15 Foods you have to eat in Portugal

I love Portugal, it is the half of my heritage I am most in tune with and that my stomach absolutely loves. The food in Portugal is beyond anything you can imagine, rich, flavoursome and hearty, but always feels like a little taste of home. There are a lot of dishes and sometimes going to a restaurant here can feel completely overwhelming, so from a Tuga (Portuguese!) to you all, here is a list of 15 foods you have to eat in Portugal.

1. Churrasco: FIND ANY CHICKEN PLACE ANYWHERE! We are famous for the way we cook chicken, and if you think Nandos is special… just trust me on this one, any churrascaria where you basically get a huge take away chicken, will blow your mind. And be adventurous with your seasoning, after all this might be your only take away chicken in Portugal.

2. Pasteis de Belem: Only THE MOST FAMOUS cakes in the whole country, the original recipe was created by Catholic nuns and is only entirely known by 3 people in the world at any one time. Like a national secret! You can eat the lesser versions, called Pasteis de Nata, anywhere, but for the original ones make your way to Belem, an area of Lisbon, next to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monestry).

pasteis-de-belem-3-pacotes-x-6-uni-541736

3. Ovos moles de Aveiro: Continuing on the streak of desserts, this is one that grew on me as my palate developed throughout the years. Sweet, egg-yolk, wrapped in paper thin wafer in the shape of seashells, these small, romantic bites of heaven hale from Aveiro in the north of the country, and you definitely need to venture there to eat these delicious little bites.

ovos_moles_1

4. Pasteis de bacalhau: The Portuguese devour cod like no other population I have ever met. We also maintain it in quite a special way which makes it incredibly flavoursome. Pasteis de bacalhau are our own version of fishcakes and you must take the opportunity to delight on these.

bb2

5. Francesinhas: If you think the French know how to present a ham and cheese sandwich, forget about it! The Portuguese re-invented the entire thing by adding layer after layer of cured meat and then topped it up with a booze and spice filled gravy! This is one for a day in which you don’t plan on eating anything else and it is totally worth it. Travel up north to Porto to revel in one of these masterpieces and get ready to feel the food baby.

The-best-local-places-to-eat-a-Francesinha

6. Polvo a Lagareiro (Octopus): I really cannot discuss Portuguese delicacies without including octopus in a list can I? I am aware it might be an acquired taste, but this is heavenly. Usually it graces Portuguese tables in special occasions and holidays but you are special and you all need to try it!

617_polvo

7. Feijoada: A black bean and meat stew that gets better and better the further north you go. This one will warm you right up in a cold winter’s night and keep you begging for more. It is incredibly filling but also moreish.

portaldoholanda-701215-imagem-foto-amazonas

8. Queijo da Serra (cheese from Serra da Estrela): If you fancy a bit of hiking before delighting on some amazing cheese, then make your way to Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in the centre of the country. This cheese is made of sheep’s milk and it packs a punch, with its sharp taste and gooey texture.

Queijo-da-Serra-e1425636470922

9. Caldeirada de Peixe: With the amount of fish swimming the Portuguese coast, our brilliant cooks decided to grab everything fish related they could get their hands on, shellfish included, shove it in a pot and BOSH! Fish stew! With fresh herbs and tomatoes to give it some flavour, it is delicious and nutritious.

caldeirada-a-algarvia

10. Favas: I know fava beans are green and big and quite ugly looking, but trust me when I say the Portuguese have cracked how to cook these! Mix them up in a stew with pork, chorizo and sausages, season with tomatoes and parsley and it is absolutely divine. Try it if you dare.

5380705768_3e46579863

11. Torta de Azeitao: The last of the desserts on this list today, this is another dessert in Portugal that is egg based (believe me, most of them are!). A soft, spongey cake with sweet egg yolk spread on top and rolled into a little bite of perfection. Better yet if you make your way to the centre of the country, in the region of Setubal, to eat the stuff in its own town!

Tortas-de-Azeitão

12. Arroz de Pato: A simple but delicious dish, it is nothing more than a duck risotto with a crispy surface and Portuguese chorizo in the mix to give it some flavour. It is melt in your mouth meat and texture and truly fantastic.

arroz-de-pato-617x370

13. Sardinhas Assadas: This is the last seafood entry on the list, these charcoal grilled sardines are a typical, find it everywhere in the country dish. You can eat it in restaurants, on the street, at festivities, you name it it is there! Served with potatoes, veggies, rice, whatever you fancy we will make it happen.

iguaria-sardinhas-assadas-1024x648

14. Alheiras de Mirandela: Okay, truth is you can get Alheiras in other places of the country, however the ones in Mirandela (North!) are famous. A classic Portuguese sausage/chorizo, it is made of pork encased in its natural intestine skin and it is delicious. Typically served with a fried egg and fries, forget the calorie counting for this one.

