Hello! Now, it’s time for my last and final stop: Portugal. 🙂
It’s a really lovely place, and I have in mind to visit it again someday. People converse in English, Portuguese and Spanish. If you speak any of these, you’re covered.
Information & Outlook
The temperature ranges from 9-14 degrees daily, and it feels cold at some points due to the winds that blow. If you head to Lisbon like us, the wind from the sea is usually the cold factor. We resided in an apartment at the heart of Lisbon. Everyday the streets were full of life from morning to night.
People there are 95% Catholic, but unlike the Spanish, they are more passive in their faith. Our guide jokingly told us that they were ‘Cafeteria Catholics’, who didn’t attend masses and didn’t head to church. People there also enjoy their food, and they spend so much time on the dining table as it is seen as bonding time. People there can spend up to 2 hours eating a meal to commune with people and socialise.
The interesting fact about Portugal is how they spread their culture around the world. They had old colonies all around the world–some in Africa, others in Asia.
They have oriental influences since they had made voyages to these countries in the past. Fun Fact: The tempura recipe in Japan was developed from a Portuguese recipe. Even the word ‘arigato’ in Japanese was developed from the word ‘obrigado‘ in Portuguese.
For us, we took a local guide to bring us everywhere. We engaged a personalised tour group called Different Portugal, where they brought us for free and easy tours. No time limit, and the tour is usually personalised and customised to your needs. We travelled by the guide’s car, and he planned everything in a way that is like a family tour. We had no schedule to stick to, so if we could explore the attractions at our own timing.
The average lunch time for the Portuguese is at 1.30pm, and 8pm for dinner. They seem to like stews, with meat (esp boar) and seafood too.
We tried the stewed pork ribs on the first day at a random restaurant we came across. It is pretty nice, and unexpected! They seem to like herbs for everything.
Seafood is a huge part of their diet, and items like fish is typically served with potatoes, veggies and some sauce.
Tea time is usually pastries, and the nice ones are usually powdered with a lot of sugar and cinnamon. There is one called the Big Pillow, which is this sweet crusty pastry with egg yolk in the middle.
Another interesting place to try is this restaurant called Pharmacia which used to be a hospital. When the restaurant took over the building, they kept the bottles and doctor kits used. When we entered, we saw old hospital shades and bottles that were previously used to contain medicine and chemicals. Besides that, I spotted conical flasks, round bottomed flasks and pipettes. It was like a food lab.
We tried their ‘Surprise Menu’, and we were in for many innovative and interesting dishes.
One dish that was particularly good would be grilled octopus, a favourite dish of many in Portugal.
The octopus was grilled and cooked in such a way that it is not chewy, it has a slightly charred taste.
We crossed a bridge from Lisbon and headed to see this statue that looked like the one at Rio De Janeiro. It was built to imitate the statue at Rio, and also as a sign to thank God for blessing the country and everything else. It was a huge tall statue, with outstretched arms. People in the past really knew how to show their gratitude to God, it’s admirable and beautiful.
We managed to see a fantastic view of Lisbon, and though it is smaller than most cities, it is wonderful!! This place is called the Window of Lisbon since you can see far, and wide. The buildings are awe-strking in this point of view. People here come just to see the sunset and sunrise.
We went to a part of Portugal called Sintra, which is big on castles and palaces. The difference is that the Castles are for commoners, and Palaces are for royalty.
We went to the Palace of Pena, which was a castle high up on the hills. It has great architecture and gothic styles to the walls, and built by Dona Maria II and Don Fernando II. You can go as far to see the monks’ residences, where they stay there to pray and meditate in the wilderness. You can either take a tram up to the Palace or walk up.
Many generations of royalties lived there, one of which is Don Fernando II. He had loved the breathtaking scenery and the moors, thus he bought over the whole land and built his chambers at the quarters. His wife, Queen Dona Maria II had passed away while giving birth to their 11th child, thus he had remarried another woman, called Elisa Hensler. She became the Countess and they resided in the palace.
We saw their royal bedchambers, toilets and even their personal sanctuary for worship. The pottery and even dining halls were fabulous.
During winter, hot pans were used to keep their beds warm on winters.
Their dining set ups were preserved, so we could see the actual look of it from years ago. Strangely, this set up reminded me of Beauty and the Beast.
We also walked outside the palace, where you can see the spectacular view of the surroundings. The greenery is everywhere, like endless seas. The knight posts onlooker this scenery where where they used to stand guard. Even the castle walls were a sight to behold.
In present day, monarchy is not a big thing in Portugal anymore. Even if you were a Duke, you still had to find your own job and had no exclusive rights.
Lunch was at this quaint countryside looking stall, where we tried the first taste of wild boar. As expected, the boar came in a stew like form, with potatoes and some herbs. It tasted good, and like any other meat. It’s tender. Yum!
