Friday, July 22, 2016

a not-so guilty pleasure

We first discovered the Palace Hotel Monte Real and their lovely thermal spa after receiving a night and spa treatment package as a wedding gift from friends. It was a dream— a picture-perfect hotel with fluffy beds, delicious dinner and breakfast, and the spa— oh, the spa! There's a steam room and sauna, swimming pool and jacuzzi, and a menu of massages and scrubs to choose from. We enjoyed the experience at Monte Real so much that we've been treating ourselves to a night/spa package once a year ever since.

The exterior of the hotel is one of the things I like most about our visits— the symmetry, the pink, the grey cobbles— you can't smell it, but there's a hint of eucalyptus in the air...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

salt tooth

I do not have a sweet tooth. While I do occasionally enjoy a dessert or some very dark chocolate, I much prefer salty things— give me a pickled herring over a slice of cake any day! Portugal has incredible sweets that usually involve dozens of egg yolks and loads of sugar. While in Aveiro, Pedro suggested that I try the local Ovos Moles, a traditional sweet originally concocted by nuns in the 19th century. Apparently the nuns ran laundries, and used egg whites to stiffen the collars of priests— this led to an abundance of yolks. Rather than waste these yolks, the resourceful nuns began to whip up belly-widening confections, many of which are still enjoyed today and have become a staple of Portuguese cuisine. Ovos Moles, are essentially crispy communion wafer crusts formed into the shapes of shells or barrels, and filled with a yolk and sugar paste.

Eager to try something new, I took a bite.

When it comes to food, there's very little that I don't like— I've enjoyed offal in Turkey, water rats in Vietnam... Unfortunately Ovos Moles has made my 'No Thank You' list, right next to lamprey and melon. They're so pretty and I wanted to like them, but my goodness the sugar made my head spin— I'm not kidding. We tried to walk it off, but I had to sit on a park bench for a little while lest they made a reappearance.

Later around lunch time, I figured the best way to rid myself of this unpleasantness was to counter the sweetness with some salt. And beer.

Dinner needed lemon and garlic— lots of garlic.

Friday, July 15, 2016

river smut

I've noticed that the Portuguese seem to take great pleasure in innuendo and puns— it's in their music (most notably in Pimba music), and in Aveiro, this naughtiness is painted on boats in the brightest of colours. The distinctive moliceiro with its dramatically curled bow and stern, was crafted in such a way as to facilitate the gathering of seaweed for fertilizer. Now, the beautiful moliceiros mostly offer tours up and down the Ria de Aveiro.

I'll leave it up to you and Google Translate if you are curious— the general themes of the scenes are sexual— clams and codfish are mentioned quite a bit.

Despite their smuttiness, they're quite lovely aren't they?

Monday, July 11, 2016

viva portugal!

A toast to the champions of the 2016 Eurocup! We are a very happy household— the celebratory bacalhau is soaking in the kitchen...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

what beauty hands can make

From the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga:
Nuno Gonçalves. Panels of St. Vincent. c. 1470. Oil and tempera on oak panels.
Unknown Master. Female Portrait. c. 1620–40. Oil on canvas. 
Jacob Adriansz Backer. Courtesan. c. 1640. Oil on canvas.
Francisco Vieira, o Portuense. The Lamentation. 1800. Oil on canvas.
Unknown Flemish Master. Female Portrait. 1569. Oil on canvas.

let us talk of beautiful things

It is art that elevates us.

In a world where people are intent on using their hands to destroy and to hurt, I am grateful for the beauty that hands can create.

Calçada by Alexandre Farto, a.k.a. "Vhils". Cobblestone tribute to Fado singer Amália Rodrigues.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


I am deeply saddened by the attacks on Istanbul's Atatürk Airport, and I am left without words. It just seems to go on and on and on... Everywhere, around the world. Too many places, too many people hurt. Istanbul is a part of me— how many times have I passed through that airport, stood at the very spot near the taxi queue, had a coffee at Nero while waiting to pick Pedro up when he was still living in Lisbon... There is nothing I can say to make sense of any of it, nothing that change things, nothing that can comfort. There are sick people in this world, people who are hellbent on destruction, people who do not need a single breath wasted on discussing them. The world is a beautiful place, full of beautiful people, who far outnumber the bad— even if it doesn't seem like it. Peace, love, and kindness.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

beer, clams, and cartoons

The simple pleasures in life!

beautiful tacky

On a sticky afternoon while wandering around the Cais de Sodré area, the idea of cool, cucumbery gin and tonics seemed like just the thing. We headed to the Pensão Amor, a brothel turned kitschy bar, decorated in all the things one would expect from such a place: leopard prints, velvet, lots of red, sequined burlesque bra tops, and naughty figurines. It's pretty awesome (and much quieter in the afternoon than at night), but what really impresses me are the fantastic illustrations on the walls of the stairwell:

I'm crazy about the brushy linework, colour combinations and typography— it's something I'd like to somehow incorporate into my own work someday. Just look at that cotton candy pink, magenta, turquoise and green:

After we had enjoyed our drinks and were ready to face the fading sun, we stumbled upon this brilliant poster on a wall nearby:

Had this poster not been behind glass, it would have made its way back to Rabat in my handbag and onto the wall opposite my front door. Look at the teeth! The stubble! The layering of leaves!