Glass of Porto, anyone?

With the excuse of my book launch, I had the opportunity to visit Porto in late 2011 (with a little hop to Spain), which is Portugal’s second largest city. The city which gave its name to Port, Oporto has been the home of British wine shippers and their families for over three centuries.

A view of Porto - a lovely city

A view of Porto – a lovely city

It had been 5 years since my last visit to this exciting city – and wonderful to see how much prettier it looked! Getting there can be challenging with flagship airlines, but air connections have improved dramatically with the advent of low-cost airlines, such as Easyjet, who have indeed helped bringing life and many new visitors to the city.

With the help of Carolina, our private guide, I was taken around out and about like a true out-of-towner and was amazed with how much the city had to offer!

 

Museu Serralves

Museu Serralves

We started at Fundação Serralves, which is Portugal’s first large-scale contemporary art museum. Its museum was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira, one of Portugal’s better known architects. It is also home to wonderfully landscaped gardens, one of the city’s best kept secrets.

From there, we decided to hit the shops, and did so at Avis, a residential complex just outside Porto (and Portugal’s) largest street, Avenida da Boavista. Quite an odd street, over 5km, where the shops are organised in little clusters and walking is not really an option!

 

Rua de Santa Catarina

Rua de Santa Catarina

We then hit downtown, Rua de Santa Catarina, where interestingly you will find a mix of the usual high street suspects, but still many old-fashioned independent retailers, which add a lot of charm to the place.

 

Livraria Lello & Irmão

Livraria Lello & Irmão

Our next stop was Livraria Lello & Irmão, a lovely art-nouveaux bookshop. If you like the style, a little stop to Café Majestic is also a must!

Design and style-conscious shoppers go down Rua Miguel Bombarda which is known for its art galleries and CCB – Centro Comercial Bombarda, a not-your-typical-shopping-mall clustering art and design shops. I was incredibly surprised with this little find and a visit to this part of town is really recommended.

 

Delicious chocolate cake at Pimenta Rosa

Delicious chocolate cake at Pimenta Rosa

We noticed that everyone was queueing for some chocolate cake at Pimenta Rosa.. and of course we had to have some!

And didn’t you have Port Wine, I hear you ask? But of course! It would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Vatican.

Carolina took us to Calém, one of the best known Port Wine brands – there are 40! Calém is known especially for its Premium Vintages, Late Bottled Vintages and Aged Tawny. All the Port Houses are located in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of Douro River.

Porto Calém Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia

Porto Calém Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia

I learned quite a bit about Port Wine – which is now being marketed to the Portuguese, who traditionally didn’t drink a lot of this wonderful juice. New trends include White Port as an aperitif (Port & Tonic) and Rosé Port, which is delicious with mint and ice! So much so, that I promise to write a whole post about it!

A room with a view at The Yeatman

A room with a view at The Yeatman

The day was coming to an end.. so surely must be time for food? We were incredibly lucky that our stay coincided with one of The Yeatman’s weekly wine dinners and we were able to join in! A luxurious, light-filled wine and spa hotel set high among the port lodges, with stunning views over historic Porto, the Yeatman opened in 2010 and its restaurant was recently awarded a Michelin star. We sampled the first wines produced by L’And Vineyards which were very very good – and promised to stop by this great resort in the summer of 2012.

The Yeatman sent a brand new series 7 BMW to collect us in style – a nice touch that Mrs. O loved!

Time for bed, and as usual, with all the mod cons. I love the Sheraton Porto, which has been opened for a few years and on which the Lisbon Sheraton was inspired. Modern, trendy and with impeccable service.. oh and a lovely spa!

The modern Sheraton Porto

The modern Sheraton Porto

I really enjoyed this trip to Porto and if you haven’t been yet, put it on the list.

Cheers, everyone!

Mrs O

 

The post Glass of Porto, anyone? appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

A Portuguese and an English Christmas

How different is Christmas in Portugal and the UK? 

Being Portuguese and married to an Englishman, means that we get 2 completely different Christmases! Another point of difference, is actually the dates and meals we celebrate – you can discover the differences!

Traditional salted codfish with all the trimmings - or bacalhau as we call it. Photo by http://natal.blogs.sapo.ao/20066.html

Traditional salted codfish with all the trimmings – or bacalhau as we call it. Photo by http://natal.blogs.sapo.ao/20066.html

In Portugal, the most important meal is dinner on Christmas Eve (24th), where we eat Portugal’s national dish, bacalhau, with cabbage, potatoes and chickpeas. Reasonably healthy, actually, as I have not mentioned the stars of the evening – the deserts!

