We just returned from a lovely six day trip to Portugal! I'm starting graduate school part-time in the fall, and wanted to take a quick trip before school started, so we settled on Lisbon because it was a pretty easy, direct flight from New York, and seemed like a place we could do in only six days.
We started in Cascais, a beach town about 40 minutes outside of Lisbon, then on to Lisbon, or Lisboa, and spent our last day with some new friends who took us up the coast a bit to see Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, and then up to a small fishing village named Ericeira, which also gets a bit of tourists with their beaches.
Portugal is very picturesque with views of the water and the people are so nice. Also, most people seem to speak English very well, and given that it was August where there are a lot of European tourists everywhere, most menus had multiple language translations, so it was pretty easy for us to get around without knowing much Portuguese. We had lots of simply prepared and delicious seafood - grilled octopus, sardines, clams, fish, and of course, bacalhau several different ways. We also had a lot of great but cheap wine, tried the local cherry brandy, ginjinha and a bit of port.
And we met a lovely couple, Tito, a local chef, and Patricia, on our third night in Lisbon, who helped us order dinner, enjoy some local cheese, and then went out for a few drinks with us in the Bairro Alto. And, they were so amazingly nice, they offered to pick us up from our hotel and show us a bit of the coast outside of Lisbon on our last night in town! When does that ever happen? They were so nice, and told us all about Portuguese food, and things we should try and see.
Overall, it was a nice, relaxing trip where we didn't feel too much pressure to do tons of sight seeing. We had lots of great seafood, the weather was beautiful, and now, we are home facing a hurricane heading towards NYC!
We went straight to Cascais after our overnight flight and managed to take a little nap, have a nice seafood lunch and a bottle of wine, and a bit of poolside sun.
|Bacalhau con nata - bacalhau with potatoes and cream|
|Grilled squid with potatoes and cilantro|
|the lovely hotel pool overlooking the ocean|
For dinner, we walked into town and found a little place in where we had mussels (mexilhoes) with tomatoes, peppers and onions, and then dourada, or sea bream, portuguese style with a similar sauce and served with potatoes of course. It was cooked whole and then filleted and served to us tableside.
|tunnel to the beach|
Now, on to the beach!
Rather than serving the grilled seafood with wedges of lemon, this serve the food with white wine vinegar and olive oil. The white wine vinegar was actually really nice over the sardines and octopus, and we may have to eat seafood that way more often.
|grilled octopus with olive oil, onions and garlic, and of course a few potatoes|
After a few hours on the beach, we walked around the town a bit, and went to see the Casa da Historias, a museum dedicated to artist Paula Rego. Her work is pretty interesting, and the museum was free, which was great.
We then walked to see the boca do inferno, or "hell's mouth," which was a bit unimpressive as the water was very calm that day. Apparently it is really interesting to see when the waves are crashing in.
We ended up having dinner at the sushi restaurant at the hotel, sushifashion, which was good, though not great. We got the sushi and sashimi combo - the sashimi was just salmon, tuna and some kind of white fish, the nigiri pieces were basically salmon, cooked shrimp, and a few pieces of a white fish, and then there were a few different kinds of rolls, which were actually all pretty tasty, and definitely not traditional. Would have loved more variety in the types of fish they had, but everything tasted good, and it was kind of a fun restaurant and good scene.
|salada de polvo|
We got settled at our hotel in the Avenida part of town, and then walked around to find some lunch around 3:30pm, which is actually a little difficult. Luckily, we stumbled into Restaurante Marisqueria Quebra Mar, which stays open between lunch and dinner, where we had some more great seafood - a tasty octopus salad, or salada de polvo, with olives and some pickled cauliflower and carrots that was similar to italian giardinera, a traditional dish of pork and clams called porco a alentejana, and prawns with olive oil and garlic.
We also started the meal with some hand sliced pata negra, a cured ham kind of like prosciutto, which was very nice, and of course, a bottle of wine. I can't figure out of pata negra in Portugal is the same as the very expensive pata negra from Spain, but given that Portugal has their local "black pig or pork", maybe not?
|carne de porco a alentejana|
It was a rainy day, so we were perfectly happy to go back to the hotel and take a nap.
|the view of the Castelo from the Bairro Alto|
We weren't starving so settled on just trying their salada de polvo, ocotopus salad, and a very traditional Portuguese dish called bacalhau a bras, shredded bacalhau with eggs and shredded potatoes - kind of a bacalhau hash mixed with scrambled eggs. The octopus salad was good, a little more subtle than the one we had earlier in the day, and the bacalhau dish was fine, but nothing memorable.
We then moved on to a wine bar where we watched a guy sing and play guitar, and had a bottle of vinho verde and a little dish of bacalhau salad, which was really lovely.
|there are some great murals around town|
First, lunch at Ribadoura, where we had this stuffed crab starter, more of the bacalhau a bras, which was perfect for a brunch-like dish after a night of drinking wine, and then another dish of prawns with garlic.
