Segovia: An immersion in Architecture and Historic Treasures

SegoviaCredits:  Elements by Haynay Designs, Plum Dumpling Designs, Pri Rocha, Sahlin Studio, Trixie Scarp Designs, Wimpy Chompers; Paper by Wimpy Chompers; Alpha by MissBehaving 2011

A visit to picturesque old city Segovia was an excellent way to cap off this month-long West Mediterranean trip. We spent the day exploring a castle, devouring a roasted suckling pig, taking lots of photographs and people watching.

tourists

This once sleepy Castilian town had a lot to offer and had us in awe at every turn, suffice it to say that we had a fun stroll.

wandering

A UNESCO World Heritage City, visitors fill the twisting alleyways wandering around a multitude of historic buildings, churches, and monuments.

Located just 80 kilometers from Madrid, it is only a 30-minute high-speed train ride away. If you have the time, seize the opportunity and take a trip to the walled old town of Segovia.

town

It is a good way to travel back in time, explore the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage-listed city by foot.

The Aqueduct

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An impressive aqueduct built sometime in the 1st or 2nd century supplied water to the small town of Segovia, perched on a steep isolated hill and joined by two rivers.

aqueduct

The magnificent aqueduct bridge carried water from the Fuente Frio River traversing about 15km before entering this town.

Aqueduct-4Today its boasts of being one of the most significant and best-preserved works of Roman engineering on the Iberico Peninsula.

Segovia Cathedral

Cathedral

On the highest point in the old town, fronting the historic Plaza Mayor (Segovia’s main square) stands the Cathedral of Segovia, one of the last Gothic Cathedral built in Spain and Europe.

Plaza-Mayor-and-cathedral

The construction began in the early 16th century to replace an earlier cathedral destroyed during the war of the comuneros, a revolt against the King. I am awed by the details of this church.

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Alcazar

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Now, this looks like a castle straight out of a Disney fairytale.

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The castle rises out on a rock between the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers, a testament to its original military status. Being the favorite residence for Kings of Castile, the Alcazar was transformed from a small castle into an extraordinary palace.

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It played a crucial role in Spanish history because it was used in various ways throughout history.

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Originally built as a fortress, it had served as home to royals before it became a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. Currently, it is a museum and home to the Spanish General Military Archive.

Lunch at the Meson de Candido Restaurant

Plaza de Azoguejo 5, 40001  +34 921 425911

Meson-de-Candido

An attraction in itself, the restaurant was declared a national monument in 1941. Set in a delightful 18th-century building next to the aqueduct, it is most famous today for its wood-fire roasted suckling pig, cochinillo.

cochinillo-ritual

Served with a short speech and a ceremonial cutting of the pig with a plate,

cochinillo-ritual-2

this famous dish was a delight—crispy skin and flavorful and fork tender meat is hard to beat. Also, worth noting is their Sepulveda-Style Roasted Lamb.

Rich in architecture treasures, it was a joy to wander through this town. Presenting below a few more photos to delight in.

Segovia-CathedralThe Cathedral from afar.
alcazar-interiorStained Glass wall at the Alcazar
view-from-the-alcazarA view from the Alcazar
Aqueduct-3The Aqueduct up close
plaza-medina-del-campoPlaza Medina del Campo
Azoguejo-Square-2The Azoguejo Square with the Aqueduct as backdrop
Plaza-MayorPlaza Mayor of Segovia
from-the-castleA view from the castle
peddlersPeddlers line the periphery of the aqueduct
Iglesia-de-San-Martin-2Iglesia de San Martin
narrow-roadNarrow winding road of Segovia
Iglesia-de-San-MartinIglesia de San Martin
Juan-BravoA statue of Juan Bravo: a leader of the rebel Comuneros in the Castilian Revolt of the Comuneros.
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Bullfighting

arena

One April evening, enthusiast and curious tourists from around the world enter the massive arena of Las Ventas to witness a bullfight. I was there too, sitting in the Sombra (shaded) section, quite close to the action.

