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July 12, 2014

Parks of Lisbon: Jardim do Torel

Lisbon is full of lovely parks, although many are a little off the beaten track. To celebrate the warmer weather, we’re showcasing some of our favorites. This week, the Jardim do Torel, just up the hill from our vacation rentals and holiday apartments.

Jardim do Torel view of Baixa

View of the Baixa from the Jardim do Torel

The Jardim do Torel winds, snake-like, down the Colina de Santana–starting near the top of the Ascensor do Lavra and ending on Rua do Telhal. Every turn presents you with a new and sweeping view of Lisbon, and all sorts of charming spots are tucked into the corners.

The shady lawn near the top entrance boasts the best views of the Baixa and the river, and the wooden lounge chairs are perfect for putting your feet up for an afternoon rest.

Jardim do Torel - playground

Land, ho!

Down a flight of curving stairs and past the fountain, a simple but well kept playground will delight the younger set. The boat on the “toddler” side is perfect for playing pirates–or Portuguese discoverers, if you want to squeeze in a history lesson!

Stairs at the Jardim do Torel

Stairs at the Jardim do Torel

Just around the corner from the playground, the Esplanada do Torel offers the chance to enjoy yet another view, as well as brunch, or just a bite to eat and a cup of coffee. For a change of pace, try the delicious–though intense–hot chocolate. The large terrace around the cafe is perfect for more running and playing, if anyone still has the energy for it!

The last bit of the Jardim do Torel switchbacks past an elementary school (imagine going to school in this lovely setting!) and down another set of landscaped stairs, allowing you to exit just above the Avenida Metro station and the charming Alentejan restaurant Zé Varunca.

Whether you visit just one part, or walk down (or up!) through the entire garden, the Jardim do Torel is truly a pleasure.

November 11, 2013

St. Martin’s Day: Magusto & chestnuts

November 11 is St. Martin’s Day, and here in Portugal it is the height of the Magusto, a celebration of autumn’s bounty and the ripening of both the chestnuts and the year’s new wine.

Martin was a Roman soldier, born around 316AD near Savaria, in what is now Hungary.

According to legend, Martin came across a beggar one cold day while he was stationed in France (Gaul, at the time). The man was sorely underdressed, and shook with cold as he called out to Martin for alms.

Martin, distressed because he had no money to give the man, drew his sword and cut his own cloak in half, so that he could give one piece to the beggar. Instantly, the clouds parted, and the winter sunshine warmed Martin, allowing him to reach home with no great discomfort. That night, Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, wearing the beggar’s half of Martin’s cloak, and thanking Martin for providing Him with protection against the cold.

Shortly afterward, Martin left the army and dedicated his life to evangelism and service to the poor, becoming a monk, then a bishop, and eventually known as St Martin of Tours.

Because of the miraculous change in the weather caused by Martin’s act of charity, the warm, clear days often seen at the beginning of November are know in Portugal as St Martin’s Summer.

At about the same time, the chestnuts begin to ripen and the first of the year’s wine is ready to sample, as well as other alchoholic beverages made from the semi-processed grapes, such as agua-pé and jeropiga.

Roasting chestnuts for Magusto; photo credit: Marques Maia, via WIkimedia Commons

Roasting chestnuts for Magusto; photo credit: Marques Maia, via WIkimedia Commons

These, of course, are the makings of a party, and on or around November 11th,  the Portuguese gather around bonfires, fireplaces or even stoves to drink, talk, laugh, eat chestnuts, and celebrate (traditionally) the bountiful harvest and coming winter rest. Before the introduction of potatoes from the New World, chestnuts were a staple starch in the Portuguese diet, and a good harvest meant families could comfortably weather the lean winter months.

These celebrations are called Magusto, and traditions vary around the country. In the north of Portugal the day is still often marked by outdoor gatherings or community parties, such as the Feira da Castanha in Marvao.

In Lisbon the day is mostly an excuse for a party, often in the schools as well as with family. The chestnut sellers do a brisk business at this time of year, and a few companies sponsor giveaways of free chestnuts, for the publicity. Many restaurants also offer seasonal dishes, such as meat roasted with chestnuts, which are often delicious.

If you happen to be visiting Lisbon this time of year, buy uma dúzia (a dozen) from one of the outdoor chestnut vendors and savour them while walking the streets of the Baixa. The crisp sunny days of St Martin’s summer await you…


What is your favourite way to eat castanhas?

October 22, 2011

Where should we eat in Lisbon?

Check out our interactive Googlemap of our favorite local Lisbon restaurants and cafés!


VisitingPortugal Lisbon Restaurant Recommendations


And 6 Vegetarian Restaurants, too:

VisitingPortugal Vegetarian Recommendations


Plus a map of Lisbon’s Best Ice Cream, 8 shops in/around the Rossio. (Per TimeOut, July2010):

Lisbon’s Best Ice Cream

… Enjoy!

May 24, 2006

Pap’Açorda (Birthday Confessions)

Today is my birthday so I splurged:  First, my son and I found ourselves unexpectedly on an errand up north of our historic district.  At noon, we walked past a small neighborhood pastelaria (literally “pastry shop” but often serving much more) and knew it was time for lunch:  the pastelaria had the perfect mix of happy-looking customers of all age ranges.  The incredible picanhas — thin planks of Brazilian beef with rice and black beans — had my son snitching from my plate.  Total for two persons, with huge 20% tip, but no dessert:  €8

This evening, for the big Bday treat, we finally made it to the well-known and much-touted local restaurant called Pap’Açorda.  The arroz de marisco was good.  Total for two persons, including dessert:  €65

Now, if I could only remember what street that pastelaria was on…

May 13, 2006

Organic Farmer’s Market in Lisbon

Principe Real Organic Farmer's Market

Principe Real Organic Farmer’s Market


For a perfect Saturday, walk over to Príncipe Real Park (take the Glória funicular from Restauradores, turn right and the park will be on your left in about 5 minutes).

From 9am to 3pm, fresh fruits and vegetables, hand-made olive oils, jellies, breads, etc., are for sale at the far end of the tree-lined park. Sit on the benches afterwards and enjoy the lovely neighborhood feeling… and don’t forget to buy a straw bag to carry your goodies home again!

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