“I may not have gone
where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up
where I intended to be.”
Simple, cheap and tasty, tinned sardinha is a favourite across Portugal, for the poor and the wealthy alike – as a healthy basic, fast food or gourmet cuisine.
The riches of the sea have long sustained the Portuguese, so it’s no wonder the humble sardine has become a bit of an icon around here.
Forget those three flying ducks on the wall at grandma’s place. Here, it’s ceramic sardines up there.
The ubiquitous fish also features in paintings, accessories, homewares and every imaginable type of souvenir.
There are even street art fish (although sardines have a bit of competition here).
Of course, bacalhau (salted cod, right) is another staple – but I’m guessing it missed out on the fishy audition because it’s not quite as sleek as sardines.
Surprisingly, we saw very few fish in the rivers and close to the coast – except mullet slithering all over themselves in the rivers.
Where do you catch the sardines, we ask a local.
Out there, he says pointing way out to sea.
There are a lot out there, he adds with a grin.
Considering tinned sardines are exported to about 70 countries around the world, I believe him.
Later, as we crossed the border into Spain, the words of Douglas Adams were circling in my head:
So long and thanks for all the fish.
If you love water sports and beach chill time then Lagos, in the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal, is the perfect place to hang out. Especially when the Autumn temperature feels a lot like summer.
First on the list for us was a Days of Adventure cruisy kayaking trip, where a catamaran took us to the kayaking spot… no hardcore paddling involved (poor EB!).
We paddled along the coastline, past the most stunning beaches and into eerie grottos and sea caves.
Along the way, we passed towering cliffs that looked like they would completely crumble at the slightest puff of wind, and rock stacks crafted by tides and time into shapes like elephants, camels and even the Titanic.
The perfect end to the trip for me was diving off the boat into the deep, chilly aqua-blue waters.
It was sheer bliss to swim away from the boat, relax in the water… and not have the theme music to Jaws playing in my head.
In Australia, the whole shark thing always lurks in the back of your mind (or the front, if you’re a tiny bit neurotic like me), but here you just go with the flow…
Are you up for dolphin watching, snorkelling, surfing lessons or paddle boarding? There’s so many options for getting wet or awestruck here and all easily booked in town or at the marina.
Soaking up the sun at the beach is also de rigueur here – with not a sun-smart slip, slop, slap routine in sight.
Of course, people-watching is endlessly entertaining too.
All that activity definitely works up an appetite (and a thirst).
It’s time to stop at one of the beach or marina restaurants, or head to the historic town centre.
Inside the town’s ancient Moorish walls you can meander along narrow streets passed a charming patchwork of crumbling, life-worn and revamped buildings and some incredible street art, to chill at one of the many great eating places and bars there.
We loved The Garden, a bohemian-style bar and restaurant with delicious barbequed meat (EB assures me) and great choices for pescatarians and pure veggos.
A short stroll away is the fascinating Mar D’Estórias, where it’s easy to get caught up in the arty retail area and galleries as you wind up each narrow staircase until you reach the Terraço Bar.
Here you’ll find great food and wine, a relaxed atmosphere and views stretching along historic streets to the ocean.
With only one more day here, we’re off explore more of this delightful town – which will possibly involve me annoying EB as I stop to take more photos of street art.
Assim é a vida.
A local station attendant, who was helping us buy train tickets from S.Pedro to Cascais today, asked us what we liked about Portugal the most.
“A gastronomia? O vinho? A música?”
All of that but mostly the people, we said.
He was pretty-much blown away and was high-fiving us all over the place (we nearly missed the train!).
But that’s the Portuguese.
Take the beach culture. There is nothing uptight about the Portuguese. And I’m not talking about flashing bits here.
In this region, the locals are just comfortable in their own skin. Well, if there are any body image issues, I’m not seeing it.
Yes, there’s Zumba on the boardwalk (and it’s a hoot!). Yes, there are women running (but not an ‘I believe’ tee-shirt or flashy tights among them). Yes there are fit blokes hanging about (but not a muscle-man to be seen).
And down on beach, women of all shapes, ages and sizes (and I mean ALL) are rocking their bikinis. Eat your heart out Botticelli.
Away from beaches and bikinis… more than one local Portuguese creative on our journey from Porto to Lisbon has told us they are good at what they do – but they suck at marketing themselves.
I agree. These people are (mostly) warm and wonderful and creative and talented (and, of course, they make exceptional port and wine).
No, I’m not talking about more tourist buses arriving at monuments (even though there are a lot and they are remarkable).
I’m talking about who they are and what they create. Time the world sat up and paid attention! Cheers to that!
Monuments and other tourist tick-off points are impressive, but our favourite thing to do is to take to the streets on foot. Apart from the odd slippery cobblestone, we inevitably stumble upon the unexpected and delightful.
The sign on the street says ‘gin lovers’. Yep that’s me. Besides, we’ve been walking for hours (and it’s hot) so this is the perfect place to stop.
Inside we know we’ve found somewhere special. This is Embaixada, a unique Portuguese shopping gallery created in a XIX century Arabian Palace.
An ornate staircase draws our eyes upwards to the sensational murals and figurines, and beyond.
In the palace rooms, national brands and recreated vintage clothing mix with the work of local artists and artisans.
Even a non-shopper like me can get blissed-out here (and I have the credit card hit to prove it).
Eventually, we stop at Gin Lovers Principe Real in the centre of this jaw-dropping building for a delicious gin & tonic (or three) from their extensive list – and some amazing food.
Like so many Portuguese people we’ve met here, everyone is friendly and enthusiastic. No wonder they call it ‘the meeting place’…
When the street is your canvas, the possibilities are endless in Lisbon.
