How I fell in love with canned fish and other Portuguese tales [Vol. I: Porto]

I want to start this post by apologizing to Portugal.

I must admit, Portugal was our second choice for a trip that for months we had been envisioning as a Greek adventure. I’m pretty sure Brian and I were talking about doing our one year anniversary in Greece when we were still in Thailand for our honeymoon. Disgusting, I know. Timing, flights and curiosity slowly led us to consider Portugal more and more. First it was going to be a second stop in our trip but as we uncovered all the potential we decided we were going to dive in completely and we are so glad we did. (Don’t worry Greece, I’m still coming for you!)

I will be doing a series for every stop we made in Portugal in order to truly make it justice. I will be sharing what we did but also, a lot of recommendations I collected before the trip (and during it) that we were not able to discover.

Let’s start with the wonder that is Porto. Jetlagged as we were and with some time before we could check into our Airbnb, we did not miss a beat and found ourselves having breakfast by theriver. We had no set plans, just a list of choices. What did we do? We propped ourselves outside a local restaurant, drank wine and watched the people walk by. To be fair, we did walk in the church of Saõ Francisco on the way and explored some of its barroque beauty.

Let me tell you, Portuguse wines are so underrated. Maybe it’s because I am not a sommelier but when I hear people rave about European wines, it’s always French, Italian and Spanish wines… but Portugal? Not so much or at all. Sure, we hear all about the wonder that is Porto (the wine) but I was pleasantly surprised to see (and taste) all the different varieties they have to offer.

For our first dinner in Portugal, we went to Wine Quay Bar. This was a place we had seen mentioned in various lists and I really liked that it brought together a lot of Portugal delicacies in a “tapas” style menu. The cheese, meats and olives were superb but oh my goodness… the bacalhau. Not sure how you feel about cod (bacalhau) but I grew up with my grandma’s Puerto Rican “bacalaitos” (cod fritters) and to me cod has always been associated with fried greatness that you should not have too often. Well, Portuguese have been doing it right all these years (sorry, grandma!). The cod we had here was soft and full of so much rich, yet delicate flavor. I don’t think my description can do it justice. 

I knew canned fish was a delicacy in Portugal and I was excited to try it but to be honest, I never expected to fall in love with it like I did. There are currently about 12 cans of different fish varieties in my kitchen. No day feels special enough for us to dig in just yet. Brian wants me to add that he was not a huge fan of the cod but was obsessed with the spicy tuna that they serve (also in a can). The saddest part is that I could not buy the exact cod they had at the restaurant because they ran out. The waitress was telling us about how cod is not as abundant as it used to be. There are issues with over fishing and people respecting sea borders. Really a shame since a lot of people, like them, have grounded their business around cod.

You really can’t go to Porto and not experience a Porto wine tasting. Like I said, we did not have set plans but for this, I recommend you do a little research and look to reserve beforehand. We were lucky to be able to walk in and just get a spot in Cockburn’s Port and had a great experience. First of all, I didn’t know port came in whites! Refreshing to start the tour with a port and tonic, even though I realized once more that I just don’t like tonic.

Did you know that port wine has about 20 % alcohol volume? You feel it. It’s good.

Porto (technically Gaia) houses all the port wines for aging but the grapes are actually harvested in the Douro Valley region. Just like champagne is not champagne if it’s not from Champagne, France – port wine is also only port wine if it comes from this region. Lucky us, Douro Valley was our next stop! More to come on that in an upcoming post.

So yes, this is a Francesinha (missing the fried egg on top). It’s a signature plate in Porto that I feel I have no authority to criticize. Essentially, this plate is available in almost every restaurant that serves Portuguese food but I was being such a brat that I didn’t want to order it if it wasn’t from the places “the internet” said are the best. The way our day ended up flowing, we were not near the famous Cafe Santiago when it was time to eat so Brian convinced me to let it go and just order it where we were. It was alright. Plot twist, we ended up having the best Francesinha in Lisbon from a restaurant with a chef from Porto. I will share more on that when I write about Lisbon!

