Postcard from Portugal

I recently celebrated my birthday in Portugal surrounded by friends who joined me from all over the world. On our journey, I collected some tips and interesting facts on the land of Fado and Futebol.

1.     If you do not speak Portuguese do NOT automatically speak Spanish instead. Portugal is not Spain.

2.     Bachalau is on the menu at every traditional restaurant, but there are many regional variations. If you like cod, try them all!

3.     The city of Guimarães is considered the birthplace of modern Portugal and it is absolutely worth a visit.

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4.     When hiking in Portugal the park service ranks the difficulty of hikes from 1-5 using a number of different metrics. Always assume what they say is a 2 is probably more like an American 5! The Portuguese are hardcore.  

5.     If you plan to bring back wine, olive oil, or any of the country’s other amazing food products, try the grocery store first. They carry the same incredible products for a fraction of the cost.

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6.     In Lisbon you will see Barcelos roosters and sardines everywhere in every shape, size and design, but don’t be fooled – local widely consider the ‘official’ animal of the city the crow. Two of the birds are featured on the city’s coat of arms.

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 7.     The production of port wine is regulated by its own agency. Some surprising regulations include – producers cannot water vines after a period of time, so they are forced to grow naturally with the weather; and each plot of land is only allowed a specific number of vines, so if new vines are needed some have to be removed.

We started my birthday at Quinta Bomfim, part of the Symington Family wineries.

We started my birthday at Quinta Bomfim, part of the Symington Family wineries.

8.     On port – the traditional practice of foot stomping is still used by many producers in the region. I thought it sounded like fun but imagine a 4-hour nonstop march to accordion music after which your legs are tried and stained purple for a month. Maybe not so fun actually.   

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9.     Fado is a traditional style of music and it is taken very seriously in Portugal. If you attend a performance, respect the artists and audience members and do not talk! Sit back and enjoy it.

10.  Get to know the poet Fernando Pêssoa before you go. It's almost impossible to travel through Lisbon and not hear about him. You’ll see his image in art, words in graffiti and historical markers and his poetry will help set the mood for your journeys!  

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