Bolo rei or King cake

Bolo rei or King cake

From sonhos, to rabanadas, filhoses and one of my favorites.. King Cake (or Bolo Rei, as it is called in Portuguese).

I think I put on weight automatically just by looking at the “desert table” :), by absolute favourite being this “little one”:

Lampreia de ovos - or cholesterol on a plate

Lampreia de ovos – or cholesterol on a plate

We then open the gifts at midnight and have a nice long sleep.. until it’s time for lunch on the 25th!

Most families will have either turkey or “cabrito”, which roughly translated as kid (baby goat). At Mrs O’s parents’, we have both 🙂

 

Cabrito assado - roasted kid goat

Cabrito assado – roasted kid goat

After lunch, it is time to get back to the UK where another couple of days eating and drinking await! It is surprisingly difficult to fly in Europe on Christmas day, but BA now does, and we are grateful.

Back in England, we do miss out on the 25th, but thankfully, there is Boxing day, where we get to celebrate with the English side of the family – and eat some more!

Christmas pudding, which screams for brandy butter

Turkey is certainly on the menu, and I love the way it is cooked in England – with the roasted potatoes, bread sauce, brussels sprouts, gravy et al!

Oh and I almost forgot the desserts – Christmas Pudding, of course and copious amounts of cheese 🙂

Obviously a bit of dieting will be required in the New Years – 3 days of non-stop eating do take its toll.. but Mr and Mrs O certainly get the best of both worlds. What’s 1000 miles each way when we get the chance to be with both our families?

I am now very curious – what do you eat for Christmas? And is Christmas Eve celebrated in your part of the world?

xo

Mrs O

The post A Portuguese and an English Christmas appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

Mrs O’s Lisbon – her address book!

It is quite interesting that my beloved hometown – Lisboa, or Lisbon for you foreigners – is becoming quite a popular destination for weekend breaks. This is good news for the “current economic climate”, but also because, in my humble opinion, it is quite a place.

The river on a sunny day - Lisbon

The river on a sunny day – Lisbon

More often that not, I get asked by friends and friends of friends (I’d say at least once a week!) so an email is ready to be forwarded. But with this blog soft-launch, why not go all the way and share my favourite places?

They are not the latest places that opened in town – they are my favourites, some of them I have been going for 10 years and always have a brilliant experience. You can take my word for it!

Enjoying Lisbon

Lisbon is quite a compact city and you should take the opportunity to have a look around. On this page you’ll find some recommendations and links to external sites.

Taxis are cheaper than anywhere else in Europe and easy to find 24 hours a day. Two useful numbers, in case you need to call one – Teletaxis (+351) 218111100 or Radiotaxis – 218119000. Taxis only take 4 passengers, and extra charges apply for luggage and pre bookings (1.60 Euros). A taxi ride within the city should never cost more than 10 Euros, so don’t get fooled! Uber now also operates in Lisbon.

Both buses and the underground system are inexpensive and easy to use – I can’t offer more advice as I rarely use them for the above mentioned reasons. Very naughty, I know!

Trains are modern and punctual, but we’d definitely recommend hiring a car if you really want to see the country. Besides the usual suspects, we have been getting good prices at Avis (but hiring a car in Lisbon can still be a bit of an experience).

Lisbon

The old fashioned ferries are still going

A good place to start, would be to get yourself an updated travel guide. A particularly good one, guess what, HG2 (www.hg2.com) but the DK Eyewitness Lisbon Top 10 and Wallpaper guides are also good.

Lisbon has 2 sightseeing tour companies, and one is clearly better than the other one. Visit Carris’ website on www.carristur.pt. It has information on various tours, which you could consider:

– Lisbon Hop-On – Hop-Off – there are 2 guided routes: the Colinas and the Discovery circuits. They stop everywhere and run quite frequently. €18 per person – Sintra tour – fantastic little place 45 minutes away from Lisbon. €35 per person.

Alternatively, you can hire a car and drive to Sintra, and return via Cascais – more details in a second!

Restaurants

Portuguese food is excellent and should appeal to most tastes. What is Portuguese food like? I hear you ask.. well, it’s lovely! We use mediterranean ingredients, but cook them in what I would say a “simpler” way than Spanish or Greek (I love them both, not complaining!). Obviously, it will be easy to find other types of restaurants. Below are some of Mrs. O’s all-time favourites:

– Pap’Açorda – modern Portuguese, a classic – Rua da Atalaia, 57. Tel 21 346 48 11. Has 2 seatings for dinner: one at 8pm and another at 10pm. (Bairro Alto)

– Vaskus – mostly meat: fondue, brazilian picanha and steaks – Rua Passos Manuel, 30. Tel. 21 352 22 93. Only takes reservations until 8.30pm. If you do not turn up by then, only go after 10pm as it’s a small place and always busy.

