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Recent Blog Posts

Coffee isn’t just coffee in Portugal

There’s a great scene from “Seinfeld” in which George beats himself up because he doesn’t realize that when his date asks him up to his apartment for “coffee” she’s really asking for something else. “Coffee isn’t coffee!” he screams. My girlfriend and I often parrot the phrase “Coffee isn’t coffee” in Portugal for a different…

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Ape, the three-wheeled trucks from Italy

The modest Italian lightweight trucks are popular all over Europe. Ape Origin Story After WWII, Italy was in ruins and Italian consumers couldn’t afford fancy personal automobiles. Instead, many bought the much less expensive Vespa scooters. But, a larger commercial vehicle was needed to transport goods. The Italian company Piaggio adapted their Vespa, making a…

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Praca de Bocage

Lined by cafes and shops (and the City Hall), Praca de Bocage is the most beautiful square in Setubal. Praca de Bocage origin story There’s been a Praca (public square) on this location in Setubal since at least the 15th century when it was known as Praça do Sapal. The nearby 13th century Igreja de…

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Anti-Fascist monument in Setubal, Portugal

The statue stands in a prominent spot in the city, but it wasn’t immediately met with acclaim. Monument origin story In 1974, The Carnation Revolution toppled the fascist Estado Novo regime in Portugal. Even though the revolution was spearheaded by the Portuguese military, a transition to democracy soon followed. This also marked the end of…

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Vegan Cheese in Austin

Plant based cheese has been elevated to a new level in Austin Rebel Cheese In Austin’s Mueller neighborhood sits a unique cheese shop and restaurant called Rebel Cheese. Rebel Cheese only opened in 2019, but they’ve made a big impact on the Austin vegan community with their 100% plant-based cheeses and meat-substitutes. Now, when you…

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Our best meal in Portugal, so far

An amazing experience of cooking, feasting, & laughing wasn’t in a restaurant or cafe. Not only a delicious meal, but a beautiful table (photo: Brent Petersen) Our friend in Setubal, Helenice, wanted to have us over for dinner. We’d been to her place once before, just for a glass of wine. This turned into an…

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Why you shouldn’t book the cheapest ticket

The cheapest ticket isn’t always the best choice. In fact, sometimes it will make your trip miserable. Remote Airports Maybe that ultra cheap fare is such a bargain because the airport you’re flying into is ultra inconvenient. Many cities have multiple airports to choose from. Paris, for example, has Charles de Gaulle, Orly, and Beauvais….

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Watts Towers

In the middle of the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts is a stunning D.I.Y. structure with a connection to the Beatles most famous album. Watts Towers origin story Simon Rodia was an artist born in Serino, Italy. He emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Watts in 1920. The next year, Simon began work…

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Lisbon’s hippest vegan restaurant

Hidden in Lisbon’s up and coming Mouraria neighborhood is a plant based restaurant with incredible food and a great vibe. Veg. Food in Lisbon Back in the early 2010’s vegetarian and vegan food weren’t much of thing in Lisbon. Fish and pork, pork and fish, with a side of fried chicken and a can of…

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Why We Eat Zeppole on Saint Joseph’s Day

Italian bakeries crank out millions of zeppole every Saint Joseph’s Day. Enjoying this delicious pastry is a tradition not only in Italy, but all over the world. Saint Joseph’s Day March 19th is Saint Joseph’s Day, aka the Feast of Saint Joseph. It’s also recognized as Father’s Day in many countries, including Italy. All the…

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Salsa party in Portugal

A quiet evening turns into a raucous party. We had only moved to Portugal a couple days earlier and were anxious to make friends. A Facebook group of expats in our new town of Setubal, Portugal were scheduled to meet at a cafe/wine bar on Praca Bocage (the main square in town), so we joined…

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Traboules of Lyon

These secret passageways have helped merchants move their goods and hide the resistance fighters who took on the Nazis in WWII. Traboules origin story Traboule housing a spiral staircase (photo: Brent Petersen) Lyon was originally settled in the first century BCE as a Roman town. By the 4th century CE, Lyon had been built up,…

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Selling Citrus on the Street

When citrus is in season, you see vendors selling the bounty of their fruit trees. A lady and her son set up their citrus stand in Setubal (photo: Brent Petersen) Winter is citrus season in Portugal. And, the sweet fruit isn’t just grown on farms. It seems just about every house has a citrus tree…

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Take a Number

Everywhere you go in Portugal, it seems, you have to take a number. Ticket machine at the bakery (photo: Brent Petersen) In Portugal, waiting in line is a national sport. And, for the most part, it is an orderly affair-the exception being the Portuguese grandmother who pushed her way past everyone on the causeway to…

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Tenants Harbor Lighthouse

Built on a tiny island at the mouth of Tenants Harbor, this lighthouse is owned by a famous family of American painters. Tenants Harbor Lighthouse origin story Tenant’s Harbor Lighthouse (photo: Brent Petersen) Since at least 1838, sea farers had been asking for a lighthouse at Tenants Harbor on West Penobscot Bay. The bay was…