bullfighting

Bullfighting or a corrida is an ancient tradition that goes back four millennia, practiced by many different cultures. Three toreros (matadors) fighting six bulls, each with 6 assistants: two picadors (lancers) mounted on horseback, three banderilleros (flagmen) and a mozo de Espada (sword servant). Together, they form a cuadrillo or an entourage.

opening-parade

The trumpet sounds and in flamboyant bullfighter costumes, the entourage parades into the arena. The corrida starts with the first bull entering the field from the Puerta de las Toriles, where it waited.

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The picadors mounted on heavily padded horses follow. Bull attacks the horse, the picador stabs its neck, the bull weakens.

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Then three banderilleros enters as the picadors leave, plants spiked flag sticks into the bull’s shoulder.

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When the bull is deemed weak enough, the torero appears and works the bull with several runs at the cape. The whole spectacle comes to an end with the torero killing the bull with his sword. This was repeated six times.

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Did I enjoy it? Many times I cringed, especially when the puncture wasn’t clean. No, I will not watch it again. Just once, I told myself.   Hard as it may be to watch, I could not deny that it was a cultural experience hard to forget.

Madrid: On Second Chances

In the middle of Madrid’s historic center, his cab off limits, the driver dropped us off just outside a tree-lined, cobbled street.

tree-lined

Across it is our hostal. Calle Mayor is filled with buildings of centuries past and within walking distance is Madrid’s main squares, Plaza Mayor, and Puerto del Sol.

calle-mayor

hostal-patria-2Hostal Patria

A good place to be, this part of the city is full of sprightly bars, restaurants, and shops, many of which are old and historical selling traditional goods.

traditional-stores

alpargateria

Definitely a perfect choice to get into its verve.

Madrid didn’t always dazzled. On a day trip en route to Seville some ten years ago, the capital of Spain failed to impress. Too cosmopolitan, my first impression was.

old-building

But highly developed as it has become, Madrid’s art, and cultural heritage remains Intact and very much alive. A few days in the capital and I warmed up, I allowed it to dazzle me with its vibrant vibe, the second time around. So how did it change my impression?

 La Plaza Mayor and People Watching

plaza-mayor

Although overpriced, Plaza Mayor is a marvelous place to while away time. We’d order a jug of sangria, a plate of olives and pass the time and people watch.

sangria-and-olives

people-watch-p-mayor

Built during Philip III’s reign (the Habsburg period), it used to be the center of festivities… bull fights, royal coronations, and executions. It is still used today for public celebrations and is one of the famous squares of Madrid. It is a beautiful square that measures 129 by 94 meters. Three-storey residential buildings surround it.

plaza-mayor-arch

A fire led to the plaza’s renovation in 1790. Architect Juan de Villanueva lowered the building fronts and enclosed the square at the corners by building nine archways. The Arco de Cuchilleros with its steep steps leading up to the square is the most arresting among the arches.

In Calle Cuchilleros, you’ll find Botin Restaurant—the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. But more than its world record, do go for their specialty,

botin-restuarant

the Cochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig) and Cordero Asado (roast lamb). Superb.

Delightful Cheap Eats

museo-del-jamon-facade

Museo del Jamon (Museum of Ham). Just by the name, you are lured, yes? Legs and legs of ham hang from its walls, calling us from afar. This was the first place, after checking in, we entered.

museo-de-jamon

It was jamon heaven and an excellent brunch it made. A block away from the hostal, we found it to be a great place to soak in the local scene while sampling different kinds of Spanish ham at very affordable prices. Beer comes with a round of free tapas already.

cerveseria-100-montaditos

Another excellent venue for very affordable eats is Cerveceria 100 Montaditos. A fun place with many outlets across Spain, actually. A pint of beer and most sandwiches sell for €1. And these aren’t shoddy sandwiches either. How can you go wrong with that?

