Pastéis de Nata are the most mouth-watering things I have ever tasted, and while in Lisbon a while back, I had the chance to taste them from bakeries where they were made in the thousands to unique recipes.
They have some history too. During the liberal revolution, the monks of the Jeronimos Monastery, located in Belém, created the original recipe of the first ‘pastéis de nata’ to sell for their survival and sold them to tourists who arrived by steamboat to visit the monastery and the nearby. Little did they know then what a tradition they had started!
This music is Portugal’s musical pride. A guitar, a voice and heartfelt emotion – but describing Fado is no easy feat, as it’s a more a feeling – of anticipation, sadness, pain and love, that can be traced to the 1820s in Lisbon, but probably has much earlier origins. Fado can be sad and nostalgic and was experienced in leisure moments, happening spontaneously indoors or out - in taverns, gardens, bullfights, retreats, streets and alleys -anywhere really. The word Fado comes from the Latin word ‘fatum’, from which the English word ‘fate’ also originates. The traditional guitar for Fado is unusual too - the Portuguese guitar, also called a fado guitar, is a chordophone with 6 pairs of strings and a pear-shaped harmonic box, and is thought to be a descendant of the ‘citole’. a string musical instrument from Medieval times.
Port Wine – any time
Portugal is famous for the production of Port Wine, produced in the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. Although some other countries produce a port-style wine, only port wine produced in Porto can be called Port, and it’s a popular dessert wine, often ordered at the end of a meal or perhaps as part of a cocktail. Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, heavier, and higher in alcohol content than unfortified wines, caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits, and because the fermentation is halted before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, it results in a wine that is usually 19% to 20% alcohol.
Cristiano Ronaldo – footie hero
Born and bred in Madeira, he was the fourth and youngest child of his family. I think most people have heard of this famous footballer but he’s not the only one to be exceptional, as a lot of Portugal’s most famous celebrities are or were footballers, including Luís Figo and Eusébio. Ronaldo is a force to be reckoned with, with a huge global fanbase, and is known for his exceptional dribbling skills, incredible speed, and his extraordinary goalscoring ability. Here’s a random fact – his parents named him after Ronald Reagan because they liked the name Ronald and thought it sounded strong!
Talk the Talk
In my opinion, Portuguese people generally speak very good English, even those of an older generation, and many will tell you they learned it at school or picked it up from watching American movies on TV! Speaking English is likely to help them get work in the tourist industry, particularly in areas in the south. Even so, they’re quite shy about their English-speaking abilities and very often stay silent while we stumble along in a mixture of English and broken Portuguese until eventually they kindly switch to English. They’re not being deliberately difficult; they are just really modest. We found even a humble fruit-seller at the roadside speaking better English that we did Portuguese!
A Law of ID
You are expected to carry a photo ID with you, which for a typically relaxed southern European country may seem quite bizarre – even for just a trip to the shop or a walk, the Portuguese authorities will expect you to be able to present some form of photo ID.
A Wee Law of Portugal
While most of Portugal's rules and regulations are fairly normal, there is one law that stands out and always provokes a chuckle. It is actually illegal in Portugal to pee in the ocean. Although completely understandable in theory, it is hard to understand how this law is enforced!
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.