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portugal

lisboa: cais das colunas

Casi das Colunas, 1950s

One of Lisbon’s most iconic viewpoints, not even the 1755 earthquake could destroy this majestic point of entry into the capital of Portugal. The royal palace disappeared forever, but the public square retained its shape during reconstruction… although sporting a new name. Recently the columns returned with “Salazar” cleaned up for all to see. That polemic decision allows visitors & residents alike to engage in a dialogue with Portugal’s recent history.

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road trip: borders

borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal
● See enlargement below…
borders, road trip, map, Spain, Portugal

Whether you call it a national border or la raya, this trip had a several motivations: spend time in places Rafa & I had been individually but not together (awwww), visit new spots that are best accessed by car & see how permeable —or not— the Portugal/Spain border has been over time. We beat the heat until the last couple of days of the trip, but overall we were very lucky with weather considering the time of year. Join us for a crazy week on both sides of the border…

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elvas: forte da graça

Portugal, Elvas, Forte da Graça, SIPA

Elvas not only boasts a massive wall around the entire city that dates from the great age of fortress construction in the 1700s, but the nearby Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça also impresses from its commanding location. As a modified 400-meter (1,300 ft) mountain, the fortress could easily defend Elvas & see any invasion force coming from Spain next door. Most of the fort sits submerged into the mountaintop, making this a fantastic feat of engineering. I have no drone, but this gives you an idea of the scale:

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recipe: bacalhau à bras

Portugal, recipe, receita, bacalhau à bras, cod, bacalao

Classic recipes from any country have at least two things in common: an intensely debated origin & of course, several variations… everyone’s grandmother obviously makes the best! Since my grandmother was not Portuguese, I draw on 20 years of travel to & eating in Portugal to make their classic comfort food at home. I promise this won’t turn into a food blog, but I love to eat & cook so I wanted to share some of the dishes we regularly make.

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lisboa: palácio fronteira

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Palácio Fronteira, Mascarenhas

Situated far from the Metro & far from tourist crowds, the Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira has to be one of the best-kept secrets of Lisbon. Heck, it’s taken me 20 years to get around to visit it! Built in the 1670s, this hunting estate survived the 1755 earthquake & then became the main residence of the Mascarenhas family.

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discovery: 1929 expo tiles

Spain, Portugal, Espanha espera a nossa visita

Many tourists are told an old, tired tale that Spain & Portugal merely tolerate each other… as if turning their backs to one another at the border. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since early medieval times, intermarriage between the Portuguese & Castilian courts formed the cornerstone of foreign policy for both kingdoms. The 1385 battle at Batalha established a fairly permanent border between them, but soon afterwards the Discoveries era brought them into frequent contact again. Portuguese captains worked for Spain with ship crews almost always a mix from both. To the chagrin of other European countries, Spain & Portugal divided the world. Even in the 20th century, both had decades-long dictatorships. Spain & Portugal have much more in common than most people realize.

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portugal: guidebook research 2018

Rick Steves Europe, Portugal, guidebook, research

Last time I updated the entire Rick Steves’ Portugal book, I posted daily comments on Facebook —each one beginning with “Wow, do I love Portugal” & describing fun moments + the ups & downs of being a guidebook researcher. Four years on, I no longer have a Facebook account, but I took a few moments before going to bed each night during this trip to jot down some notes about the day. Here we go again!

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lisboa: expo ’98

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Expo '98

Twenty years ago today, Lisboa opened a specialized World’s Fair that completely altered the city’s landscape. Local government reclaimed an abandoned industrial zone to make way for pavilions, new housing, a new Metro line, a multi-modal train station & a second bridge across the Tejo River. Lisbon would never be the same.

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