Lovers Handkerchiefs

     Last week Claudia N. from Austria toured Lisbon with me and her daughter. After the tour they did some shopping and bought a beautiful handkerchief, with a writing they couldn’t understand.

     These handkerchiefs are traditional from the North of Portugal and used to be embroidered by young girls to offer them to their boyfriends. The handkerchief represented the beginning of the relationship: the girl would embroider it with love sentences to declare her love, and the boy would use it in public accepting the commitment.

     They are always embroidered with happy colors, flowers, hearts  and always have a spelling mistake. At the time most girls could barely read and would write the sentences the same way they’d speak, trading Vs for Bs.

     Nowadays they can be found in most handicraft shops and besides the classic handmade handkerchiefs one can also find inexpensive replicas, neat to use as kitchen fabrics, table cloths and home wear.

     This is something I definitely recommend as a souvenir as they’re both traditional and beautiful. Congratulations girls, you picked a beautiful “Lenço dos Namorados”!

5 things not to do in Lisbon

     Lisbon is a city plenty of charm, history, great food and amazing attractions. But like any other city, it has its tourist traps. Avoid them and make the most out of your time in Lisbon.

     1- Feel like a sardine in a can, inside Tram nº 28 – This tram line was originally designed to provide public transportation for those who live in the historical neighborhoods but got so popular among tourists that only few locals dare to get on-board. Fight for a place inside this tram might be worthy, but only if you can get a seat. If you’re standing, you’ll only be able to see other tourist’s armpits and the chances of being pick-pocketed are quite high.

      2- Wait in line for Santa Justa Elevator – Historical elevators make part of this city, specially long ago, before cars made part of the daily life. Santa Justa is a true gem of architecture but after you’ve taken a couple pictures, walk along Rua do Carmo and feel the atmosphere of this hipster neighborhood. Listen to Fado from an old-fashioned car that sells Fado cd’s, do a little shopping and finally turn right at Calçada do Sacramento to reach the top of the elevator and get amazed with the views.

      3- Go to Belem in the morning, specially on Sundays - St Jerome monastery is a world heritage site and a definite MUST if you’re visiting Lisbon. Unfortunately, it still is an active church with masses on Sunday morning, during which you can’t visit the church. It’s hard to explain the limited visiting times or the chaos around those times. Skip all this and if Sunday is your only day available, go there after 2pm. It will be completely different.

      4- Eat or have coffee at any food chain - I know it works for everywhere in the world, but in Lisbon this is a specially big mistake. Coffee and food definitely make part of our culture and not only you’ll be loosing the opportunity to try our exquisite pastries and excellent coffee, but also spending more money.

      5- Have dinner before 8.30pm or sit for a meal in Rua Augusta  - In Portugal we don’t have dinner before 8.30, sometimes 9pm. If you do find a restaurant with their doors open before 8pm, it will certainly be a touristy restaurant. Just like the restaurants always open in Rua Augusta, they may be good or within your budget, but may also serve you something different than authentic Portuguese food.

      6- Avoid hotels anywhere near Avenida Almirante Reis – This tip is just a little bonus. Even though you may find cheap and modern hotels around this neighborhood, I’d avoid them. Those hotels may be nice, but the area is one of the least pleasant and the subway works with limited times.

How shopping for pans took us to one of the best views over Lisbon

It’s been one month since we’ve been offering our cooking classes in Lisbon and next week, we’re hosting our first large group. Like any chef, Amelia (our instructor) , is always afraid of not making enough food and therefore wanted to buy some big skillets.

It’s been a busy summer but today I finally managed to meet her after lunch and find some free time to go shopping. This was supposed to be a banal act but soon became a fun afternoon.

It’s not hard to shop for home goods in Lisbon, but there is one store in particular that stands out above all of the others.  Here, cookware comes in all shapes, sizes, brands… and what a view!

There was a lot to choose from but once decisions were made it was time to sit down and have a drink, enjoying the fabulous view from their terrace.

We’ve been cooking something

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post but it was for a good reason.

June was the busiest month ever. I had to go to Porto three times, organised a great private Fado concert, some filigree workshops, wonderful lunches by the ocean, and a lot of fun tours, of course.

The greatest new is, ta da, I’ve just launched Lisbon Cooking Stories, and I couldn’t be any happier.

What’s Lisbon Cooking Stories? I’ll tell you more about this project soon but meanwhile you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

I’ll be back soon!

International Museums night, in Lisbon

     Every year, on May the 17th, Lisbon and the rest of Portugal celebrate the Museums Night with music concerts, guided tours and whole program of fun activities.

