Friday, February 22, 2008

The Holy Land of Pork

We are dreaming of a honeymoon in Portugal. It has everything we could want from a destination: good weather in October, beautiful scenery, fine wine, and the world's greatest roast pork.

As we looked at possibilities (Montenegro, Italy, California), this article in Travel + Leisure convinced us that Portugal was just the spot. Coincidentally, Michael and I postponed our first date back in 2003 because I was called to Lisbon for work. I never made it outside the city, but that visit gave me a taste for more--especially my last night.

Lisbon was lovely and friendly, but I had struck out with expensive hotel food, inexpensive hotel food, and concierge-recommended touristy restaurants. On my final stroll around the city, I found a place near the Palacio de Sao Bento, Espirito dos Tachos--which I believe is still there because I found it on Google Earth--was modern and cool and inexpensive, and had the most succulent roast pork I'd ever put a fork into. I must have started with sweet breads and had wine and liquor too, and I'm sure my bill came to around $25. The dollar was stronger then . . .

Portugal is also famous for its salt-cod dishes, which are a Christmas favorite of ours, and go way back with Michael's family. The Portuguese make a hash of bacalao and potatoes that's quite rich. Portugal is a very maritime country and has unsalted fish aplenty. We'd love to spend a few days on the coast, enjoying the gorgeous beaches (sunset over the Atlantic!) and all the wonderful seafood.

Across the wine country and the north of Portugal, numerous monasteries have been converted into design hotels like this one called pousadas. Portugal's wines are growing very popular now. I was surprised to learn that Portugal has Europe's oldest "DOC" system. And colheita port, though prohibitively expensive here, would be worth the travel. Fish, booze, and pork: doesn't Portugal sound like a land of sensory delights? It's like Eden for the epicure.

The oustanding question remains: can we afford it? How "simply" can we travel and still make it romantic? Michael's parents (with a note of regret in their voices) were adamant when we asked: the honeymoon is not a cost to cut.


words and steel said...

oh, Portugal is one of my favorite places to visit, ever! We did a budget trip a few years ago, but it's definitely not honeymoon-worthy. Are you heading north again, or down south to the Algarve? I do remember a lovely b&b we stayed in Obidos, Estalagem do Convento.

words and steel said...

If one of you can drive stick-shift, definitely rent a car. One of the nicest ways to see the countryside, though it's best to do your driving before nightfall, because those roads can get scary!

there are some lovely smaller towns between Lisbon and Porto- Caldas de Reinhas, Peniche...and of course others I am forgetting.

Oh, and if you are in Lisbon, you must stay and play in the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Much less bureaucratic/touristy, the bars all open out into the street, and there's nary a tourist in sight. Some great small restos and bars there, too. Ok, I'm done writing a book on this stuff!

Emerson Beyer said...

Thanks for the ideas! We're definitely going to head north from Lisbon to Oporto.

Driving sounds hard, but we can both handle a manual transmission, so I think we'll do that, too.

Bairro Alto may bring back some regrettable memories from my last trip abroad as a single guy!