The Terracotta Town

     Yesterday Silvia introduced me to Magda and Tiago and we visited “Aldeia da Terra”, their project.

     Terracotta town is a small themed park (still under construction) that depicts a traditional Portuguese town, always with a little touch of irony. It aims to preserve and promote our traditions, featuring several traditional scenes: women washing clothes in the river, the pig killing, the feet trading of the grapes, etc.

Note the opened pig at the bottom

     All the houses, people and objects in this park were hand-made and painted by Magda and Tiago, who have been working on this project for two years. Every day they add a new set and new characters. Like any other town, it’s different every time you visit.

     This is one those places that you take your children to but you actually enjoy more than them. I deeply enjoyed it and had a couple of laughs looking at some sets: they’re so real!

     It’s always nice to see a young couple devoting their career to the preservation of our traditions, working on clay and creating such a pleasant park. I can only wish them the best and can’t wait to visit again.

“Aldeia da Terra” or “Terracotta twon” is located in Arraiolos, 20 min away from Evora. Visit their website here.

The good side of a rainy day

     On Saturday the wine course was great. Can’t believe how many things I’ve learned and how useful they’ll be. Vines, casts, and most importantly: how to match (or “marry” as Silvia would say) wine with food.

      On Sunday it rained all day. You know how disappointing it is to have a rainy day when you’re touring: you can’t walk around, sit outside nor take good pictures. On the good side, you don’t need an excuse to do a pub crawling and sample different wines and dishes.

    The cheeses were great and same thing about the smoked ham, the sausages and the roasted kid. However, if I needed to choose a winner, I think I’d pick the “lagartos” – “lizards” in English. Don’t worry, I’m not eating reptiles.

“Lizards” are a pork cut, from the pigs back. It’s very tender and tasty but the pieces actually have the shape of lizards. Check the picture, don’t they look like lizards?

Sorry for the crumbles on the dish but you can’t imagine how good the bread was!

LisbonStories goes South

     It’s no secret that I love the north of Portugal but I have to admit that the south has its charm too.

     Alentejo is a land of small towns, small businesses and old traditions, still hand-made. It’s also a region that takes its time to explore, as time goes by very slowly. This way, I decided to spend a couple of days, with time and no defined schedule or itinerary, to discover this region.

     To start, I’ll be joining a wine course provided by Silvia from “Wine Time – Da vinha ao copo“. Silvia is the person that does our winery tours in Alentejo. Her knowledge about wine and the wine-making process has been impressing me and our clients so much that I begged her to create a wine course. She was skeptic at first, but the course sold out quite fast!

     After the course? I don’t know. Small dairies and sausages factories, a huge dam, archaeological sites, small towns and old craftsmen are all on my list.  It may take me longer to update our facebook page, but as a reward, I promise I’ll be including some of these places in our tours.

     Looking for unique wine tours? Just keep posted!

Hey, it’s Carnival!

     Today is Carnival day and from the North to the South all the country is celebrating… and probably masquerading too.

     Carnival is a great opportunity to do some tricks and jokes, masquerade and have fun during five consecutive days. Is it a bank holiday? Theoretically no, but in reality it almost is. At home it’s time to make or buy costumes. Most inspiration comes from movies and fairy-tale characters, professions, other cultures and so on.

     Traditions vary throughout the country but happiness and a care-free spirit are something they all have in common. After all, “É Carnaval, ninguém leva a mal”. It’s Carnival, no one can get offended, is probably the most heard sentence.

     Recently some towns (like Ovar, Sesimbra or Mealhada) got inspired by the Brazilian Carnival and now boast Samba dancers, with colorful and short costumes. Others, like Torres Vedras preserve the tradition. Here most men dress like women and the Allegorical cars used during the parade satirize politicians and important situations.

     Tomorrow night it will be time to “bury Mr. Carnival” and burn a scarecrow, symbolizing the end of festivities. During old Catholic times this would mean the culminate of celebrations and the beginning of Lents fast.

“Alheira” – a sausage plenty of history and flavor

     There was once a time, about 300 years ago when the Inquisition – an extremist section of the Catholic Church – dictated the rules around here. Strangely enough, even in what food was concerned.

     One of the tastiest sausages in Portugal was invented by the Jews during those difficult times as a way to escape the clutches of the Inquisition. Since their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork, they would be easily identifiable by their pursuers by not preparing the -very common at the time- smoked pork sausage.

     They found a clever resource: they replaced the pork with a huge variety of other meats, such as veal, rabbit, turkey, duck and chicken sometimes partridge, tucked into richly seasoned dough of wheat bread. Garlic played an important part flavor wise as it would cleverly disguise the lack of pork if any investigation would be carried through.

     The result was “Alheira”: a mouthwatering soft sausage that would eventually become popular even among Christians. Today we can find “Alheiras” made with different ingredients, including pork, as Christians didn’t resist to adding the usual porky touch to the recipe.

     Alheira can be easily found in almost any restaurant menu. Served with a fried egg on top, french fries and salad or vegetables, it can be either fried or grilled.