5 beaches in Algarve where I’ve been and I loved them!

Before going back to the gloomy, rainy summer we’re having in London this year (really, London? Come on, we all know you can be lovely with a bit of sun!), I want to share with you some tips about beaches I recommend for your holiday in Portugal. Ready, set, go.

1) Praia da Dona Ana (Lagos)

Beautiful beach cove in Lagos that you must see! Enjoy the boat tour that departs from here every hour, cruising all along and inside the mesmerising grottos and cliffs. My absolute favourite of the Algarve region.

 

 

2) Praia dos Buizinhos (Porto Covo)

This is another fantastic bay enclosed between cliffs, reachable via stairs, with a stunning view from the top. The sea is metallic blue and the waves breaking against the rocks are spectacular.

 

 

3) Praia da Galé (Albufeira)

If you, like me, enjoy long long walks on the shore and taking pictures of rock formations, then you should spend a day in Praia da Galé.

 

 

4) Praia dos Alemães (Albufeira)

Located between Praia dos Aveiros and Praia do Inatel, this beach has a tucked away bay, with a rock barrier built to prevent erosion (perfect frame for your Instagram pictures!). A wooden staircase takes you up the top, where the views of the glorious vegetation and the coastal landscape are simply stunning! One of the highlights of my latest Portuguese holiday, definitely.

 

 

5) Praia dos Pescadores (Albufeira)

You can’t go to Albufeira and not spend at least one day and one evening in and around Praia dos Pescadores. During the day it’s a long sandy beach, full with people, with an inflatable waterpark (you have to swim to reach for it!) and sport activities. At sunset the colours are simply magic, and when the night falls you can stroll along the high top of Albufeira town, enjoying the view in the moonlight.

 

Have you ever been on holiday in the Algarve? What are your favourite spots? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below! 🙂

Oh, you’ll love cozinha portuguesa, com certeza!

If anyone hasn’t noticed yet, everytime I talk about travelling I talk about food. It’s kind of an automatic reflex, I guess it comes from the fat kid trapped in my body. So, after talking about the magical Lisbon and before I dedicate another post to the stunning coast of Portugal, let me start a brief insight into Portuguese food. Fasten your seatbelts, these are my suggestions:

Lunch and dinner

Meals in Portugal usually start putting on the table various petiscossmall bites to open up your appetite. Usually it’s a basket of sliced bread along with butter and spreadable pâtés of tuna, sardines and/or cheese, accompanied by a pot of good olives. Often you can find quejo fresco (fresh firm cheese with a very delicate flavour) or other kinds of cheese (I’m a big fan of the cow and sheep milk one, which is still soft but cured and creamy).

As a starter I suggest you to try the appetising croquetes made with chicken or pork meat (or the gorgeous version with codfish), or the rissóis de camarão, deep fried satchels stuffed with creamy shrimps… an absolute delight.

The typical Portuguese dish is bacalhau (salted codfish) cooked in many ways. My favourite recipes are bacalhau com natas (baked with potatoes, onions and a delicious cream, with a layer of cheese gratin on top… My tastebuds just had an orgasm. A multiple one) and bacalhau à brás (prepared in a casserole with eggs, onion, a fine julienne of potato fries, olive and parsley).

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If you are visiting the coast of Portugal don’t forget to try cataplana de mariscos (a casserole with yummy seafood in tomato and garlic sauce) and the already mentioned (in my previous post) grilled sardines, and especially if you are in Portimão I suggest you the zapateira (a giant crab with a tender and juicy meat).

As an option for those who don’t like fish and seafood (really? why? have you tried to seek professional help?) there’s a very simple and rustic dish that I like to order, called bitoque: it’s basically a pan fried steak of beef or pork with an egg on top, served with chips, rice and salad. A full meal in one plate that will keep you going all day!

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Originary from the area of Porto is the francesinha, a cube shaped club sandwich with ham, meat and cheese, all coated in cheese and sitting proudly in a beef gravy. They certainly know how to make a sandwich sexy.