20150926_190511

15. Cozido a Portuguesa: Last on today’s list but in absolutely no means least, this is the most traditional dish of the country. It combines every single sausage/chorizo de produce, all the meats from beef, to lamb, to pork and poultry, in one huge dish, served with simply boiled vegetables and potatoes with a delicate string of olive oil on it. This is the epitome of Portuguese comfort food. It is filling, delectable and a great dish to eat in a cold winter’s day. This is the Portuguese Sunday Roast!

cozido-a-portuguesa-617

There is so much more food in Portugal to try, but this is a list to get you started! Keep an eye out for the beverages/booze you need to try too. I have to say I didn’t realise until I made this list that Portuguese food is so meat heavy, so I apologise in advance if you are a vegetarian, but at least you have cheeses and desserts to try! For now, I leave you here to drool over this incredible food and plan a tour to eat your way across Portugal, my home, my mother land. I hope you have enjoyed this post, please let me know if you would like a few more like this.

For now, keep reading, writing and travelling!

Note: All photos were sourced on Google and they belong to whoever has that copywright. 

San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala

If I haven’t told you this yet, I belong in Guatemala. Have you ever been abroad in a place that you fell truly in love with, that is Guatemala. Everything about my time there I remember with fondness and love, I eagerly want to return and spend more time exploring it. My parents and boyfriend have expressed an interest in coming with me too, and honestly, I would love them to. A lot of people will ask me why, what is the fuss, and I can give you a million examples of why I love it but I also can’t quite put my finger on what makes the place so utterly spectacular and homely.

20170305_173201
San Pedro Volcano in the middle, Lake Atitlan

My adventure started in Panajachel, a small town where we only stopped over for the evening before getting on a boat to cross the stunning Lake Atitlan. We stayed only for the night in this small town, a lay over really, but I decided to go for a wander and try to discover some little bits of it. Straight away I began to fall in love with Guatemala, art everywhere, the gorgeous tapestries, the music. I was excited to see more, and Daniel (our guide) had assured me that San Juan La Laguna was the place to visit.

The next morning we got in our small boats and sailed across the lake. San Juan la Laguna is an incredible little village, it works alongside G Adventures and Planeterra to help bring education, tourism and prosperity to the region. All the businesses are local and work as cooperatives to help and support each other. We had the chance to visit some of the businesses ourselves and talk to them.

We began by visiting the weaver women. They showed us how to weave cotton thread out of wool, how to naturally dye the cotton and keep the colour from fading by using boiled banana bark water. We then admired their craftsmanship and I even bought a scarf, hand made and dyed, and had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful lady who made it for me, Rosa.

We then visited an art gallery, where we learnt about different painting techniques that are used here. Some of the traditional paintings are of all the local dresses from across the country, they all differ a bit. They also make birds eye views paintings, mostly of working environments in the fields and fishing, traditional images of work. Here I purchased the most stunning painting of a Quetzal, the endemic and national bird, also the name of the currency of the country.

Finally, we visited a group of homeopathic traditional mayan doctors. This was really cool! I love natural medicine and find that it works wonders with me and my family. They told us of a lot of treatments with herbs that are very easily found. I suggested some teas for mum for high blood pressure and snoring.

After a very busy day discovering so much of this wonderful place and culture, we headed off for the evening with our families. I absolutely love homestays, you really get to know people from the culture and live their realities, help them, talk to them and support them. It is a wonderful thing to do and I could not recommend it more. Our father for the evening, Juan Diego, is one of the local artists and his paintings revolve around the traditional outfits. We had a lovely evening, playing football with the children and learning each other’s languages.

The following day we said our sad goodbyes, which for the locals is just another day waiting for the next group of tourists. However, it feels like such a simple thing, a simple evening with a family that after 3 months without one fills a little warm place in my heart. This is where it all began for me, my love affair with Guatemala started here and the rest of the journey was just as wonderful. I am excited to share more of it with you all, but mostly, I am excited to write to my temporary family and also return to Guatemala.

