Thirty Six Hours In Lisbon, Portugal With the Flu

Image

36 Hours in Lisbon With The Flu

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

Flying to Porto, Portugal from Spain I traveled  in a haze of recycled stale air, surrounded  by the germs of a hundred set of lungs. It did not help that the people I sat next to were both sick and coughing.

 I’m a germaphobe. I get on the plane with hand sanitizer in my purse.  I bring wipes into the bathroom in case i have to touch something. I put polysporin around my nostrils not to breathe anything in. i have a mask if necessary. This usually works along with my various good luck charms. 

The next evening I felt like I had been hit with a truck.  If I had been in Southeast Asia or Africa, I would have been sure it was malaria or dengue. Being in Portugal, I went with the flu. The rain in Porto is not helping.

A few days later when we got to Lisbon,  it was in full force. 

 We checked into Santiago del Alfama around nine pm. Driving through the steep, narrow one way cobblestone streets at night, made us glad we weren’t driving.

The hotel was a fifteenth century palace restored into a beautiful modern five-star hotel.  I loved every piece of furniture and  art that I saw in this hotel. It was  totally my taste. The room was beautiful.

The average standard illness is easy to cope with when you are home and much worse when you are traveling. If it had really been the fifteenth century, I would have thought it was God’s will – but instead i can blame the people next to me on the plane.  Luckily the hotel has a  lovely  restaurant with delicious food. and we don’t have to go anywhere.

i have breakfast at one of the most charming  breakfast places in a hotel with wonderful food and coffee. My cold pills have not kicked in yet and i am sneezing. “God bless you” says the person sitting next me. I remember that sneezing was a symptom of the bubonic plague and they used the term God Bless you to ward off  the evil. I wondered if i had the plague.  Maybe there were some fifteenth century plague germs lying around. I do get a lot of weird things. 

My plan is to go to the Tile Museum which i missed the last time I was in Lisbon. My body is fighting me on this to stay in bed but there are no sick days when you are a mom of small children and so my body has learned to rally.

The Museo de Nacional De Azuelo was definitely worth it.

The building is the former Madre de Deus convent founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor.

The collections  are tiles  from 15th century till present days.

It gives amazing insight into the beautiful tiles you see around the city. i could have spent all day here. 

Portugal has a long history of preserving fish which  has been traced back to the Phoenicians, Romans  and Carthaginians. It became a gourmet thing a lot more recently. The best thing to buy are the sardines which are healthy and delicious. i definitely needed healthy.  We head to Conserveira de  Lisboa the oldest and best family run business to buy tinned fish. They are in beautiful tins and packaged in boxes. 

We have met the owner of the hotel and we end up having lunch with him at Prado a place his wife likes and turns out to be delicious. Lunch in Portugal takes a few hours.

  It is amazing how shopping and a delicious meal can miraculously take away my symptoms for a bit.

We walk back to the hotel and I take a nap and pack. The flu has moved into my lungs by now.  Getting up at 4am for the long plane ride home is not going to be pretty. I have some soup at the hotel restaurant.

 

I put my body in mom mode. This will be so much  easier than having the flu and entertaining a baby and toddler at the same time. All I have to do is get to the airport wait in line, go through security, find the plane, fly to London, pick up my luggage, change airports, go through customs and security, check in  again, walk really far to the plane, wait four hours , get on the plane for ten more hours, go through customs and security, pick up luggage and go home. I have had children. I can do this. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Advertisements

Driving Through Portugal

Image

Driving through Portugal

“Wet or fine the air in Portugal has a natural happiness in it, and the people of the country should be as happy and prosperous as any people in the world.” H.G.Wells

 I love Lisbon and Porto but in addition  Portugal has some of the most beautiful towns, and villages in all of Europe On my last trip I was lucky to include Sintra, Cascais and Estoril. 

This time we have our wonderful tour guide Tiago who took us through these lovely towns. I googled guide to drive from Porto to Lisbon. Sometimes the internet connects  you to just the right person. Tiago was interesting, kind and very knowledgeable about his country. He could change plans in a minute if necessary and made it the perfect itinerary for us. It is a local company which I always prefer  and dealing with them online is easy.  I highly recommend him if you are in Porto. https://www.4u2enjoy.pt/

Amarante is a settlement since the fourth century BC and municipality halfway  between Porto and the Douro Valley. 

A church and monastery sit theatrically beside a rebuilt medieval bridge  over the Rio Tamega.

The scene is spectacular. 

The town enjoys some small degree of fame for being the hometown of São Gonçalo.

He is Portugal’s St Valentine and is the target for lonely hearts who make pilgrimages here in the hope of finding true love.

it is located on one of the original Portuguese routes of the Camino Del Santiago.

