Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Tag: portugal

The Trapper’s Tent, Casa dos Loios, Portugal

Trapper's Tent, view from decking

“They’ll be dancing in a minute. You just watch.” Glenn and Dianne smile at us knowingly. We’re stood in the square of a central Portuguese mountain village, attending their annual festa. It’s gone 11pm and the band has just started up. Despite the time, the square is busy with packs of teenagers, laughing friends, and families, from tiny children to their great-grandparents. This is the village event of the year, and everyone attends.

And then a couple start dancing, a relaxed but slightly jumpy partner dance. Another couple follows, doing the same style of dance. Soon half the village are in the space in front of the stage, dancing with a friend or partner or other family member. It’s like they were born knowing how to do these steps. There’s one woman who’s particularly captivating, agily weaving through the throng with her partner. An older couple are slightly slower, but still perfectly in time. I imagine them doing the exact same dance together, nervously, fifty or sixty years ago. Back then he would have had to ask her Mother and Grandmother for permission for just one dance. (Apparently even as recently as ten years ago, this was the norm here.)

festadancing

This is the sort of event we’d never have discovered if staying in a bog-standard hotel or B&B. But from the moment you meet Glenn and Dianne (in our case, over coffee in the local supermarket, where we also chatted to some of their friends) you know your time at the Trapper’s Tent is going to be anything but standard. And that’s before you see the tent itself.

Trapper's Tent, Portugal, view from bed

Regular readers who remember my aversion to nights under canvas might be wondering how John persuaded me to stay in a tent. But the Trapper’s Tent, set in the hamlet of Fonte Longa, is another of Canopy & Stars‘ ‘glamping’ destinations, and comes complete with a proper bed, wardrobe, shower and toilet (the latter two of which are inside a separate shepherd’s hut). You have your own semi-covered kitchen with kettle and hob, all the cooking equipment you’d need and a view over the valley. There’s also a barbeque if you’d prefer (remember to stock up on charcoal). The tent is covered, too, so even the sound of rain didn’t really bother us like it might in your typical under-canvas experience. To paraphrase a well-known ‘supermarket’, this isn’t just camping

Trapper's Tent reading spot
Barbeque Trapper's Tent portugal

You will be the only people staying here for the duration, and so everything you see in the pictures* is for your exclusive use – the only people who might pop by are Glenn & Dianne’s friendly pets, or, occasionally, the couple themselves to check everything’s OK or to offer advice on where to go.

*The pictures in and around the tent that is.

Trapper's Tent pets

It’s hard to tear yourself away from this idyll, but Dianne is wonderful at recommending nearby places to visit based on your interests (you have a quick chat about what you’d like from your stay when you arrive – but not before you’ve had a chance to gawp at your surroundings), places to eat and she even drew us a map of a local walk she enjoys. She has also written a guide to the area that you’ll find in the tent, even including information on the others who live in Forte Longa; you’ll learn about Paula, who’s family used to tour as a reggae band, Miguel the shepherd, Zeca who looks after the goats you often spot grazing in the fields below the tent…

Following Diane’s advice and hand-drawn maps, we explored the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, hopped over rivers in search of Lousa Castle, skimmed stones in the river by a tiny, deserted (man-made) beach by the Mondego River (near Penacova), and meandered down the streets of local towns and markets in this lesser-travelled area of Portugal. Then we’d come back and watch the sun set with wine* or beer and a book and a smile on our faces.

*Top tip: The €3 fizzy wine from Lidl is actually not bad.

Mondego River, Portugal

Is this experience for everyone? No, probably not. If you don’t like the idea of being Internet-less in a foreign country (unless you want to pay for roaming; personally, we loved the escape from technology – to pick up a book, rather than check up your emails, as you wake up slowly in bed is such a wonderful feeling) or possibly having to skip to the toilet through the rain, or no television and room service – then this is an experience to avoid. But if you want to enjoy the great outdoors in relative comfort, or like the idea of barely going ‘properly’ inside for your entire stay (well, excluding supermarkets/museums/restaurants), or fancy experiencing quite a different country and culture not too far from home, all with expert advice from locals, then I’d highly recommend the Trapper’s Tent for a relaxed, friendly and slightly unusual escape.