The whole thing was so silly and has really got me thinking about the way I want to travel. I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff that other people have discovered but I also want to take my own chances and discover for myself  the wonders that are out there. We worry too much about what other’s have lived that sometimes we forget to make adventures of our own.

This was the case for our anniversary dinner. We tried to get reservations in some of the popular places but they were all full. We ended up walking by this small and cozy restaurant that was playing live Fado – exactly what I wanted for such a special evening. I was hesitant to trust our anniversary dinner in a restaurant that was unknown to us but Brian ignited the explorer in me and we went for it. I am so glad he did, as our dinner at Terreirinho Restaurant was the most special dinner of our entire trip. Who would have thought?

And that, my friends, was the view from our AirBnb. It was affordable and with a great location, here’s the link if you are interested!

Here are some other food spots we did not get to try but totally encourage you to consider. If you do end up going to Porto and trying some, let me know what you think!

Any Porto food recommendations you think I should add? Let me know!

You can see more from my Portugal travels on my Instagram. 🙂

Advertisements

A Taste of Ireland

Who knew you could have beans for breakfast? Well, I guess the Irish did. I’m Puerto Rican, my beans go with rice and I have them for lunch or dinner (or both). You can imagine my puzzled look when beans were part of my first Irish breakfast in Dublin this past summer.

Let’s go back a little before this moment, just so you can understand where I was coming from. Picture this: it’s about 9am in Dublin, we just arrived from New York (#TeamNoSleep) and I’m feeling like I have not been fed in ages. Food depravation is always dangerous for my temper, but add in no sleep and I become someone you definitely want to stay away from. This said, my first reaction when we finally got to eat was … beans? Seriously?

YES. Beans.

I was too stubborn to admit at the moment, but damn, those Irish know how to make a nice breakfast.

So it began, my short but lovely stay in Dublin, Ireland.

IMG_6586

This may not be the most Irish-looking breakfast out there, but it was my first. This place had a buffet and it was 3 items for 4 euros, not too bad if you ask me. Being cranky as I was I decided not to venture too far of my comfort zone, but I still gave the beans a try.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Now THIS was more adventurous, Guinness braised beef pie with vegetables and mashed potatoes at Merchant’s Arch Bar. Was this a tourist trap? Who knows, but it was not crowded, it had live music and it smelled good.

IMG_6568

Walking around Dublin, still trying to make sense of where I was.

IMG_6599

On day 2, we rented a car and explored a little bit of the countryside. I was both afraid and amused at my new spot by the driver’s seat.

IMG_6613

We were not really looking for this waterfall, neither did we get lost, it just happened to be on the way.

IMG_6653

Walking around the Glendalough trails, feeling like I was in some medieval movie.

IMG_7285

I believe no trip to Ireland is complete without a taste of some good Irish whiskey. A rum drinker myself, I found the classic Jameson and ginger to be my favorite. Yes, I can drink whiskey. No, the pink drink was not mine.

IMG_7288

Talk about a #TBT. Established in 1198? That is 816 years ago! Insane, if you ask me. The Brazen Head was everything you hoped a classic Irish pub would be: good food, good drinks, good people and good music.

Ireland left me wanting more, I was only there for a few days, not even a whole week. I was only able to get a taste of this beautiful country. I must say the people were probably the best part, they were nice and seemed to be genuinely interested in befriending you. I can’t wait to go back and experience more of this country, together with off-the-beaten-path adventures.

Slàinte!

Post-vacation depression, it’s a thing.

Raise your hand if you arrived back from a vacation saying, “Woah, so glad that’s over. I never want to vacation again.”

I can’t see you, but I know only fools would have their hands raised.

Post-vacation depression is a thing, I say this with all of my non-scientific knowledge. It is a consequence of real life hitting you in the face and saying, “Welcome back, you sucker!” It’s also a very confusing moment because you know you have to be grateful for the amazing time you had, but you are also miserable and decide to keep complaining anyways.

The thing with traveling is that, once you pop, you can’t stop.

Sure, you have wonderful pictures, videos and souvenirs to remind you of the amazing time you had, but in reality all you want is to go back and live everything again… and more.