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How Portugal’s elderly can live in high-rent neighborhoods

There are parts of Portugal, especially in Lisbon and Porto that are rapidly changing. New condos and apartments are being built and sold at a premium, some with pricetags north of one million Euro. But, if you wander around these gentrifying areas, you’ll see local septuagenarians going about their daily activities or hanging out in…

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Lisbon’s Tram 28

Lisbon’s trams have become a symbol of the city. And riding the tram is a great way to see many of Lisbon’s top sights. Lisbon’s Tram Origin Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s242o9T3BA Trams began hauling Lisboetas from place to place in 1873. Back then, trams were powered by horses. But, there was a problem. Lisbon has many steep…

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Percussion party in Setubal, Portugal

Every year, percussion groups gather in the port city of Setubal, Portugal for a giant drum party. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaRSj8nKe1A We were sitting at a little outdoor cafe in Setubal called De Pedra e Sal. They have amazing house-brined olives, BTW. All of a sudden we started to hear rhythmic drumming coming from different parts of the…

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Ginjinha Grandma

Ginjinha is a drink that can be found all over Lisbon. But, for a unique experience, look for a Ginjinha Grandma. Ginjinha Origin Story Mural at A Ginjinha, Lisbon (photo: Brent Petersen) Ginjinha, also known as Ginja, is made by adding cinnamon, sugar, and, sour cherries (Morello) to brandy. The drink was invented by a…

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Uso de Mascara

Cases of Covid are currently spiking in Portugal, like much of the rest of the world. But, Portugal’s citizens are good about wearing masks in public, which seems to have blunted the virus’ spread somewhat. Portugal’s efforts to contain the spread When entering indoor spaces in Portugal, everyone wears a mask. If you forget, you…

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New Year’s Eve & red underwear

If you’re in Italy for New Year’s Eve, be sure to wear this specifically colored undergarment. New Year’s Eve When December rolls around, this market in Ortigia will also have red underwear for sale (photo: Brent Petersen) All over the world there are different customs on New Year’s Eve. In Spain, people eat 12 grapes…

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How the Grinch avoided prison

“Have you been looking for a job?”  When Mr. G. didn’t answer, I kept looking him in the eye, saying nothing, an old trick I’d learned when I was a middle school teacher. Sit there silently, looking them in the eye and eventually the silence becomes too much to bear. “Um, a job?” he mumbled….

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The (probably untrue) legend of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Puttanesca translates literally to “prostitute.” So, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is “pasta in the style of a prostitute.” That couldn’t be where this came from, could it? Spaghetti alla Puttanesca origin story Photo: Brent Petersen The story goes that prostitutes in Naples would cook this quick dish of spicy tomato sauce and spaghetti to give their…

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Chocolate Hazelnut-the famous flavor of Turin

Chocolate and hazelnuts seems like a match made in heaven. But it took a war to bring them together Chocolate Hazelnut origin story Turin, Italy is the unsung chocolate mecca of Europe simply because this is the home of the iconic sweet mixture of Chocolate and Hazelnuts. These two ingredients were first combined during the…

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The best viewpoint in Lisbon

When your city lies on seven hills you’ve got lots of great views. This one is my favorite in Lisbon because the beautiful Tagus River and St. George Castle are both in its sightlines. The Miradouro’s of Lisbon It’s no secret that Lisbon is a beautiful city. From the flamboyant and Gothic inspired Manueline architecture…

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Don’t travel like a local

Every TV travel show and guidebook tells you “be a local” when you go on vacation. But, is that really a good idea? No one wants to be labeled a “tourist” when they travel. Tourists conjure up images of socks with sandals and fanny packs. Tourists are embarrassing. Tourists talk loudly and slowly in English…

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St. Martin’s Da.y

November 11th is a day wine lovers look forward to in Slovenia St. Martin’s Day celebration in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Photo: Brent Petersen) November 11th is St. Martin’s Day, a feast day celebrated throughout Europe to commemorate Saint Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who became a monk. Saint Martin is known for giving away all…

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The “R.E.M. Trestle”

The most iconic image of the 80’s Athens music scene is the Georgia Railroad Trestle that graced the back cover of R.E.M.’s first LP “Murmur,” released in 1983. The front and back cover of “Murmur” with the famous Georgia Railroad Trestle But, the trestle itself dates back 100 years prior, to 1883 when it was…

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Halloween in Italy

  Our notion of Halloween in the U.S., children in costumes going door to door for candy, originates in Scotland and Ireland. In fact, when we were in Scotland in mid-October, we found the displays in stores to be very familiar. Bags and bags of candy for sale along with racks of superhero, princess, and scary…

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The Best Pizza in Naples

Naples is known as the birthplace of pizza. But, there’s more than just classic Neapolitan pizza in the Città del Sole (City of the Sun) Pizza origin story Pizza Margherita (photo: Brent Petersen) People have been putting things on bread to make it tastier for at least 10,000 years. And, the ancient Greeks put oil,…

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