Practical Information
Getting there and around: We got the train from Lisbon to Coimbra (and then from Coimbra to Porto); both journeys were very easy. From Coimbra, I’d recommend hiring a car to really make the most of the local area. Once you’re out of Coimbra, the roads are pretty quiet, so driving isn’t too difficult. Though despite Dianne’s helpful maps, I’d consider hiring a sat nav.

If you’d rather not hire a car, minibus and additional public transport can be found on the Canopy & Stars website.

Price: From £42 p/night, going up to around £65 p/night in summer. If you’re going for your honeymoon, you can pay a bit more to go fully catered and some other special features – see the website for more information.

Language: Although many chat away in English that puts us native speakers to shame (for example, the wonderful girl in the car hire office), not everyone in the area speaks – or is confident speaking – the language. I’d highly recommend learning a few Portuguese phrases and keeping a phrasebook on you. Based on our experience, locals will appreciate you making an effort regardless of whether they speak English or not.

Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Conimbriga ruins Lousa Castle Mondego River View from Penacova of Mondego River viewfromkitchentrapperstent
Trapper's tent portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal kitchen
Trapper's Tent Portugal bed
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Jumping for joy, Trapper's Tent

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Food Friday: Lisbon eats part II (3 years later)

We visited Lisbon three years ago, and, as I wrote about our visit then (well, on another blog and I kind of just brought the post over here), another city-overview post might be a bit of overkill. But I can assure you that we weren’t disappointed with our decision to spend a few days revisiting the city at the beginning of our recent Portugal adventure.

We did have a few new discoveries on our trip though: firstly nearby Sintra, and also lots of lovely restaurants. More on the former soon, but as it’s Friday today, I make it Food Friday! So here’s Lisbon Eats: Part 2!

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Fumeiro This little restaurant is tucked away on the corner of two quiet streets in the Santa Catarina area (near Bairro Alto); we were staying five minutes away, yet if it wasn’t for Tripadvisor’s ‘best nearby’ feature, I doubt we’d have discovered it.

Each dish at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is contains a smoked element (smoking meat is an Iberian tradition – but it might not be the meat that gets smoked here). It’s not quite tapas, but plates are small – our waitress recommended we ordered three between the two of us, which was enough, but we probably could have fit more in if we wanted to gorge – or couldn’t make up our minds (which looked to be the case for some of our fellow diners).

We went for the roasted vegetables with mozerella, broad beans with ham, and octopus in a barbeque vinegarette. They were all delicious; the smokeyness really added something to all the dishes (I particularly enjoyed the flavour it gave to the aubergine), without being overpowering. However the octopus was definitely the star of the show.

Mozerella and vegetables Fumeiro Santa CatarinaOctopus at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina, LisbonBroad beans fumeiro

Service was friendly and prices were good; two (small) alcoholic drinks, three mains and olives came to under €30. (As with many European restaurants, the extras they place on the table aren’t free, but the olives were worth it. We resisted the very nice looking cheeses, so I’m not sure how much they would have cost, but the olives were just €1 so don’t worry too much about tucking into them.) Even on a Wednesday night, the restaurant was full by 8:30/8:45ish (still on English-eating time, we turned up at 7:30 when it was just us and one other couple – the Portuguese eat much later than us Brits). So it’s probably worth a reservation if you want to guarantee yourself a spot past 8. Also worth noting is that they can’t take overseas bank cards and the nearest cash machine is just under ten minutes away, so make sure you’re stocked up on Euros before visiting.

Great food and an interesting experience in a relaxed atmosphere, Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is a must-visit if you’re in the Bairro Alto or Santa Catarina area – and well worth making a trip for even if you’re not.

