We made the Portuguese press!

The Portuguese dream that attracts the Americans. Visão magazine.

Visão is considered to be the Portuguese Time magazine. They say that it is the most read news magazine in the country. I was lucky enough to be chosen as part of an article on ex-pat Americans living in Portugal. This month’s cover story is titled, The Portuguese dream that attracts the Americans. The sub heading is The stories of those who have left the American dream behind to move to Portugal because of the quality of life, property investments, the wines and to escape Trump. Resident permits for US citizens have almost doubled, and golden visas have multiplied six times.

I have translated the article and share it with you here.

Joe and Lisa Graziano in front of Clérigos Tower in Porto.

Lisa Graziano, wine specialist, and teacher. From Denver.
Before moving to Porto, Lisa Graziano thought about moving to Valencia, Spain. However, when she visited Portugal, she discovered that the country had a more stable government, friendlier people, and a lower cost of living. Besides this, the North American had for years had a passion for Portuguese wines. In the Invicta (Porto), she learned a new way of being. “We were used to doing everything right now, but now we have learned to be calm.” (To live more calmly.)

The attraction of the Douro.
“The USA is a bagunça,” (mess) says Lisa Graziano, mixing English and Portuguese in the eagerness of justifying the move to Portugal. “The election of Trump was terrible. If people thought it was a good idea this man should be president, I had to go”. The only thing left was to decide where to go. Years earlier, she had come across Portugal at a wine tasting in Denver, the capital of Colorado, where she lived for more than two decades. She worked in a wine shop and was used to trying the best vintages. But she was impressed by the quality of the national wines (Portuguese), especially the whites.


“One of the reasons for leaving Denver was the extreme heat that was becoming more and more common. “This is why we decided to live in Porto because it is cooler,” she says happily. The family, and their dog, moved to the Invicta (The unconquered, Porto is known as the unconquered city, a cidade invicta.) two years ago. But it was during the pandemic that they purchased a T3 (three-bedroom) apartment in Cedofeita. (A neighborhood in central Porto.) Lisa gives lessons in English to Italians online, and her husband is a graphic designer for a company in the US.

The North American feels very much that “the United States is not a country for older people.” To start with, “the health system is a joke,” she says. “We are close to retirement age, and we have access to the national health system that costs a small fraction of the cost in the US and has much better quality. That is important to us,” she admits. Besides social protection, safety has been surrendered in the country. “The US is no longer a safe place. There is always a shooting du jour, and we did not feel safe,” she laments. “Those who live in the US think that everything is better there, but that is a lie. It is a good illusion when you cannot leave, but here (in Portugal), everything is much better,” she believes.


Lisa would like to become a type of ambassador for Portuguese wines, and for this reason, she is writing a book. She has the objective of visiting all of the wine regions in the country. The Douro was the first region that she got to know, “one of the most beautiful in the world.”
Also, the adventures told in the blog The Road to Portugal, about the move to and life here in Portugal will be published.
What’s more, that digital showcase has already given origin to various contacts from north Americans asking for more information about the country.

Although now, “there is an adult as president,” the couple does not plan to return to the USA.” For this reason, the response to the question about how long do you think you will live in Portugal is unequivocal, “Forever.”

And it’s back. With a vengeance.

Covid rides again, virulent, bolder, and faster than before.
Here in Portugal, the new lockdown has people pissed off. There have been some protests in Lisbon, but happily, all have been peaceful.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument in Lisbon. Celebrating the Age of Discovery in Portugal.

And, the government is pissed as well. People have been becoming lax about the rules, and those in charge have taken notice. So, you really can’t blame the powers that be for instituting more stringent rules and penalties for noncompliance.
When the new lockdown went into effect, we noticed folks hanging out outside some cafés on our way to the grocery store. I have also seen a lot of people out and about maskless lately.
I get it, everyone is suffering from lockdown fatigue. There was an image on IG in Portuguese that summed it up, be patient, or be a patient! A good reason to mind the basic rules: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands!

And, to some extent, it is our own damn fault. Had to get together and go places for the holidays. This was abusing the privilege of being stupid. And here we are.
Not only has the vaccine rollout been fraught with problems, but now people are refusing to be vaccinated. People are afraid of something developed so quickly for something we don’t even know that much about.
The pandemic problems seem endless. We can only hope that the world will get it together sooner rather than later.

Listen to the man people! This is a public service announcement!

At least, we are here, in Portugal. Not only do you have the pandemic, but the disintegration of democracy before our eyes in the US.
Never have we seen the level of stupidity that we are witnessing. Between the political madness and the lack of common sense regarding fighting the virus, it is staggering. Idiocracy is happening! When I first saw the movie, I thought it was funny and a little absurd. Now it is a horror movie depicting where the US is headed. Unbelievable, but true.

