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Behold Porto's flagship cheese-smothered sandwich, The Francesinha
Don't let Porto's beauty and the fact that it's well known for its wine mislead you: It's a blue-collar town at heart. Its infrastructure peels with character, and lax local laws allow the city streets to double as beer gardens.
Neighborhood restaurants and "snack bars" sport the stay-awhile casual vibe of a roadside New Jersey diner, and the cuisine encourages you to dig in, push back your chair, and extend your legs. Steaks are typically smothered in something, fish is served split open and whole, and the sides are generous servings of potatoes, bread, and cheese.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Porto's most famous sandwich, the Francesinha (pronounced fran-seh-zheen-ya), is a food coma waiting to happen. It packs such a punch, in fact, that a food writer from a town famous for its meaty sandwiches - Philly - had to say uncle and walk away from the plate. It flexes its muscles the minute it's put in front of you, its protective layer of cheese shining brighter than a knight's armor.
Porto Travel / Neighborhoods to Know and Go / Matosinhos Travel / Portugal Travel / Food Travel / → All Tags
You know you're getting close to some of the best seafood in Porto when you come upon the traffic circle and see the huge net waving in the wind, the ripples moving and shifting the shape of the sculpture like a jellyfish in the current. Known as She Changes, the larger-than-life artwork is the gateway into the city of Matosinhos, a "beachtown suburb" adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
It's also the home of the Leixões Sea Port and a major fishing community, the main reasons why the area is so well known for its seafood restaurants. Today, you can head to the Old Quarters in Matosinhos or north of the harbor to Leça da Palmeira to see what the buzz is all about. You can find a wide range of opportunities, from beach-side grills to fine-dining restaurants.
Drinking Travel / Portugal Travel / Porto Travel / Douro Valley / Monday Five Thirty / Wine Travel / Port / Portonic / → All Tags
In the same way that only sparkling wine from Champagne in France can be sold under that name, only dessert wine made in Porto’s Douro Valley can be labeled as “Port.” Later this week, we’ll take a walk through one of the region’s most famous wine lodges to get a sense of its varieties and history, but today we want to take a glance at how Port is being consumed in the present.
You’ve all no doubt seen the small after-dinner sipper glasses used when it is drunk in the traditional way, but did you know that Port has gone trendy? It has found new life in Portuguese bars, restaurants, and homes as the base ingredient in cocktails.
View from Gaia across the Douro River to Porto
Last year, we spent a week exploring Lisbon, Portugal's capital and largest city. We loved it so much that we celebrated it as the 2013 destination of the year, diving head first into into its Fado culture, personable neighborhoods, and undiscovered nature. At the end of our trip, we vowed to return to explore more of the country, and this week we landed in Porto, Lisbon's rival city up north built alongside the Douro River.
It may be much smaller than Lisbon, but it sure doesn't feel like it as you walk its streets. Numerous vistas provide expansive views of the rolling terrain and snaking river that stretches inland. Across the Douro, you can see Gaia and its wine lodges, and from certain locations you can even see the Atlantic Ocean, just a 20-minute drive from downtown.
It's that time of the year again, the time when the year just plain ends. Alas, we can't just let 2013 go that easily, especially since travelers spent it both up in the air and up in arms over a crazy range of topics. Needless to say, we're ready to get going into 2014, but first we're taking a brief look back at the best of 2013 with the Jaunted Travel Awards,or as we fondly refer to themThe Jauntys.
We learned a very valuable lesson very early on in our journey through Portugal: The fact that a city/town/country has been on the map forever in no way means that it has been discovered.
From our first steps through the streets of Lisbon, the Portuguese city upon the hill, it became clear that Americans have, for whatever reason, been ignoring Portugal. Even the most basic of observations we made were raising the eyebrows of our colleagues and friends back in the Statesa good example being that Lisbon looks just like San Francisco.
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After the warmth of the holiday season fades and January and February begin to sink in their teeth throughout most of the country, you won't be alone if you find yourself dreaming of the ocean. You could always cruise out to So Cal, but we're recommending an extended winter vacation this year, one that you should start planning now while the cash is already flowing from your wallet. Don't wait for those holiday bills to come -- at that point, you'll be too discouraged to cough up any more.
Given the popularity of resolutions, the beginning of the new year is a great time to try something new. And since we're talking summer, how about holding up in a small beach town and learning to surf? Here are three destinations we visited this year that will have you hanging ten in no time.