The Details

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina
Travessa do alcaide, 4C
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 19:00 – 00:30
Telephone: 92 640 9775 – 213471002
Website: https://www.facebook.com/fumeirosantacatarina/info

Mercado-da-Ribeira_Time-Out

Mercada da Ribeiro
The one change we did notice about Lisbon was that the area we were staying in – particularly Rua Boavista – seemed to be at the beginning of a process of gentification. Among the old ginja bars and pastelerias was a furniture store full of ‘hip’ furniture, an electric car shop and a shabby-chic style bar complete with table football which seemed to attract a younger crowd than the surrounding places. The older, more traditional outlets still far outnumber the ‘cool’ ones, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was the next ‘cool’ Lisbon neighbourhood (if it’s not already).

The nearby Mercado da Ribeira development has certainly helped add kudos to the surrounding area. The 19th-century building itself isn’t new; it has been home to the traditional market for many years. But the new Time Out development in another part of the building only opened a few months ago and it’s clearly already a popular hangout. The Mercado is like a massive, upmarket food court, hosting a number of stalls from well-known Portuguese restaurants, and five with food by their top chefs. You grab your food and sit down on a stool at one of the communal benches – although it looked pretty busy both times we visited (3pm for lunch, and 9pm for dinner. Yes, on the same day), we managed to grab two seats together both times – though it was much easier at lunch.

I say grab your food, but there’s a bit more waiting involved than in your typical food stand. It’s made fresh to order in front of you, leaving your mouth watering. But if there’s likely to be a long wait (in the evening, our meals took 20/25 minutes or so) they’ll hand out a buzzer that’ll go off when the food is ready, so you can relax in your seat and take in the atmosphere instead of hanging around at the stand.

Most of the stands also serve drinks, but there’s also a bar in the centre of the room – with ‘self-service’ beer!

Cozinha de Felicidade

At lunchtime, we sampled Cozinha da Felicidade. I had the scrambled eggs on bread with sausage, which was amazing. The sausage was really meaty and gamey and the bread was gorgeous. John’s meal trumped it though – a meaty ‘pie’, but with mashed potato instead of pastry – very fuzzy photo above (apologies). (Though the Portuguese menu I’ve found describes it as a ‘Rosti de batata’ – potato rosti – which is probably a more accurate description.). My food was great, but I still had food envy. In the evening we went for Cafe de Sao Bento, the outpost of a well-known restaurant in the city once voted the best steak in Lisbon. John went for the steak sandwich, whereas I decided I had to sample the ‘steak sao bento’, which came in a creamy sauce that was almost like a less-rich bearnaise. (I plumped for the rib eye as it was by far the cheapest cut on the menu, but other options were available). We both thought our meals were on the well done side of medium, so if you prefer more pink to your meat then do ask for it medium-rare or rare. Otherwise both dishes were excellent; I definitely wasn’t trying to spoon the remainder of my sauce into my mouth at the end (and by spoon, I mean try and get a substantial amount onto a fork)…

Cafe Sao Bento Mercado RibeiraCafe Sao Bento Mercado Ribeira

If you fancy a more traditional restaurant experience, there’s a couple of outlets on the outside with terraces and tables. There’s also a gelataria and pastelaria for dessert and a cocktail bar if you don’t fancy the self-service beer.

On a Thursday night, the room seemed full of a huge mix of people from families to young and old groups of friends catching up, to couples to tourists. It was lively, loud and a great way to sample some of the local restaurants and chefs in an informal atmosphere – and ideal if you and your party are at odds about what you fancy for dinner that evening.

The details
Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho, Cais do Sodré

Opening Hours
Sun-Weds: 10am-12midnight
Thurs-Sat: 10am-2am

View from Ibo, Lisbon

Ibo
We ummed and ahed about Ibo. It had good reviews and plenty of very positive blogposts about it. We love curries. It overlooked the water. But it was expensive, especially for Portugal. Eventually we decided to spoil ourselves. This turned out to be the best food-related decision of the holiday.

