Carnival celebrations in Caldas da Rainha

Carnival in Caldas usually kicks off on Thursday night with a party for the elderly in the big expo-hall near the roundabout of fuel station Galp and Staples Office Center. On Friday the city centre comes alive during a colourful parade of primary school children. Hundreds of bees, princesses and pirates wind their way through the streets of this medieval town at the Portuguese Silver Coast.

Saturday night it’s the turn of all sorts of ghosts, Arabian princesses, clowns and, this year, a lot of Trump look-a-likes, to come out of their warm houses and walk to the square where religion, justice and political power are fraternelly represented. Around half past ten the nighlty parade starts, followed by a ball in the ancient park.

For weeks inhabitants of Caldas, people from surrounding villages and association members have been working on trailers for the parade. Luckily they are scheduled to run three times during the Carnival celebrations.  Once on Saturday night, followed by Sunday and Tuesday afternoon at three o’clock. .Enough opportunity to show off their creations and perform in front of the gathered crowds!

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Besides the parades,  there are two balls in the park, starting at 23.00 hours on Saturday and Monday night.

So, if you missed it this year. Do come next year!

Carnival parades

Hundreds of colourful performers make their way down from the tiny railwaystation, across the main avenue, Avenida 1 de Maio, to the square where the city mayor waits patiently on the staircase of the Town Hall. A wide range of topics comes by: Trump’s politics, protests against medical care and references to the historical thermal character are leading this year.

Where to stay?

Rural, Dutch owned,  Bed and Breakfasts  (some of them with glamping facilities) near Caldas da Rainha:

Quinta Verde in Salir de Matos

Quinta Japonesa in Carvalhal Benfeito

Quinta da Montanha in Casal do Frade

Quinta da Laranja in Almofala

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Lisbon: Hotel Real Palácio

We didn’t expect to get a Downton Abbey-feeling when I booked a hotel in Lisbon. But room 135 in the old part of  Hotel Real Palácio unexpectedly provides us one. The hotel is divided in a recent and old building. Our room for tonight is room 135, in the old part. Luckily this ancient city palace, with a beautifully tiled staircase, has survived the vile earthquake of 1755.

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The room is styled in a way we tend to see in series like Downton Abbey and gives us a royal feeling. I have no idea of the rooms in the newer, bigger building are styled in the same way. But our room provides us a pleasant feeling of being part of ancient history.

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Staircase to breakfast

From the hotel you walk easily to Park Eduardo VII, the Gulbenkian museum, the shopping mall of El Corte Inglês, michelin star-rated restaurant Eleven and Marquês de Pombal. And from the round about of Marquês de Pombal you walk along the Avenida da Liberdade to downtown Lisbon (A Baixa).

And those who don’t like to walk: metrostation Parque is not far.

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We choose to walk from the top of Park Eduardo VII (magnificent view over Lisbon) to Marquês de Pombal on this sunny December evening and to have dinner at the new hotspot near Cais de Sodré: Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira).

Marquês de Pombal is a hub in the metrosystem of Lisbon. There we buy a ticket which is valid for 24 hours from the moment you start travelling (costs 6 euros). Before going to Mercado da Ribeira we stop at Baixa Chiado. We want to visit the old bookshops in Rua Garrett (one of them is the oldest in the world!). Besides that, Rua Garrett is a nice place. You can always change plans and decide to have dinner in Bairro Alto!

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Rua Garrett (metro Baixa-Chiado): the oldest bookstore in the world. Those who read Nighttrain to Lisbon will recognize the name of the street!

But first we take a picture of Fernando Pessoa. He is waiting, in bronze, for a coffee at Café Brasileira and look around. On this lovely December evening buildings are beautifully illuminated.

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December in Lisbon: Rua Garrett

After this short stop we continue travelling to Cais do Sodré. Opposite this train/metro/boat station is Mercado da Ribeira, the foodcourt in an old market hall. It’s called Time Out Market and there is plenty of food for every taste. But more on that in a next blogpost!

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Pastéis de Nata: famous Portuguese custard cakes. Opposite the hotel, at the corner, you can eat a warm Pastel de Nata!
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1,80 euro for two delicious Pastéis de Nata!

Useful information:

Link to the hotel: Hotel Real Palácio Lisbon
Rua Tomás Ribeiro 115, Lisbon
E: Email: realpalacio@hoteisreal.com
T:  (+351) 213 199 500

Short vlog on room 135 in Hotel Real Palácio:

And no, I wasn’t paid to write about this hotel. The stay in Lisbon was a Christmas gift of my mother and coincided with the celebration of our wedding day.

Vindima: grape picking season

The weather was particularly dry this year. Since the beginning of March it hardly rained, leaving farmers rather desperate. Those who irrigated the vineyards in August were able to save most of their harvest luckily.

Failed harvest

The grape picking season normally starts mid September and goes on to half October. At our family farm, ‘quinta‘ as we say in Portuguese,  we start picking grapes in one of the last weekends of September. But not this year. The grapes matured much earlier, so the ‘vindima’ was in the second weekend of September.

Grapes

Grape picking at our family farm is hard work, but the ambiance is gay and pleasant. Especially during lunch, of course! Working on both sides of the row helps a lot: it makes talking easy and we hear a lot of gossip and news while picking.

Franciso helps us harvesting every year. He is 80!

Grape pickers

But you have to be careful and pay attention not to make deep cuts in your fingers or in the palm of your hand. That’s why we tell friends and family who help us during the harvest not to start picking putting their fingers at the grape stalk. No, the best way to do it, is to hold the bunch with your left hand from underneath and to cut with your right at the top of the stalk.

Picking Alicante Bousquet

Some varieties of grapes leave your hands coloured as if they are bleeding. When I am picking the Alicante Bousquet it looks like I have been slaughtering a pig. I easliy fool my friends on Facebook showing my fingers!

Picking grapes

While the pickers on the field are filling one basket after another, a tractor collects full baskets bringing them to the ‘adega’, the wine grange. White grapes are pressed immediately. The juice goes into barrels, where later on the fermentation takes place.

Wine press

Sugar in juice

The success of the winemaking process depends greatly on the amount of sugar in the juice. So when we see a percentage of 14 before the juice goes into the barrels we feel quite happy actually.

Mouse drinking abafado

In the Silver Coast region farmers produce a kind of Port called ‘Abafado’. This little mouse (left on the photo) is extremely found of the Abafado in the oak barrel. She came out every night to enjoy drops falling from the tap. Little mouse was so addicted that she didn’t bother having people watching her.

Tinta Roriz
The winemaking of the red grapes is different. Next harvest I will explain how we make red wine out of the Tinta Roriz-grapes . This grape variety is also called ‘Aragonês’ and related to the Spanish Tempranillo from which Rioja is made. I do hope you visit my blog again next harvest!

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