Veiw from the roof of the Capitol in Denver, Co. The US has certainly seen better days!

Again, we are thankful to have left the states. However, it is still horrifying to watch. It certainly feels safer regarding events from afar. The old world seems ever so much more civilized these days.

This just in…

Macieira Royal Spirit Brandy.

We got one! Ok, another one. Macieira Royal Spirit brandy.
It is another reasonably priced and magically delicious spirit from Portugal. In the odd facts department, Macieira means apple tree or apple in Portuguese. There are no apples in this brandy Macieira was the founder’s name. It is made from Portuguese grapes, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Touriga Franca, Arinto, and Fernão Pires. Created in 1865, it comes from the Estremadura region. Lisbon is located there, in what I like to call the nose of Portugal. And what a nose. Chocolate orange comes to mind.

This lovely spirit goes for about eighteen dollars a bottle and goes down in a smooth and enticing manner.
The thing about Portuguese spirits is this, they tend to be soft and elegant and a little bit sweeter than many other spirits. This drink personifies the difference between Portugal and the US. Bigger, bolder, stronger, is the battle cry in the states. Here on the Iberian Peninsula, softer, smoother, refined, and elegant are the key elements. This is part of why I like living here so much. As much as I can appreciate a good 100 proof spirit, I take issue with the in your face, always gotta be off the charts, mentality. Being extreme all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. I think that current events will attest to that. But I digress.

Back to the Macieira. It has a deep amber color with aromas of orange and caramel. There are rich flavors of caramel and chocolate with hints of orange on the finish, which is silky smooth. In a word, yumilicious! It is my new favorite winter warmer. And it clocks in at only 36% abv. Yes please, may I have another. 😉

And now this.

We interrupt this usually informative and fun-loving blog for a rant post.

Sack Man Whiskey and Asura Malt Liquor from Yria, Spain. Will somebody please sack this guy?!

Holy mother of insanity. You can’t make this stuff up. It pushes the bounds of credibility. A delusional narcissist, hate monger becomes pres of the US and very nearly overthrows the government as we know it.

Here’s the thing, the decline of the empire has been happening for a long time.

Even before the dump show, most of the systems in the country were showing signs of malfunction. And that is putting it mildly. Health insurance is a prohibitively expensive joke. Health providers, oblivious drug peddlers. Insurance, in general, a scam. The legal system, the absurdly random application of the “law.” And people get away with murder every day. The food supply has become so adulterated that it has lost nutritional value and flavor. Even if people woke up enough to take action, it is unlikely that there could be a noticeable improvement in my lifetime.

We survived the holidays that weren’t, in the year that wasn’t due to the pandemic, only to witness hoodlums storming the US capitol while being egged on by a president who is unfit for office. And he has pulled off his chicanery for years without penalty. The country has become a brainless, spineless laughing stock the world over.
When I was growing up, we considered the US to be the greatest country in the world. The T-word vowed to make America great again. Instead, he made it his dump-land of hate, greed, and stupidity. From a first world country to a third world mess in four years. Pretty impressive for someone as mentally unstable as he.

A timely vodka from Colorado.

It is sad when the people in power are only concerned with grabbing power instead of being the public servants that they should be.
Biden and company certainly have their work cut out for them. Best of luck to them. They will need it.

As for us, thank God we got out when we did.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. How about a glass of wine? Or, maybe something stronger. Good old American whiskey seems fitting. Make that 100 proof.

May we suggest Lock Stock & Barrel 13 year old straight rye whiskey.

So many great wines, so little time.

I have been a wine lover, professional and otherwise, for as long as I can remember. I have been a serious student of wine and spirits for the past twelve plus years.

When I was working in the wine and spirits retail business in Denver, I attended a lot of trade tastings. Little did I know back in 2014 that one of them would be a big preview of my then-unknown future.

Wines of Portugal is a collective put together in 2010 to help promote Portuguese wines internationally. I went to the day-long event they put on in Denver and was blown away by the quality and diversity of the wines. And now I live in what I consider to be one of the wine meccas of the world, Portugal. What are the odds? Pretty good in this case, as it turns out. 

Any type of wine you can think of exists in Portugal. Red, white, rose, light-bodied to full-bodied, dry to sweet, and sparkling in every possible form. I have had reds that could pass for Bordeaux or Barolo. Espumantes that could be mistaken for Champagne, and reds and whites that are every bit as good as any Burgundy. It is amazing. The world of wine lives in Portugal. And at the same time, they are totally unique. There are over 250 indigenous grapes grown here that are only grown here. And blends are king. If you like California red blends, you have got to love almost any of the Portuguese reds.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Pacheca Grande Reserva Touriga Nacional 2015.

