Wednesday 24 September 2014

Foreign food and exciting news

It's been quite some time since I tip tapped some words onto this little blog of mine. I haven't lost the drive for food, photography or the zippy feeling of excitement over a new recipe or drifting concept lingering in my mind.

I've been on holidays. Portugal has intrigued me for years. When I was younger, it always seemed like Spain's poor, forgotten sister, on the fringes of all the action. Based on that alone, I don't know why I didn't visit its rugged shores and winding streets sooner.

Lisbon was completely and unexpectedly a carbon copy of Dublin city, Mediterranean style. It's cobbled streets in the Alfama region, the oldest part of the city, were like a hilly version of Temple Bar, Cork's back alleys and Galway's maze, all thrown into a collective heap. It was at times grubby, curios, mysterious and energetic. Wafts of the aroma of grilled octopus, garlic oil and fried fish filled the little alleyways and stairwells by day. In the heat of the afternoon, glasses of beer dripped and by night, the lamenting voices of Fado singers drifted up and down the Alfama district.

Both in Alfama and in the other districts of Lisbon, old and new, I was in foodie heaven. With the exception of the modern shopping district, the city is one "pastelaria" after another, serving simple, quality ingredients, cooked with unpretentious deliciousness. I found a gem, where paper table cloths are changed after each customer and families are squashed at long wooden tables. Wine is house only, served in curvy water jugs. There is one hatch where simple dishes and pots of home-cooked food are passed from the cooking wife to the waiter husband. This is how food should be.

Peniche was a commercial surf town an hour and a half to the west. Commercial though it was, with over twenty five surf schools in an eight kilometer radius, sitting on my surf board and looking out at sea, waiting for the next set of waves to come in, I forgot about the hotels and hostels littering the coast. I smelt the distinct salty air and fresh smell of the sea. Even in such a small town, the quality of the seafood in the tiny fish shop was undeniably good. With no words other than the Portuguese for "thank you", there were smiles and giggles and banter between the ancient fish shop owners, a husband and wife team and their daughter and me.

After only ten days in two minuscule parts of this strip of land, I realized I had done Portugal a disservice. This is not a country that is a poor, forgotten sister. Even after such a short time, I realized she is the gem of the Mediterranean. Quiet, softly spoken and laden with hidden ideas, talents and beauties. This is a country worth visiting, for the people, food, landscape and surf.

Even better was to return to Ireland to find that an interview I did with a local newspaper was published in full all about the blog. You can read it in full here.

Go on an adventure. Whether it is on a plane to somewhere intriguing and unfamiliar like Portugal or Galway, Cork, Kerry or any other part of our beautiful country that reflects the same ideals of friendly people, great local food and unreal landscapes, just do it. Your soul will soar.

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