Wednesday 29 January 2014

Jamaica, mon ;)

I have not kept it a secret that last year was... how may I put it nicely... nope, I can't put it nicely, it was bad! But the end of it was great, as you have already guessed if you read about my experiences while spending Christmas in Portugal. And, in the end, it is the end that matters... "all's well that ends well"!

But not only last year, the one that will always be known as "the crappy year", ended well (with a lovely gathering at my place with few but cherished closed friends and a lot of champagne) but the new year started amazingly! And you know it'll be amazing once you cross the Atlantic, leave the cold and the rain behind and head for where the sun shines and the sea is warm. This year's first destination: Jamaica!

What a beautiful place! I will not claim I saw much of it, no, I'm the kind of person that gets into the resort, puts on Havaianas and immediately ceases all activities other than reading, swimming, eating and drinking (ok, also dancing on occasion). But from the little I saw it is so pretty! The vegetation, hills, the bay, the warm, warm sea with the huge starfish and the cute crabs and the beautiful fish swimming next to you, the white sand, the food, the rum... oh my goodness, the rum! And reggae! I could not have enough of it! Calming, soothing, happy music that put a smile on my face!

Add to that the general attitude of "slow down, mon.. no problem, mon" and you have a recipe not only for wonderful vacations but a good start of a new year... That's right... That's the attitude... No problem, mon... Be all right... And all that, it is better than shoes, mon ;)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

the tavern crawl!

I know that you all know what a bar crawl is and I also guess that at some point in your life you have savored both the fun of the actual tour and the agony of next day's hangover... But have you ever done a tavern crawl, hum? Which is more or less the same thing but instead of drinking, the point is eating :) And not just eating, the idea is that you go from one place to the next in order to taste the best things that every place has to offer thus creating one meal with only the best of everything!

Here's how it's done properly: First, you get a ticket to Porto. I know, it starts in an expensive way but I promise you, the only thing that will actually be expensive is the plane fare as once you are in Porto, accommodation, transportation, food and drinking is cheap! Check it out! When you are there, do take your time to see this amazing city, I have written about its beauty before and will not repeat, but while doing so give the appropriate attention to eating; Porto has the most memorable food scene I have ever experienced! And I do love food ;)

Right, back to the tavern crawl. Do it for lunch, better to be able to have a nap afterwards (ok, maybe this is just for people my age...) before you get ready for the night (Porto offers great bar crawl possibilities as well) and chose a day it's not raining... yes, there are such! Make your research, ask locals, google a lot. Say, one tavern has the best rissol so  you start from there. Then, move on to the best "sandes de pernil" or pork sandwich, certainly include a place for a francesinha , maybe also a caldo verde and don't forget to save some space for dessert, the options are endless. Do not forget to end with a carioca de limão to give your stomach some help to digest everything... The walking from one place to the next is also good ;) Ah, and do not forget to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Now, if food is not your thing, fine. I understand. But for me it is one of the greatest pleasures in life and, word, the tavern crawl in Porto was indeed "better than shoes" ;)

Friday 17 January 2014

an oven....

Happy New Year! May this one be the best from the ones past and the worst from the -many- ones to follow!

I had amazing holidays! You will know all about it as I gathered quite a number of "better than shoes" experiences! The first one was the oven... No, not any oven, a wood oven! That I helped light up and cook the most amazing baby lamb with potatoes!

I had the great pleasure to be invited to spend Christmas in the Portuguese county side, "beyond the mountains", in the mainland east of Porto. The weather conditions were against us but the holiday spirit was very much in our favour! Warm, loving people who embraced me in the most kind way I can ever describe, a village with 197 permanent inhabitants, no internet, no mobile phone (except from at the far corner in the veranda where, if not raining, the signal was enough to get sms), a TV that nobody bothered turning on, cards games, puzzles, conversations around the fireplace where the home made sausages were being grilled (followed by chestnuts of course...) and... the oven!

Now, I grew up in an apartment and have lived the same way ever since, I don't do nature and had never seen how you can actually cook food with warmth that does not come from electricity!... oh, except grilling on coal I suppose, I knew that... I helped carry wood for the fire, stayed there to see when the oven was ready (the inside has to turn white first... you have to see this, no description is adequate...) took pictures of the food and in the end, when it was ready, I claimed a double portion because of my efforts! And I got it! And it was better than shoes! Not because it was so good, which it was, but because the process of making it was so special! Heck, I did not mind even the 13 times I had to get out of the house to go to the oven (sure it is NOT in the house) sometimes in the rain! Me!

No, I'm not saying that I from now on I will be living "The Good Life" but I do tell you that getting out of the comfort zone and doing things one has not done before is good. Often, better than shoes ;)