     The program is vast, and can be consulted here. I know that it’s only in Portuguese, as this night is mostly aimed at locals, but please feel free to use the comment or email box, shall you need any help or suggestions.

     There are plenty of fun activities to choose from. Theater plays, staged tours, organ concerts, dance sessions and also activities for children. If you prefer to visit a museum on your own, just pick one, as all the museums will be open until 11pm, with free admission.

     The next day is celebrated as the International Museums Day and it’s also full of activities, guided tours and free entrances. I know that the sun is shining out there, but if you’re looking for something indoor, there’s a lot to choose from!

What to do on April the 25th

As you may know, every year, on April the 25th we celebrate the Red Carnation Revolution. It was a non-violent revolution that put a end to a long lasting fascist dictatorship.

Being such a recent and emblematic date, there isn’t much open in this day. However, not many places open don’t really mean that there isn’t a lot going on.

If you’re in Lisbon and are wondering what you should be doing today, the answer is simple: join the crowd!

At 3pm starts a cheerful parade along Avenida Liberdade. Foklore groups, brass bands, people dressed in traditional customs and everybody else walk and sing along this avenue to celebrate the freedom of speech.

Worried about the dress code? That’s simple: buy a red carnation and you will immediately make part of the group.

“Portugal is, and there I will be, happy” – Ruy Belo

Lisbon’s underground Roman museum

     If you were reading about Lisbon, this weekend, you may have heard about the Roman galleries that only open 3 days a year, being submerged by Tagus river during the rest of the time.

     Lisbon was once an important city for the romans and to prove that, there are a number of roman vestiges. These galleries are by far the most famous ones. The media coverage about this place is huge and so are the lines.

     What few people know is that there is another underground museum area, with roman ruins, underneath the city center.

     I’m talking about the Archaeological Center of Millenium BCP (a Portuguese bank). It’s located underneath the downtown area and you get to walk under the main building and see a former roman house and fish salting factory.

     It is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm and has guided tours (mandatory) starting at every sharp hour. It’s not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia but it’s definitely something different to do while in Lisbon.

If you really want to visit this place, here are the contacts.

And 2014th’s best custard is….

      Yesterday during the festival “Fish in Lisbon” it was announced the winner of 2014th’s best custard. This year the great winner was the pastry shop “Alcoa”, from Alcobaça, and here at LisbonStories we can’t wait for our next tour to Alcobaça, to try one.

     By now you’re probably confused: “I thought that the best custards could be found in Lisbon, in that famous pastry-shop in Belem?!”

     “Pastéis the Belém” can only be found in that famous pastry shop as it is said that they’re made with a secret recipe, invented by the monks who lived in St Jerome monastery, right by its side. Belém is indeed the name of the district.

     “Pastéis de Nata”, same thing than custards, but different name, are the ones that can be found everywhere else in the world. They taste just like the first ones, with the exception of the name… and the secret.

     Is there such a big difference? Honestly, no. Maybe the ones in Belem are crunchier as they’re served warm, but that’s about it. I love them, but after trying the ones served in Aloma, the 2013 winner, I couldn’t decide which is my favorite.

    Well, let me try Alcoa’s custards and I’ll tell you my final opinion!

We’re back!

     After a long silence, Lisbon Stories’ blog is finally back.

     Many were the reasons why I stayed away from this blog for so long, but I’m defintely glad to be back.

     If you’re visiting Portugal and are looking for tips, travel advices, activities suggestions, recipes and much more, just stay tunned. Since this blog only makes sense with your feed-back, please feel free to use the comments box, as well as the “contact us” button and tell us what you’d like to read in this space.

    If you’ve been to Portugal and loved your experience here, then feel free to write a blog post. It can be about your experience, about a funny story, an attraction review… you pick, we publish!

Saint Anthony’s day is coming and the party is on!

     Have you heard about Saint Anthony of Padua? Well the truth is he is not from Padua, Italy but from Lisbon, Portugal. Why are we telling you about this now? The celebrations in Saint Anthony’s home town, our dear Lisbon, have already begun but the highlight will definitely be tonight: the night of the 12th June.

     Saint Anthony is not the patron saint of Lisbon – that would be Saint Vincent – however he’s our favorite and celebrating him is a way of paying our homage.The date we celebrate is actually the 13th June- the date that marks his passing away in 1231, although the party starts way before that day.