Sat in a former warehouse on the waterfront behind Cais do Sodre station, Ibo’s menu is inspired by Mozambican and Portuguese dishes: think seafood curries, fish dishes and steaks. I had the prawn curry, which came with rice and two condiments (some of the best chutney and lime pickle I have ever tasted). John went for the octopus fillet with beans and coriander rice. Both dishes were amazing – fresh and full of flavour, and mine had a hint of spice without it being overpowering.

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And then there were the desserts. I tried the caramelized banana with cream ice-cream and sesame seed brittle, while John plumped for wild berry cheesecake. There aren’t enough adjectives to do justice to these meals so let’s just say that they tasted even better than they looked.

Ibo dessert

Ibo dessert

Coming in at around €60 for poppadoms, two mains, two desserts and a glass of wine (they ask you what you like, whether you’re happy with house white or more, bring out a suggestion and check whether you like it), Ibo’s not exactly a budget option. But considering the quality of the food and the location (we watched the sun begin to set over the river as we ate, the area relatively quiet save for the occasional passing cyclist, runner or walker), I certainly wouldn’t say it’s overpriced. The perfect place if you’re a curry and/or seafood fan after a slightly more ‘special’ meal in Lisbon.

Ibo

The details
Ibo
Cais do Sodre (behind the train station)
Website: http://www.ibo-restaurante.pt/
Opening Hours:
Tues-Thurs: 12:30pm-15:30pm; 19.30pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 12:30pm-17:30pm; 19:30pm-01:00am
Sunday: 12.30pm-15.30pm
Closed Sunday evenings, Mondays

Park bar Lisbon

Where to drink
We loved Park, situated on top of a multistory carpark in the area where Santa Catarina meets Bairro Alto. We initially went to watch Portugal’s last world cup group game, but the television was in a covered area and we couldn’t resist the lure of the terrace overlooking the streets below and the river and 25th of April bridge beyond. Complemented by table service and a soothing soundtrack, Park is the perfect place for a relaxed couple of drinks after a day’s sightseeing.

The Details
Park
Calçada do Combro 58
Open every day, 13:00-02:00

Image Credits
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina interior: Fumeiro de Santa Catarina’s Facebook page, by Beatriz Tomáz
Mercado de Ribeira Portuguese Independent News
All other images my own, please credit if using.

(If you want to see where we ate last time, I wrote about them too. However this was three years ago, so I can’t still vouch for their quality.)

Belem, Lisbon

Today’s post focuses on Belem, an area located about 6km west of the city centre – an excellent excuse to hop on one of the gorgeous little trams for a ride. You need to get route 15, and I recommend picking it up from either the Praca Comércio or Praca Figueira – we first attempted to get on at Cais Sodre but it was completely full by that point!

Belem is most famous for its Jeronimos monastery and for having, allegedly, the best Pasteis de Nata in the city at Pasteis de Bélem. But there is much more to this beautiful – and quite calming – area of Lisbon. It’s definitely worth at least a half day of your time, and ideally a day. Just make sure that day’s not a Monday!

Jeronimos Monastery
Most people venture to Belem to visit the impressive monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its magnificence commands your attention, the building quite striking in both size and details in the Gothic architecture. It’s undeniably one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen, religious or otherwise.

The tombs of many important Portuguese figures can be seen her, arguably most famously Vasco Da Gama, one of the most successful Portuguese explorers in the Age of Discoveries. In fact, the monastery is built on the site where he and his crew spent their last night in Portugal before leaving on their voyage to India.

Some parts of the monastery can be seen for free, but unlimited access will cost you €6. It’s open from 10 – 5, hours extending until 6 in summer. Closed Mondays.





