Stateside Planning

Once we got home and recovered from jet-lag the real work of crafting our escape began.  We decided that, yes, we really needed to sell the condo and that we also needed to move somewhere more affordable.  After two weeks in Portugal, Porto became the target but, honestly, anywhere in Portugal would do. With much research it became apparent that to get resident visas in Portugal, we needed jobs that we could take with us ideally, (read: online work).  We would have to go to San Francisco, in person, to apply for visas.  This was going to take some time.  My wildly optimistic hope of moving to Europe in June was out the window.  Trusting my real estate gut instinct, I knew we needed to sell quickly while prices were still sky high here in Denver. (Housing prices surpassed mile high in Denver a while back!) 

That said, once we sold the place, where were we going to live while we made our work and visa arrangements?  My friend Dennis to the rescue!  We have been friends for years and I had driven carriages for him for many years as well. (Yes, horse drawn carriages in downtown Denver.  I called it draft horse wrestling!)  Oh, and wait, he is also my hairdresser!  Conveniently enough, he has a beautiful three story Victorian house near downtown Denver and the third-floor apartment was available.  It was a great deal, big enough for us, and he was willing to rent to us month to month until we were ready to ship out.  Done deal!

We got back to Denver on March 5, 2018 and listed the house for sale on May 3rd.  We had four showings and from those came two offers.  By May 8th we were under contract, as they say here in Colorado, and closing was set for June 15th.  The next steps:  purging and packing.  The goal is to get rid of at least 80 percent of our belongings.  We sold most of the furniture with the house, so that was a start.

We now have about six days to finish the purge and vacate the premises, as they say, and my next post will be forthcoming after we move to Capitol Hill.  We saw this sign in a wine bar in Lisbon:

Words to live by!

Here’s to re-creating ourselves and starting a new life abroad!

Back to Lisboa and the US.

After almost a week in Porto we returned to Lisbon for a couple of days before heading back to BFE USA via Dublin and Toronto.  This time we stayed in the Alfama neighborhood which is famed for places to hear the traditional Portuguese Fado music.  Luckily, the first place we stayed in Porto had lots of Fado CDs, which we listened to.  As much as I wanted to hear some Fado music live none of the bars that hosted the music commenced the festivities until 9pm.  When you are as old as we are that is late!  It is usually lights out by 10pm for us.

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Alfama, Lisbon.

Alfama reminded me of Venice, Italy without the water.  The streets are hilly and impossibly narrow.  One of the Uber drivers we hired had a mini van and the car literally scraped the wall on one side going down the street!  It is so charming that once there you understand why it is a must-see part of Lisbon.  One of best restaurants of our entire time in Portugal is there:  Alfama Cellar.  They specialize in cooking with individual cast iron pots and the dishes there will set you free!  The best was drunk rabbit; marinated in grappa and served with roasted vegetables that conveyed flavors beyond description.  We enjoyed the food here so much that we ate there our last two nights in Lisbon.  The staff was professional and fun, and the service was outstanding.  Alfama Cellar is located at Rua dos Remedios 127-131, 1100-451 Lisboa.  Www.alfamacellar.pt.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon.

Sadly, it was quite rainy and stormy our last two days in Lisbon, so we did not wander far from our Airbnb which was about 30 paces from our new favorite restaurant.  We strolled around a little and got to visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge on our last day which was an amazing piece of history and architecture.  Our Airbnb was tiny but efficient and the craziest thing about the building was the stairs up to an apartment above.  Well, look…

Crazy Stairs in Alfama!

If one was drunk, they would be downright dangerous, methinks!

Needless to say, we were sad to have to leave Portugal.  But now, we had a mission:  figure out how to move there!

On the way back, we once again spent a day in Dublin, Ireland.  This time we were lucky to dodge an historic snow storm that dumped 13 inches of snow on the city shutting everything down two days before we arrived.  We watched as 13 truck loads of the white stuff was removed from the tarmac before we could deplane.  We got to our Airbnb and headed for the nearest pub.  Severe disappointment ensued; there was no Guinness to be had!  Fresh out.  While the city was immobilized for two days, everyone was at the pubs and drank the city dry!  That’s an historic event:  no Guinness in the pubs in Dublin!  Crazy, but true.  Happily, we got to have one more pint of Guinness at the airport before we left.