Coimbre is a pretty riverside  city with a Unesco World Heritage University that dates back to Roman times.

The oldest part of Coimbra University occupies the former Royal Palace on top of the city’s highest hill. 

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished, and a third of the city’s 35,000-strong population are students.

The Baroque library is quite impressive and a colony of bats is nurtured within it to keep the insect population down.

St Michael’s Chapel is a blend of decorative tiles and sea themed ceiling paintings with a 3,000 pipe organ protruding from the wall.

The large Room of Acts once a throne room with its unique silver and gold paneling and portraits of Portuguese monarchs is where the PHD  students take their exams.

Obidos is a small town in central Portugal. Hiding on a hill behind its medieval fortifications, it forces the modern world to wait outside.

Inside are quaint cobblestone streets, historic houses with yellow and blue stripes  and whitewashed bougainvillea-draped houses. It is easy to wander on the stairs and alleys when you go off the main streets filled with souvenir shops. 

Thought it dates back to the Romans, the fortifications and colors come from the Moors.

When you visit the St James Church you see a bookstore inside because of Obidos commitment to culture and literature.

There are a number of bookshops  in unconventional settings like an organic market and in a wine cellar. 

There’s one local custom worth trying in Obidos. It’s a shot of the local ginja which is a  Portuguese cherry liquor.

The ginja comes in an edible chocolate cup.

.Obidos is actually surrounded by a lot of cherry trees so I believe so the ginja is locally made.

At sunset, we stop in Mafra.

Tiago has arranged for us to meet a luthier who makes Portuguese guitars.

His home overlooks a beautiful beach and a fado singer drops by.

It is a perfect end to the day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Things That I Have Learned In Porto, Portugal

Image

Things That  I Have Learned In Porto, Portugal

“Any Portuguese town looks like bride’s finery –  something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.” Mary McCarthy

Portugal actually got its name from the city of Porto which was originally named Portus Cale in Latin.

Porto is more commonly known as Oporto, however this is only due to the fact that foreigners misinterpreted locals saying “o Porto” which means “the port” and this eventually led to it being called Oporto.

it is Portugal’s second largest city.

Citizens of Porto are informally known as “Tripeiros” which literally translates to “animal guts”. According to a well-known legend of the 15th century Henry the Navigator needed a lot of supplies for his Conquest of Ceuta. As a result, the city and its citizens gave up all the supplies they had, including all their food. All they had left were the animal “guts” or “tripas”.. As a result, a now-famous dish came along called “Tripas à Moda do Porto.” Because of this dish, the citizens of Porto got the nickname of “Tripeiros.”

Porto is Portuguese for port. The Port wine cellars are in Gaia which is across the river and the seaport is in the fishing village of Matosinhos. Both are  very close and municipalities. Maybe it should have been called near the port. 

The view from the Yeatman hotel (in Gaia) is spectacular.

So is the spa and the breakfast.

Most prisons are hidden away from a city. Porto’s 18th-century Cadeia de Relação was not.

After two centuries as prison, it closed its doors in 1974 and reopened as the Center for Photography.

There was a new traveling exhibition of Frieda Kahlo’s collection of photographs.

I was fascinated by this building as well.

We explored and on the top floor  is the former cell of Camilo Castelo Branco.The famed 19th-century writer was locked up (with his married lover, the writer Ana Plácido) for adultery. His 12 months behind bars inspired several books, as well as a fine bronze sculpture of the couple in the museum’s paved entrance square.

There was also a collection of old cameras  used to take the prison photos.

Portuguese people seem to be great at the English language. Portuguese  is very difficult.

Porto is a city of bridges. It has six iconic bridges.

Two were started by Gustav Eiffel (of the tower) and finished by his apprentice  Theophile Seyrig. It is probably easier to walk across the bridges when it isn’t pouring.

The Francesinha (Frenchy) is a typical dish in Porto. It is not for the weak of stomach. Thick white bread housing several layers of cooked meats (including ham, steak and pork) are topped with a beer sauce and finished with a fried egg.It is usually accompanied by a huge dish of fries and multiple beers. I’m all for a curious local combo but this was not for me.

Bacalhau is fresh dry salt cod. The Portuguese are obsessed with bacalhau. It is eaten baked, roasted, barbecued, canned,  in codfish cakes, with potatoes, rice, eggs, cheese, cream and so many other ways. As the Portuguese would say: “There are more than 365 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the year!”

One of my favorite dishes to eat anywhere is octopus but it is especially good and cheap in Portugal. Octopus is rubbery so it is hard to cook. It was always fresh and cooked to perfection in Portugal.