Nazca Lines – what the Gods see

Before I get into the experience of seeing the Nazca Lines in person, let me explain what they are. The lines are considered geoglyphs, which are huge motifs usually carved onto the ground, they are a somewhat similar concept to hieroglyphs but far larger in scale as if made to be seen by the Gods.

The Nazca lines are the largest collection of geoglyphs found in such close proximity to one another, currently counting at over 70 figures across Pampas de Jumama in Peru. It is assumed that they were made by the Nazca people circa 400 to 650 AD. The Nazca were known as the ancient people who were able to make the desert fruitful and were also skilled artists, which explains, somewhat, the intricacy of the geoglyphs and the people’s ability to design at such a large scale. On the other hand, others think that due to the dimensions of the drawings, it is impossible that the people could have potentially drawn at such a scale without an aircraft for perspective or alien aid. The biggest, discovered, is as large as 370 metres (1200 ft).

The only way to explore some of these incredible designs is by flying in a small aircraft and soaring through the skies looking at them. They are truly incredible and the images are fantastic to see. We flew with AeroNasca, but there are plenty of other airlines. It is quite costly, we paid 180$ (USD) each for a five seat air craft. I also have to strongly advise you, if you are anything like me and really get motion sickness, all the tablets in the world might not help you (they did not help me!) so make sure you are hydrated, avoid looking through your camera (this is why the photos are probably not very good!) and don’t eat anything that you are unsure of for breakfast. Trust me.

Given the terrain which the glyphs are found on, I was amazed at how clear they were once they were pointed out. In a way I almost feel like all the random lines are there on purpose to distract viewers from finding them!

I cannot suggest it any more! It was truly magical and I felt like I was peering through the eyes of a God on a canvas so beautiful and untainted, that I will never truly know if I believe it to be man-made.

P1020436
The Spider
P1020433
The Humingbird
P1020428
The Austronaut

 

P1020421
The Whale

 

Exploring the underworld – Caving in San Ignacio, Belize

I don’t tend to consider myself an adrenaline junkie, however, I can be pretty fearless and willing to try things that I have never considered before. Caving was one of those things. Definitely not an adventure for claustrophobic people, I didn’t think it was something I would want to do. However, the opportunity presented itself and I leaped at the chance to explore the Mayan underworld, even though my superstitious self was terrified.

The caves in San Ignacio are very special, an ancient ritual site which can only be descended into through the mouth of a cave at the top of a jungle. Only 10% of these caves have been mapped out, and in order for you to visit or explore you need to be accompanied by experts with licenses that are specifically for these caverns. Only 20 or so people have these licenses, so we knew we were in expert hands, but also very aware that we were not in a very explore territory.

You start your adventure by hiking the jungle for 45 minutes to the entrance of the cave. Here you are given numerous warnings and instructions not to touch any plants, trees or rocks, as you can get cuts, infections and allergic reactions – what a fantastic way to freak us all out! At the end of ascent and muddy path, you are greeted by a large cave entrance into which you descend. Here the adventure begins, head torches on and ready to deal with the clay filled ground which makes this a very slippery experience.

Once inside you are welcomed by the most mesmerising formations of stalactites and stalagmites, endless paths into other chambers, crystalline cavern skies shining down on you and endless darkness. The whole combination is entrancing and exhilarating, leaving you feeling powerless in the Mayan territory and giving you an Indiana Jones adventure kind of feeling.

The caves are dark, and you crawl through some very tight spaces in order to get further into the site and explore more chambers. The soil is rich in clay and extremely slippery, it is easy to see that people might get lost, stuck or have panic attacks. We rest in each section, admiring the pottery, both intact and broken, that shows another story to add to the great narrative of the Mayan civilisation. We are also told of supernatural events that have taken place in this area. It is truly enchanting and terrifying. The cave system demands your utmost respect, as you step and slide through holy ground, sacred land, where many have died, been sacrificed and have prayed to their Gods. We are intruders, and therefore must not upset the balance of this territory. We continue on further deep before starting our ascendance back to the mountains and fresh air.

Sweat drips down our whole bodies. “Who knew you could sweat in darkness?” I think to my self. We take it slowly, one step at the time, as we are guided through the underworld, the land of the dead and the Gods back to where the living breathe. The experience is truly incredible, a gift from the Mayans to have let us find this site and allow us to wander and explore its caves. Here, you get the feeling that we are truly not alone in this universe, and that there are beings superior to us, it is almost palpable in the air, the presence of something more. Or perhaps, the exhaustion speaks too loudly.

