Love letters to Lisboa

imageTo set the tone, Lisbon is one of my favourite cities. It’s an utter delight; a food and drink market of dreams, a UNESCO heritage site that lets you be a princess for a day, intricately tiled houses, alcohol dispensed through the wall…all in the warmth and by the sea. I apologise in advance of the below comes across as a brag rather than a blog.

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We stayed in a great little air b n b at the entrance to the castle, perfectly situated in the heart of Alfama. Alfama, as countless guides will tell you is a hub for non touristy, touristy goods and has some great little cafes and vantage points over the city. Other great areas include Baixa (good shopping), Rossio (where the main square is) and Chiado (more good shopping).

Belem is also great, not only for the highly rated, and rightly so, palais de Belem custard tarts but also because strolling along the riverfront with a glass of Ginjinha is pretty close to the dream. Sellers of this cherry liquor are a plenty by the tore de Belem, the heat of the day makes it a much better accompaniment to the tarts than coffee, in my expert opinion.

Since I went to Lisbon with a couple of girl pals a more than average amount of time was spent seeking out great bars – we really nailed it. Park Bar is a must, if you live in London think Franks bar goes on holiday, a really nice holiday. The views were insane and the drinks matched, aperol spritz a plenty and gin in massive goblets with a side of a non tradition sangria, there wasn’t anything not to like. While Park Bar was our daytime haunt of choice, Pensao Amor captured 90% of what I like in a evening. Formerly a brothel this bar offers something different, yet great – decked out like an old, glamour heavy dining room in one room, a DJ playing a cracking mix in the next room and a slightly more brothel fitting themed room as you head further in. The cocktails are unrivalled, I’d rather say no more, just go get an espresso martini and love life.

Whether post dancing food is needed or you are looking to break up your day, the Time Out market is quite the treat. The many stalls surround the indoor market and the whole place has a buzz about it, in the back right hand corner they have a stall reserved for an up and coming food stall (the rest are assured restaurant standard), when we were there it had a croquette stall. Squid ink to Parma ham stuffed versions, they were great little morsels. At weekends the markets open to 2pm and they have a band on until one, worry not, dancing can continue.

 

The final must do to note is Sintra; a magical UNESCO site under an hour away from the city. Granted, we spent too much time eating lunch and guzzling prosecco in the cute streets above the park but we still made it round to Pena castle. Worth it in itself, although if you do have more time there’s a bus that stops off at the various sites.

Enjoy, you can’t but really!

 

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German market jaunts.

Coming from near Manchester and its rustic Christmas markets and ending up in London with the (dare I say it) garish Winter wonderland makes you hanker for authenticity. Where better to go for a great Christmas market than Germany itself?

Tqo years ago I headed to Dortmund, this year to Cologne. Both very different but ideal getaways to indulge in the predictable gluhwein, bratwurst and beer overload.

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Cologne (Koln) is often rated highly for the markets, and now I see why. In the shadow of the cathedral there are six markets, each with a different themes; nautical, Angels, Rudolph and Gnomes made up four as well as a cathedral market and one around the old town. Easily depictable statues and most importantly gluhwein mugs and beer glasses (0.2 litre glasses, restraint clearly encouraged – never adhered to) showcase the theme of each, as do the stall holders goods.

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Market stall currywursts and pork knuckle were both particular food highlights, albeit predictable. My knuckle recommendation is Peters beer haus, the knuckle is the size of the haus itself – and a crackling fanatics dream. The beer haus itself is almost like a more boozy Hogwarts, easy to get lost in the many wood clad floors and beer halls with the waiters dressed up and gliding around with large ‘wheels’ of beers, alcoholic, not butter beer. It’s pretty great. The other food highlight was Plomari, booked as it was rated number 1 on trip advisor you’d think it was a well known haunt in the centre of town – not the case but well worth the wait. I’ve been on an octopus hunt since eating an incredible dish in NYC a few years ago, I found a rival in Plomari’s. This Greek restaurant was tiny, but both the atmosphere, chef and owner made us come out with massive smiles. So good!

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Dortmund is smaller and easily doable in a weekend. It offers the biggest Christmas tree in the world, my over sized inner child got very excited by this – spoiler alert, it’s actually 1,700 trees formed to make one tree. Still, massive tree. Given that Dortmund mainly attracts visitors for the football it all seems rather novel for the locals who are incredibly friendly, especially when you find them in a beer house. Whilst lots of people seem to rate Wenkers pub we got rather stuck in Zum Allen Markt. Nestled in the centre it’s got great old school Christmas decorations, great gluhwein and beer tankards and in my case, locals very ready to try their latest tricks on you – increasingly difficult with every sup of beer!

In summary, great times in Germany. especially when food and a warm tipple are on your wish list (on mine, always.)