The São João Festival in Porto takes place between the 23rd and the 24th of June each year.. Some silly traditions that happen while you’re out partying on the streets include hitting others on the head with huge (not painful) loud plastic hammers, releasing hot air balloons up into the sky, and waving garlic in front of people’s faces. Might not sound appealing, but it is a lot of fun. The most symbolic item however is a round potted basil plant  and usually comes with a little poem stuck on it.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Harry Potter and the Livrario Lello, Porto, Portugal

Image

Harry Potter And The Livrario Lello

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” J.K. Rowling

Once upon a time Livraria Lello was an old beautiful book store. The Lello book store was built in 1906 in Porto, Portugal by the Lello Brothers (Antonio and Jose).

Their  book store is one of the most ornate book stores in the world, mixing  Neo-Gothic and Art Deco elements.  The book store is visually stunning.

Carved wood ceilings, a stain-glass roof, an undulating, opulent red staircase, and even a built-in wheel-barrow on rails for moving the store’s 120,000 books all make the Lello seem like a bookstore out of some fantasy-world. 

One day some lady named J.K. Rowling lived in Porto while working on her first book. You might have heard of it- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Livraria Lello is reputed to have inspired parts of Hogwarts.

Since then, it has been inundated with Potter fans from around the world wanting to catch a glimpse and selfie of the bookstore’s interior.

What has resulted is a street-long queue of people who pay five euros per person to look at a set of stairs.

There is another longer queue in the ticket office on the corner if you have  failed to buy your ticket online in advance. (That would be me.)

Being a book lover, I wanted to fall in love with this beautiful book store. Unfortunately with all the tourists, the store is so noisy and crowded,

it is hard to even stand and look at the books.

I did manage to buy one. I did also fall in love with a city who’s number one tourist attraction is a book store.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The Arabic Influence In Granada, Spain

Image

The Arabic Influence In Granada, Spain

“Weep like a woman over what you could not defend as a man.” Mother of Boabdil- the last Sultan in Spain

The Moors invaded Spain in 711 AD and they ruled  for over seven hundred years.  At one time, they ruled as far north as France.   The principal cities of Moorish culture were Toledo, Granada, and Seville.  Eventually the Christian rulers in Northern Spain recaptured Spain. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile recaptured Toledo. Cordoba fell in 1236, and one by one the Moorish strongholds surrendered. The last Moorish city, Granada, was captured by Ferdinand V and Isabella I in 1492..

The word ‘Alhambra’ is a short form of the word ‘Calat Alhambra’ which is the name given to a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The palace started off as a small fortress that was built in 899.

After years of neglect, the Moorish king of Grenada renovated it in the eleventh century. The fortress was to later be converted into a royal palace in 1333  by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.

I spent a day there before so I did not tour again. It is big enough to spend at least a day but you can do the highlights in a few hours.

The area of Granada around the Plaza Nueva and fountain Pilar del Toro is the oldest part of the city of Granada. The Mosque was located here.

The Santa Ana church was built on that same site.  At that time the river would have been visible, not covered over like today. 

In the city center, the Alcaiceria stands out, like a typically Arabic souk (bazaar) that attracts many tourists and locals alike.

Glittery Moroccan lamps, colorful silk and leather products are fun to look at and buy.

Other signs of Arabic influence can be seen in the Albaci­n, one of the oldest areas in Granada. Perched on the hilltop across a canal from the Alhambra, it consists of steep cobblestone paths and quaint authentic white-washed houses known as El Carmen.

Arabic tea houses and Moroccan shops line the narrow street that leads up to the hilltop.

The perfect way to relax after a day, is to smoke some Arabic water-pipe (Spanish name is cachimas) in the dimly lit aromatic tea houses (teterias).  I wish that I had the photos to show you but here was the day I spent there. Not a person was out.

There were several bath houses or hammams  in this area during the Moorish rule. In 1567 due to the difficult situation faced by the Moors in Granada, at the hands of the new Catholic Kings, all hammams in Granada  were prohibited. They also banned speaking  in Arabic and wearing Arab style garments.

The current Hammam Al Andalas  https://www.hammamalandalus.com/en/ is in one of the old bathhouse buildings. It actually dates back to 8th and 14th century. This hammam building was converted into baker ovens in the sixteenth century. The bakers made the most of the heating systems which previously created steam and heated water, for baking their bread.