From commissioned to clandestine, and gaudy to subtle – street art is everywhere here.
I notice so many people don’t really ‘see’ it as they hurry past, but to me it says so much about the creative energy of a city…
Street art isn’t everyone’s thing, but it’s one of my passions. No doubt I’ll be banging on more about it some other 60 seconds. Meanwhile…
Portuguese people love their food and it shows (in a good way!).
There’s something to satisfy the foodies, the fuellers and everyone in between in the many small cafés and impressive restaurants and wine bars sprinkled liberally across the city.
And the vino, port and spirits. Phew.
We soon redefine our perception of a ‘glass’ of wine. It ‘s more like a small carafe in a glass.
A ‘tasting’ can also be the entire glass filled to the brim. Per taste. Which makes pacing yourself pretty much impossible.
Then there’s the traditional sherry, Ginja. We’re told it’s taken as both an aperitif and an after-dinner drink.
I’m sure there are plenty of happy home chefs using Ginja too – and some of it might even make it into the cooking.
Perhaps it’s all that fabulous wine. Perhaps it’s just this place. The Portuguese may be struggling economically but they don’t let it affect their open and generous spirit.
So come to Lisbon, take to the streets and come alive here.
It’s impossible not to.
Just back from weekend wanderings and writing workshop fun in Sydney. Here’s some of the historical and arty things that caught my eye around town…
Most people were checking out the posh boats at the Sydney Boat Show in Darling Harbour, but I was captivated by the ripples…
EB had me walking for hours, so finding fabulous street art like this was the perfect distraction…
Here’s a clever way of interpreting history. It really puts you in the picture…
We just loved all the square-cut sandstone and the gorgeous plantings at Sydney’s newest harbour foreshore park, Barangaroo Reserve.
Created on one of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites, the area had been inaccessible to the public for more than 100 years, until it was transformed into a space for the people and opened in 2015.
For me, it’s just a reminder that there are amazing and beautiful things all around us… if we really look.
There’s nothing better than a lazy Sunday morning in Tasmania. And stumbling across a vibrant farmer’s market in the heart of Hobart city is, quite simply, a treat for the senses.
While I was checking out some street art, EB wandered off (as he does) and discovered the Farm Gate Market in Bathurst Street. What a find!
The markets opened five years ago with just 12 stallholders – and the simple philosophy that ‘if you can’t eat it, drink it, grow it or meet the producer, then you wouldn’t find it at the market‘.
Now it’s one of the top ten Farmer’s Markets in Australia and it’s easy to see why. If you love fresh produce and delicious treats plus a little local flavour, this is the place to be.
We’ll be living in Hobart next year (if all goes to plan), so there’s no prizes for guessing where you’ll find us on a Sunday morning.
Here’s just some of the deliciousness…
The first two things I noticed when I arrived in Perth, Western Australia, was how this city has come of age since I was here almost a decade ago – and the delicious dry heat (bliss for my asthma that chucks tantrums in the tropics).
I’m here for work so, after long days immersed in health and safety systems, I’m ready for a drink and looking forward to EB arriving for the weekend.
Meanwhile, I amuse myself people-watching in the Pan Pacific hotel restaurant. Dotted around the room, commuters like me sit alone or with co-workers, smart phones and iPads ever at the ready.
I take a sip (a long sip) of my pinot noir, but refuse to even take mine out of my bag – smart technology is easy to hide behind, but you miss life in the process.
Like the Japanese family who come in, do a polite ‘who sits where’ dance, before settling in their seats… then immediately get up to explore the buffet.
Or the business lady on her own who manages to simultaneously devour juicy prawns and incessantly check her iPad and phone, all without making a complete mess of herself. I manage to drop stuff on myself even when I’m concentrating
And over there, two businessmen talk about risk assessments at a mine, crunching the numbers, and getting another beer. Mining is big business in Western Australia and the reason this city has taken off.
It’s a long week and I’m pretty excited when EB arrives on the midnight flight.
The next day, we hire bikes and cycle around the Swan River circuit. In all that dry heat, with not a hill in sight, and a bit of wildlife to see, it’s a great ride – even if my handle bars did drop down suddenly when I braked hard!
Then we jump on a train to meet EB’s family at our favourite place here – the eclectic port city of Fremantle, 30-minutes from Perth.
This is the place to head for if you love boutiques and galleries, buskers and bands, markets, great places to eat, and micro-breweries to hang out at, like the Monk Brewery and Kitchen.
There are moments when we think we could (almost) live here. But I could never bitch about cycling up hills again, and where’s the fun in that?
It’s the organic, transitory nature of street art that makes it so fascinating to me. And it has an edginess you don’t get in other art forms.
Maybe that’s because much of it remains illegal, with artists fined and potentially jailed and their work buffed off at a high (and resented) cost to the city.
No surprise then that one of the highlights of our trip was the New York Graffiti and Street Art Tour in Bushwick, a working class district on the north side of Brooklyn.
Our guides Izzy and Mar took us on a fascinating journey into this artform – from tagging to masterpieces and beyond.
TAKI 183 is recognised as the one who started it all in New York City, with his simple signature (tag) attracting the attention of a New York Times reporter.
The story ran in 1971 and TAKI 183 became the ‘father of contemporary graffiti’*
If the street art in this city started with TAKI 183, he did the place a service (although I’m sure many would disagree)! Here are some of the works you might catch in Brooklyn – if you’re quick.
We highly recommend taking the tour… and when you’re done, stop into the Rookery in Troutman Street, where the atmosphere, service, food, craft beer and wine really hit the spot. Try their signature comfort food dish Oxtail Sloppy Joe (not recommended for vegetarians!).