Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lisboa Portugal- Part One

Lisbon or Lisboa as pronounced by the natives has been Portugal's capital since the 13th century and encompasses the area around the steepest hill, San Jorge. It was first settled by the Phoenicians in the 12th century BC. In AD 714, the Moors captured Lisbon and held it for the next 400 years. 
Vasco da Gama set sail for India from Lisbon in 1497, and it became a center for successful voyages of discovery throughout the East and the new world for the next 300 years.The immense riches brought back by explorers ushered in a period of building and expansion. The city is steeped in much history and with the earthquake of 1755 followed a tsunami which caused the city to rebuild and become the flourishing capitol it is today. 
The architecture is heavily influenced by the Moors, Romans and the Gothic and Baroque periods.
In Belem the historic section of town, a 16th century Church of Jeronimos Monastery
is located that contains Vasco da Gama's tomb.
Lisboa is a city of a melting pot of cultures. Hordes of tourists with lots of traffic everywhere made navigating challenging .We were so happy to be on a tour with a local guide that got us to our destinations easily and had our tickets so we could avoid long lines to get into several popular attractions. 
City Sights
Belem Tower

We took a streetcar (tram) to get some spectacular aerial views of the city. 
Visited several churches and cathedrals with splendid treasures and off the charts statues, glided altars, frescoes and paintings.  They all took my breath away.
I was quite impressed with the Monument of Discoveries (a massive structure) which is located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient. The monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery or Age of Exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries.

On either side of the slab are ramps that join at the river's edge, with the figure of Henry the Navigator on its edge. On either side of the monument along the ramp, are 16 figures (33 in total) representing figures from the Portuguese Age of Discovery. These great people of the era included monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries. Each idealized figure is designed to show movement towards the front (the unknown sea), projecting a direct or indirect synthesis of their participation in the events after Henry the Navigator. 

We stopped for a local favorite treat 
Pasteis de Nata, deliciously soft, sweet, custard tarts that are a cult in Lisbon. And one place is the undisputed master of making them. In Belem, just off the waterfront, is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem - a blue and white-tiled temple to eggs, cream sugar and pastry.

The 170-year-old recipe is a secret, divulged to only three chefs at a time. The result is delicious - perfectly browned, with individualism catered for with sachets of icing sugar and cinnamon. The cafe turns out 16,000 tarts a day, all hand-made on the premises and served warm. Worth a trip to Portugal in themselves!
I did  think this wine stand was creative with their signage. Here you can get your wine, sit on chairs and enjoy the view of the Tejo River.
Enjoy a Mediterranean dish
Spanish Shrimp and Scallop Saute
recipe adapted from BHG Mediterranean Recipes and serves four. Each serving is 300 calories.
  • 16 fresh or frozen medium shrimp (8 ounces)
  • 8 fresh or frozen sea scallops (8 ounces)
  • 1 TB. flour
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 TB. dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 TB. finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or 1-1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 3 TB. snipped fresh chives or 1-1/2 tsp. dried chives
  • 2 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • Thaw shrimp and scallops, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp leaving tails intact if desired. Halve scallops horizontally. Rinse shrimp and scallops; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
  • In a large resealable plastic bag combine the flour, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, the sugar, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Seal bag; shake to combine. Add shrimp and scallops to the bag. Seal bag; shake to coat shrimp and scallops. Set aside.
  • Melt 1 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and scallops to the pan in an even layer; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth, vermouth, and lemon juice; cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are opaque, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the parsley, and chives.
  • Serve in shallow bowls with hot cooked brown rice.
bon appetit!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

On the Road to Lisboa, Portugal

The Cork Oak is Portugal's National Tree

At the end of 2011, the cork oak was unanimously established as Portugal's National Tree. Around 23% of Portugal's forest area is made up of cork oaks, which support the country's main industry. And trust me this country has thought of  everything imaginable to create products out of cork. 
Shop after shop displayed their cork wares for the tourists.
Here's just a small sample of what's available in cork.  Clockwise: coin purses, postcards. business card holder and a trivet but purses in every size and shape are really the main attraction. I really expected a clothing line somewhere but didn't find one which doesn't mean there isn't one already out there.  
A quick stop on the road driving into a horse breeding Lusitano farm was an area of stripped down cork trees. I was fascinated by the stripping process of the trees and how each tree is marked with the year the bark was taken off. It takes ten years for new tree bark growth before it can be stripped again. 