So far, organic growth thanks to newfound tourism has created a local, pleasant surf town vibe in Sayulita that is not found in the hustle and bustle of nearby Puerto Vallarta. Even though many of the businesses are most definitely there because of tourism, the town has done a nice job overall of keeping them authentic and feeling local -- something we greatly appreciate.
Surfboards can be rented right off the beach for less than $25 a day and multi-person bungalows can be rented for as little as $90/night (there are also cheap hostels and a campground). We recommend you not hesitate, because as great as the town is at the moment, we see small signs of infection – such as annoying beach vendors and aggressive restaurant greeters – that could very well begin to change the feel of the town in the coming years. We have our fingers crossed, but we aren’t holding our breath given the direction most other Mexican destinations have gone with their approach to tourism. So, go!
Portugal Travel / Lisbon Travel / Neighborhoods to Know and Go / Travel Tips / Shopping Travel / → All Tags
While no single post could ever sum up all the tiny gems and small 'hoods you find in a big city, we've broken down the main neighborhoods below to give you an idea of what to expect and do in each. Because Lisbon is a condensed city, it is very easy to get around via public transportation (trolley cars and the subway) or, if you can handle the hills, by foot.
Well, isn't that the way it goes... we're in Portugal for ten days, and two days after we leave, the world's largest wave gets surfed! Last weekend, as hurricane conditions swept through the east coast of Europe and killed almost a dozen people, gigantic (and we mean gigantic) waves brought surfers to the infamous area known as Nazare, which is about an hour north of Lisbon in Portugal and an iconic surf destination with a reputation for consistently producing some of the world's biggest waves.
On the last run of the day on Monday, after rescuing his friend who had broken her ankle, Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle caught what is believed to be the largest wave in history -- a 100-foot wall of water. You must watch the video below to get a visual (although you may want to watch it on mute):
Last week, we wondered why Americans continue to ignore Portugal despite its proximity to the East Coast and the fact that we constantly fly over it to reach other destinations. The question is rhetorical, and all we can do at this point is our best to show you what you're missing.
Here's a glimpse of what to expect on your inaugural trip to Lisbon, Portugal's largest city and capital, as well as a few cultural and food tips that will have you living like a local in no time.
Yesterday, when we told you about a rock 'n' roll jeep tour that takes you along Portugal's south and west coasts near Sagres, we mentioned that the area was undiscovered by tourists from the States. And we stand by that. While we certainly weren't the first Americanos to grace its shoreline, the reaction from the locals upon discovering where we were from told the whole story. They were, without question, not used to meeting Americans. The English, yes. The Spanish, for sure. Germans, totally. But not Americans.
And we're not just talking about some remote village in the middle of nowhere; the same has been true thus far of our stay in Lisbon. We suppose the main reason is pretty obvious. Lisbon just doesn't sound as sexy as Paris or Rome, two cities that Americans are all over on their first European jaunts. And since a very small percentage of Americans even travel to Europe once let alone twice, Portugal (as well as other European countries) becomes this "second-tier" destination that Americans never get around to visiting.
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So when he pushes it into fourth gear and rips down the off-road dirt trail to make sure you don’t “feel the bumps as much” or takes you up 45-degree climbs to reach coastal vistas, don’t say we didn’t warn you, all right?
Seriously, this was easily the most free-wheeling jeep tour we've ever experienced. It's all thanks to Sandro Pombal of Sagres Discovery, who is a former driver for Mitsubishi's regional rally team and who has since "settled down" to spend his days driving the trails along Portugal's rocky, elevated south and west coastlines, an area that is, without question, still undiscovered by American tourists (which we'll nag you about tomorrow).
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They just keep on coming! (Not that we're complaining). FIVE more international city badges on location-based social network Foursquare have just dropped, in time to get you even more psyched for upcoming fall travel.
These newest city badges go to: Vienna, Austria; Casablanca, Morocco; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Guimarães, Portugal; and Kumasi City, Ghana.
How to get the badges: First, follow 4sqCities, and just to be safe, it wouldn't hurt to also follow the individual city lists: Vienna (list), Casablanca (list), Kuala Lumpur (list), Guimarães (list), and Kumasi City (list). Then travel to the cities and clickety-click to check-in to the places on the recommended lists. Five places earns the badge.
BONUS: Las Vegas also just released SEVEN other resort-specific badges with perks attached. Check those out over on our sister site, VegasChatter.