Mercado de San Miguel is my favorite.

mercado-san-miguel

It’s a market and a tapas corner in one roof. Although somewhat of a tourist trap, I was captivated.

mercado-de-san-miguel-building

The vibrant atmosphere, the turn of the century building, which was rebuilt when the Belle Époque fell into disrepair, the tapas and various foods are good enough reasons to be trapped here.

tapas-at-mercado-san-miguel

It is described to be a culinary culture center that brings together the best traders, professionals and experts under one roof and I tend to agree. I truly enjoyed this place.

The Glorious Churros con Chocolate

A favorite of the Spaniards, chocolate and churros, they take very seriously. Made of thick dark chocolate, Spanish hot chocolate is almost always paired with churros. The thickness and richness work well as a dip but to drink it after the churros are gone is not a bad thing too.

churros

Highly recommended in guidebooks and online searches are San Gines Chocolateria. Believed to be the oldest place serving chocolate and churros. We found our way there one morning, a line already forming. The menu, if there even is one, only has a handful of items: café con leche, fresh orange juice, and churros con chocolate caliente. There are 2 versions of the churros – the traditional kind (has 6-7 pieces per order) and the thicker kind called porras. Lighter, I preferred the traditional one.

Our hostal host, on the other hand, recommended to Cafeteria Los Pinchitos. It is, to him, the best churros con chocolate in town. “A secret among Madrileños,” he said.

los-pinchitos-churros

The churros are light, the outside crispy while the inside soft. The chocolate appeals more to my taste – not as thick as San Gines’ but creamier. The place lacks ambiance, typically traditional, and the service leaves much to be desired. But the food besides the churros and the chocolate are excellent.

roasted-pork-earsOreja de Cerdo a la Plancha — Roasted Pork Ear 

Treasure Hunting at El Rastro

rastro

Unless it’s a flea market, a traditional market or a specialty market (for affordable art / conversational pieces that are easy to carry home), I try to avoid the shopping scene. But in Madrid, Sundays should be reserved for the flea market.

entertainment-at-the-rastroEntertainment at the Rastro

rastro-knick-knacks

The rastro is a street market from the medieval time.

rastro-antique

rastro-chairs

One can spend the whole morning looking at find practically anything, from books and toys, clothes, flowers, handicrafts, to antiques, paintings, and other works of art.

sievert-blow-torchA blowtorch made by Anton’s descendant.  How likely is that?

Held every Sunday and public holidays from 9am – 2pm, it takes up a large triangle area between Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, along Plaza de Cascorro and La Riberia de Curtidones.

 And suddenly I am charmed.

Queluz

Plan to stop at nearby Queluz on your way back to Lisbon from Sintra.

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The national palace is worth the detour.  Be sure though to buy a ticket to Queluz, or you won’t be able to get off at your end destination. That was what happened to us when we decided mid-way to get off at Queluz instead of heading straight back. When we arrived at the Rossio station, the tickets we had were void, and we couldn’t get out. Apparently, the time started ticking once we got on the train and what should have taken 45 minutes took us 2 hours. We should have bought another ticket back to Rossio when we got off at Queluz — explained Mr. Operator. With many apologies, we asked to be freed with the promise of paying what was due. Kind Mr. Operator let us out, even waved our arrears. Smiling and shaking his head, I wonder how many mindless tourists did the same thing?

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It was, however, worth the hassle. Queluz is a rather unremarkable suburb but its National Palace, in its pink Rococo glory, is a remarkable example of Portuguese Romantic architecture. Although smaller, it shares much of Versailles’ sense of grandeur in its ornate decorations and exquisite gardens.

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It is because Portuguese architect, Mateus Vicente Oliveira designed it in homage to the famous palace outside Paris France. Built as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro, the famous Duke of Braganza, who later married his niece, Queen Maria I.