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Street food 

Portugal has a nice selection of street food that you can devour during celebrations, city fairs or summer seasons. If you’re particularly hungry try the bifana, a soft bread bun filled with grilled pork meat, or the appetising pão com chouriço, a roll of bread dough wrapped around the good Portuguese spicy salami: during the baking process, the chouriço releases juice that infuses the bread, maximising the flavour.

Sweet treats

My favourite paragraph! Portugal is famous worldwide for its pasteis de nata, custard tarts of crunchy puff pastry with a caramelised sugar layer on top, served sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s tradition, when in Portugal,to have at least one pastel de nata per day (it’s my tradition, to be specific). But the country has a whole rich array of pastries that are absolutely gorgeous. Bolas de Berlim are big balls of fried donut dough filled with doce de ovo (a custard made mainly with egg yolks and sugar) or chocolate, or, in some heavenly occasions, with doce de leite. Travesseiro is a puff pastry cilinder with icing sugar on top, typical of the Sintra region, and queijada is a baked little milk cake (also available in a version infused with orange juice, called queijada de laranja). Speaking of proper cakes, my favourite is undoubtedly pudim, a light flan made with eggs, sugar and milk, cooked in bain-marie or oven baked, in a caramel sauce. Ok, I need to have my glycaemia levels checked now.

Drinks

In Portugal, sangria seems to be the refreshing drink of choice, available in various versions (try the muscatel one!) all over the territory. Of course you can’t leave the country without having tried Porto, the characteristic fortified wine, or the Vinho Verde (young and lightly bubbly). But above all, what I strongly recommend you is to enter the seductive and magic world of Ginjinha. It’s a sour cherry liquor, sweet and voluptuous, served in little cups made of dark chocolate: you drink the shot and you eat the cup straight after. It’s pure sex. Tradition wants that everytime you see the word “ginjinha” written outside a bar you must enter and have one (again, it’s my tradition, of course).

I hope this little smattering of Portuguese food was helpful! Tell me about your experience, what are your favourite things to order when you’re in Portugal?

 

[Note about the pictures: the images in this post are pictures I took during my stay in Portugal, along with some other ones I found on Pinterest. If you own any of the latter please let me know and I’ll credit you properly, or remove them if you don’t want them to feature in my post 😉 ]

Lisbon: a tale of love and life portrayed on blue tiles

 

Lisbon is always a good idea. I’ve just come back from the third Portuguese holiday of my life and it confirmed my thoughts firmly. Lisbon welcomes you wrapping its warm and strong arms around you, then it takes your hands, looks into your eyes with a cheeky grin and spins you in a twirl, before taking you out for one of those fresh, magic summer nights that you would never want to end.

“It’s the weather. It’s always sunny and that reflects on people, people are nice” says Ricardo, who grew up in Lisbon before moving to London fourteen years ago. “It’s the display of the city, it’s old and new at the same time and these two aspects seem to cohabit perfectly with each other”. Like a song by Ana Moura, that’s what I think while he continues talking about his hometown. “Lisbon is a capital, but you can still relax… It’s not overcrowded with people in constant rush, numbed by their daily routines, and the pace is much slower than London…”.

That’s exactly the first impression that strikes when we get off the train in Cais do Sodré, once we manage to leave the station full of vacationers heading to the beach at this time of the year, and while we walk on the lush promenade along the riverside. The area has been renovated in the past five years and now it’s the perfect stroll path to enjoy the sun, the drinks and the suggestive view of the bridge, before arriving to the spacious and central Praça do Comércio.

Passed the Arco de Rua Augusta you are ready to see the core of Lisbon, walking on the beautiful cobbled streets and enjoying the colourful tiled facades of the buildings. The traditional Portuguese tiles used to decorate public and private spaces since the 13th century are called azulejos, from the word “azul” (the colour blue, dominant tone of the tiles).