The pastoral farm scene was a welcome change from the fast paced cities and crowded touristy towns we had recently been to.
After a wonderful lunch I really should say feast on the farm 
Vegetable Soup
Mixed Greens Salad
Basque Chicken (recipe below)
Rice, Carrot and Pea Side Dish
and wait one more thing...Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream 
we were treated to a horse demonstration and a talk about  the differences between the breeds of horses found on this working farm.  
Along the highway to Lisbon we spied a stork nest. Apparently they are plentiful along the telephone poles near the highway. It reminded me of the osprey ones I have seen in my hometown.  One of the things we have enjoyed so much about this tour is the variety of experiences and the knowledgeable local people in each location who join the group to do presentations. 
Last stop pronounced Lisboa, Portugal. Let me say for now it was an over the top weekend experience with a melting pot of cultures, a party weekend with the beginning of Mardi Gras festivities and phenomenal buildings and architecture everywhere.   
Looking Ahead: Lisboa Part One and Two 
Chicken Basque
  • 1-1/4 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  •  1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet onions, diced
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1-14. oz. can diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano
  • 12 oz. red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wide wedges and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. each thyme and herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 cup small pimiento stuffed olives
  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. 
  • In a Dutch oven heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook about 4 minutes or until lightly browned, turning to brown evenly. 
  • Add in  onions, pepper and garlic, cook 3 minutes.
  • Add in rest of ingredients except olives. Bring mixture to a boil , cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 40 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are done. 
  • Remove from heat, add in olives and serve with fresh thyme or parsley. 
bom apetite

Friday, February 24, 2017

Seville to Lisbon

Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain. It occupies a special place in Spanish culture with fiestas, bull fighting and the flamenco dancers.  
Remember the song lyrics from the musical My Fair Lady The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain?
Well the rain in Spain did NOT stay on the plain for our first day in Seville. In fact the following photo below was taken during a huge downpour.  The Plaza de Espana was my favorite building in Seville. This building was designed for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929. It incorporates elements of a renaissance style infused with a Spanish flair and even with a downpour it was breathtaking!
As the rain subsided and skies began to clear we made our way into the Seville Cathedral, third largest Cathedral in Europe after after St. Paul's cathedral in London and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This photo below is only a side view of the Cathedral. It was built on the site of a former 12th century Almohad's mosque. 
The chapels along the southern and northern sides of the cathedral hold more riches of sculptures and paintings than you can possibly imagine. It was definitely over the top opulence.
Tomb of Christopher Columbus

To digress a bit...from a teacher standpoint I have found there exists here in Europe a different perception of Columbus than perhaps we have in the United States. His historical contributions are emphasized much more everywhere we went for different presentations.   
We had some time  to explore the city center, plazas and take photos of beautiful buildings after the cathedral visit.  

Motor scooters are a popular mode of transportation.

Our evening treat was at a dinner theater with a flamenco presentation. The building was next door to Seville's famous bull ring. 
The intensity at which these dancers preform (six days a week) and dedication to their craft was quite impressive.  

Trip to a Horse -breeding farm on the way to Lisbon
A jaw dropping view out hotel window in Lisbon
Two Spanish recipes: Spanish Shrimp and Scallop Saute
Basque Chicken

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Malaga to Ronda to Seville

More ideas to keep RAK going this month and on...
Today I bought a neighbor a small "thank you "gift for checking on our house and watering plants. This link has 109 ideas.

The drive going from Malaga to Ronda was quite picturesque with rolling hills, a lush landscape and farmlands. Taking photos from the bus was a bit challenging.

The city of Ronda was nicknamed the ‘Dream City’ by the  poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It enjoys a lofty setting overlooking El Tajo a 360 feet deep river gorge. Readers of Ernest Hemingway’s "For Whom The Bell Tolls" will recognize El Tajo as the place from which Fascists were thrown to their deaths during the Spanish Civil War.

This photo shows a view of the 360 foot drop.
Conquered by the Christians in 1485 Ronda was one of the last strongholds of the Arabs. 

Since many of these Spanish towns we have visited have narrow streets with sharp turns parking is at a premium with lots of tour buses following our same route. Spaniards love to drive small French cars that are fuel efficient since gas costs about $7.00 a gallon.
Merced Carmelite Convent was an intriguing stop. 

I wish my friend Candace would have been with us today. She would have appreciated this convent experience.  The Carmelites are a cloistered order devoted to prayer, penance and perpetual abstinence. It was here our tour director decided we needed a break for sweets. At this convent the Carmelites bake and sell bakery goods to the public. But because it is a cloistered order, the nuns are behind the scenes baking and packaging and are not seen. Only the Mother Superior can appear in public. So here you place an order after checking out the menu posted, Then this turnstile delivers your order to you and takes in the 

Our next stop had my husband's undivided attention.  Perhaps I could make a supposition that maybe he has had a secret desire to try his hand at bull fighting. We stopped at Ronda's newest working bull breeding farm Reservatauro established by Ronda's bullfighter Rafael Tejeda.  We learned about the different aspects of breeding bulls and bull fighting.

It was here Charley volunteered several different times to be a part of the demonstration. Let the photos speak for themselves. 
The art of the cape is one of the most visual acts of Spanish bullfighting, with the matador making impressive lances (passes), and has gained in importance in the crowd’s perception over recent decades. The passes can be performed with an open or closed stance. The capes can weigh around 10-15 pounds depending on  the size of the bull fighter.  
Seville, our final destination for the day was a welcome sight after traveling from 8;30 AM to 6:00 PM making several stops throughout the day.