– Kais – modern Portuguese, by the river – Rua Cintura Porto Armazém 1, Tel. 21 393 29 30 www.kais-k.com

– A Travessa – more French/Belgium, in a convent – Travessa do Convento das Bernardas 12, Tel. 213902034 www.atravessa.com

– Bica do Sapato – Portuguese food, very trendy place, located next to Lux. Ensure you book a table at the “Cafeteria”, trust us – Avenida Infante Dom Henrique Armazém B, Cais da Pedra à Bica do Sapato, Tel 218810320 www.bicadosapato.com

– Charcutaria – very Portuguese, with traditional food from the Alentejo – Rua do Alecrim 47 A, Tel 21 342 38 45 (near Bairro Alto)

– Estado Líquido – Fusion Sushi – Largo de Santos 5 A, Tel 21 397 20 22 www.estadoliquido.com

– Aqui há Peixe – fish dishes – Rua da Trindade nº 18 A, Tel. 213 432 154 www.aquihapeixe.pt

– Parreirinha de Alfama – to listen to fado music and eat traditional Portuguese food – Beco do Espírito Santo 1, Tel 218 868 209 (good if you are of a certain age, it is not for me, except when friends beg me to go.. the food is actually quite decent here if you are up to a “touristy Portuguese night”

 

Breakfast

One of Portugal’s best kept secrets are its patisseries, or “pastelarias” as they are called. Most Lisboners go out for breakfast as it is delicious and not expensive at all.

Are you hungry?

Are you hungry?

One of the best pastelarias in Lisbon is Versailles and we’d strongly recommend a visit. These places are open between 7.30am and 8.30pm and is it located on Av. da Republica, 15-A, immediately after Saldanha. http://www.pastelariaversailles.com

Shopping

Portugal is a good place for shopping and the offering is quite good. Obviously, we have most international brands at better prices than in the UK, as in most cases these are indexed to the local cost of living. Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti’s prices in Portugal can be 30-40% lower. It’s worth checking out some Portuguese and Spanish brands which are not available everywhere and are particularly good:

– Wesley (for men) – has a shop outside Amoreiras Shopping Centre, one in Saldanha and another in Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre

– Lanidor and Globe (for women) – they are on most high streets and shopping centres, and both have flagships in Avenida da Liberdade

– Adolfo Dominguez, Purificación Garcia and Carolina Herrera (for both men and women) – all 3 can be found of Avenida da Liberdade and at El Corte Inglés department store. Adolfo Dominguez has a shop in Saldanha’s Atrium Saldanha Shopping Centre and Purificación Garcia has another shop in Saldanha Residence Shopping Centre.

Large Shopping Centres

– Amoreiras Shopping Centre (in Amoreiras), best accessed by taxi

– Vasco da Gama (in Parque das Nações), underground: Oriente (red line)

– Colombo (Portugal’s largest shopping centre), underground: Colégio Militar (blue line)

– El Corte Inglés – Lisbon’s only department store, underground: São Sebastião (blue line)

– Freeport Designer Outlet – located in Alcochete, 30 minutes south of Lisbon. Easy to get to by car, but there is also a hotel shuttle service in the summer. Brands include Carolina Herrera, Purificación Garcia, Zegna, Burberrys, Versace, Adolfo Dominguez, Boss – as always, you need to be lucky on the day you go.

High Street Shopping

– Avenida da Liberdade – where most designer shops are

– Rua Augusta (in Baixa)

– Rua do Carmo and Rua Garrett (Chiado area)

Hotels

Sheraton Lisbon - still one of my favourites

As far as hotels are concerned, my home away from home is the Sheraton Lisbon, where I always stay when I’m in town. It’s 5-stars (literally) and average rates are around €115 per night, which is unbeatable. Did I mention it is also the tallest building in Lisbon and has one of the coolest rooftop bars? www.sheraton.com/lisboa

With these suggestions, you can spend a great long weekend in Lisbon, ensuring you see a little bit more than the Castle and all the other “must-go” places.. and help the local economy of course!. If you use these suggestions, I’d be delighted if you let me know how it went! Photos, please!

Até breve,

Mrs. O

The post Mrs O’s Lisbon – her address book! appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.