Portugal, home of Nando's!

I really should’ve started when it was all fresh in my mind. Its hard to remember all the details after a month, even harder when battling with jet lag at the same time. I've been wanting to visit Portugal ever since I missed my college mate's wedding in the outskirts of Porto. The only other person I know who has been to Portugal is my cousin. However, neither of them could tell me very much except that "It's really pretty". So armed with an outdated guide to Portugal, Hunky and I went off on our holiday. When I was in Spain a few years back, I was able to navigate fairly quickly but Portugal was a little harder especially when the only word I knew was almari. The language was completely foreign to me. Nothing sounded even vaguely familiar. The entire trip, I only learnt food names, thank you and hello. We were bad tourists!

There are a few things that stood out for me about the Portugese. The very first would be their love for pastries. Happiness! You will find at least one pasteleria around every corner. And of course there are some that are better than others. Some are obviously out-sourced while others bake in-house. In these pastry shops, you’ll find lots of egg based sweets and puff pastry filled with custard or minced meats that reminded me of, oddly enough, murtabak. Of course the most famous pastry is the Portugese egg tart except in Portugal its called a pastiés de nata. It is just the most fabulous thing and I am in love with it. Perfect, crisp round cups of puff pastry filled with wobbly melt-in-the-mouth custard. Divine! Hunky and I had one everyday for breakfast with a galão which is a latte to you and me but sissy’s coffee to the Portugese. The only time acceptable to drink um galão is in the morning. Any other time, you must order um café. And coffee there really means espresso.

The next thing most popular thing would be bacalhau or salt cod. Every restaurant and café have it. You can buy it in supermarkets and corner stores. It is everywhere. And according to my guide book, there are over 365 ways of cooking bacalhau. We made a point of trying a few different styles throughout our trip. We also noticed that they are really into tiles and cobble stones. I love the houses with their colourful tiled facades. The funny thing is we didn’t find a single tile shop! Apart from the ones in tourist shops that had the Nando’s chicken on it. As for the cobblestones, I don’t know how the women manoeuvre their way around the bumpy pavements. Another thing you will find adorned on windows of many of these charming houses are roller shutters! The last time I saw roller shutters were in the suburbs of Perth.

And if you think customer service is non-existent in Malaysia, it’s the same over there. They are a pretty unfriendly bunch. I’m not talking about the people on the streets, these are people who are suppose to assist ie. shop assistants, hotel staff and people at the tourist information office! No kidding. You’d think they’d be eager to point out all the beautiful and historical sights but no, its one word answers and body language that suggests “Please stop bothering me now”. But hey, I’ve never been to a tourist information office here so who knows, we could be worse.


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