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Famed for the glory of its gardens, which include a large topiary parterre, formal terraces and fountains at the rear of the palace. The interior’s attention to detail is no less than that of the exterior.

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The palace is a 10-minute walk from the Sintra train line, turning left out of the Queluz-Belas Station. Signs will lead you to a cobbled square with a statue of Queen Maria I. Facing directly into the plaza is the façade of the palace.

Baixa: An Architectural Delight

I walked around the part of Baixa closest to our hostel, bewitched. Lisbon, you are a surprise.

flower-stand-by-figueira-square

Elegant squares, streets filled with cafes and shops, old tramcars, street performers, Neo-classic and Art deco buildings, street vendors selling everything… All this adds to the charm of downtown Lisbon.

tram-in-figueira-square

Baixa borders the river in the bottom of the valley and nestled among the hills of Alfama, Chiado, and Bairro Alto. It’s grid like area stands in contrast to the winding and complicated alleyways of neighboring Alfama.   A central location extending to the Tagus River and Avenida da Liberdade (the Liberty Avenue) and is considered the most elegant of all districts in Lisbon.

Rossio-Square

Rossio. Where the main central square is found. Officially named Praca Don Pedro IV, the square is also called Rossio Square because it revolves around Rossio. It is the heart of the city and surrounding it is nothing but a bundle of architectural delights and here’s sharing with you a bit of Baixa.

Figueira Square (Square of the Fig Tree)

figueira-square-transport-hub

Neighboring the imposing Rossio Square is one of the city’s important transport hub. The metro, the buses, and the charming trams stop here and many shops, cafes, and guesthouses surround the square because of it.

figueira-square

The bronze equestrian statue of King João I stand on a pedestal in the middle of the plaza, the beautifully designed grounds covered with pigeons.

Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II

teatro-nacional-rossio-square

This beautiful neo-classical building survived the earthquake but was destroyed by fire in 1964. It was rebuilt in the 70’s and with it founded Lisbon’s municipal orchestra. Named after Dom Pedro IV, the theater’s façade dominate the northern side of Rossio Square and now hosts some of the most spectacular performances of Lisbon.

Rua Das Portas de Santo Antão

rua-das-portas-de-antao

Just behind the National Theater Doña Maria II and a stone’s throw away from Pensao Residencial Portuense (our hostel) is a lively pedestrian street buzzing with outdoor cafes and restaurants.

steak-at-Locanda-Italaina

It is a mecca for seafood lovers but ironically, we found Locanda Italiana where we were served a superb steak dinner.

Elevador de Santa Justa

elevador-de-santa-justaThis beautifully crafted lift southeast of Rossio Square is the area’s highlight. Raoul Meisner du Ponsard, an engineer, born in Porto to French parents and a Gustave Eiffel student, built this alternative transport to climb up the many steep hills of the city.

walkway

A challenge to Lisbon citizens for centuries. And until the underground Baixa-Chiado metro station opened in 1998, the Santa Justa Elevator was the easiest way to get to the Bairro Alto and Chiado district from Baixa.

metro-station

Rossio Station

rossio-station-entrance

One of the most beautiful train stations I’ve ever seen. Looking more like a temple, the façade is decked with horseshoe doorways and the roof is topped with small turrets and a clock tower.

rossio-station

Influenced by the 16th century Portuguese Manueline style, the façade dominates the northeast side of the Rossio Square. Here, the trains depart for Sintra.

Restauradores Square

Restauradores-Square

Surrounded by beautiful 19th and early 20th century buildings, an obelisk standing in the middle of the rectangular square. It has names and dates of battles fought during the Portuguese Restoration War and this entire square is dedicated to the country’s liberation from Spanish rule.

hard-rock-cafe

Nearby is the former Condes Cinema, a Modernist building built in the 1950s that reopened in 2003 as Hard Rock Café.

elevador-da-gloria

The square is also a few steps away from the Elevador da Gloria, a funicular linking downtown with the Bairro Alto district.