 As I enter the hammam I have the awkward ‘I forgot my bathing suit moment and it is coed and you have to wear one.” They lend me a bathing suit.  During my stay, I drink  green tea with mint, while  relaxing in the different thermal baths and steam room. As I walked through from the changing area to the baths the humidity and warmth hit me. This steamy comfortable environment is great for unwinding and relaxing tense muscles For a while, there was a quiet relaxed atmosphere and then a bus load of tourists showed up.

Luckily it was time for a wonderful scrub and a soapy cleanse with white frothy bubbles. I go into a different dry space  for a  massage and left completely soft, clean and relaxed.

The Hammam Al Andalus in Granada recreates the feeling of  history and the bathhouses that were  here so long ago. Book it in advance, it fills up quickly and is a wonderful way to capture the feeling old Granada.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Granada, Spain

Image

Things That I Have Learned In Granada, Spain

“Like Spain, I am bound to the past.” William S. Burroughs

Granada was originally called Gárnata which could mean  “hill of strangers” in Arabic.

Granada was a Muslim Kingdom for almost 781 years, which is the longest culture to rule in Spain. The city was the last stronghold of Muslim Spain which fell to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.

City symbol is the pomegranate which is logical considering that “granada” in Spanish means ‘pomegranate.’

Granada has 250 days of sunlight. Two of them were not while I was there.

Granada is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites – Alhambra, Generalife and Albacin.

Almost 3 million tourists from all around the world visit Granada and the Alhambra every year.

The Alhambra Palace Hotel has incredible views of the city and “Selections from Don Quixote” in the room.

Reading the highlights of Don Quixote in Spanish in Spain was very cool.

In the Royal Chapel of Granada are the  sarcophagi of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand, their daughter Juana and her husband Phillipe.

   At the time of the reconquest of Granada Christopher Columbus was looking for sponsors to fund exploration to discover the “New World”. The Spanish monarchs agreed and he went on to discover America.  There is a statue of Christopher Columbus kneeling before Queen Isabella at the end of the Gran Via de Colón in Granada. (His name in Spanish is Cristobal Colón).

Playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca was arrested and killed on the orders of right wing military authorities in Granada in 1936 according to newly released documents that shed light on the death of one of the highest-profile victims of the Spanish Civil War.

Granadinos are less friendly and lighthearted than the average Spaniard but that still means that they are more friendly than the French.

The gypsies arrived in Granada about 600 years ago and one of the places where they congregated was in the caves of the Sacromonte. The mixture of Arabic influence combined with the particular lifestyle and temperament of the gypsies created Flamenco. 

Mario Maya was one of the Spain’s most innovative and influential flamenco dancers. He was born in Córdoba in 1937, but grew up in the Sacromonte of Granada.

Munira is a great store to buy interesting souvenirs and gifts.https://www.munira.net

Granada has hot dry summer and cool winters. In July and August the temperature is often over fourty Celsius. . In 2017 several all time temperature records were broken.

The wettest months are November and December and the day in October that I had a walking tour of Sacromonte and the Albacin neighborhoods up in the hills. I had to make a deal with the taxi driver not to leave us in the pouring rain.

Watching the sunset and sunrise over the city against the Sierra Nevada foothills is really special.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Eating At Mugaritz In Errenteria, Spain

Image

Eating At Mugaritz In Errenteria, Spain

“People who love to eat are always the best people. Julia Child”

The Michelin Red Guide that contains these famed stars is published by the Michelin Tire Company. One hundred years ago, when cars were still very new, the Michelin brothers who founded the company wanted a way to encourage more driving. If drivers used their cars more, they would need to change the tires more often. Thus, the guides contained great restaurants all over France, as well as guides for hotels and other attractions.

These guides have become a respected voice in fine dining. Anonymous food critics determine the fate of these top restaurants.

With millions of restaurants in the world, being a three star Michelin restaurant is incredibly rare. To earn three stars and maintain them requires  the best work.

Mugaritz  is a pioneer in creative, molecular gastronomic cuisine. This year it is the ninth best restaurant in the world and a two star Michelin restaurant.

Under the supervision of Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz provides guests with a little taste of twenty-six courses. Chef Aduriz trained under Feran Adria of El Bulli.

The menu was magnificently curated and displayed fastidious attention to detail and imaginative and innovative cooking on all levels. The service was excellent and the story of our meal is explained beautifully. Guests are invited into the kitchen to see the preparation.

There is a list of all the dishes they can prepare that night and all tables do not have the same menu.

We are shown two cards and we have to pick one and that will be the story of our meal.

 I wasn’t looking for the best tasting meal of my life. Great tasting food is abundant in the Basque country. There were a few courses I didn’t like but I could appreciate the invention.  I was looking for the best innovative experience with food. I was not disappointed.   It was a pretty great birthday dinner.

Fly safe,

JAZ