 

“Oh, I wish I had visited that spot!”

“I wish I had more time in this city to explore this and that.”

“That restaurant was amazing, I want to go back and order this other plate.”

“Man, the weather was sweet, I wish I had another day to enjoy it.”

“Now I know two words from the language, need to go back and practice!”

 

Can you relate? I may sound like a little girl throwing a tantrum, but that’s kind of how it feels at times. You can ask my boyfriend for examples, like the fit I threw at the Dublin airport coming back from our most recent trip. There may have been a tear or two involved.

Now, with every return to real life, there are responsibilities and realities that hit you in the face. This means content from my vacation will be slowly coming up, but I’ll make it good for you all. Below is a little preview from Croatia, drool away.

If you are experiencing post-vacation depression, I’m more than happy to vent together.

Peace, Love & Diet Coke *

imagePlitvice Lakes National Park, the clearest water I have ever seen.

image (1)View from the wall in the old town of Dubrovnik, or as some of you may know it, King’s Landing.

photoSplit, Croatia. It was odd for me to not have sand in the beach, but still, it was beautiful.

Check out more pictures of my trip in Instagram @peaceloveanddietcoke

More here soon!

Warning. This thing called wanderlust, it’s getting worse.

croatia

Oh yeah, and by the way, I booked a trip to Croatia.

As much as I wish I could say this was a crazy moment of enlightenment in which I decided to book a flight to a random country, it was not all quite like that. I’ve been wanting to jump back to the other side of the Atlanitc for a while now, it was a matter of getting around the decision of where to go (and with what money, of course).

Turns out, there is a reason for credit cards and tax returns. That reason is so that I can go to Europe. I am beyond thrilled to be able to explore a new country outside my beloved European classics like France and Spain.

It’s booked. It’s happening. It’s getting closer.

Life is too short to live on the extreme, think about it. Too much saving wont get you moving places and too much wilderness and abandonment will leave you with no savings. So take this as a sign if you’ve been saving to travel for a while, or if you’re extremely broke then also take this as a sign and open yourself a nice little savings account.

Have any recommendations about what to do in Croatia? Comment away!

Also, be sure to follow the blog on Instagram @peaceloveanddietcoke

 

Image Credit – http://www.cntraveller.com/recommended/beaches/croatia-island-beach-holidays/vis-island-croatia

 

Wanderlust problems and other itchy feet musings

paris3

Once upon a time, I was blessed to call France my home. I would ride a bike to school, have lunch by the river, come home to a dog and a warm family and drink good, cheap wine with new wonderful friends.

strasbourg 1

The thing about wonderful times is that they end, and as sad or exaggerated as it sounds, you never get them back. There’s something so bittersweet about it that I can’t help but smile. Sure, I could technically book a flight to France next week (I do have a credit card) but in reality it can never be the same. People and places change, but most importantly, you change as well.

That’s why we need to keep creating adventures, so you don’t miss the old ones that much. You will never get your old times back, but that is what makes them magical and timeless, the rarity and exclusivity of things that are gone.

It sure didn’t feel magical when I was stuck in my desk studying for a final exam, sad because I had ran out of money and my camera had broken. It sure was not exciting when I had to eat ham and cheese sandwiches for a week because I spent way too much money on my week at Spain, but once you leave and look back, it all sounds ironically perfect.

Sometimes things get even better when you have to look back to enjoy them. It’s almost risky though, to look back too often, as you tend to unconsciously edit the memories, add filters and suppress the mishaps (bike falls, broken cameras, hangovers, dry lunches, too cheap wines, boring lectures, train delays and scary flights).

bourgogne 1

Still, you know you would do it all again and in your future attempts to somehow really do it all again, you will get new, exciting adventures that will keep the cycle alive.

Humans are never satisfied and our thirst can’t be quenched that easily, so let’s drink on.

paris2

All photos taken by Cristina Nogueras © – Do not take without permission or credit

Wordless Wednesday: Once Upon a Time in France

photo 3 (1)

photo 2 (1)

Somewhere in France, Fall 2010 – Photos by Cristina Nogueras ©