     This is a popular celebration so people come out in the streets and go out partying with their neighbors or with anyone passing by so I am sure you will feel even more at home during these days The festivities include beautifully decorated streets, street parades and a dance parade and contest between associations belonging to the different parishes in the city.

     Food and drinking are also an important part of this party and never like in this week, will Lisbon be as much filled with the scent of grilled sardines all over the place. These don’t go without the occasional glass of red wine, although green wine is also a good choice.

     Dance the night away to the sound of traditional music sung by everyone or played by informal bands here and there; go and eat grilled sardines out in the street and then don’t miss out the parades in Avenida da Liberdade, the main avenue in Lisbon where the dance contest is held.

     The following day you might want to join the crowd that goes to the church of Saint Anthony, right next to the cathedral in the old neighborhood of Alfama and ask for a little blessing. Here is a tip: he’s known as a good match-maker!

Sunday Lunch- Rice with Beans

When Julia , a former client, wrote to me one of these days asking for a recipe of Rice with Beans my mouth immediately grew water! Rice with Beans is actually a case of a long love affair for me.

This is a wonderful yet very simple recipe mainly eaten in Lisbon. Some people say that it were the African emigrants from our former colonies in Africa- Angola,Mozambique,Cape Verde, Guiné Bissau and São Tomé- who first introduced the recipe probably as far as 400 years ago. Both beans and rice were inexpensive items and mainly what there was to eat.

Rice with Beans nowadays is definitely a part of Lisbon’s gastronomy. It is used as a side dish for cod fritters (pataniscas or bolinhos de bacalhau) or for a Portuguese tempura style treat we call Peixinhos da Horta which is just green beans in a batter, deep fried. All of those are possible to find either in any restaurant in Lisbon or at any Portuguese home.

My home is no exception, so when Julia said she would like me to send her my own private recipe, I was so thrilled that besides emailing her the recipe I rushed into the kitchen and started cooking! The result was indeed fantastic and no main dish was needed as Rice with Beans is also quite filling on its own.

Want to try your own version? Here is a basic recipe; you let me know how it goes in your kitchen back home.

     Ingredients:

- 1 half onion chopped

- 1 clove of garlic chopped

- 1 can (250 grams) of boiled butter beans (or any another fleshy type)

- 2 table spoons tomato pulp or 2 ripe tomatoes cut into chunks

- Olive oil

- Handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro) stalks included

- 250g rice – can be risotto type rice (I use the can of the beans as a measurement)

- Some dried cumin (amount depends on taste)

- Water

- Salt to taste

Preparation:

     Fry the onion and the garlic in olive oil (I use a lot, but I love olive oil) in a pan until golden.

Add the tomato pulp or tomatoes, salt and the dried cumin.

Add the rice and let it fry for 5 minutes while stirring.

Add the beans (also add the liquid it comes with in the can) and stir.

Add enough water to cover the mix and let it simmer until it softens, stirring once in a while.

When boiled, turn the heat off and add the chopped coriander and stir just before serving.

Indulge yourself!

Cod fish fritters with Rice with beans

5 Places to visit with children

     Some of our clients are afraid of travelling with their children, fearing bad moods and cries. While this might happen, you don’t need to stay home until your kids become teenagers (and no longer wish to travel with their parents).

    In order to make everyone happy, we picked 5 places in Lisbon to visit with children (where adults can enjoy even more).

     1 –  Lisbon’s Aquarium – Gathers fishes and sea-animals from all over the world, in an incredible atmosphere that makes you forget the real world. Just try not to forget about your kids while you watch the sea otters: it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.

     2 – Lisbon’s Zoo – Zoos are a classic when we’re talking about children, but Lisbon’s Zoo is an exceptionally good one. It has a cable car, a dolphin show, free flying birds, a reptile house, a children museum and many other activities, all included in the main entrance fee.

     3 – Pavilion of Knowledge Ciência Viva – Put some comfortable clothes on and enjoy the fact that no one knows you. Play, experiment and try every single activity: you can ride a bicycle on a string, make some molecular gastronomy, sleep in a bed made of nails, etc. At the end of the day you’ll be as tired as happy.

     4 – Our pastry-shops – Portugal has a huge tradition when it comes to pastries and sweets. The good thing is that they’re generally made of organic ingredients (like whole grain flour or real eggs) which makes them healthier than a soda.

     5 – Sintra’s Moorish Castle – Is there a child who doesn’t enjoy to hear about warriors, battles and conquests? In this 1200 years old castle they can run around the wall walks and learn some history while adults enjoy the magnificent views and learn about the history of Portugal. Don’t worry about girls: just keep them busy looking for Cinderella.

