“Have you had a Portuguese tart yet?” asked a girl in my dorm room the first time I visited Portugal. I admitted I hadn’t and she looked at me with utter disappointment, despite the fact I’d only been in the country for 30 minutes. That afternoon, two more people asked the same question – obviously these things were a talking point. Needless to say, I hotfooted down to a local café to try one. Little did I know it would start a self-indulgent habit of pastel de nata consumption after I decided to plant myself in the land of the custard tart (or ‘cream pastry’, if you want to get technical on the translation) less than a year later.
I recently wrote about the pastel de nata in a story for Good Food Australia, along with 10 other things to eat and drink in Portugal including Francesinha (a mega artery-clogging sandwich), Queijo Serra da Estrela (sheep milk cheese), Vinho do Porto (port), vinho verde (green wine), Cozido das Furnas (volcano-cooked stew), ovos moles (egg and sugar sweets), ginja (cherry liqueur), caldeirada do peixe (fish stew) and bacalhau (dried codfish).
Given this recent article, I thought I’d take the opportunity to elaborate further on Portugal’s food with a blog post on the subject. So here’s a rundown of some other food and drink to try in Portugal. I've also added a few points about Portuguese food culture at the end.
Porto is a fascinating place with an interesting history, so given I’ve been kicking around in the city for a while now, I thought it was time to give Porto a shout out.
Here are some things you might not know about Porto.
I mentioned a while back that I was going to write about the relationship between Portugal and Spain, and given I’ve just returned from a visit to the neighbours over the border (San Sebastián to be precise, lovely spot), I thought it was a good time to put this post together.
On my travels I’ve heard comments along the lines of “I haven’t been to Portugal, but I went to Spain”, as if the two countries were one and the same, and “Do they speak Spanish in Portugal?”, suggesting the lines may be a little blurry, particularly for those outside Europe (they officially speak Portuguese in Portugal, in case you were wondering). While Portugal and Spain share a common 1200-kilometre border on Western Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, they are distinctly different countries, yet have shared a lot of history over the years.
Let’s take a look.
Since arriving in Portugal I’ve been fascinated by the country’s bridges, which appear to have been built with a ‘go big or go home’ attitude and could make even the slightest acrophobia sufferer recoil in fear. Hence, I thought I’d look into four notable cross-river engineering feats in the major cities of Lisbon and Porto. In its usual surprising way, Portugal has a few world firsts up its sleeve, as well as some interesting links to other internationally recognised structures … and a roller skating royal.
Street graffiti in Albufeira: 25 April forever
The 25 April (25 de Abril in Portuguese) is a national holiday in both Australia and Portugal for important yet different reasons. Read on to find out why.
As mentioned in my post A brief history of Portugal, Portugal’s economy once thrived. As incredibly skilled seafarers, the Portuguese went about securing a lion’s share of the world economy from the 15th century, trading everything from timber to spices to precious stones across the globe. As the longest-lived modern European colonial empire in history, the Portuguese Empire held up for almost six centuries.
If you weren’t otherwise occupied eating glue or staring out the window, you’ll likely recall being introduced to a chap named Ferdinand Magellan in primary school.
You may also recall Magellan was from Portugal and was the first person to lead a voyage around the globe.
While you may not have given it a great deal of thought, Portugal has a rather interesting history. In particular, Portugal lays claim to the world's first global empire (duly noted as a Guinness World Record and mentioned in my previous post), and the country’s largely successful world domination plans significantly shaped the world we live in today.
Life is one big holiday in Portugal.
Between monitoring the surf, watching football and consuming copious amounts of port flowing freely from the Douro Valley, the Portuguese simply don’t have time to do much else.
Well, that’s how the stereotype goes anyway.
But little Portugal might surprise you. For a pint-sized country sitting unassumingly in Europe’s far west, it’s got a few accolades to its name and certainly punched above its weight throughout history.
The Portugal Wire is the blog of Australian travel writer, copywriter and photographer Emily McAuliffe.
Things you might not know about Portugal
A brief history of Portugal
Who was the first person to sail around the world? (Hint: he was Portuguese ... and then he wasn't)
A quick overview of Portugal's economy
25 April: a shared day in history for Australia and Portugal
Portugal's bridges: go big or go home
Portugal and Spain: same same but different?
Interesting facts about Porto
Traditional Portuguese food: what to eat and drink in Portugal
Who are they? Famous names on the streets of Portugal
Interesting facts about Lisbon
Uncovering Porto's secret gardens
Lonely Planet Instagram takeover: sharing some of my favourite hidden spots in Portugal
In the news... my feature in Portugal's national newspaper Diário de Notícias
On board the Presidential train in Portugal's Douro Valley
When the lion mauled the eagle (Porto)
Kicking design goals: Cristiano Ronaldo & Pestana's CR7 hotels
Lovely Lisbon: my top picks of where to eat, drink, visit and stay in Portugal's capital city
Porto street art: fighting the good fight
The best places to visit in Lisbon: 5 of my favourite neighbourhoods
Big waves in Nazaré: my favourite beach town in Portugal
Best things to do in Porto
Portuguese wine: yes, the wines of Portugal extend far beyond port
Portuguese architecture Part I: Manueline style
Portuguese architecture Part II: Pombaline style
When is the best time to visit Portugal?
Food to try in Porto: northern Portuguese cuisine explained
Filigree designs: the beauty behind traditional Portuguese jewellery