The Queluz pousada

Salt of Portugal

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Once upon a time, there was a prince called Pedro who was calm and handsome. As the younger brother of the king, he did not expect to have to perform royal duties. So he devoted his energies to the construction of a palace in the village of Queluz where he could host hunting parties.

The king died and his daughter Maria inherited the throne. Her volatile temperament made many fear for the future of the kingdom. Pedro was asked to marry his niece, so that he could help rule Portugal. The prince accepted this arranged marriage as an obligation. But the queen fell in love with her dashing prince and her devotion was such that he fell in love with her.

The Queluz palace became a royal project, financed by the river of gold and diamonds that flowed from Brazil. A French architect, Jean Baptiste Robillon, was hired to build a…

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Ephemeral gardens in Viseu

This sounds like a great place to visit.

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Every year, the Ephemeral Gardens festival jolts Viseu, a serene city in the interior of Portugal. Sandra Oliveira organizes this grand event, inspiring a large troupe of collaborators to adorn Viseu with modern art and serenade it with contemporary music.

Shops become installation spaces, ancient churches double as music venues, old walls serve as canvases for street art. Every plaza seems to have its own DJ, every garden its own sculpture show.

Stores, bookshops, restaurants, and bars stay open until late. The flowers of the linden trees blend their fragrance with the aromas of chocolate, vanilla and popcorn. There are workshops to attend, movies to watch, performances not to miss. It is a wonderful celebration of the many ways in which the old inspires the new.

The Ephemeral Gardens (Jardins Efémeros) festival runs from July 1 to 10, 2016. All events are free. Click here to see the program. 

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A cheese revolution

The cheese we always had were wonderful. In short, we were spoiled.

Salt of Portugal

Composit Queijaria 2016

Queijaria, our favorite cheese store in Lisbon, keeps getting better. It a place where the ordinary is banned to make room for extraordinary artisanal cheeses made in small batches by traditional producers.

On our last visit Pedro Cardoso, one of the owners, invited us to taste two unique cheeses. The first was from São Jorge, an island in the Azores archipelago. It is made with the milk of happy cows that roam free on the island. São Jorge cheese is always delicious but this one was the best we ever had–sharp, peppery and full of flavor. “This cheese is aged for 30 months which makes all the difference. It is very hard to find because the production is tiny and almost all consumed locally,” said Pedro.

The second cheese was from Serra da Estrela. It melted in our mouths leaving an amazing buttery after taste. It is made with milk from “bordalesa” sheep. This breed…

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The Portugal Adventure – Bienvenido a España

On the Road Again

At last my lunch arrived, and since everyone else had already been served, I ate hurriedly. In addition to the everlasting lunch wait, the rest rooms were the worst  I had ever seen. I was not sorry to say “adios” to the café.

That first day was long. One of the young Portuguese, Tó, spoke English relatively well, and he rode in the same van with Harry and me, ostensibly so that I would not feel completely cut off  by the rapid Portuguese conversations. The teens’ discourses were almost constantly flowing and ebbing in the vehicle.

The translating began well, but when you don’t use a language on a regular basis, it is exhausting to sustain a conversation in it. Tó did valiantly, but as he and Harry became involved in some of the other interactions, I found myself listening to a lot of Portuguese. They translated in short hand from time to time, which was just enough to frustrate me because I wanted to be able to join in the conversations, and could not.

Madrid

The next stretch of driving ended around 9:30 p.m. in Madrid. We stopped at a restaurant for supper where we exited the vehicles, stretched our legs, and waited to see if the place was open. After some “conversating” with the management, they agreed to open early for us. Yes, in Spain 10 p.m. is an early supper.

We were seated, and the waiter gave us menus. I was determined to avoid another omelet situation, so I kept away from the “tortillas,” which is what they are called in Spain. (If you feel confused, imagine how how this morning lark [me] was handling supper at that hour – and dealing with three languages.) I found something on the menu that I recognized: pollo. Yes, chicken! I ordered it. Orders made, the Portuguese asked me what I was eating, and that was how I learned that they say, “frango” (frahn’ goo) for chicken. Two languages so similar to each other had two wildly different words for chicken!

In the long interval between ordering, and eating, the Portuguese tried valiantly (and successfully) to converse with me. They were indefatigable. Finally, someone asked me, “How are you?” slowly, and in Portuguese. I dredged up  my high school Spanish and responded, “Estoy cansada.” (I am tired.”) My interrogator instantly came back with something that the folks around us found hysterically funny. She repeated it again slowly in Portuguese: “Estás cansada, ou casada?” I thought that I was getting a Portuguese language lesson, and that in Portuguese “casada” = “cansada” in Spanish. But, from the tone of the laughter it occasioned, it had nothing to do with a vocabulary malfunction. It was more like they were laughing at a joke kind of hilarity, and it was contagious.

I looked to Harry for help, but would you believe the man was still laughing his head off at this joke that I did not understand? Finally, he caught his breath, and told me:  “She asked you if you  were tired, or married.” A few more words of explanation, and I got the word play: casada =  married and cansada = tired. I laughed again with them. After some thought, I realized the humor was the right hand of fellowship. I knew then that I could love these people. Who else did I know who could make me laugh even when I didn’t know
what was so funny?

We finished eating around midnight, and went outside. I was amazed at all of the people milling around downtown Madrid – including even very young children. Harry told me that is because they take a three-hour siesta from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m.That is a cultural idea I could seriously get into. Except, maybe, the part about being up till midnight.

On to Barcelona

It was quieter on the ride to Barcelona. We stopped there at the Spanish branch of the mission, and they put us up for the night. I don’t remember much that happened after dinner, but I do remember how grateful I was for the growing friendships, and that I had a bed and a pillow at the end of that long, long day.

A school lunch

A peek into some of Portugal’s schools.

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In 1940, the Portuguese government announced its “centennial plan,” a program to build a large number of primary schools. The schools in the north of the country, designed by Rogério de Azevedo, look austere with their granite and schist exteriors. The schools in the south, designed by Raul Lino, have graceful arches and whitewashed walls. Both designs used elements of the vernacular architecture and became integral parts of the Portuguese landscape.

With the number of children in decline, some of these schools have been closing. The school in the village of Cachopos near Comporta in Alentejo closed in the late 1990s but found a new life as a restaurant appropriately called A Escola (the school).

The building is located in a beautiful woodland. Our arrival was greeted by the chirping of birds and perfumed by the scent of eucalyptus.

As we sat at the table remembering learning the three Rs, a plate of marinated rabbit…

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The great Vasco

Shepherd? What do you think.

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Vasco Fernandes worked in Viseu as a painter during the first half of the 16th century. His prodigious talent earned him the nickname Grão Vasco, the great Vasco. According to legend, he once painted a fly that looked so real that his apprentices tried to shoo it away.

It is easy to believe this story when you’re standing in front of his masterpiece, a painting called Saint Peter that is the crown jewel of Viseu’s Grão Vasco Museum. The intricate architectural elements and background scenes are influenced by the work of Italian, German and Flemish painters. But the pope’s rugged face and gentle look are Portuguese.

Who was the model for the painting?  We like to think that it was a shepherd from the Estrela mountain. That the great painter trusted the keys of heaven to someone who on earth lived a simple life.

The Grão Vasco Museum is located at Adro da…

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