And this is just downtown Lisbon.

Alfama: The Home of Lisbon Blues Music

“Alfama” recommends Hossein. For an authentic fado vadio, our “unofficial” guide guaranteed that this place is it, writes down the name and address of the bar, then points it out on our map.

A-Tasca-do-Chico-signage

On Rua Dos Remedios, we found A Tasca do Chico. It was Fado Vadio (amateur fado singers) night.

A-Tasca-do-Chico

The small joint only had a few tables, perfect for intimate and informal performances.

tapas-and-sangria

Dinner was simple but we were there for Fado anyway. It was an absolutely enjoyable evening of soulful music. A must in Lisbon.  Really.  Don’t leave Lisbon without a live experience of Fado music.

Fado

So what is Fado? I too, have  never heard of it until I read up on Lisbon. It is a music genre traced back to the 1820s and 1830s at best. Although difficult to trace, it seems to have its roots in the merging of Portuguese, Moorish and African culture. Fado songs can be about anything but it is a traditional form of urban folk music. The Portuguese language has a word, saudade, which roughly means nostalgia or homesickness with a bittersweet longing. Fado music is exactly that. It often conveys a yearning for what could have been or what cannot be. Most of its lyrics are about lost or unrequited love, jealousy and passion, death, and the lives of the Fadistas (fatalists).

There is no better place to experience the nostalgia of Fado than in Lisbon’s oldest district, Alfama. But it is not only famous for its Fado music as to visit Alfama is to visit the architecture, sound and smell of old Lisbon.

And so we went back the following day. Alfama is Lisbon’s most symbolic quarter. The oldest district of Lisbon spreads down the southern slope from Castelo de Sâo Jorge to the River Tagus. The Mouraria and Alfama (both old districts) were relatively spared during the Great Earthquake,

narrow-street

thus remains the charm of winding narrow streets and crumbling walls.

castelo-de-sao-jorge

A walk through the old-fashioned residential neighborhood is like stepping back in time.

Alfama

It’s a village still made up of tiny spaces, whitewashed houses with iron balconies adorned with pots of flowers and drying laundry.

The best way to get to know Alfama is to wander around.

view

The outstanding views, the churches, and the breathtaking panorama of the city from the castle were worth another trip back the next day. Some scenes from our wanderings:

from-castelo-de-sao-jorge

Although we didn’t have time to explore, Castelo de Sâo Jorge is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic center of Lisbon and Tagus River.

IMG_9367As in from Baixa.

It can be seen from almost everywhere on the city.

Miradouro-de-Santa-Luzia

Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a romantic terrace by the church of Santa Luzia with a view of the river and Alfama. On the outside wall of the church are 2 tiled panels, one of Gomercio Square before the quake and another showing Christians attacking the castle.

Miradouro-das-Portas-do-Sol

A few steps away from Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a balcony that opens to the river offering spectacular views over Alfama.  A statue of St. Vincent holding a boat and 2 ravens also stands proud watching over the district. Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol.

Sao-Vicente-de-Fora

From the balcony, one can spot Sâo Vicente de Fora Monastery, an exceptional 16th-century monument located outside the city walls. “De Fora” means on the outside.

Santa-Engracia-Church

Church of Santa Engracia or Portugal’s National Pantheon. This 17th-century monument was converted in the 20th century into the National Pantheon. It is now the burial-place for a number of Portuguese personalities.

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entertainment

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Useful Info:

Getting There: 

tram-28

Walk from Rossio or take tram no. 28

A Tasca do Chico (Alfama)
Rua Dos Remedios, 83
+351 965 059 670
 
 
References:
Portuguese Fado Music 101 – About. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://worldmusic.about.com/od/europeanjudaica/p/PortugueseFado.htm

Good Eats: Portugal

Portugal-EatsCredits: Quickpage from 4EVER kit by Sarah H.

