody flavor. We also learnt that the traditional way of transporting the grapes from the hotter areas of Portugal to the cellars was done via port boats. These are no longer in use because of damning of the river, but are now used as tour boats. The port of Porto has a much different flavor than of Australian port, more closer to wine or a spirit, where the Aussie stuff is much more sweet and thick.

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Posted by travellinglise 14:48 Archived in Portugal Tagged porto port_wine Comments (0)

Food, Food, Glorious Food!

sunny 28 °C
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If you are feeling hungry at the moment, DO NOT read this blog now, you have been warned! This was a foodie day and it was AMAZING!

"In everyday life there is always manana. There is no urgency"

Foodie moment

Today we visited the San Miguel Market in Madrid. We had seen it a few days before but it was overwhelmingly full at the weekend, so we waited until a week day so we could peruse foodie heaven at our leisure. The market wasn't cheap but the food was fresh and smelt amazing. You could buy meats, cheeses, paella, fish, oysters, pintxos, cocktails, olives, macaroons and any type of wine . The choice is huge! We had some croquettes (king prawn and chicken ones), a Jamon Iberico (the best ham in Spain) hotdog, little salamis and a yummy Rijoca red wine (not our best though...keep reading!). Yummy market food!

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So, fresh after our Tapas tour the night before we decided to get all Spanish and have some afternoon drinks and tapas at our new favorite local 'Malaspina'. We sat at the bar (you get cheaper drinks if you're at the bar, it goes up on the tables and up again if you're at a table outside) ordered a drink each and got the same delicious tuna and potato salad as the day before to enjoy for free. We hadn't even finished our drinks and two pieces of bread with smoked salmon and lettuce appeared in front of us! We then ordered another drink and were given a slice of Tortilla each.... I LOVE FREE TAPAS!!! I am writing to the Australian government immediately to make it law in Australia!

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We chose a popular restaurant from Trip Advisor which was near our hostel, Venta El Buscon. The review recommended the 'Parrillada de Carne' which was a meat platter for two which included Steak, Ribs, Chicken, Chorizo and Sausage. Mark was in meat heaven!!! This came with a big salad and of course...chips! We also had a bottle of our new favorite wine (see below) and finished our meal with a free shot! We rolled out of there satisfied and VERY happy!

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Cultural moment

Spain has a certain pace of life... and our tour guide put it really well.... 'Manana', everything is done 'Tomorrow'. This is the case with the building of monuments, which are often not finished until well after the person who commissioned it is dead! It is the case with their jobs, where their family, personal life or even lunch break takes massive precedence over finishing what they are doing. I do love that they prioritise family and 'living', Australians work far too much and forget to 'live' with the money they earn, but in the same way I would hate trying to get something done here, and I can kind of understand why Spain is suffering in the recession!

Wow moment

Today we visited the Parque del Retiro in the middle of Madrid. It was stunning weather and there were people sunbathing and rowing boats. We also visited the Palacio de Cristal whilst at the park, which was a nice, if a little strange!

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What we learnt today

Today we found our favorite Spanish wine so far! It was called Ramon Bilboa - Limited Edition from the infamous Rioja wine region. It was amazing! As good as the wines Eric feeds us from McLaren Vale, yup i said it! Plus for only €2.50 a glass or €14 a bottle in the restaurant you can't go wrong!! Wish we could get it at home!

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Posted by travellinglise 11:21 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Totally Tapas! with Spongebob Squarepants

overcast 21 °C
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We love a country that gives free food with your drinks!

Foodie moment

Following the recommendations of a friend we met in San Sebastian we went to Malaspina for lunch. The free tapas we got with our drinks was a delicious potato salad. For our lunch we ordered Mark's new favorite snack, Jamon Croquettes and the local specialty, roast pig. Of course it was served with fries which we are starting to notice most dishes are! All of it was great, and the restaurant was really welcoming and friendly so we'll be back!

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Today we went for a 'Tapas Tour' through the same company as the walking tour. The food at the first venue just kept coming and coming! There was bread with cheese, Jamon, Tortilla, Meatballs, etc etc and even our old friend Tripe made an appearance again!! The second venue was interesting as we needed to order a drink to receive a free plate of tapas. These plates were piled up with paella, croquettes and calamari, all for free! It was packed with people paying for drinks and getting their dinner for free

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Cultural moment

The area we stayed in was called Sol, and it was a huge public square where several roads met (the roads all branch out from the square like beams of sunlight, hence one of the reasons for the name). A busy square where people meet to go out, travel across to go for food, shop but you realise very quickly that this is not a completely normal average place... it all begins when you first spot SpongeBob, then Mickey and Minnie, then another SpongeBob this one with his friend Patrick by his side! Sol is FULL of street performers, they range from dressed up cartoon characters (Tigger, Chuckie, Pooh and Dora the Explorer were some other familiar faces), to people dressed as statues (Dalai Lahma, Jesus, Aliens, Soldiers). We seriously wonder how much money they could possibly make in a day when they depend on tips from people when they take a photo! What was also strange is that people were having photos with them but not seeming to understand that they would then need to give them some money, they were quite surprised when an angry Mickey would chase them down, with his head off demanding payment for the photo! Not sure if they thought these guys were just doing it for fun? Or even that the Spanish government (with their financial worries) were paying the performers to be there just for the pleasure of the tourists??? Either way the photos I took were sneaky ones so we didn't have to give them any money, so at least we knew we were doing the wrong thing!===

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Wow moment

Today we headed to the Palace in the centre of Madrid. The current palace was built during the time of King Philip V and he wanted it to be even grander than Versailles in Paris. So he ordered to to have over 2,000 rooms! In typical Spanish fashion it took over 17 years to construct it so unfortunately for Philip V he died before it was completed and never got to live there!

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Whilst visiting the Palace we came across a huge stage set up for a free concert. There was a full orchestra and choir, and hundreds of people watching. The music was amazing and it was crazy to stumble across something which was probably a big event on the Madrid calendar!

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What we learnt today

We actually learnt this information about Tapas during our walking tour from Sabella but thought we would include it here as it is more relevant. In Spain (more relevant in the South now) you will often be given a tapas (small plate of food) for free with every drink order. There are two historical stories behind this. Firstly the word tapa means cover or lid, so the snacks were named Tapas because one of the kings didn't want to get insects in his drink so he put piece of bread over it to form a 'lid'. It then became tradition to serve bread with drinks to cover them and this evolved to become snacks called Tapas.

The historical story behind the tradition of giving free tapas with each drink spans back to the time of King Alfonso X (Alfonso the wise). At that time the people did not have much wealth so at lunchtime when given the choice between spending their money on food or alcohol they chose the alcohol and came back to work drunk. So Alfonso X, knowing banning the drinking would be impossible, made it law that all drinks must be served with food so the workers came back from lunch in a much better state! Hense the beginning of the free tapas... which is a great thing i think!

Posted by travellinglise 11:51 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

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