We arrived at Dublin airport around nine am. After getting through security we went through the duty-free store and found that they were having a series of gin and whiskey tastings!  Ireland, what a country!  Of course, we felt duty bound to try the local spirits.  Ireland is having a distilling renaissance and the whiskies and gins are first rate.  We brought home some Tyrconnell 12 year old Madeira cask single malt whiskey.  Mmm, good!

We made it home with minimal delays and after thinking about it we realized that the only thing we missed while we were away:  our dog Jiva (aka Bubba).  Looks like there’s a transatlantic trip in your future little buddy!

Love Me Some Porto!

Admittedly, with a two week visit to Portugal we have barely scratched the surface of places in the country where we would like to be.  But between Lisbon and Porto we really liked Porto the best.  They even have a few craft breweries.  They remind me of where Denver was with microbreweries 20 years ago.  Cool spots, good beer and so much potential!  Nortada was our favorite.  It reminded me of The Rock Bottom Brewery when it was new.  Nortada is brand new and if you like craft beer you should check it out if you are ever in Porto.  It is located right in the center of the city and not only are the brews good, the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable.  Portuenese Beer Factory is its formal name and it is located at: 210 Rua de Sa da Bandeira, 4000-427, Porto Portugal.  Their website is:  https:// loja.fcpornuenese.pt.

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Nortada Portunese beer

Did I mention our criteria for a place to relocate?  Great food, wine and weather are foremost.  So, we add beer and we are there in Porto.  But what about the city’s namesake drink?  Port:  it’s not just for after dinner anymore!  Port is a fortified wine that is amazing in its versatility.  Not just a sweet after dinner drink, it comes in many forms and white port is one of them.

We visited Barros port house and got to sample a 30-year-old white port.  Dangerously delicious is a phrase that comes to mind.  A little sweet with a plethora of flavors that go on for days.  Floral peach nose with flavors of caramel and lightly nutty flavors.  Wow, it was so good that even though we were tasting many ports vintage and otherwise we had to drink this one.

Tasting Cellar at Barros Port Winery.

As beverage pros when one tastes a lot of alcohol one spits so as not to get deliriously drunk!  And Port is no slouch in the ABV (alcohol by volume) department coming in at 16-20% alcohol.  It is fortified with brandy which came about to preserve it on the long trips overseas to Britain where it became popular in the 1700s.  It is the third oldest protected wine region in the world after Tokai in Hungary (1730) and Chianti in Italy (1716).  In 1756 the General Company of Viticulture of the Upper Douro or Douro Wine Company was founded to guarantee the quality of the product and fair pricing for consumers.  The making of and history of Port is a study unto itself.  Check it out on that Google thing.  I hear it is catching on!

Back to the drinking part…Dry white port makes an excellent aperitif.  On the rocks with a twist it is super refreshing in the summer.  There are plenty of great port cocktails to try as well.  See any good bar book for recipes.

Our VIP tour of Barros was fabulous, fun and informative!  In addition to the white port we got to try several vintage and single vineyard ports, all of which were outstanding.  Because they are fortified, good port will age well for decades.

White Port at Porto Cruz

By the time we finished our tour it was lunch time and our uber driver had recommended Porto Cruz as a good place to eat.  They have a beautiful 4th floor dining room with a view of the city of Vila Nova de Gaia which is across the river from Porto and is where all the port houses age their wines.  Once we were seated a server came over with a bottle and asked if we were driving?  We answered no, and he poured us a glass of chilled white port.  Again, off dry and a perfect aperitif.  Is there no end to the magic deliciousness?!  I hope not!

Quinta da Foz Port house boat with view of the bridge to Porto.

Aveleda Winery

Being in the wine biz has its perks, however small.  Thanks to Frank Mc Donald, my new BFF who imports Portuguese wines into Denver, we got to tour the Aveleda Winery in northern Portugal.  It is about an hour train ride outside of Porto and has some of the most beautiful grounds to be seen at a winery.   Founded in 1870, Aveleda has been around for a while and is still family owned.  They are famous for their Vinho Verde which means green wine for it’s freshness and light lively flavors.  Sadly, the white and some rose Vinho Verde’s are the only ones that make it to Denver.  The red wines they make are outstanding as are the spirits or Aguardente as they call them.  (Brandy or literally fire water to us!)