Another place we visited was a pottery factory in one of the small villages. They spend months doing these special tiles. Once made, they can last for thousands of years. They are hardy, pretty and original.
These tiles are made out of red, pinkish clay. They would first roll out the clay with a rolling pin. Then, they’d cut out the clay with a square mould. I tried cutting a piece out, and it felt like I was rolling out a dough. It feels so much like baking, but with a lot more patience.
It takes 6-8 months for this clay to cool, and they’d bake the tiles in these huge ovens called kilns. They would dye the tiles with natural dyes from berries, and even gold! People who want these tiles can order them online, and send in pictures for the workers to make the tiles. The thing about these tiles is that each picture is made out of many tiles. It’s like a puzzle piece.
Next up, we headed to Belem, where it is famous for the egg tarts, palaces and infrastructure.
We saw this really pretty palace that was by the sea, and because of an earthquake, the land had shifted up to join the palace (previously a piece of land on its own) to the mainland.
One thing famous about Belem is their original egg tarts. Once you’ve tried these, other egg tarts won’t be good enough. Head to Pasteis De Belem for these awesome trinkets. People queue up there for ages, and it’s so jam-packed with people. They are all here for the egg tarts, and nothing else.
These egg tarts were created in 1837 by monks who wanted to start a living, and thus far their recipe has been wholly kept unchanged and secret. The crust is crispy and the egg custard oozes out when you bite into it. Adding cinnamon and vanilla onto these delicious treats adds more sweetness too. You can pack them back to your hotel etc, but they only last about 1-2 days.
After Belem, we visited this small fishing village. People here reside at the docks, and they provide the freshest fish from Lisbon. It is a common sight to see bikers and cyclists on the roads.
We saw a lot of beautiful coastlines. Special plants that grow there are adapted to absorb the salt from the water. We even saw little ducks swimming in these waters near the bay.
At lunch time, we tried their seafood which was fresh catch off the sea. The only preserved meat would be cod.
We tried their dish called ‘Cataplana’, which is a stew of potatoes, onions, fish, mussels and octopus cooked in a hot copper stew pot. It’s often served alongside bread or eaten by itself. It was simply scrumptious!
Last up, we visited Evora–a farmers’ village. The interesting thing about Evora is they use cork to make most about anything, from iPhone cases, bags, shoes to wallets, umbrellas and even dresses. In fact, in one of the shops there was a dress wholly woven out of cork, and it cost around a 1000 Euros.
Chapel Of Bones
We visited an eerie place in Evora, called the Chapel of Bones, which is the only church built using the bones of the villagers. The message that reads at the Entrance was, ‘We Bones here. For Yours Await.’
This was built to remind the citizens of the fragility of life, and that death is the equaliser of all. Every skull and bone on the pillar looked identical, and it was a chilling reminder that fame, looks and fortune die with us, and only bones are left behind.
Thankfully, there was a prettier side of the church which was the Bell Tower.
Wine is big in Portugal too. We visited a wine factory there, and they harvest grapes every year to make the fresh wine.
The barrels are used for the more expensive types of wine, where they leave the grapes to ferment in there for months. The barrel is only good for use for up to 4 years. For the first 2 years, it’s good for young, expensive wine. During later years, the barrels are better for cheaper, more commercial wine.
The huge plants are to process the normal, commercial wines. They would have different stages, like extraction of the skin from the grapes, or methods to give the red wine it’s colour.
They have a wine called Rosette which is made by processing red grapes, the fermentation process is in the style used for white wine. It tastes a bit like red wine, but lighter and quite sour. All wine here is young, the oldest only being made in 2010.
To my parents’ delight, we had a wine tasting session to end the visit. We learned they use tall and narrow glasses for liqueur, since they don’t need as much air to oxidise.
The wider glasses can be used for all types of wine, since it has sufficient room to oxidise. If red wine was put in a tall glass, it would become more sour and stronger in taste. The only wine I liked was the sweet wine.
(To our surprise, Port Wine is not manufactured here, since each place is only allowed to process a certain type of wine)
We had a picnic in the middle of the wine factory. The food here is typical of the farmers working around the region, which is an array of bread, cheese and ham.
Another interesting thing about the diet in Portugal is its sardines. Portugal has a sardine season where everyone would roast the sardines, and eat the whole fish like how you would eat a hotdog. It’s a delicacy here!
Lastly, we headed down to visit a Medieval Village. Only 45 people live there now, and they used to be a bustling city. Everything is quiet, serene and old, and the ancient ruins are still preserved, such as the Chapel and the Bull Fighting Ring. Spain is visible across the river from the tower.
And thus this concludes my trip to Spain and Portugal!! I hope you enjoyed all the pictures and sights so far. Thank you for reading!