Category Archives: travel

Povoa de Varzim

Porto is gorgeous, but hotels were expensive, so we ended up staying in Povoa de Varzim. It is a holiday town, one hour by metro out of Porto, and surprisingly pleasant. The metro is new and clean, and once we figured out the Andante system (rechargeable paper ticket for 0.60) very easy. 

Povoa de Varzim was a fishing village, now a beach resort with a casino. Not quite beach season yet, and cold Atlantic water, big waves, and very nice contrast to busy Porto. See the wooden structures on left? Some had little striped tents to block the wind.

Tiles in our hotel (Luis Brasileiro) whete you see the same beach, and the same tent style. 

A franceshina for lunch, Porto sandwich specialty. This one had a layers of ham, steak, cheese, two kinds of mortadella, more cheese, an egg and spicy tomato-bacon sauce all over. Tasty but SO heavy, I gave up halfway and it still destroyed my appetite for the rest of the day, making this impossible to try…..

…… the biggest mille-feuille I have ever seen! Massive! What is it with these huge Portuguese pastries?

Random tiled doorway. We could have gone back to Porto but decided to have a local day, as just being in Europe is nice. I bought sandals, we walked on the beach, and we scouted local fish restaurants. Nice break.

Lots of tiled house facades, many with saints. Next to the massive pastries we found a small coffee shop, so we bought some beans (three kinds of robusta, for a change) and some ground coffee with cicoria, that must be chicory? 60/40, 70/30, several blends possible. Must be drunk with milk, I think the coffee man said. Or was that what Portuguese doctors say? We had a long coffee chat despite us not speaking Portuguese, both sides guessing a bit. The coffee beans smell great! 

Chourico assado em aguardem (sorry for lack of accents). Lovely dinner at Bistro Bot’ Abaixo, various plates and nice staff. 

We head back to Lisbon tomorrow for our last two days in Portugal. 

Port in Porto

Porto! Port, tiled churches, amazing views, lots of hills and layers of history. Walking downhill was the main plan. Where to start? We opted for Bolhao market, as it was near the metro and is due for renovation soon. And I love markets. This was mainly on the lower  level, not much fish as it was Monday morning. Lovely cherries though.

Live chickens at Bolhao. Next to it there was a cafe with live pigeons, not sure what those are used for. I’ve had pigeon in Beijing and would not eat it again. 

The sardines, however, looked great.

So did the octopus. 

We popped into Sao Bento train station to get tickets back to Lisbon two days later. Not necessary, but easy enough (30 euros, three hours) and the station itself has amazing tiles! 

 We headed down towards Ribeira for lunch, which everyone else seemed to be doing. However, we had an excellent lunch up a side street, grilled sardines and grilled tuna. Coffee took a while as they had a power cut (just like being back in Accra: lights out….) but we enjoyed the view and rested sore feet. No complaints!

Across the river, and off to a port tour. There were port houses wall to wall, and the little tourist booth have us a map with prices for yours and tasting. We went to Ferreira (10 Euro, 2 port types) and followed the Portuguese tour. At least our port vocabulary is improving.

Port tasting #1, perfectly nice but not amazing. Tawny and ruby.

Port tasting #2, at Noval. Just tasting, no tour which was fine by us. Gorgeous view!

 We splurged and got the five ports, 40 euro tasting. Interesting, the extra dry white port can be used with tonic for cocktails, we might need to get some for our planned Portuguese evening. The last two were very nice indeed, especially the 40 year old port. Just delicious, it spoils you for lesser ports. 

Our friend went back to another port house the next day and decided to go straight to the very good port. Amazing paired with chocolate, she reports. 

Slightl tipsy, getting the funicular up the hill. Well worth 2.50! 

We wandered to the Bolhao metro stop, after stopping for mystery custard tarts. Not pasteis de nata, but similar. And we passed this church with azules facade, which I know is in the guidebook but we were too tired to look it up. 

Porto is definitely worth another more in-depth visit, to be planned!

Next stop: Coimbra

After two days in Lisbon, we hopped a train to Coimbra, a university town northeast of Lisbon. Lots of history, Portuga oldest university. About two hours by train from Lisbon Oriente, nineteen euros on second class with assigned seats. Nice trains! We arrived at Coimbra B and got a  taxi to town, though we could have waited for the local train. We needed lunch! So we dropped our bags at Hotel Vitoria (very nice) and had some small plates in Praca do Comercio. I even bought a three euro sardine-printed tablecloth, which I may regret. But after mackerel and beer it seemed like an excellent idea. 

 Pasteis de Tentugal, sweet filo-like dough stuffed with egg custard. We asked the tourist office about all the interesting pastries, and they told  us that Coimbra is famous for convent pastries.

More cakes and convent pastries, many with almonds or egg custard. And pumpkin. We sampled quite a few, including pastel de Santa Clara.  Coimbra is lovely but very hilly, so there were many opportunities to stop for a drink, a view, a pastry shop…. 

At the University of Coimbra. Amazing library (Biblioteca Joanina) and wonderful buildings. We saw students in black robes, with colored ribbons to indicate their faculty.

Singing students.

Doorway. Lots of interesting wall paintings as we wandered down steep little roads back to the lower part of Coimbra.

 Anither bakery!  With the biggest meringues (suspiros) I have ever seen. Head sized. The other cellphone is there for scale. This is at Pastelaria Briosa.

Being tourists, we also went to dado. In Coimbra, fado is only sung by men, unlike in Lisbon. We enjoyed this, and will have to try again in Lisbon to compare and learn more. 

Also learn more, olive oil tasting at Passeite, Taverna do Azeite. Very enjoyable, I never knew much about Portuguese olive oil. Lovely food too, even vegan! Definitely recommended. 

But onwards we go, and Porto is the next destination. It is lovely being in Europe  (window shopping! No chickens in the street! Public transport!) So Portugal being so pleasant for travelling is just a huge bonus. Ten days is not enough but we will come back. It is also much cheaper than expected, we are having nice lunches and dinners for 15 euro or less a head. Fabulous food so far.