Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cooking with Rita and Anna

Not Aunt Dora's Kitchen

In Italy we arranged to have a cooking class through our excellent tour guide (and TV star, we discovered), Giovanni. If you have been following my posts you will have read about it in “Cooking With Aunt Dora”. We enjoyed this experience so much we decided to try it again here in Portugal. Ben found the Lisbon Cooking Academy online and they booked a class for everyone. It was going to be hard to beat “Cooking with Aunt Dora”, but it still would be an experience to add to our Portuguese adventure with the kids.

Like everything else here in Portugal, we couldn't get there easily and after many twists and turns and up and downs, our UBER driver dropped us off “close” to the location. Sure enough, it was not on a street and we had to go down more stairs to get to the address. once inside the academy, we were presented with a completely different setting than Aunt Dora's little Italian kitchen. This was a modern spacious cooking classroom. We were greeted by one of the bubbly friendly culinary teachers, Rita and she informed us that we were going to be joined by an
Preparing cod fish
additional four other tourists shortly, but not to worry they had a “Never empty glass” rule to wine, so the wait would not be a trial. Settling in with an excellent glass of Portuguese wine we did not have long to wait until our other participants arrived, four school friends from Germany here on a vacation. Not only were these Germans not the reserved stand-offish Germans we were used to from cruising, these four women were outgoing, friendly and educators, so we got along great. In fact we were told that our preconceived opinion of Germans was because they were from the other side of the country – who knew?

After washing up and getting fitted for aprons, we began the class with appetizers. The normal Portuguese cheese, bread and olives were kicked up a notch with chorizo roasted over an alcohol flame in a special roaster. “Alisha do I have room to bring one of these home in your suitcase?”.

We learned to make a green bean tempura, Portuguese “Punched” potatoes and cornbread crusted codfish, with cabbage on the side. As well, we were instructed in the making of the famous Portuguese egg tarts, pastel de nata, although we were warned that if we did a review on Trip Advisor not to mention this because it was not normally part of a class because they had a separate class just on this delicious traditional desert.

We chopped vegetables, crushed garlic, mixed batter, stirred sauce, pulled codfish bones, and generally got involved in all aspects of cooking this meal the Portuguese way. Then when everything was ready we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labours, a delicious Portuguese meal.

Friday, August 9, 2019

28 Doors

That's us on the Second Floor

We have been staying in four Portuguese cities and have had a apartment in each city. We thought the place in Cascais was pretty good, but it was small and not that well equipped, but had a swimming pool on the thirteenth floor which Regis enjoyed. In Braga we had a really cute little place with the emphasis on little, but it was modern, clean and well supplied. The apartment in Porto was a modern renovated place in an old building overlooking the river with spectacular views. It could only be reached by either descending 135 stairs down or climbing 154 stairs up! It was on three floors connected by a circular staircase, and had a lovely usable veranda looking out on the river.

Then we got to Lisbon. . . . this place is completely different. It is in an old building on the second
One of Twenty Eight Doors
floor (But you go up three flights to get to it because the ground floor is “0”). This place has been renovated but not modernized, so it retains the charm of an old building. There are nine rooms in total, including a kitchen, a formal dining room, living room, two bathrooms and four bedrooms. There are also three hallways connecting all these rooms as well as a large outdoor terrace. There are a total of 28 doors, most of which are old fashioned double doors. There are 10 windows not counting the transom windows over every inside door. The living room alone has six doors as does one bedroom. All of the windows except those in the kitchen are double opening windows with shutters and five along the front are floor to ceiling with balcony railings. Most of the furnishings are antiques and scattered throughout the apartment are all sorts of interesting items. All in all it is quite the place.
A Collection of Antiques

Very Interesting Bed

Dining Room Light

Ceiling Detail

Old Copper Plate/Tray

Portuguese Dishes from Host's Grandmother's Restaurant

Large Wooden Tray Hanging in Kitchen

None of the doors line up anymore

I did not count these as doors . . .

Real Funky Light

Chairs in Dining Room Windows

Dining Room Side Board

Old Brass Lamp in Dining Room

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Doors Of Portugal


We arrived In Lisbon yesterday, and I spent the afternoon doing wash for everyone while they started to explore the city. This also gave my knees a welcome break from climbing stairs, as I notice that this apartment is on another steep hill and three flights of stairs up. AS a result I do not have anything to post about Lisbon yet, so as usual I have been collecting pictures of interesting doors from Cascais, Braga, and Porto. I notice that I am attracted to the old tired derelict doors, so I have included some attractive doors in the photo post.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Waiting For the Sunset

Crossing the Bridge

Porto, Portugal is situated on the Douro River, just a bit inland from the Atlantic on the west coast of Portugal. Our apartment faces east, so we do not see the sunset, but we had heard that it was pretty special. We got to see the glow from the setting sun on the opposite riverbank, but never a glimpse of the actual sunset. Tonight we decided that one of our Portuguese adventures would be to all go across the river and watch the sunset. We packed a picnic lunch, two bottles of Portuguese Vino Verdi, and a couple of cans of Super Bock beer.

The bridge beside the apartment is a two level bridge with cars using the bottom tray and trams using the top tray. There is a pedestrian walkway on each level, but to get the best view of the sunset, our UBER driver from earlier in the day, suggested going to the park across the bridge on the upper level. He said the best sunset views were from there.
Everyone is here

So as the day started turning to evening, I set out to meet everyone else across the river. I was carrying the olives, napkins and the all important wine cork/bottle opener. 135 steps to the top of the hill and then across the bridge to the opposite side of the river. The Park across the river is situated perfectly to watch the sunset. The Douro River flows out to the Atlantic here and the river rounds a bend and flows due west as it exits the city. The park is high on a hill looking out towards the mouth of the river, so the views are perfect. You see the river, one of the five Porto bridges, and the old historic city climbing the hill across the river.

