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Recent Blog Posts

Street Art in Graça, Lisbon

Graça is a neighborhood in Lisbon that is often overlooked by tourists. But, it’s gaining in popularity and there is plenty to recommend it, including an interesting street art installation. Caracol da Graça steps artwork (photo: Brent Petersen) Where is Graça? Graça is a neighborhood in the São Vicente parish of Lisbon. It’s north…

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Side Trip from Lisbon: Queluz Palace

A lavish royal palace and garden is just a quick train ride from Lisbon Formal garden at Queluz Palace (photo: Brent Petersen) Queluz National Palace Origin Story Following the discovery of gold in the Portuguese colony of Brazil, the ruling royal family of Portugal became obscenely wealthy. Extravagant palaces were built including the…

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Cordoba is famous for it’s cold tomato soup, but it’s not gazpacho! Salmorejo origin story Legend has it that when Spanish soldiers held as prisoners after the Portuguese victory in the Battle of Montes Claros were returned to Spain, they brought the recipe for Salmorejo with them. This story could be true since…

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Parque das Nações, Lisbon

Lisbon’s modern neighborhood is on reclaimed land from a former industrial site. Parque das Nações origin story Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) is a gorgeous waterfront neighborhood in Lisbon. Prior to 1998, it was an ugly area of slaughterhouses and polluting factories no tourist would have any reason to visit. That changed…

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Menlo Castle

Just a 15 minute drive from Galway, sitting on the River Corrib, is the abandoned Menlo Castle. The castle was built in the mid 16th century. It was originally occupied by Thomas Colman but shortly thereafter, the Blake family (the Blakes were one of the original 14 Tribes of Galway) acquired the castle…

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Volto já

Volto já is a Portuguese phrase with several closely related definitions. But, when going to a store, it has an ambiguous meaning. Photo: Brent Petersen Volto já meaning “Volto já” (also “Volta já) is a common phrase in Portuguese. It can mean “get over” as in “Get over here right now.” Or, it…

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Lisbon’s famous Pastéis de Belém pastry

Lisbon’s custard tart, the Pastel de Nata is available at every bakery in the city. But only one place can call their pastry Pastéis de Belém. Pastéis de Belém origin story Jerónimos Monastery where the Pastéis de Belém was invented (photo: Brent Petersen) Without the monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the Belem…

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Sausage Rolls

Sausage Rolls are popular throughout the U.K. and Ireland. They consist of puff pastry wrapped around a pork sausage. Simple really. So simple in fact that no one knows exactly when they were “invented.” But, by the mid 19th century, sausage rolls were definitely a part of the diet of the Irish and…

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Bone Chapel in Évora, Portugal

Évora is a town in Portugal that attracts tourists from all over the world for its Roman Temple, Medieval Wall, and Gothic churches. But, huge numbers of visitors flock to Évora to see the centuries-old remains of former residents. Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) Photo: Brent Petersen Évora origin story Celtic tribes lived around present-day…

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A New Twist on the famous Pastel de Nata

A pastry chef in Palmela, Portugal has created a new pastry that incorporates one of the region’s most famous products. Pastel de Nata origin story The story goes that Monks at Jerónimos Monastery in the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon used egg whites to starch their habits and, as a result, had lots of…

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Colares – Daytrip from Lisbon

Colares is the smallest and oldest wine region in all of Portugal. Wine grapes have been cultivated here for 800 years! Colares wines Getting ready for a tasting of Colares wine (photo: Brent Petersen) Colares is a town and parish, part of the greater Sintra municipality. Because of the area’s gorgeous coastline and…

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Forte de São Filipe

Who was this 16th century fortress designed to protect? Forte de São Filipe, Setubal (photo: Brent Petersen) Philip II of Spain When King Henry of Portugal died, the kingdom was in crisis. Henry was a chaste cardinal and had no heirs. Philip II of Spain (known as Philip I in Portugal) swooped in…

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Cascais, a daytrip from Lisbon

A short train ride from Lisbon, Cascais, Portugal is a wealthy seaside enclave with lots of fun things to make it worth a day trip from the busy city. A major highlight is the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell). Cascais walking tour Cascais is a very walkable city. The train from Lisbon…

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Portugal’s public washhouses

Lavadouros have traditionally been places where ladies (it’s almost always women) come to wash clothes, chat with neighbors, and sing. These days, most modern Portuguese houses are outfitted with washing machines (if not clothes dryers). Those that don’t have a washer will pop down to the Lavandaria (laundromat). However, even if they are…