Pacheca is an epic Douro winery that makes equally epic wines. They are all good. From the whites to the roses, along with the reds and ports, I have never met one that I did not like. The Touriga Nacional Grande Reserve pictured is a powerhouse equal to any great California Cab but with the elegance of a left bank Bordeaux. (No Cabernet necessary.) 

The Pedra do Gato from Vinhas da Passarella is a Dão blend that is reminiscent of Barolo. Light in color, it delivers dynamic power in the flavors, with firm tannins and great acidity. It hails from the Serra da Estrela sub-region, which is famous for its cheese. Together, they are a match made in heaven.

Cabriz Brut Bubbly.

Cabriz is another producer from the Dão region whose wines are all delicious. The sparkling brut is about as refreshing as they come. It has fine bubbles, citrine color, and fruit flavors of green apple and citrus. In a word, delightful.

Even though I am not currently in the wine trade, I plan to keep on tasting and learning about this unusual world of Portuguese wine and writing about it. This could take a while. Luckily, I have plenty of time.

A Strolling We Will Go.

The on-again, off-again lockdown may be killing us, but we can still go for a stroll, weather permitting. As well we should. Getting enough exercise is the only way to keep the near house arrest weight gain down. And, luckily for us, we do not have a car, so walking is mandatory for getting around anyway.
One of the bonuses of living in Porto is there are a plethora of parks to be explored. The gardens of the Palácio de Cristal, or Crystal Palace, is one of them. One could spend days exploring this one. It is tranquil, spacious, and beautiful.

Fountain in the Palácio de Cristal gardens.


It also has plenty of avian wildlife to observe. There are ducks, roosters, peacocks, and peahens, roaming about free. With the requisite winged city rats, pigeons, as well.

Up close and personal with a peacock.

Also, in our backyard is the Quinta do Covelo park. This one is smaller, more of a regular city park, but equally lovely and soothing for a stroll. It has fountains, woods, and even a dog park.

We love being walking distance from most of the great sites in the city. And getting to them usually includes a feast for the eyes along the way. Trumpet flowers are in bloom, and they are fabulous! The tile work on most of the houses around town is something to see, as well.

Trumpet flowers in bloom.
Iridescent tiles on a house in Boavista, Porto reflecting the sunset.

Portugal played a big part in the Age of Discovery during the 15th to 17th centuries. Now we are having our little age of exploration, discovering Porto and Portugal. And it is more fun than I ever thought possible. What secret treasures will we discover next? Can’t wait to find out.

Bem Vindo ao Porto.

Welcome to Porto. We have been living here for almost a month, and we love it.
Porto really is a magical city. It is right up there with Venice, Italy, San Francisco, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana, among my favorite cities in the world. I could say that it is something of a mash-up of San Francisco with its hilliness and New Orleans with the old buildings and ironwork, but it is really unique. The Azueljos tiled buildings are beautiful, stunning, and numerous in the city. The architecture and artistry is a feast for the eyes.

When we moved to Portugal, we chose to live in Vila Nova de Gaia because it was a lot cheaper, near the beach, and a 15-minute car ride from Porto. The reality of it was that while Gaia is physically just across the river from Porto, it is so close and yet so far, as they say.
Gaia is a world away from Porto in mentality. In fact, the city of Gaia’s motto is Todo um Mundo, meaning, all a world unto itself. That it is.

The locals have a saying here, Porto is Porto and Gaia is Gaia. After living in Gaia for a year and a half, I fully understand this saying. Porto is a world-class city, and Gaia is more like a small town or village. This, even though it is physically bigger than Porto in size. Both have their pros and cons.
We may be nearing retirement age, but we still want to be closer to the action of the city, as it turns out.

Sculpture in the Boavista Rotunda with Casa da Música concert hall in the background.

Now instead of having to take an Uber or walk for an hour to get to the metro, we are a 15-minute walk or metro ride from nearly everything. Including the above.

And exploring we will go. Stay tuned.

On the Road Again…

After a year and a half of living in Portugal, we are finally buying a place in Porto. Talk about an ordeal. Buying real estate is a big deal under any circumstances. But doing it in a foreign country and during the biggest pandemic since 1918 adds a whole new level of stress to the process. And I should know, I sold and taught real estate for 20 plus years in the states.

I have owned many properties, but never have I had such a hard time finding the right one. We must have seen 15 or more apartments before we said, this is the one! Of course, our parameters made it a challenge. We needed more space than our bank account could really afford. Oh, and wanting to be centrally located and preferably in Porto added to the challenge.

So True.

We have been in Vila Nova de Gaia for the past 1.5 years, and it is nice enough, but it is as expensive as Porto and a lot more rustica, shall we say. We are talking farm animals here. And excessively barking dogs everywhere. I guess if you don´t mind roosters, chickens, and geese, incessant dog barking shouldn’t bother you.
When people think of cities in Europe, they generally think of old buildings. And there are certainly plenty of those. However, new construction is booming in Portugal. So, our pad is all new inside, completely remodeled, and the outside of the building is being resurfaced as well.
It quite a bit smaller than we are used to, but being in the city is worth it. And we lucked out and got a great deal on it. So, it’s good bye Gaia and hello Porto. And, there will be some delicious local bubbles in our future.