Aveleda is one of the biggest wine producers in Portugal and as a leader in the Vinho Verde region it exports more than half of its production to 70 different countries worldwide.  They also make Casal Garcia Vinho Verde which is the most sold Vinho Verde in the world.  The Casal Garcia arm of the company was established in 1939 when a French oenologist happened to stop by to see the vineyards at Aveleda on his way from the Douro wine region to Porto.  Aveleda’s owner Robert Guedes was very forward thinking and planted his vines by varietal in the French style which caused Mr. Eugenie Helisse to stop and demand to meet the owner of the vineyard.  Long story short, Mr. Guedes hired Mr. Helisse as his new oenologist.  (For more on this story see:  http://www.casalgarcia.com.)

The gardens at Aveleda.

The gardens at Aveleda

When we arrived at the train station in Penefiel we were met by the lovely and talented Marling Espejo who chauffeured us to the winery.  What a beautiful and bucolic place!  We toured the grounds for about an hour and were wowed by the natural beauty of it.  Verde was the operative word with hobbit houses strewn about throughout.  There were chickens, dogs, peacocks (and peahens, of course) and little black goats that had their own three-story hobbit house!  I felt that we might fall down a rabbit hole ala Alice in Wonderland at any moment!  Or maybe see actual hobbits!

Hobbit house for goats!
Resident wildlife!
Spirits barrel room

After seeing the barrel room where the spirits are aged we went to the main house for lunch.  OMG, this was a luncheon fit for a king or queen.  The three of us sat down to a formally clothed table and were served by a woman who was sure that we should be eating a lot more than we did!  (Which reminded me of my time in Italy.)  The food was outstanding (you seeing a theme here)?!  We started with a vegetable and cheese quiche followed by a fresh cod casserole dish in a mouthwatering sauce served with potatoes, carrots and green beans.  Yes, there were seconds all around.

Copper pot spirit still.
First run spirit fountain!

Each course was paired with a different wine and we finished with a glass of 12 year old barrel aged aguardente paired with port filled chocolates (More about those later.)  Gastronomic bliss, I tell you!  Can you say, stuffed like a Christmas goose?!  Splendiferous is a word that comes to mind.   After lunch we got to see the distilling room and were able to taste the first run spirit.  It was dangerously delicious.  One small sip per customer, please!  From the spirits room we made our way back to the parking lot and Marling returned us to the train station.  Everyone was so gracious that we can’t wait to return!  And, of course, the wines and spirits are outstanding.  If you are ever in Porto a trip to the Aveleda winery is a must!

Francesinha

Our first full day in the city of Porto was a Sunday, so we followed the lead of the locals and went looking for a place to have brunch.  One of the regional dishes is the Francesinha, and after scouting out a few possibilities we landed at a place with an inviting patio that offered some good-looking food.  The funny thing about restaurants in Portugal and other parts of Europe is that they have pictures of all the food outside instead of a simple menu, like we do here in the States.  It strikes one as fast food like, because that is where we see it here, but all the restaurants do it over there.  Makes sense really, especially in towns where there are people visiting for all over the world.  So, don’t let that throw you, even the nicer places have pics of their dishes posted outside.

Wikipedia lists the Francine, (as I like to call it for short) as a “sandwich” originally from Porto but it is really a unique dish all its own.  It translates to little Frenchie, and if you are vegetarian or vegan you might want to stop reading now!  Here’s what it is:  a large slab of bread topped with wet cured ham, Portuguese linguica sausage, steak or roast meat and a copious amount of melted cheese.  But wait, there’s more!  The bread, meat and cheese are served swimming in a tomato beer sauce and served with French fries to dip in said sauce.  The Francesinha is a gut bomb extraordinaire.  Perfect hangover food.

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Francesinha, waugh!

Now, I should mention that normally, I would not touch food like this with a ten-foot cattle prod, being something of a health freak, but of course, we had to try it, being the signature dish of Porto.  Yeah, it was awesomely delicious.  I can’t believe I ate the whole thing, that’s how good it was.  We tried the Francine another time during our time in Porto and they do vary from restaurant to restaurant.  For me, the secret is having really fresh, crisp fries for the sauce.  As crazy as it sounds, it was magically delicious and didn’t weigh me down as much as I expected.  Could have something to do with all the walking we did.  In any case, when in Porto:  try the Francesinha or little Frenchie, Francine!

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Blue Tile Building Art.

After such an excellent brunch walking is certainly in order.  One of the most beautiful visuals in Porto is the tile work on some of the buildings.  There are entire scenes depicted in blue and white tile all over town.  One of the best examples of this tile can be seen in the Sao Bento train station in downtown Porto.  The lobby of this station is a masterpiece of tile art.

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Tile work on the building of our Airbnb.
Between the historic buildings and the tile work just walking around the city is like a trip to a museum!

