On Monday I arrived in Portugal for the second half of my year abroad! When I was in the UK over Christmas I was very busy, working and doing an essay for university, so now I’m excited to just relax for a week in Porto before I start uni in a small city nearby called Braga. I haven’t been to Portugal for about 14 years so it’s all very new and different for me! One thing that I’m uncertain about is the quality of my Portuguese. After having spent 5 months in Spain I can only think in Spanish (and of course my native English)!
One thing that I didn’t do very well when I was in Spain was the whole healthy eating thing, but I intend to do better here. It’s not to lose weight or anything like that, it’s just to feel better in myself and be healthier! So far I’m off to a great start. When I arrived on Monday night I went to the supermarket close to my airbnb and bought some fresh vegetables to make some delicious mediterranean meals, and all I seem to be eating is Greek salad and kiwis.
This is very different to how I’d been eating in England – I find that I eat healthier when I’m on my own – because there my parents make lots of food to compensate for me being back from uni, where I think my mum reckons I don’t eat at all.
On Tuesday I went for a walk to O Estádio do Dragão where FC Porto play, and on the way I walked past so many Little Portuguese bakeries that I was so tempted to pop into, but I knew that if I did it would be difficult to leave! I love Portuguese pastries – in Cardiff my friends and I would often meet up in the one opposite the castle, which is a really nice place and actually quite authentic, filled with actual Portuguese people, Cardiff locals and tourists!
I always thought that food was cheap in Spain, but to eat out here is even cheaper! I walked past a restaurant today and saw that the menu do dia was just €3,50 for 2 courses! That’s unimaginable in Madrid! I can imagine that I’ll be eating out a lot more here than I ever have done in my life if it’s that cheap!
The people who own the house that I’m staying in are very lovely, and a couple of nights ago they invited me to have dinner with them, but I’d already eaten so I declined. In Spain I was friends with a lot of locals, who could guide me in the direction of an authentic dish, but I guess the same thing will happen here with time! When I was in Cardiff my Portuguese language teacher told me that in Portugal, or especially in the north of the country where I am, they don’t really stick so much to the mediterranean diet, but the atlantic diet, and I don’t even know what that’s about. I have so much to learn about Portugal!
After going for a long afternoon stroll on Tuesday, I ended up inside a bakery on the hunt for a baguette. I also thought that, while I was there, I may as well get a famous pastel de nata, (which I guess is like the portuguse version of an egg custard tart, but don’t tell them that) but they’d run out of baguettes and Pasteis de nata so I left with a little bread roll (which really did not hit the spot) and something that the lady in the bakery had suggested instead of a pastel de nata, and was kind of like a cross between a custard tart and a flan, and definitely not what I was expecting.
One thing that Portugal is famous for (apparently, I didn’t know this) is its wine. Different regions have different types of wine, and yesterday I tried a wine from the Douro region, where Porto is. Beer is also a pretty big deal here, and they have two large national beers – Super Bock and Sagres, one for the south and another for the north. As I’m not really a beer drinker, I think I’ll stick to the good old American classic – Coca Cola.
Over the past two days I’ve been eating out a bit more and have even had the chance to eat a few Portuguese specialities. The first thing I tried was a francesinha. These are typical in Porto and are actually very hard to explain. It’s a bit like a toastie I guess, but with beef and Portuguse sausage on the inside and cheese on the top, then with a “spicy” sauce poured over the top. It sounds a bit strange, but I promise it tasted great!
For breakfast today I went to a café and FINALLY had a pastel de nata! It was so tasty, and I felt very authentic, joining the locals for a breakfast. Some of the people in the café were even drinking wine, but I didn’t go for that level of authentiity at 11 in the morning!
I really do need to get out there and try more Portuguese specialties, despite my efforts so far! I brought with me a recipe book that I’ve made up with all of my favourite recipies that I’ve found in other recipe books or that I’ve accumulated from people over the years. I do have a couple of Portuguese recipes in there that I found, but I’m yet to try them out. I feel like this is definitely the perfect place to do it though! And hopefully my hosts here in Porto can give me some ideas of things to cook as well! I’m also currently on the search for a more permanent flat and the lady that I’m talking to about a flat is older, and normally older ladies have some great authentic, family recipes that have been passed down the generations, so I’m looking forward to improving my skills in the kitchen over the next 5 months!