Torre de Belem
Dating from the 16th Century, the tower, like the monastery, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was intended built both to be a defence system for and ‘ceremonial gateway’ to Lisbon. Today it serves as a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.

You can enjoy the building’s outside for free (which is what we did), but if you want to explore it more thoroughly it will cost you €4 (unless you have a Lisbon Card – then it’s free!). It’s open from 10am – 5pm, or until 6.30 in summer. Closed Mondays.

Museo Berardo
Discussed in more detail here, the Museo Berardo is a must-visit modern art museum. And it’s free!

Discoveries Monument
Built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, the monument is situated on the edge of the Tagus river. It took us a while to work out what it was depicting, but it turns out those featured are notable Portuguese figures: poets, explorers, cartographers and more. We’d probably have found this out quicker if we’d known there was an exhibition space inside the monument! (There’s also a lift that offers visitors views over Lisbon.)

I particularly liked the floor mosaic infront of the monument that depicted the world and routes Portuguese explorers once took. Though so does everyone else, meaning getting a decent photo op isn’t so easy!

The exhibition space below the monument is open 10-6. No prizes for guessing the day it’s closed! (Mondays…)

The Docks
Walking to Belem Tower, you will pass some pretty docks. Perfect if you like boat porn, or just want to stop for a drink.

Pasteis de Belem
Based on those we tried during our time in Lisbon, this place really does do the best Pasteis de Nata in the city. You can read more about it here. A must-visit in Belem.

Other Attractions
Belem is home to a whole host of other museums and gardens, from the Coaches museum – a collection of royal coaches – to tropical gardens. You can find a whole list on the excellent Go Lisbon website.

Casa do Bairro B&B

Looking out onto the courtyard. Photo Credit: Eureka Booking

They say first impressions are everything, and Casa do Bairro B&B in Santa Catarina has been paying attention. Even before we arrived we were treated to a friendly but informative exchange of emails, and the first thing we noticed when we finally arrived was the scent of fresh lavender in the pretty courtyard. From there, things just got better and better.

We were greeted by Portuguese-for-John. After we had settled into our (lovely) room, he sat us down to give us a brief introduction to Lisbon. The B&B provides a map of the city centre, and they’ve marked some of their personal recommendations for restaurants, bars, museums and other attractions on there: we probably would’t have ventured into either the Cantinho da Paz restaurant (to be discussed in more detail in tomorrow’s Food Friday – make sure you check back!), or the Fashion and Design Museum without this guidance, and both turned out to be fantastic finds. Portuguese-for-John also highlighted some of his particular favourites of the highlighted attractions and gave us a brief introduction to the city in general. His main tip? “Get lost”. Excellent advice, as it turns out
Casa do Bairro bedroom. Photo Credit: Casa do Bairro
Throughout our stay the staff were always friendly and willing to help in any way they could without overstepping the mark – perfect hosts!
But it wasn’t just the staff that made this B&B. Although the interiors weren’t anything fancy, they were modern, clean and more than adequate. We even had a tiny bit of a sea view from our window. The location in Santa Catarina was perfect for us: close to the bars of the Bairro Alto without being in the midst of the action and noise, and within walking distance of the main city centre, stops for the famous Tram 28 route and other tram and train stops that will take you to Bélem, Sintra and Cascais. I particularly loved being so close to the Placa de Santa Catarina, a square and miradouro that up fills up with younger, bohemian Lisboetas during summer afternoons. The ideal location for a €1 glass of sangria sipped from a plastic cup under the Portuguese sun.
Photos of Casa do Bairro B&B and Apartments, Lisbon
Breakfast time. Photo Credit: TripAdvisor
The bright and airy breakfast room. Photo Credit: Casa do Bairro
But back to the B&B because I haven’t written about the breakfasts yet. And they were some breakfasts. Produced by the staff, they consisted of typical Continental fare and fruit, but also some incredible pastries. Portuguese-for-John’s take on French Toast was to die for! And then there was the genuinely freshly squeezed orange juice…
Talking of food, there is also an honesty fridge. It is a little more expensive than the nearby supermarkets and shops, but still a fair price if you want to pick something up without having to venture out. 
If you prefer to be a bit more independent on your travels, the B&B also owns some nearby apartments. You can even get in on the B&B breakfast for €7 per person – it may sound steep, but it’s probably worth it one day, providing the French Toast is on offer. 
There’s a reason the Casa do Bairro currently holds the number one B&B spot on TripAdvisor. A friendly and calm escape with a modern but homely feel in a great location, this really is an exceptional place to stay when in Lisbon.