Sparkling Rosé from Piano Wines, Portugal

We just have to survive a week or so in an Airbnb that is a fourth-floor walk-up since our psychotic land-lady won´t give us two more days, and the movers couldn´t accommodate us on the day we should be moving out. Bugger. No problem. At least, we will be in Porto away from the constantly barking dogs. With fresh territory to explore, it will be nice to be back in the city.
So, onward and upward, Porto, here we come.

Tomar: Portuguese verb meaning to take or to have. (Also, Thomar in English.) And, a city in central Portugal.

Tomar is a magical city in central Portugal. It is about an hour north of Lisbon, in the very center of the country, and has one of the most amazing castles to be seen anywhere. We are thankful to our friends Ken and Rose who live there. Without them, we might not have had a reason to go there.

The Nabão River, Tomar.

The lovely river Nabão runs through the city. It creates the perfect backdrop for a great meal at any of the restaurants situated within view of it. Tomar is a knights templar city, having been a headquarters for them in the middle ages. It is known for its medieval knight’s templar fest, which takes place every July. (Not this year though 2020 being the year that wasn’t.)

Convento de Cristo, Tomar

There are many great sites to see in and around Tomar, but the main attraction is the Convent of Christ. This former convent castle almost has to be seen to be believed. It is the size of a small city. In the 1500s a massive aqueduct was built to furnish it with water. Both edifices are impressive. The castle is so amazing that we drained our phone’s batteries taking pictures during our visit.

Tomar is part of the Tejo wine region in Portugal. Formerly known as the Ribatejo region, it is known mostly for good value and bulk wines. The best Tejo wines are full-bodied and complex, and the Castelo Templário is a great example of this. Akin to a good California red blend, its silky finish was long, and it’s rich black fruit flavors were delicious. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, the flagship grape of Portugal, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Castelão.

Tomar is an enchanting city with great sites, restaurants, and wine bars. We are thrilled to have friends that live there and are willing to show us around. There is so much to see and do, one could easily spend a week exploring the area. We will certainly return soon.

How About a GT?

Portugal is well known for its wines, but how about gin? That’s right, I said gin. Many drinks aficionados know about Spanish gins, Gin Mare being one of them, but Portugal? Not so much.
Well, I’m here to tell you that some amazing gins are being produced in Portugal. The lion’s share of Portuguese gin comes from the Alentejo region in the south. However, I am partial to the lesser-known gins from the north. (I live in Porto so, I am biased.)
Probably the most well-known brand is Sharish, which comes in a cool pseudo triangular bottle. Well, look…

Sharish Blue Magic Gin.

It is like a London Dry style of gin, to my taste, with even the juniper flavors dialed down a bit. Sharish also makes a gin called Blue Magic, which changes color when it comes into contact with tonic water. A nice touch, a gin that is refreshing and entertaining!
Big Boss is the next best-known brand and is made with 11 different botanicals. They also make a pink gin. These two are on my list to try, among others.

My favorite is Quinta de Ventozelo gin which is made by the winery of the same name and is located in the Douro wine region. It is the result of a research project with Biomedicas Abel Salazar in downtown Porto, and Cantinho das Aromaticas in Vila Nova de Gaia. (The latter is a farm that produces herb teas and plants. it also has a fascinating history that dates back to the 12th century.)
Ventozelo is a delightful botanical gin made from a wine derived distillate, lemon peel, mint, coriander, juniper, thyme, and lavender, among other herbs.

Ventozelo Craft Dry Gin

It is crisp and lemony on the palate with hints of herb, especially thyme. It also turns opalescent in the glass when served with tonic water. The Ventozelo site suggests making its gin and tonic using non-aromatic tonic water, and three juniper berries, and to garnish with an olive or a grape. (I like to garnish it with a slice of lemon.) It is refreshing and delicious for summer.

My next favorite is Tinto gin. Tinto is a red gin from the Minho region, which is also home to the wines of Vinho Verde. It is made with local ingredients that include, blackberry, rosemary, and poppy, along with Perico, a local variety of pear. The red color comes from the poppy flowers. It also comes in a cool bottle with a plain cork stopper and gold lettering. The Tinto gin has a sweet herbal nose and drinks almost like an amaro, it is so herbaceous in flavor. Fab on its own or with tonic.

Tinto, Red Premium Gin.

There are a host of others that I am on a mission to try. These gins are as unique as the country that produces them and are worth the hunt to find them. Sadly, finding any of them outside of Portugal is a challenge, at best. So, if you come across one, give it a whirl!