May 18th-International Day of Museums

     We are very excited around here at Lisbon Stories! Tomorrow is the International Day of Museums. We love what we do, so this date is just a good excuse to visit our stunning monuments  and museums yet another time. The best of all: for free!!

     The date is celebrated worldwide and the best of all is that this year, May the 18th is a Saturday, so there is a full weekend to be planned starting tonight. Yes, you read it well; many museums and monuments throughout the country will be open at night, holding different cultural events, music concerts, guided tours, etc…

     If you are around Lisbon I would suggest taking a walk around the Chiado quarter, in the center of the city, in the evening and then head off to one of the nearby museums open at night such as the Archaeological Museum of Carmo or the more modern Museu do Chiado.

    However, anything goes as the different programs include special guided tours, dance and acting performances, workshops for families and many, many activities more. The Portuguese institution that runs the public museums in Portugal (IGESPAR) has a full program of the weekend which you can see here.

   It is in Portuguese, but we are happy to help you with the translation. Just send us an email and maybe we can meet in one of the museums. Don’t miss out all the fun!!

The Holy Spirit celebrations

     There is a beautiful catholic commemoration in Portugal that even non religious people love to attend. It is what we call the Divino Espírito Santo (or Divine Holy Spirit) and it is a festivity that is held for around 700 years now and was started by a queen.

     Isabel was a Spanish dame who came to marry the Portuguese king Dinis in the 13th century. A devoted spouse and profoundly religious, Isabel was known by her good will and charity. She was said to be so good that she was considered a saint a few centuries after her death.

     Queen Isabel had a special devotion for the Holy Spirit and the Pentecost which are a symbol for purity at heart, of God’s kindness in every man. In the Spanish region where she was raised, big festivities were held to celebrate them, 50 days after Easter. When she brought this tradition to Portugal it was a huge success from the very beginning

     The celebrations started taking place in the towns owned by the queen such as Óbidos, Tomar, Alenquer and others. The rituals included a procession in honor of the Holy Spirit with a child taking the lead and everyone dressed in white and barefooted, even the queen. The poor would be given meat and bread and their feet would be washed by the wealthier as a sign of humbleness.

     These rituals haven’t changed much since those days and this is still a very important tradition in certain regions, such as the Azores where it is a way of bringing the communities of the 9 islands together. It is one of the favorite religious festivities in Portugal as it celebrates the best in the human being.

    If you have some time, come next weekend and see for yourself what I am talking about, I am sure you won’t forget about it.

To beer or not to beer

     Along with wine, there is another drink that we also can’t go without in Portugal: Beer. Before the Roman Empire, the people living here almost 2000 years ago, the Lusitanian, already produced a very basic type of beer only out of water and fermented barley.

     Romans didn’t care much for beer nor did the Moors who later invaded the peninsula. Only during the Christian crusades, some 1000 years ago; beer production was once again common. The knights from central Europe, who came to help the Iberian kings in battle, would be granted lands where they would plant cereal in order to produce their traditional drink: beer.

     It became popular but a serious threat to wine production as it was considered a cheap, low quality kind of drink, produced in private cellars. In the 17th century the first beer factory was built and only during the 19th century the production of beer was widespread.

     It was the monks in their convents who had the best breweries and produced the best quality beers. After the extinction of the religious orders in 1834 the monks had to find themselves jobs so they started selling their excellent beers out to the general public.

     Beer had been already adopted as a national drink by then and the first “cervejarias” were established. These were simple restaurants selling fresh sea food and tender beef steak sandwiches with different types of beer. We still love them and they are the perfect spot to get to know the real deal as far as Portuguese beers are concerned.

    Today, the most popular brands and types or beer are… coming out on our next post.  I will just let you waiting, mouth watering!

Outjazz – Our Jazzy Lisbon

     As you might have guessed by the name, Outjazz is a Jazz Festival and yes, it is out in the open.

     As the sun starts to shine, in Spring time, Portuguese people start to find excuses to spend as much time outside as possible. We have coffee outside, we eat outside, we go to the beach, we jog… and we attend music festivals.

     This Festival has been held since 2005 and it was a huge success from the very beginning. Why? The concerts take place in some of the most fantastic locations in Lisbon.

     View points, terraces, gardens, monuments, public parks all of them and many others will welcome various bands and solo performers every Friday and Sunday throughout the next 5 months. This year besides the usual food and drinks stalls, there will also be street markets, selling handicrafts and other items.