On to Porto!

After four days in Lisbon we took the train to Porto.  We did have a little miscommunication with our cab driver who thought we wanted to go to the aeroPORTO!  When we realized that we were almost to said airport, we told him that we wanted to take the train, trem, trem!  To Porto, muita Obrigada! (Thank you very much!)

No biggie, only about 15 minutes lost there.  We stopped for um café (a coffee.  Must have coffee in the AM!) and made our way to the gate for the train to Porto.  It is about a three-hour trip on the express train which is very pleasant and comfortable.  Plenty of time for a good read, some study or a snooze.  They serve coffee on the train, we soon found out and it was really good and a screaming deal for one Euro.

What is that chick doing in the Porto sculpture?!

By the time we arrived in Porto, we were hungry.  So, after we checked into our Airbnb we took off to tour the town on foot.  Our hostess gave us a map with a list of the best places to eat, and we were off to seek delicious internal nourishment.

Porto is quite hilly and reminded me a lot of San Francisco.  Oh, and beautiful, beautiful, wish I was still there!  I had done a little research myself (Thank you Rick Steves!) and we set off to find Casa Guedes which is famous for its pork sliders.  It was a bit of a hike, but we found it and, of course there was a line out the door.  We were tired and hungry and almost blew it off to go elsewhere, but there were only four or five others ahead of us, so I insisted, we’ve gotta suck it up and try these.  After about ten minutes we reached the counter to order.

The place is TINY and when you get to the register, you had better know what you want.  This is what you want: pork slider with cheese and a glass or bottle of the house sparkling rose, which was not on the menu, as near as I could tell.

We sat at the three-seat bar and waited for our food.  Behind the bar was a man with a giant side of pork swimming in roast pork juicy deliciousness.  We were getting high on the fumes.  This was going to be good.

Magically delicious!

Holy mother of the best pork sandwich you have ever had!  And the rose wine with it, heaven.  There were only about three or four small tables inside, most of the seating was outside on the patio.  It was a little chilly, but we sat outside and enjoyed our gastronomic bliss.  Joe had a Super Bock beer, which was good with the world’s best roast pork sandwiches that melted in our mouths, but the sparkling rose really was the perfect pairing.  This was one of the best meals that we had on our entire trip.  Simple, taste treat sensation and all for about $17 Euros for the two of us.  This is what I’m talking about!  Welcome to Porto!   When do we move in?!

Sintra

Sintra is a must-see suburb of Lisbon.  It is in the Sintra mountains north west of Lisbon and is where the Royals summered when there was a ruling monarchy.  (1139-1910 for monarchy in Portugal, in case you were wondering!)  Up until this day, my travel planning had been stellar.  This is where my lack of attention to detail derailed us.  State side, I looked up the distance between Lisbon and Sintra; half an hour by car.  Piece o’ pie, I thought to myself.  We can do this in a day.

How about, in an afternoon?  The answer is no!  I have never been much of a morning person.  Ok, let’s be honest, I hate the a.m. and it hates me so, we didn’t usually get out of the gate until 11 at the earliest.  Hey, don’t judge!  This was our first real vacation and plenty of R and R was part of the plan.

On this day it was more like noon before we hit the street.  I might have mentioned that we were relying on public transport and it is about an hour to Sintra from Lisbon by train.  Oh, and wait, there is no direct train from Belem to Sintra, so we would have to figure out where to transfer trains.  Mother pus bucket!

It was about 1pm by the time we got there so we decided to have lunch.  We chose one of the many little cafes in the town center and the octopus salad was delicious!  Then we thought we would hike up to Pena Palace.  This is a steep hike and no where in my Google travels did it mention how far the palace is from downtown Sintra.  Ok, I will admit that it did not even occur to me to do a search on it.  I just assumed that Sintra was much smaller than it is.  (Remember that English class about the word assume?  Ass out of you and me, yeah.)   So, again, in case you were wondering it is 18 minutes from Sintra proper to Pena palace BY CAR.  An hour hike on foot almost straight up.  Ugh.  Thankfully, the tuk tuks run up and down near constantly and an empty one on his way up saw us walking and offered to take us.  Joe answered, no, we can make it.  The tuk tuk driver said, no, you won’t.  Ok then, we thought, he would know.  After hesitating for a nanosecond, we realized that he was probably right and boarded his glorified golf cart.  We were very thankful for the ride when we saw just how steep and far the trek was.

