After a terrific ten days in northern Portugal with GrapeHops, a wine-food-and-fun-focused group, I took a train south to Lisbon. An elegant, beautiful city, Lisbon is also (relatively) inexpensive and packed with friendly people, many of whom speak English. (My Portuguese consists of ‘obregado,” i.e., thank you, polite but not especially helpful in conversation.)
As I had only three-plus days, I began with a free walking tour led by Sara, an exuberant Guru guide, who led us climbing a zillion steps up to the Alfama area.
At the top there is a great view of the harbor with one or two humongous cruise ships in port. Along the way we stopped to sample ginjinha, a local drink served in tiny cups (or in a chocolate cup should you be inclined.) Our vendor was one of the local women who (reportedly) brews her own version which tastes a bit like cherry cough medicine.
My first night’s dinner was at Monte Mar Lisboa, right on the Tagus River, with boats sailing past. It’s a lovely, albeit full of Americans, seafood restaurant with excellent service and was a perfect night to eat outdoors. I Ubered there and took the metro back to my adorable hotel, Nicola Rossio, very close to the metro stop.
The Museu Nacional Do Azulejo (Tile Museum) is housed in a convent founded in 1509. The building is wonderful and the history of tile in Portugal from the late 15th century to now is fascinating. If you go to Lisbon don’t skip this.
The famed Gulbenkian Museum is also excellent but, if you have to choose, I’d go for the tiles—more unusual and relevant to the area. But I had my cake and ate it, as in visiting both.
I squeezed in a day trip to Sintra via train, When I arrived I somehow got ‘adopted’ by a delightful family with whom I shared a driver up to the Pena Castle. They elected to wait a longish while for tickets to walk around the upper level outside; I bailed and went off to the Moorish Castle with its ancient food storage silos, battlements, towers and—thank heaven, a café as it was about three PM and starvation was setting in. At the Castle I reunited with my ‘family’ who were going on to another attraction. Instead, our driver dropped me in town where I strolled around, admired the winding, cobblestoned streets, ate a superb pastry and caught a train back to Lisbon.
During my time with GrapeHops, in Guimares, a medieval city in the north, one of the items served (among many other) at lunch was Huevos Rotos or “broken eggs.” It’s delicious and why not? Eggs, superior Iberian ham, what we would call excellent homemade potato chips … what’s not to like? I don’t recall the specific wine (or wines) that we drank with this lunch but am sure they were plentiful, appropriate and delicious.
Huevos Rotos (adapted for American palates, sorry purists.)
This looks like it serves about 4 depending on what else you eat with it.
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 5 medium potatoes
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil, for frying
- 4 ounces, Serrano ham or
- 4 large eggs
- Heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil in heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally. When the onions are soft and transparent, about 8 minutes, remove them from the pan and reserve them on a plate.
- Peel and cut the potatoes lengthwise, and then into “fries.” Heat all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil in the frying over medium heat. Salt the potatoes and fry them in the pan. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the pan with a slotted spatula.
- Cut the ham into bite-sized pieces and divide between bowls. Fry eggs sunny side up in a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Put eggs in bowel over the potatoes and ham.
White port and tonic is a great summer drink, very popular in Portugal. If you elect to try this, aim for a good quality port and keep it in the fridge. Drink this or a good white wine (Portuguese if you can get your hands on one).