Sunset watching is obviously a popular activity in Porto. The park slowly filled up with people as the skies darkened. The park has rows of concrete walls perfect height for sitting to watch the sunset and
Waiting for the Sunset
I managed to snag a prime section of wall. We arrived about 45 minutes before sunset so the park was just filling up, but as it came closer to the sun going down a steady stream of people came across the bridge and up from surrounding neighbourhoods. The park rapidly filled up with people. A busker arrived and set up with a guitar and small amplifier to play popular songs for everyone. There were vendors selling popcorn and beer, so obviously drinking wine and beer in the public park is not a problem. A family sat down the wall from us, and a little boy took it on as his personal mission to chase the “rats with feathers” (pigeons) away. Overall the park developed a festive carnival like atmosphere.

Clouds did roll in for a while and there was some concern about the sunset, but fortunately a few clouds usually make a sunset more dramatic and Porto did not fail to impress, producing a beautiful sunset over the Douro River. A great end to another nice day in Portugal.

And now the sunset . . . .

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

And First . . . More Stairs

I like book stores, and its nice to drop into interesting book shops in any place I visit. That little cafe inside the Art District fort in Cascais had a lovely book shop above it. One of the popular attractions here in Porto is a unique book store, but you cannot just drop into the “Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”; you must first buy an admission ticket down the street at their gift shop/voucher counter. You have to line up to buy a ticket and then line up again to get admission to the shop. If you just go to the door of the actual bookshop you will be turned away. Now that sounds a bit much, but it is all true.

The Livraria Lello is a bookshop in Porto, Portugal. It was originally opened as a publishing house in 1881, and was known as a quality book binder, publishing works by Portuguese authors. The entire business was purchased by Jose Lello in 1894, renovated, and opened as a book store in 1906. Recently it was named by many travel books and
The Bookshop
newspapers as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and at least one publication named it as THE number one bookshop in the world. This sort of positive press would have generated interest in the spot, and brought additional tourist visitors, but it was J. K. Rowling who really pushed it into the stratosphere of book stores. In 1999 when she was writing the first Harry Potter book, she was living and working (teaching English) in Porto and frequented the book store. Apparently she loved the place and took inspiration for the library at Hogworts from the bookshop and its unique and spectacular crimson staircase. Once the Harry Potter books became a smash hit, the bookshop became a must-see destination in Porto. So now you have to buy a admission ticket just to visit.
The Famous Staircase

The shop really is an amazing book store. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful, but gets better once you enter. It looks and feels more like a vintage library than a book store with shelves of books stretching to the high ceilings. The shop has two levels and a spectacular curving stairway painted bright red connects the two levels in the middle of the shop. Overhead is a huge stained glass skylight providing a gentle illumination to the entire shop. I have been in many book stores and this really is one of the most beautiful I've seen.

However, it was hard to actually enjoy it. It was packed with people and the stairway was constantly crowded with people trying to get the perfect picture. It was hard even to browse the selection of books because of the crowds. I was surprised at the number of books in English, but I
suppose the tourist trade demands this. People were buying books and there was a constant line up to pay for your purchases. You do get the price of admission off your bill if you buy a book so that does encourage people to make a purchase. And if you do not buy anything, you can exchange your
The Sky;ight
admission ticket for a little book about the bookshop as you leave.

And I could not even find a book I wanted to buy . . .

A Busy Bookshop

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Meeting Up

Waiting at the Cafe

One of the coolest things when you travel is when you get together with friends from home when you are thousands of miles away in a foreign country.

When we travel, we usually stay in a place for a good period of time, often for a month and we try to rent a place with an extra bedroom so there is room for people to come visit. The first time this happened was in Spain. This was our first month long rental and we had a three bedroom apartment half a block from a Mediterranean beach. Our friends Brain & Andrea came from Egypt to spend a few days with us. We were sitting out on the balcony when they pulled up in their Rental car. It was just so cool to see them suddenly see us and start waving.

Since that first “meet-up” we have gotten together with people all over the globe, and it is always a nice feeling when you suddenly see someone you know coming towards you in a place thousands of miles away from home. It is not quite the same when you go meet someone in an airport or train station; it is when you suddenly recognize a friend or family member coming down the street towards your temporary home away from home.

Our apartment here in Porto, Portugal is situated on a steep hillside on the Douro riverbank. There is
Our Porto Apartment
no street access to the apartment so you either have to go up from the riverbank 100 steps, or down from the top a twisting winding 100 steps. We were in Braga, a town about an hour by train from Porto, and the children were flying from Toronto overnight to get here. Regis and I arrived at the Porto train station and walked to the steps leading down to the apartment. We were early, so the apartment was not ready yet, so we found a little cafe on the steps and piled the luggage up out of the way and sat with a beer and a coke to wait. The children had texted us to say they had arrived and were “UBERing” towards us.

Stairs Down
As we sat in the lovely Portuguese sunshine chatting with another tourist from Holland and watching the “cook” of the little cafe grill sardines on a tiny little charcoal barbecue balanced precariously on one of the steps , the children suddenly appeared struggling down the stairs with their luggage. Waves and hugs later we were all together here in Porto. A very cool experience!
Perched on the hill

The View From The Apartment

Some of the Locals were not happy with our visit

The hillside!