When we finally did reach the palace, we were wowed.  Totally worth the trouble.  This is one of the craziest castles ever built.  It is very Alice in Wonderland like due to the different additions from different time periods that were done over the years.  The views are breath taking from the walk way that goes completely around it.  The décor inside is equally fanciful and fun.  I am just sorry that we didn’t have more time to spend in Sintra.  Next time we will make sure that we do.

After touring the castle inside and out, it was time to make our way back to town.  We did not want to miss the last train back to Lisbon.  We hired another tuk tuk to take us down the mountain and boarded the train.  The moral of this story is, details, details, the devil is in them and never assume anything!  One could easily spend a week in Sintra.  I would suggest at least two days.

Escher Exhibit/O Prado Take 2

The next day we wandered back down to the water.  We had noticed on our first day out that the Museum of Popular Art had an exhibit of M.C. Escher’s work.  Along with the Tower of Belem, the Museum of Pop Art is on the banks of the Tagus River.  It is a fun dichotomy that the two are almost literally down the street from each other. 16th and 20th centuries pretty much next door to each other in the enchanting city of Lisbon!

Since Joe and I are both big Escher fans we decided to check it out.  It was amazing to see the man’s work up close and personal, so to speak!  The amount of detail in his drawings is mind blowing.  There was also a fun interactive piece that let one enter the orb in the Hand with Reflecting Sphere pen and ink drawing.  It was an illusion, of course but most of this master’s work is illusion based, so totally appropriate! The entire exhibit was entertaining, informative and awe inspiring.

After the museum we had some sangria at a hotel that had a patio on the water.  The weather was beautiful and the scenery equally so.  It was interesting to note that folks were sporting winter, even fur coats in the 60ish degree weather.  Sort of the opposite of what we have in Colorado where it is common to see people in shorts and flip-flops when it is 30 degrees or colder and snowing!  I have never understood this having been taught to dress for the weather.  Kind of crazy either way, I guess!

We had dinner at one of the seafood restaurants on the way back from our sunset patio excursion.  There was a gentleman standing outside extolling the virtues of the food inside and after a couple of suggestions about the menu I said, “I’m in, let’s do it”!  Holy mother of amazing seafood!  I had horse mackerel with a Spanish sauce and Joe had a squid and shrimp skewer.  Both were outstanding, as was the white wine we had with it.  All for about 30 Euros.  A meal like that would’ve cost $100-150 stateside.

After dinner we strolled back toward our Airbnb and decided to stop back in at O Prado for a night cap.  A night cap, right.  Clearly, I had no idea who I was dealing with!  We sat at the bar again and were warmly greeted by our new BFFs, Christina and Johnny.  Boy, did we get more than we bargained for!  After a bottle of Cartuxa, an excellent Portuguese red wine, if you ever run across it, I was ready for that night cap!  So, Johnny pulled out some of their home-made hooch.  Portuguese grappa, if you will.  Now, I happen to love grappa, and this was wickedly smooth and delicious.  But wait, there was more!  Next, he pulled out a barrel aged version of the same fire water which was even more delicious than the first!  Then, of course, I had to try some of the Portuguese aguardente which literally means fire water.  Really, it was Portuguese brandy.  Thankfully, Joe is not a big grappa/brandy fan, so he only had little sips of each.  I, on the other hand, partook fully.  Being the world class enablers that our hosts were, they sent us home with little samples of the two home made liquors, cleverly disguised in recycled apple juice bottles!  Love them, mean it, they came in handy later in our trip.

I vaguely remember staggering back to our place.  Joe says it was a small miracle that we made it back in the dark after all that drink!  Yes, I was in for a world class hang over, to be sure.

Coach Museum/O Prado, Take 1.

Being older helped us out with the timing of everything we did on this trip.  While the rest of the Portuguese world has lunch around 1pm or later, we were usually hungry by noon.  The same went for dinner.  We usually wanted to eat around 6pm and were the only ones in the dining room at that time.  Restaurants got busy after 7pm, which suited us just fine.

We re-visited the Pasteis de Belem at about 11am in the morning and, guess what?  There was no line!  The place is also much bigger than it looks from the outside and seats around 400.  We ordered coffee and two pasteis de nata, as they are known.  This is the Café du Monde of Lisbon.  Little custard tarts served in a parchment like pastry shell.  Not as good as beignets, but still, quite tasty.

