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!

Discover Evora

After my last post about Évora tour with wine tasting and picnic lunch several people emailed me asking more information about Évora. Here is the answer:

Évora is the main town of Alentejo, an undiscovered region in the South of Portugal. The landscape is marked by the green of the grass, brown of the land and the white of the white washed with the blue or yellow stripes around the doors and windows frames.

Évora isn’t a big city, but going there from Lisbon on a daytrip, it has plenty to keep you busy and entertained. Close to St Francis church there’s the farmers market, where one can sample and see the regional products such as cheeses, sausages, vegetables and honey. Besides being excellent, all my customers keep tipping the farmers as they can’t believe how cheap things are.

In terms of heritage one can start the visit with the Bones chapel (which walls are covered by human bones, taken from a cemetery in the 17th century), St. Francis church, Graça church, Giraldo square, the main square of the town; the Roman temple (built 1800 years ago) and finally, the Cathedral. Évora’s cathedral is one of the few places where you can find an image of Our Lady pregnant, inside a church. The image dates back from the 16th century, but in the 17th century they were all forbidden and destroyed, which makes it even more special.

If you’re thinking about coming back to Évora, don’t leave the town without visiting “Pousada dos Lóios”, a luxury state inn installed in a former monastery, from the 16th century. And don’t forget to book the tour!

Looking forward to visiting Évora? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends.

Évora with picnic lunch and wine tasting

    Yesterday I had the most amazing day with Carol and her family. They are a happy family of 6 composed by her parents, her and her husband and two kids, aged 8 and 14. They all wanted to visit Évora but while her husband wanted to visit a winery and try some wines, her parents wanted to see the country-side and her kids wanted to do something fun.

    In order to please everyone we visited Évora in the morning and once they were feeling hungry we drove towards a vineyard where between cork-oak trees and endless vineyards there was a wooden table set with regional products. Cheeses, hams, chicken pies, regional sweets and liqueurs, bread and jams, as well as fruit composed the menu. While parents could eat and taste some regional wines and liqueurs, the kids could run around vineyards and scratch pieces of cork from the trees.

    The picnic was provided by a local company of wine experts, so, all the products were fresh and we didn’t need to worry about cleaning the table or so. Once we finished eating we visited the winery where everyone could learn about the wine production and its complicated process. Since the kids were very interested in cork, we also visited a cork-factory in a really small town, far from everything, where they could learn more about the cork process and see how things are made.

By the way, here’s the tour link. If you’re looking for a romantic tour this can be an idea.  Imagine you and your partner having a picnic lunch on your own, tasting great wines in an idyllic landscape on the shade of cork-oak trees and vineyards…

5 dishes that you should try

    We all know that one of the best ways to get to know a country is taste its traditional dishes and flavors. Portugal is not an exception and despite its small dimension, traditional dishes vary a lot from the south to the north. While the south prefers lighter meals, the coast has mostly fish and the north eats mostly meat.

    Bacalhau: codfish is considered our most famous and traditionaldish and can be served in 365 different ways, one per each day of the year. Bacalhau com Natas (with milk cream), Bacalhau à Brás (smashed with smashed french fries and onions) and Bacalhau com Broa (roasted with corn bread on top) are the best choices.

    Grilled fish: a great option for those summer lunches when you don’t want to feel stuffed and too lazy to walk around. Normally is grilled on the coal, which gives it a special flavor, and comes with boiled potatoes and vegetables. May sound too simple but together with some green wine will be unforgettable.

    Carne de Porco à alentejana: is a traditional dish from the south. Consists of fried pork cubes accompanied with fried potatoes and clams. The combination may look strange but definitely tastes good. Lemon and persely are perfect to add more flavours.

    Alheira: a sort of sausage invented by the Jews to pretend they were eating pork, includes different meats, bread and herbs. Comes with french fries and an egg on top.

    Arroz de marisco: a rice stew with lots of different sea food, clams and crab. In a good one you should have a bad time to find some rice on it. Normally one portion is enough to feed one family.

 

And the winner is…

And the winner is…

We finally have the results and the great winner of “Concours Mondial Bruxelles”, as a red wine, is the Poliphonia Signature 2008. It’s produced in Évora region and is a property of Granadeiro Vinhos, which oenologist is Pedro Baptista.

This wine isn’t in the market yet but will be available in the next few days and will cost about 30€.

This wasn’t the only Portuguese wine that received some prizes: in the total Portuguese wines received 10 Great Gold Medals, about 100 Gold Medals and more than 150 Silver Medals.

The best red wine of “Concours Mondial”

The best red wine of the year, in the world, is going to be an Alentejo wine. The question is: which one?
Results come out next Monday and I’ll let you know as soon as they come out!
Every year, the Concours Mondial de Brouxelles gathers wine critiques from about 48 counties, to try different wines and choose the bests in the world.
This year’s edition happened in Guimarães and 8397 different samples were submitted, from 52 different countries. Divided by groups of 5 persons, the jury tries 5 groups of 10 wines, every morning, and grades them from 0 to 100 points. Wines that receive from 84 to 86,9 points will receive the silver medal; gold medal will be given to wines with more than 87 points but less than 92.4 and the great gold medal will be given to those with more than 92.5 points.
Just as a curiosity, Portugal is in the 4th place as the country which sent the biggest number of samples. Out of the 520 samples, 88 were primarily made out of the national cast “Touriga Nacional”, normally blended with other casts. Still, Portugal is the country with the biggest variety of casts sent to this world competition.

Well, results come out next Monday and I’ll share them with you as soon as they come out. I’m really curious to know which one is going to win this prestige prize, but also wondering if it’s winery does guided tours: I’d love to you take there on a tour… and a wine tasting, obviously.

Text based on Andre Ribeirinho’s article for “Publico” newspaper.