We are rewarded at the end by a relaxing swim in a natural pool, a sinkhole. Yet, the strength and intensity of the location is not lost on me and I feel we are still somewhat subject to the location we just visited. A place touched by a force, Gods if you will, but curious, fascinating and intimidating. I have to say, caution is key when trudging in the underworld.

17352375_10155145025942658_988153418156874611_n

Death Road, Bolivia – a story of survival

​There we were, climbing to the peak of the mountain at 4800 metres in preparation for the exhilarating descent. The oxygen deprivation was slowly becoming visible as some of us panted for air at every word, others talked and walked slower to avoid exhaustion and some stopped every few steps to try and take a deep breath. We had been told never to try taking deep breaths in such thin air, but it’s the natural reaction. As we arrived we saw the two wheeled instruments laid out according to height, suits and helmets in front of them and most importantly a picnic of tea, bread and jam. We tucked into the marvellous feast before getting dressed and finding our allocated bicycles. We tried and tested them, looked at breaks, re adjusted seats and looked down at the long road that we were about to face. 56 km of road, downhill winding routes, meeting with other vehicles, waterfalls, narrow paths and cliffs so steep but beautiful that plunging to your death was not even a thought as we admired the breath taking views.

We straddled the two wheeled speed machines, posed for a few photos as we were poised and prepared for the descent. The guide started 10 metres in front of us. And off we went. The first section of road is smooth tarmac for 20 km which allowed us to reach speeds of nearly 50 km per hour on the bikes. The wind swept past each of us as we practically flew down the mountains. We didn’t show any signs of slowing down, not even for curves. It was seemless, it felt like we could go on forever on that road. Some of us howled in excitement, taking some of the paths with jumps, screaming in ecstasy, the adrenaline urging us to go faster and faster. It was freedom. At this point all the fear swept away. No one cared if they fell off the mountain, the only thing that mattered was the velocity that we could reach as we continued down the mountain.

The effortless ride soon gave way to the gravel path. The mountain bikes were more than prepared, good suspension and responsive breaks. However, the riders were tricked. We were comfortable on our tarmac descent only to be met by huge stones, landslides and a whole 36 km of road that made each of us sound like red Indians ahh-ing and tapping our mouths at the same time for effect. Our wrists soon began to ache with the continuous impact and struggle to break on the slippery gravel. The previous night’s storm began to show its remains, huge puddles, muddy paths, and all of us looked like we had an untimely accident on the bikes as the brown slime dripped from the top of our backs to the wheels of the bikes. We were not discouraged. This was going to be the most scenic part. We rode on.

Some of us started feeling aches on previous injuries, dislocated shoulders, bad knees, weak backs and broken coccyx, everything slowly but surely started to twinge as the suspension seemed to do little each time to ease the pain. Many couldn’t get up for long periods of time on the bike any longer. Others kept hitting big rocks which swerved the bikes slightly. Yet we were determined, all damned if we were to give up now so close to the end and so close to the buffet lunch and swimming pool we were promised at the start of this adventure. We continued, riding through waterfalls, getting absolutely drenched and dry within instants. We took each corner carefully this time, as the unpredictable nature of the road made us all slow down in pace. The last 10 km or so were flat, forcing us to pedal after all the hard work downhill. It was picturesque, sunny and the lush green mountains covered the path that was once upon a time brought death to many cyclists. Up until 2014 an average of 300 a year used to die on bikes and larger road vehicles. We paid our respects as we calmly made our way to the final stop. Exhausted and completely overwhelmed by the ride we stopped. We survived. We were death road survivors. 3 to 4 hours of cycling later and we were stood looking back at our challenge, a challenge we had overcome with sweat and what looked like shit on our backs. We did it.

**********

Woah, this is a very different post to what I have written before, and even if you didn’t like it I enjoyed it thoroghly. Combining my love of travel and writing into a creative piece was quite fun.

I have to say, some advice as always: if you are not a confident cyclist this could be quite tasking and at points intimidating. So do your research and watch some videos and see some photos.

Finally, if you are but still want to try it, hell just do it!

Lastly, this is from personal experience, if you had a case of travel tummy and the runs the night before, either be sure you can control yourself and are hydrated enough for it, or don’t do it. I was so determined to finish it that even feeling like death on death road (ha!) I still carried on.