Third day in Portugal, the jet lag had just subsided and we were off on our first adventure to Filipa’s village in central Portugal. On the way, we stopped at the beautiful town of Óbidos, about 100km north of Lisbon. It’s a gorgeous place surrounded by a fortress. Yes, about 3,000 people actually live here, with their very own 12th century castle and 45 foot wall around their town, which is high up on a hill. Oh my, it blew me away. The medieval architecture has been beautifully preserved and it’s so so quaint. I want to live inside a fortified city with my very own castle!! It’s incredibly romantic with its cobblestoned streets, whitewashed houses, bougainvillea and geraniums in windowsill pots,

Streets of Óbidos from the castle wall

It was my first real taste of Portugal outside of Lisbon and it was here I first saw the Portuguese tiles, azulejos. As you enter the town walls, you pass through the main gate where there is an outstanding oratory and the azulejos there date back to the 1700’s.

As we wandered the narrow cobblestoned streets, I saw snippets of daily life amongst the throngs of tourists – old ladies sitting in open windows talking to their neighbours, linen filled with freshly baked bread, pão, and tablecloths hanging out to air.

This tablecloth features the national symbol of Portugal, the rooster, Galo de Barcelos. The rooster goes back hundreds of years to a fable of a peasant villager in Barcelos, who was accused of stealing and was sentenced to death. He defiantly claimed he was innocent and pointed to a roasted rooster that was about to be eaten by the judge. He said “If I am innocent, that rooster will crow three times.” And the rooster stood up on the plate and crowed three times and he was set free.

In Portugal, the rooster symbolises honesty, integrity, trust and honour and everyone has one in their house to bring them good luck. You see them everywhere. Within 2 weeks, I was given an apron from an aunty of Filipa’s with the rooster on it. I took this as a good sign of acceptance.

We also sampled the local liqueur called Ginja, or Ginjinha. Now if you’re a fan of cherries, you will love this. It’s a liqueur made from infusing sour cherries with aguardente (a Portuguese brandy), sugar and cinnamon. Each region of Portugal makes it slightly different. You typically drink it like a shot, with a piece of cherry in the bottom of the cup but in Óbidos they drink it from a shot glass made of chocolate…..oh yeahhhhhhhhh!

If I wasn’t about to meet Filipa’s entire family in a matter of hours, I would have polished off the whole bottle! We’ll definitely be going back!


Loves of Portugal

It’s taken me a while, but here it is. My Portugal blog – “Pounding the Calçada Portuguesa“. We’ve been doing a lot of walking and the streets of Lisbon are absolutely stunning, if not a little dangerous at times. But I’m finding that the beauty of this art form definitely outweighs their slippery and perilous nature.

Calçada Portuguesa, otherwise known as Portuguese pavement, is a very traditional style cobblestone found everywhere throughout Portugal. Designs are usually in black and white using basalt and limestone, are still created by hand and are an important part of the nations identity and heritage.

Many beautiful afternoons have so far been spent walking and getting lost in the gorgeous and charming streets of Lisbon, exploring the narrow travessas (alleyways) and becos (cul-de-sacs) in Alfama, Graça, Bairro Alto, Chaido and Castelo districts. Calçada can be found everywhere throughout Lisbon from ordinary black and white square designs through to the more elaborate and artistic patterns.

I’m totally obsessed with the calçada in this country!

But I also have a growing obsession with the Portuguese tiles, the azulejos. Wandering the streets of Lisbon is a feast of colours and designs, not only at feet level, but also at eye level and above on the many traditional apartment buildings. The tiles are painted and made from ceramic. The artform date backs to the 15th century and can be found on just about every kind of building from churches, palaces, apartment buildings, train stations to the Metro.

In contrast, the city is also covered with amazing street art and graffiti, which I also love. The colour and the designs are unique and it is fast becoming a major attraction of Lisbon, so much so that the city council has started handing over abandoned buildings to artists, as they have realised that good quality street art might actually be an asset rather than a scourge on the city.

I’ve already been here six weeks and am completely in love.  I will have plenty to write about…..the food, the culture, the art, the people, the music, the language, the beautiful countryside….as we pound the pavements of Portugal.

And last, but not least, my other love in Portugal, and the reason I am here.

So stay tuned and please feel free to comment if the mood strikes you. It makes me happy to know you are out there reading.