After our “breakfast” of custard tarts and coffee, we decided to check out the Coach Museum.  Now, Joe thought, really?  A coach museum, how interesting could it be?  Boy, was he surprised!  As was I.  These were historic coaches built for royalty and they were impressive and amazing to say the least.  Having been a carriage driver in Denver for many years, I could really appreciate these mobile works of art.  They made our carriages look mighty pedestrian, I’ll say!  Well, look!

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After being wowed by the antique coaches for royalty we found O Prado for lunch.  This little gem of a restaurant is on Rua da Junqueira, 474, 1300-341, Lisboa, and if you are ever in Lisboa (Lisbon, to us foreigners!)  you need to dine there.  We sat at the bar and were entertained by the Johnny and Christina show!  These two run the place and they are awesome, as is the food.  I had a salmon steak that was crazy good, super fresh and cooked to perfection, that is not overdone, and Joe had a pork dish which melted in the mouth.  We shared a bottle of the house red wine which was a red Vinho Verde.  Why, oh why do we not get this wine over here?!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against the white Vinho Verdes, but the red is so perfect with everything!  Beautiful dark red color, a hint of effervescence, light bodied with dark fruit flavors and nice and dry on the finish.  Yumilicious, it was.  It reminded me of the dry Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna in Italy.  I Wish I could have brought some home.  One of the many reasons we’ll just have to move there!  Seriously, I have travelled a lot, but never have I visited a country where all the food and drink is so consistently good if not great. 

Given the great fun, food and drink, we became instant friends with Christina and Johnny and said we’d be back before we left Lisbon.

O Prado house red Vinho Verde.

On to Lisbon!

The people in Ireland are so very nice!  Having visited once before with my Mom back in the 80’s, I remembered this.  It is truly an enchanted isle.  Part of our cheap flight regime included leaving Dublin for Lisbon at 6:15am.  This meant leaving our Airbnb around 4am.  Ack!  When we asked about reserving a taxi to pick us up so early, our hostess arranged for her flat mate to take us to the airport in the middle of the night!  That was over and above in the hospitality department, to be sure.  Thanks again Danny and Fionnuala!

Joe.Guinness

We did manage to sneak in a trip to the Guinness Brewery during our less than 24 hours in Ireland!

The upside to our early flight was that we landed in Lisbon at about 9am.  Once we arranged for a cab to take us to our lodgings, the city would be ours.  We stayed our first four days in the Belem neighborhood and that was an excellent choice.  There are so many monuments, gardens, museums and amazing restaurants in Belem that one could spend weeks exploring them.  And they were all a short walk from our adorable Airbnb apartment.  Our host Antonio couldn’t have been nicer.  He left us a nice bottle of Portuguese wine and his assistant Pedro brought us keys and some fruit to enjoy during our stay.  He also gave us the low down on the best places to eat and how to get around via public transport.  They were the hosts with the most during our trip. 

BelemTower.2

Lisbon was awe inspiring.  The weather was nice, clear blue skies and about 60-65 degrees.  We walked down to the center of Belem and the gardens across from the Jeronimos Monastery.  It was a short stroll along the water from there to Belem Tower.  This 15th century fortress is a fantastic piece of architecture with great views of the city and the Tagus river.  Another important tip:  buy your tickets to see the Tower at the information center just down the hill from it.  When you get to the Tower itself you will see two lines; one to buy tickets and another much shorter one for those who already have tickets!  After exploring the tower for an hour or so we were hungry, so we headed back up to the main street with all the shops and restaurants.

Here is the best part of a visit to Portugal:  It is hard to go wrong in the eating and drinking departments.  While we did have great advice from our hosts regarding where to dine, we never had a bad meal during our trip.  Everything was so good!  At first glance some of the little places we went to looked unassuming, but the food was excellent no matter where we went.  The seafood is so fresh, and the meats do delicious that I hazard to say that Portugal has some of the best food and wine in the world.  We picked a spot to have lunch and the maître‘d asked us what we would like to have.  When we hesitated, he offered to pick the best dishes for us.  I had a cod dish with vegetables and Joe had pork.  Both were great.  And so was the white wine that I had with the fish.  Joe had beer, Sagres being the foremost brand of beer in Lisbon.  Sagres and Super Bock, in Porto are described at the Miller/Coors of Portugal.  Very light style brews.  Joe and I agreed that we liked the Super Bock a little better than the Sagres.

After lunch we strolled the Rua de Belem and saw a huge line to get into the Pasteis de Belem shop which is famous for the little custard pies that have been made there since 1837.  Later for that we thought!  We would come back when, hopefully, it would be less crowded.