We then started just walking around town and checking out the sights
|A funicular to take you up the hill|
|View of the Castelo de Sao Jorge|
|Elevador de Santa Justa|
|Walking down the Baixa|
|Praca do Comercio|
|the Se - cathedral|
|Castelo de Sao Jorge|
Since we had ended up walking to see the Se and the Castelo, we walked around the Alfama - the old Moorish part of town that seems like a whole separate village from Lisbon. I didn't get a great picture to capture what is looks and feels like, but it's a tightly packed neighborhood of small, twisty streets and old stone stairs to get from one place to the next.
Many of the fado establishments are also in this area so we decided to just stay and see a fado show and get dinner. Fado means "fate" and is similar to Spanish flamenco without the dancing in some ways. It's raw, emotional singing, and most fado places are also restaurants where you have dinner and see the show.
We picked a place that looked cute, and saw three different singers perform. It was interesting to see, but the food was just okay, and we weren't so into the music that we wanted to stay all night.
At lunch, we tried a version of feijoada, a bean and pork and sausage stew. This one was made with favas, which was nice.
|the Rossio train station|
|View of the Convento do Carmo, which had been largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1755|
|Some of the tile-covered buildings around Lisbon|
|Parque Eduardo VII - not the most manicured park but still a pretty park to see views of the city|
That evening, we went back to the Bairro Alto for dinner at Tasca do Manel, a fantastic, busy, cozy, lively restaurant serving great Portuguese food, and one of the only restaurants we went to on the trip that did not have english translation on the menu. A couple next to us had some grilled squid, which looked great and I really wanted to get it, so we were trying to figure out what it was on the menu.
The couple on the other side of us, saw that we were struggling a little bit with the menu, and leaned over and asked if we needed any help. They gave us a run down of everything on the menu, and recommended a few of the dishes to try. We settled on starting with the clams with cilantro, wine and garlic, or ameijoas a bulhao pato, the grilled squid, called lulas in Portuguese, and the local black pork, which was delicious and very rich tasting. It was served with a green sauce that I'm not quite sure what it was, but it was very nice. Our new friends Tito and Patricia also recommended a cheese to finish the meal, the queijo de azeitao, which was runny and delicious and served with a spoon. We all finished our wine, and they ordered a round of ginjinha, a cherry brandy. After that, we walked around the Bairro Alto and had a few beers, and a shot of something that basically translates to "kick in the crotch". The Bairro Alto had a bit of a Bourbon Street feel with people having drinks in the street and congregating in the streets in front of bars. Even though it was Tuesday night, there were tons of people out and about. It's August, so there are lots of Europeans on holiday roaming around. Wouldn't it be amazing to just get a month off in the summer from work?
Our final day in Lisbon started out a little slow after the previous evening, so we decided to try to get out to Belem to see the Torre de Belem, which we ended up skipping, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (monastery), and the Coleccao Berardo, a modern and contemporary art museum housed in the Central Cultural de Belem.
|Padro dos Descobrimentos|
|In front of the Coleccao Berardo in the Centro Cultural de Belem - that's water misting out to cool everyone down|
|Mosteiro dos Jeronimos|
And some of the tasty treats we had that day:
|shrimp filled pastry|
We went to the fairly famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, Pasteis de Belem to pick up a few custard cream tarts, which are delicious.
|pasteis de Belem or pastel de nata - not a great picture but declicious|
Our new friends Tito and Patricial picked us up at the hotel and we drove up via a scenic route up the coast to see Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, and then up to a small fishing village named Ericeira.
|what a view|
After the Cabo da Roca, we continued up the coast to Ericeira, a pretty fishing town on the coast with some beaches and cute restaurants and shops. We watched the sunset and then found a place for dinner.
|watching the sunset|
When we first sat down, we had fresh cheese that were in these little molds and were almost like a really soft, fresh mozzarella but much softer without any elasticity. We sliced it up a bit, and sprinkled a little salt and pepper over it and had a little bread. It was so good! We let Tito and Patricia order, and we had a very nice version of octopus salad, and then a tasty game sausage that was also breaded and crispy and was served with sauteed mushrooms. Those were followed by one of the many versions of arroz, or rice dishes with seafood, settling on one with monkfish and prawns, and then grilled or roasted bacalhau with olive oil and onions and some vegetables that was very nice. The wine was great, and we ended the meal with a little cheese and a little more ginjinha!
We had a very nice trip, and it was certainly made even more special making new friends and seeing a bit of the coast. We managed to bring home a little queijo de azeitao, which was a little milder than what we had at the restaurant, but still tasty. I only wish I had bought a few more cheeses to try to bring back!
|the whole cheese|
|slice off the top and serve with spoon|