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Regatta of Bathtubs and Unusual Boats

The annual Banheiras e Insólitos Regatta of Baía do Sado is a celebration of homemade (barely) seaworthy boats in Setubal, Portugal Banheiras e Insólitos Regatta of Baía do Sado (video: Brent Petersen) It seems there’s always something fun going on in our town of Setubal, Portugal. Music festivals, great food & drink, and…

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The fried dough dish is a classic street food in Hungary. Lángos Origin Story Homemade Lángos (photo: Historically, bread was baked in huge loaves (6 pounds or more) once a week in Hungary because it cost so much to heat up the giant brick ovens. Smaller loaves, 1 pound or so, were…

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A 6 Hour Journey for a Coffee Drink

Trying to find a specific specialty coffee drink proves challenging in Lisbon. Mazagran origin story Our first Mazagran in Lisbon (photo: Brent Petersen) Mazagran is a cold coffee drink that was invented in Algeria. During the French invasion of Algeria in the first half of the 19th century, French troops stationed at Fort…

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Sintra’s Travesseiro pastry

The culinary highlight of Sintra is the Travesseiro. This light and flaky pastry is filled an egg yolk and almond cream. There’s also a hint of vanilla. Travesseiro from Casa Piriquita in Sintra, Portugal (photo: Brent Petersen) In English, Travesseiro means “pillow” or “cushion” and that is an apt translation. The dough is…

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QR Codes in restaurants are the worst

Restaurants are replacing paper menus with QR Codes and it has to stop! QR Codes Origin Story The QR (Quick Response) Code was invented in 1994 by Japanese engineer Masahiro Hara while he was employed by the automotive parts company Denso Wave. Its initial use was to track parts during the manufacturing process….

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Vegan Pastel de Nata

Lisbon’s famous egg custard tart has a vegan version. Pastel de Nata origin story Pastel de Nata is by far the most popular pastry in Portugal. Monks at Jerónimos Monastery in the Belem section of Lisbon used egg whites to starch their habits and, as a result, had lots of egg yolks left…

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Azeitão Market

The first Sunday of each month is a huge open air market in Azeitão, Portugal. Hundreds of local and regional vendors set up early and sell everything from fruit and nuts to cheese and honey to clothes and fabric to plants and trees to live animals. Veggie starts (photo: Brent Petersen)Lettuce plants (photo:…

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Popular Marches Competition

June is Festival Season in Portugal. Some of the biggest festivals celebrate the three saints: Anthony, John, and Peter. The Feast of Saint Anthony takes place in Lisbon while the Festa de São João is in Porto, and St. Peter’s biggest celebration is in Evora. Add to it Arraial Pride and Rock in…

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The Soul of Alfama

In Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, Alfama, an outdoor art exhibit celebrates local residents. Artist Camilla Watson Alfama is one of the most charming and characteristic neighborhoods in Lisbon. Here, you’ll find some of the top tourist attractions like the Sao George Castle, the Lisbon Cathedral, and the National Pantheon. One of my favorite restaurants,…

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Santa Margarida cave

A cave in Setubal, Portugal has amazing views and an unlikely chapel. Santa Margarida cave (photo: Brent Petersen) Santa Margarida Cave Setubal, Portugal is situated on the south end of a large peninsula about 45 minutes from Lisbon. The working class town is adjacent to one of the magnificent natural wonders of Portugal,…

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Best Bars in Cork, Ireland

Cork is a great city to enjoy a pint or two. When in Cork, you’re best advised to not to order a Guinness. Corkonians are an independent bunch (thus the nickname “Rebel City”) and tend to reject anything from Dublin, including their famous stout. Instead, enjoy a pint of Beamish or Murphy’s. Both…

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Easy Pickle Recipe

Super easy and delicious to make! Photo: Brent Petersen Back in the day when I had my hobby farm in Rhode Island I would spend days and days making pickles as the harvest came in. Sterilizing and processing jars in boiling water baths during the blazing hot weeks of summer was a sweaty…

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Reverse Culture Shock

You’ve heard of culture shock, the feeling of being upended and out of touch by the customs and traditions of an unfamiliar culture. Recently, I returned to the United States and felt major culture shock in reverse. We have made our new home in Portugal, but have only lived here a few months….

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