Reception. Photo Credit: Eureka Booking
Price: Rooms start at €74 off-peak
All rooms have a private bathroom, television and bright colours!

Food Friday: Lisbon eats

Interior of the Casa do Alentejo. Credit for both photos: Retrorocketrick on Flickr
Casa do Alentejo dining room. Photo credit: Heather on her Travels

Casa do Alentejo
Rua Portas Santa Antao, Rossio
Although situated in one of the more touristy areas of town, this traditional Portuguese restaurant is not an immediately easy find. Not only is the building relatively unassuming from the outside – you certainly wouldn’t guess quite what was inside – but the ground floor is home to exhibition space showcasing Alentejan culture. The restaurant itself is situated upstairs, through a room filled with scattered furniture.

This may sound like a lot of hassle to go to for some food, but this restaurant is worth it if only for the gorgeous interior. Formerly the Palacio Alverdo, the building originally dates from the 17th century though did undergo significant work in 1918. It was renamed the Caso do Alentejo in the 1930s, when it became the secret place of Alentejans now living in Lisbon. Today it remains filled with the bright tiles that sum up the look of Lisbon, and even a stunning indoor courtyard. The restaurant itself features a murals created using these tiles and floors and furniture made of stately dark oak.

Yet despite its exuberant appearance, the feel of the restaurant itself is actually quite relaxed – there’s no need to dress up like you’re going for a royal dinner. Moreover the staff are friendly, chatter from fellow diners fills the dining hall creating a lively atmosphere, and the menu is reasonably priced. Although most patrons looked like tourists, we spotted some customers who could well have been locals too. The food itself isn’t outstanding, it was still tasty and a great example of traditional regional cuisine: coupled with the incredible setting, it made for an unforgettable dining experience.

Interior of the Cantinho da Paz. Photo Credit: Lisbon Restaurants

Cantinho da Paz
Rua da Paz 4, Santa Catarina
Tucked away in the Santa Catarina area, this family-run Goan restaurant is another one worth putting in the effort to find (and the risk of pushing open the door even if it looks closed!). It was small and friendly, and more importantly, we tasted some of the best curries we’d ever had: really rich and full of flavour. At around €15 for some of the mains, it’s not the cheapest eat in Lisbon but it was by far and away the best we experienced in terms of the food.

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz. Photo Credit: Virtual Tourist

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz
Calcada do Combro, 28, Bairro Alto
On the outskirts of the Bairro Alto, this bustling restaurant may look plain in décor, but its traditional Portuguese food is anything but. With young Lisboetas seemingly outnumbering tourists quite dramatically, this is a great place to sample ‘real’ Portuguese food – worth a visit despite the sometimes brusk service (probably because of quite how busy it is). I recommend taking a guidebook to attempt to translate the Portuguese menu, as I’m pretty sure we spotted some dishes that weren’t on the English menu we used – though I might be completely wrong!

The incredible Pasteis de Nata. Photo credit: Imaginacao Ativa
Exterior of Pasteis de Belem (my photo, for a change!)

Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belém, 92, Belem
No visit to Lisbon is complete without a visit to this famous pastry shop. Sure you can buy Pasteis de Nata (custard tarts) at most cafes in Lisbon, but these ones really are the best – and worth the queues. Sprinkle on cinnamon from the packets provided, eat warm and savour.