     Do you know those hot afternoons when you’re tired of touring around and just feel like relaxing a little bit? Well, it looks like we’ve just found you a little excuse to do so.

Find more about it, as well as the program, here.

     We’re terribly sorry that the program is not in English. Feel free to contact us if you need a little help with it. Anyway, “Sextas” means Fridays and “Domingos” means Sundays. The writing in bold is the location so, go ahead and google maps that.

25th of April- a very special national holiday.

Whenever I go to Lisbon- and believe me when I say I go to Lisbon a lot! – there is a place I never miss: the Largo do Carmo. This is a quiet yet central square of Lisbon where some very special piece of recent History took place.

As you might have heard already, we had a closed, strict regime in Portugal from 1926 (although only officially from 1933) to 1974. António Salazar was the head of government until 1969 and Marcello Caetano, his successor until 1974.

In that year it all ended finally, not in a blood bath as you might imagine, but in rather a joyful way, with a “shower” of carnations, grabbed from the street flower vendors, instead (you can read more about it here.

It’s been 39 years but we still celebrate this date and what better place to start celebrating than the very place where it all happened? If you are around Lisbon on this date you must make your way to Largo do Carmo and other nearby places and see for yourself.

We will have music playing, speeches from some important political leaders, poem reading in the open air from tonight.  In the afternoon a parade will be held in Avenida da Liberdade down to Rossio where there will be some Portuguese music concerts.

You won’t need to go hungry nor thirsty as there will be many stands selling cold drinks and traditional nibbles. Cafés in the center will be open all day. Will you want to miss all the revelry and joy of yet another year in freedom?

International Day of Monuments and Sites

     There are good reasons to celebrate today’s date around the world. It is a very dear day to us here at Lisbon Stories: today is April the 18th the international day for monuments and sites. And you are more than welcome to come and join the party!

     Why is today so special? Well for a start, it is an official international celebration approved by the UNESCO in 1983, so actually today is its 30th anniversary. Many places around the world hold special events in Museums and other important sites today and during the next week and Portugal is no exception.

     Every year there is a different theme and the theme for 2013 is the Heritage of Education. More than 490 activities in 290 different monuments and sites were planned for today throughout Portugal and most of them include some very different tours from what we are used to.

     From food tastings and ancient dance shows in the castle of Saint George in Lisbon to a special guided tour to the painted tiles of Pena Palace in Sintra, there is a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

     By the way, did you know that the St. Jerome Monastery is the most visited monument in Portugal? Well, I dare you to come and figure out why. If not before, maybe you can come just in time for next year’s celebration of the international day for monuments and sites!

Seven cruises in the same day

     Today Lisbon will be exceptionally crowded. Seven cruises are on port and the city will receive about 8500 passengers only from the cruise ships.

     Crazy day? Maybe yes, maybe not. Though the city is not so big, I’m sure that many of them will decide to enjoy the beach in Cascais, the history in Sintra, religion in Fatima or wines in Arrábida. All these towns are easy to visit just in a couple of hours, which gives passengers passing by Lisbon many options in how to spend their time.

     Though receiving seven cruises in one day is a little uncommon, April is normally a peak month.. It’s the beginning of the season for Mediterranean cruises, which happens at the same time than the re-positioning of Mediterranean and North European cruise ships.

     This year, only in April, we’ll have 55 cruise calls. 33 cruises will be passing by during the day, 17 will be in turnaround and 5 in inter-porting  This means a 41% growth when compared to the 39 calls registered in April 2012.

Curious? Come on board and discover Lisbon!

 

 

We want a Fernando Pessoa doodle

     I’ve just received this email from Casa Fernando Pessoa and couldn’t resist to share it:

     ”On June 13th 2013, Portugal and the Portuguese language (spoken by more than 280 million people all over the world), will be celebrating the 125th birthday of Fernando Pessoa, our most universal writer and poet. Internationally revered by readers, Fernando Pessoa was the first writer ever known to have dispersed his creativity through tens of literary personas and the genius creation of the concept of three main heteronyms, whom he embodied but at the same time giving them a life, a biography and a style all of their own. Writing in Portuguese and English all his life, Fernando Pessoa, through himself and his own others, was the epitome of Portuguese literary innovation breakthrough, on the XX century. His legacy is now more alive than ever, having been translated and published in more than 40 languages.

     With all this in mind, we thank your doodle team, in advance, to take his upcoming 125th birthday under serious consideration.”

      Copy / paste this text and email it to [email protected]oogle.com

“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that makes you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you endeavour.”