Not as famous a cuisine in my part of the world, my first encounter with Portuguese cuisine was in Macau. Technically, what I had was Macanese food—more like a mix of Portuguese and Chinese with influences from cuisines of other Portuguese speaking nations but this sparked an interest in Portugal (and of course its cuisine).

So we made our way there last year. Little did we know that this land offers more than just an awesome cuisine but boasts of picturesque landscapes, colorful cityscapes as well as a rich history.

Lisbon

The primary goal, however, is to delve deeper into its cuisine. And as soon as we arrived in Lisbon, we immediately solicited advice on where to find authentic Portuguese restaurants around the city.

touristy-restos

And thanks to Hossein, we found our way to some unforgettable good eats even though eateries catering more to the tourist crowd dominated the area near his hostel.

Portugal’s colonial possessions influenced the use of spices and ingredients that are today widely used in their cuisines such as chilies from Angola called piri-piri, black pepper, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. The result is rustic and robust, often described as peasant food. Portuguese restaurants run a broad spectrum from rustic eateries to fancy hotspots.

Lisbon has left an indelible impression on me and a lot of it had to do with the food.  Here’s why I know I’ll be back.

Chicken Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Chicken-Piri-Piri

Chicken Piri Piri. One of Portuguese’s simple pleasures. This chicken is roast to perfection with a blend of potent small chili peppers. Top on our list, the first thing we did was head to this unpretentious eatery where locals go for the charred and plump piri-piri spiced roast chicken.

Bonjardim

Just within walking distance from the hostel, in a side street east of Praca Restauradores is Bonjardim Cervejaria.

On a rainy day, it was comforting to be enjoying chicken cooked to perfection – moist in the inside, skin crispy and gently spiced.

Piri-Piri

For added heat, a piri-piri sauce comes on the side and should be taken with caution. Hossein’s first recommendation, I give it a two-thumbs up.

Maritime Bounty

Being a seafaring nation with a well-established fishing industry, fish and seafood dominate the menu. Often relying on a traditional repertoire of grilled fish, meat, hearty stews and the ubiquitous salted cod, the cuisine is best when simply prepared.

The Ubiquitous Bacalhau

Codfish is a staple and is almost always used dried and salted because this is how this fish was preserved pre-freezer days. Today, they say that there are 365 different ways to cook bacalhau—one for every day of the year. The strong flavor of this salty fish represents the real taste of Portuguese food.

bacalhau-riceBacalhau Rice

Sardinhas

sardinhas-de-escabeche

Another popular sardine dish— Sardinhas de Escabeche, fried sardines marinated in olive oil, vinegar, onions and bay leaves.

Next to adorn the tables of rich and poor are the Portuguese sardines. The country’s 6-8 inch long “slave of the sea” is found off the Atlantic coast of Iberia and France.   They are known to have layers of fat content that melts when cooked (usually grilled), giving it a unique flavor.

Caldeirada

This very Algarvean dish is a stew consisting of a variety of fish and shellfish with potatoes, tomatoes and onions and usually served at the table from a large pot, usually from where it was cooked in.

caldeirada

It is a Portuguese bouillabaisse that calls for a generous splash of white wine and lots of herbs, resulting to a hearty one pot dish often served with crusty bread to soak up the delicious soup.

Porco

From fried pork cubes to the national favorite—roast suckling pig. Portuguese love their pork.

Leitão

leitao

Or suckling Pig is served throughout Portugal. Rubbed with garlic, pork fat, rock salt and pepper, then traditionally roasted in a spit. The result is usually crisp skin and succulent meat.

Bifana

TendhinaTendhina, a hole in the wall in Rossio serving lovely sandwiches.

It’s a simple pork sandwich, really. A humble combination of grilled pork sandwiched on a hard roll that pairs perfectly with a few squirts of tart honey mustard.

Bifina-sandwichMay not look very appetising but this sandwich is heavenly.

