Day 18 (February 20), 10:30 am to 2:00 am.
My teaching days here in Portugal (three of them) don't start until Saturday, so the next two days are designated sightseeing days! And it seems as if my host Teresa has a lot planned for us to do. Woo hoo!
She and Susana pull up to the hotel at about 10:30 am, and we begin our tour in the car since today is windy and rainy. But, rain or shine, snow or sleet, nothing is going to keep me from sopping up the sights!
We start in Teresa's hometown of Caldas da Rainha, which is also where I'll be teaching this week. I've been told it's a small town with a population of about 50,000, but it feels bigger to me, as it has all of the usual city amenities - corner pastelarias, restaurants at every turn, a daily farmer's market, a gorgeous central park, and street upon street of cobbled sidewalks and lovely tiled buildings. We eventually decide to brave the elements, so I can better appreciate everything. What follows is just a small sampling of the scenes along our Caldas walk.
Teresa and Susana ahead of me on a typical Caldas street.
I've been told every sidewalk in Portugal is cobbled like this, and so far, that's proved to be so!
Gorgeous tiled facades and ironwork are typical on the buildings in this town.
Divine cookie inspiration! A collage of tiled building facades!
Idyllic scene in the city's park, looking through trees at a centuries-old convent.
Susana says that the practice of tiling buildings is a safeguard against the winter dampness. Though pottery and tile-making are also the primary industries here, so it would make sense that some tile would end up on buildings even if only to make them prettier! Caldas, in particular, is famous for its fruit-and-veggie pottery, especially the green cabbage Majolica-esque style, which I love . . .
The cabbage type, closer up.
As it turns out, Caldas is also well known for its pottery that resembles a certain male extremity that's far too X-rated to post! Apparently years ago during a down economy, this new design was introduced to help boost the city's bottom line - and, as you might imagine, it's been a popular tourist attraction ever since. It's everywhere, even in pastelerias, where its been rendered in meringue form . . . But I digress.
At lunchtime, we're joined by Francisco, Teresa's husband. We jump back in the van for a quick drive to the nearby fishing village of Peniche, where we'll enjoy a bite to eat. Well, more than a bite . . . lunch is the BIG meal here. Lunch and dinner always seem to start with an amuse bouche of sorts that consists of olives, crusty Portuguese bread, cheese, and various packaged fish spreads, like these made of tuna and sardines from the local waters . . .
Fish spreads at the start of every lunch and dinner.
Today we feast on fish (naturally - I'd expect no less from a fishing village) - but more specifically, caldeirada, a classic Portuguese stew consisting of potatoes and an assortment of shellfish and fin fish, all commingling in a mild tomato-y broth. Delish!
Teresa spooning up a generous serving of caldeirada.
As usual, all is washed down with healthy pours of Portuguese wine. By 2 pm when lunch is over, I'm seriously contemplating a nap, but instead I settle comfortably into the van, and off we drive to take in the sandy beaches and rugged rocks characteristic of this area's coastline. We eventually make it to Baleal, a surfing town renowned for some of the world's biggest waves, and along the way, we see some of the most dramatic rock formations I've ever seen. Mind you, these photos don't do their magnificent size and structure any justice . . .
Stratified rock formations near Peniche.
My favorite formation.
After a full day of touring, photographing, and generally being bowled over by the diversity of all that Portugal has to offer, I am deposited at the hotel around 4 pm. I have just enough time to catch up on a little email and video editing before we head off to eat - again! As I take a bite of my first of many slices of shrimp pizza, I make a mental note that I need to resurrect my P90X video. Last I saw it was in Barcelona, tucked into the bottom of my suitcase.
Day 19 (February 21), 8:30 am to ongoing.
Guilt-ridden (well, sort of) about yesterday's over-consumption, I rise a little earlier than usual in an attempt to sneak in some exercise. The sun is shining and it's surprisingly warm, so I take a 30-minute jog through the streets surrounding the hotel. My jog would have been longer if not for those darn cobblestones! Charming as they are, they make for some pretty precarious footing. I supplement with an AbRipper P90X routine on my hotel room floor.
Teresa and team meet me at 10:30 am sharp, and we travel to the ancient fortified village of Óbidos, which can't be more than 10 or 15 minutes from the hotel. (I marvel at how much there is to see in such close proximity!) I never do catch the exact age of this town, but it's got its own castle (now turned 5-star hotel)!
The castle with workmen in the foreground.
Once inside the fortified city, I halfheartedly scale one of the walls with Francisco. (Halfheartedly, only because I don't really dig heights.)
Clinging (for dear life) to the city's fortified walls.
I'm relieved when we return to ground level, not just because of my acrophobia, but because of what I meet up with there. Our first stop is at a purveyor of the local cherry liqueur.
The region's cherry liqueur.
It's served in the cutest of little chocolate cups, and it screams "cherry". I start envisioning it in cakes, ice cream, and all manner of things sweet.
Imbibing. (Left to right) Susana, me, and Teresa.
We meander for a long while, first past the village's many quaint restaurants and shops, then past a fantastically beautiful church . . .
. . . and gradually up the hill to a viewing spot.
Spectacular vistas at the top of the hill.
Farmland views from the other side.
There really are no words other than "stunning".
By this time, we've worked up our appetites (natch), so we hasten downhill and back to the van. We steer ourselves toward one of Caldas' best restaurants, Adega do Albertino, for a "surprise" lunch carefully selected by Teresa.
Tiled sign on the restaurant's exterior - a typical way of marking streets and special buildings.
As I walk into the restaurant, I immediately know I am in for a treat.
Inside Adega do Albertino.
We are served more delicious courses than I can possibly recount.
One of the many main dishes - lamb with roasted potatoes and chestnuts.
A selection of after-lunch liqueurs, including the famous cherry.
Francisco and Susana. Too much cherry liqueur?!
Suffice it to say, a good time is had by all! (The cherry liqueur is at least partially responsible.)
Unlike yesterday, we aren't able to muster the energy for more sightseeing after lunch. (Again, the cherry liqueur will do that to you.) Plus, I'm starting to get a wee bit anxious about prepping for tomorrow's first course on 3-D cookie baskets.
Poster advertising my first class of three.
My tools are already organized on my demo station at Teresa's school, and my cookie repairs are all done, but I still have to think through the flow of demonstrations for tomorrow.
Teresa and Susana agree to prep the six batches of royal icing needed for the class, while I head to the hotel to try to wrap my head around work after so much play. No easy task. It's been a remarkable two days!
P.S. Thanks for humoring me through this lengthy sightseeing digression. I promise, tomorrow it's back to cookies I go!