If I actually owned all the books I’d read this year, my (real) bookshelf would be overflowing, creaking at the joints under the weight of masses of thrillers and autobiographies. Fortunately, between Cambridge Central Library and the book swap box at work I rarely need (or have cause) to buy a book, so my bookshelf is, for the time being at least, under control. (That said, I did bag a few bargains, including Nelson Mandela’s Dare Not Linger at a charity book sale at work earlier this month.) Honourable mentions for this quarter go to Kristen Lepionka’s What You Want to See (an electrifying sequel to The Last Place You Look) and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (which completely lived up to the praise it had received).
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Christmas, for me, is all about spending time with my nearest and dearest (who these days don’t live so very near to me), playing board games one after the other (Scrabble, Articulate, Monopoly – you name it, we’ll be playing it) and indulging in festive treats (especially sweet festive treats). When Laurence told me that Sainsbury’s were selling mince pie flavoured cookies, I couldn’t resist picking up a bag on my way home from work. (Could you?) I saved the packet, checked the ingredients and spent that weekend making some tweaks to my tried-and-trusted cookie recipe. Featuring a generous helping of currants, sultanas and mixed peel and a dash of cinnamon, they taste like Christmas in a cookie (if I do say so myself).
So many sweet treats, so little time. I can’t be the first person (and likely won’t be the last) to have faced this dilemma in Lisbon, such was the number of confeitarias with enticing window displays. Our solution? Cake for breakfast (or rather, part one of our breakfast). Chocolate cake, in fact, with a caramel mirror glaze from Confeitaria Nacional (Praça da Figueira 18). Founded in 1829 by Balthazar Castanheiro, it quickly established a reputation for quality pastries; in 1873, King D. Luís I granted it a royal warrant, and Confeitaria Nacional became a supplier of the Portuguese royal family. Incredibly, it’s still in the hands of the founder’s family six generations on.
Just a hop, skip and a tram ride away from the centre of Lisbon is Belém, a veritable treasure chest of tourist attractions. In Belém, Portugal’s Age of Discovery lives on – in the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the iconic Torre de Belém and the imposing Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
Lisbon is steep, cobbled streets, canary-yellow vintage trams and seemingly endless miradouros (viewpoints). Lisbon is pastéis de nata, leitão (suckling pig) sandwiches and bacalhau any which way you like it; a foodie’s dream. Lisbon quickly, effortlessly, captured my heart: it’s a city which oozes character and charm; a city which leisurely wandering is made for; a city which feels like a long-lost friend.
Porto packs a punch with its azulejo-clad igrejas, vibrant foodie scene and abundant viewpoints. With only two days in the city, we were keen to see as much as we could – and while we didn’t see everything (in just two days, who could?), we saw everything we wanted to and a fair bit more besides. If you missed out on last week’s post, you can catch up here. If you’re up to speed (or even if you’re not), grab a cuppa, settle in and prepare for another armchair tour of Porto – a city that just couldn’t be condensed into a single post.
I fell for Portugal – for its azulejo-covered façades, its food, its terracotta rooftops – hook, line and sinker. Our first stop, Porto, was everything it was cracked up to be: full of character and cultural gems, and picturesque to boot (even when the sea mist rolled in and enveloped the city). It’s a city for the flâneurs and flâneuses amongst us; a city which, quite simply, is made for wandering. Instead of giving you a minute-by-minute account of what we got up to in the two days we spent there, this week and next I’ll be sharing a selection of places we visited (and, more importantly, things we ate), and a few of my favourite photos.