A deliciously simple meal to grab when busy or while exploring the town.

Caldo Verde

Caldo-Verde

A hearty soup more common in the north but is found in menus all over Portugal. Made from a thick creamy base of onions and potatoes with very finely shredded collard green (sometimes substituted with kale) and chouriço (Portuguese sausages).

Feijoada

Our kind of dish—hearty and full of flavor.

Hossein pointed us to an address in Rua do Norte. No name, just a number and a street name. Small restaurant with a few tables, the signage inconspicuously positioned somewhere on a window revealed the restaurant’s name—Cantinho do Bem Estar. It was still closed. Someone from inside came out to tell us to come back at 1 (pm). So we walked around, had a few beers and by the time we returned (at precisely 1pm), there was a table already occupied.

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And no sooner than we are settled, it was full. And by the time we were done, there was a line.

Because it came highly recommended by the server and almost everyone had this dish on the table, we went for Feijoada.

feijoada

A dish consisting of beans and pork braised in a sauce of tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage to which traditional sausages (we had a mix of blood sausages and chorizo) and bacon are also added. Definitely a great meal to have on a rainy day.

Cantinho do Bem Estar. Thank you, Hossein, for this marvelous find.

Doces

I’ve always looked forward to Macanese / Portuguese desserts when in Macau, not only because I love sweets but also because they were all divinely addicting. Portuguese love their dessert that’s why.

portuguese-sweets

Convent made cakes and desserts introduced in the 15th century brought forth this fascination for sweets. There is an abundant list of Portuguese desserts from cakes, pastries and tarts to mousses and puddings. And of course, I can’t end this post without mentioning some of my favorites

Pasteis de Belem

As it is in Spain, eggs especially the yolks were in abundance (Portugal being Europe’s largest egg producer).

pasteis-de-nata

Pasteis de Nata became Portugal’s favorite sweet treat. So good that it has made its mark in other countries, Macau being one of them. These are small open pastries with a sweet custard filling and a caramelized sugar topping.

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Available in every coffee shop in the land but the best can only be found in the Belem area of Lisbon called Pasteis de Belem. A carefully guarded recipe since it was introduced in 1837. The lines are long and I hate lines.

pasteis-de-belem

But when you bite into the flaky pastry shell, and tasted the sweet, creamy filling dusted with sugar and cinnamon, you know that however long the wait, it will be worth it. Believe. You. Me.

Sintra’s Travesseiros and Queijadas

After touring around this magical UNESCO World Heritage Site, our guide pointed us to A. Piriquita to cap our simple yet beautiful lunch.

sintra

As we walked in, the smell of the buttery goodness of freshly baked goods greeted along with a display full of heavenly sweets. The café though is known for Sintra’s delicacy, the travesseiros, a puff pastry filled with custard and almond, and dusted with sugar. The looks do not prepare you to the light and flakey crust and the moist, creamy almond filling that oozes out when bitten.

Piriquita

Along with this, the jewel of the crown is the famous cupcakes / cheesecake called queijadas. It is essentially a small round custardy tart wrapped in pastry, unlike the cupcake / cheesecake we are familiar with.  It is made with simple ingredients of cow’s cheese, sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. With a pronounced cinnamon flavor, these simple ingredients gave rise to an exquisite dessert not quite a cupcake or a cheesecake.

Impressive recommendations, which suffice to say, left me longing to go back.

Useful Info: 

Bonjardim
Travessa de S. Antão 11
+351 213 427 424
 
A Tendinha do Rossio
Praca Don Pedro IV, 6
Rossio, Lisbon
+351 212 468 156
 
Cantinho do Bem Estar
Rua do Norte, 46
Bairro Alto, Lisbon
+351 213 464 265
 
Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belem, 84-92
1300-085 Lisbon
+351 213 637 423
 
A Piriquita
Rua Padarias 1/7
Sintra
+351 219 230 026