On the left you’ll soon meet the imponent Elevador de Santa Justa, a big metal elevator designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel: it connects the “low” part of Lisbon to Largo Do Carmo, in the Bairro Alto district. Arriving to the gigantic square of Rossio you can see, on the right hand side from a distance, the beautiful Castelo de São Jorge. Rossio is paved with black and white cobbles in a wave pattern, which brings my mind back to when I was in Rio De Janeiro, walking along the coast of Copacabana. The decor of pavements and buildings in Lisbon is so unique, and it certainly plays a big role in making this city memorable, together with other elements like the traditional trams on railway, the radiant bouganvillea plants, the old shops selling salted codfish and sardines, the pastelarias (bakeries and pastry shops, pure heaven for a sweet tooth like me), the melancholic fado music that echoes from cafes in the evening… Well I could go on for pages and pages, but instead I will let some of the pictures I’ve taken do the talking.

One of my favourite places in Lisbon is surely Alfama. Probably the oldest part of the city, it miracolously survived the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake, managing to mantain all its pitoresque beauty: with its narrow streets and white houses and stairways it reminds you of some Greek island or South-Italian village, but still has its own special feel. One of the best areas to stroll and shop for wonderful pieces of local craft. The little shops and ateliers will delight your eyes with gorgeous pottery, azulejos, art prints and blown glass creations. Do like I did: buy yourself a beautiful red fish made of glass. (Don’t do like I did: don’t break it while you’re doing the dusting at home because you’re clumsy like an elephant smeared with butter on a crystal stepladder). Around the 13th of june, when Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony, Alfama’s streets are decorated with multicoloured buntings and you can indulge in lovely street food (don’t forget to try the grlled sardines, one of the typical specialities of Portoguese cuisine). This part of the city is ideal to experience the fascinating world of fado music. I suggest you to have a nice dinner at a “casa do fado” and even if you don’t speak Portuguese I’m sure you’ll go home at night singing a couple of those tunes you’ll hear, guaranteed! But before dinner, don’t forget to enjoy a stunning view on the city from the Miradouro da Graça.

My Portuguese holiday included some other places, at a reasonable distance from Lisbon, really worth seeing. Here we go!

Belem – It’s the area where you can have the most fresh and delicious pasteis de nata (see next post about Portuguese food)! Have a walk along the riverside and you’ll find the amazing monument called Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Take pictures from different angles, the results are always stunning! Climb to the top (there’s a lift actually) to take beautiful panoramic shots and enjoy the mosaics on the ground below. Don’t forget to visit the Tower of Belem and Geronimo’s Monastery if you have time between pasteis de natas. I barely had any. (Time, not pasteis de nata.)

Cascais – Take the train from Cais Do Sodré to reach this lovely summer retreat near Estoril. Visit the old Fortaleza and the Boca do Inferno (a cliff with an open cave in the rock formed by the ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic waves), enjoy the beauty of the views and stop in a cafe called “Sacolinha” for a lush breakfast with the best pastries and sweet treats ever! (Yes I know, sugary food again… Well, don’t forget to brush your teeth, kids.)

Sintra – Perched upon a hill, Sintra is a really fascinating city and UNESCO World Heritage Site: walking in its natural parks and gardens opens up your lungs and the views are spectacular. Visit the Moors Castle, and try a sandwich with presunto e queijo da Serra from the stalls of local products that you find in front of Palacio Nacional.

Obidos – If you have a car, go and visit this lovely village, home of the delicious ginjinha liquor (see next post)! Very suggestive especially in the evening, with an unmissable Medieval Fair occurring every summer between July and August, where you’ll see a real Palio at sunset, and you’ll drink sangria in characteristic clay mugs that you can take home with you! You’ll absolutely love the experience, guaranteed.

Well… I can’t wait for my Portuguese holiday number 4! This time, if everything goes according to my plans, I’m going to see the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 live! I will keep you updated with news! 🙂