Lisbon, You Get An A+

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October 12th 2021
Published: October 15th 2021
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Wow, it has been a long time since I traveled for pleasure. After the amazing trip to Australia, I put travel on hold so I could search for a new job in a new city and new state. (yeah, I have wanderlust in my everyday life too.) 2019’s vacation was replaced with quick trips to interview, impress and finally land the job I wanted. Happily, I moved into my new city in the Seattle area. Sadly, it was the day that that first Covid death happened in the life care facility, and the Governor announced a health emergency. Do I really need to say more?? 2020 put a halt to all pleasure travel. 2021 did not seem to hold much more, yet towards the middle of the year, things were improving. Dave and Merry Jo D MJ Binkley and I planned a trip to Bosnia and Croatia. We planned, researched, were excited; however, when it came time to book, none of us felt confident that we would be able to travel safely, or that the countries would be open to travel. Back to the drawing board we went. Canada? A trip through the Canadian Rockies? Sounded fun, but would we be given entrance? Who knew? Alaska? Sure, that was a great idea, but Alaska has this thing called winter, so our trip would be during off season with limited travel choices. More research, more discussions, and finally we came to something we had discussed at the going away dinner before I moved. A river cruise on the Douro river in Portugal had been placed on the bucket list of places we would enjoy traveling together. Within a week, we had the trip planned, and soon after, it was booked. So, here I am, free range Brendan. Now that you have the long-winded explanation out of the way, it is time to have that glass of port and enjoy the real story.

A jetlagged, but excited Travel Brendan arrived in Lisbon early Tuesday morning. Dave and Merry Jo have been on the road for several weeks, so were at the hotel to meet me, and just like that, the band was back together. I used their room to shower, freshen up and leave my luggage while we plotted what to do with the day. Naturally our first stop was to include food, specifically, pastel de Belém at Casa Pastéis de Belém. Although this is sold throughout the city, there is only 1 bakery where the original is sold, and has been since 1837. The recipe is a secret held by 3 people, and has never been replicated. We stood in a line enjoying an unseasonable sunny day, and my Starbucks coffee. Yup, after traveling over 5200 miles, it was the coffee company from home. Sometimes slipping into a new country gently is a good thing. The pastel de Belém was as good as I had hoped. Crispy crust, and I mean truly crispy, held a sweet custard. I can see why it has been a fan favorite for so many years. Later I heard that there is a yearly competition to see who can come the closest to the original, the winner being announced at a fish festival of all things. Sitting there with friends who are part of my family of choice, drinking coffee, eating special sweets in the sun, I had to give a huge sigh of relief. I was traveling again. My new passport, renewed during the pandemic, had its first stamp, and I was on the road in Lisbon.

Once we finished the meet and greet, it was time to do some serious touring. I laugh as I write this, because jetlagged Brendan was far from serious. Churches and museums are never at the top of my travel list. I will see them, and can enjoy the beauty, but unless there is a zip line from the belfry, I am not that excited by them. The pastel de Belém was actually developed in a monastery located next door to the cafe. There is a lot more history there, but I am going to glaze over it for now. We stood in line to see the Monastery of Jeronimos. The church was beautiful inside with amazing stained glass. Next door was an exhibit on Egyptian artifacts, followed by ancient art. I was punchy, cranky, and in general just full of it. The architecture of the building was magnificent, as were the courtyards and grounds. Soon, we had seen what we wanted to, and it was time to move to the next part of the day.

Exhausted and church-ed out, just me, that is, we crossed over to see the large Monument to the Discoveries, honoring sailors and explorers. I had seen and photographed it from the air on our descent, but up close it is much larger than I had anticipated. In case you are wondering, no, it is not Leonardo De Caprio on the front of it, and no, they do not allow tourists to strike a Titanic pose on it. I had a feeling that was the case, but was worth at least a thought. This monument was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. As I said, it is very large, and features different sailors and navigators on each side.Also, Lisbon has a bridge that was designed by the same company who did the Golden Gate Bridge, and this one is a spitting image as they say. The 25th of April bridge has trains that run on a deck under the cars, and the approach to this bridge is much longer, but other than that they look to be twins. I will say that it was odd to see such a familiar landmark in an unfamiliar setting. There is also a much smaller Cristo de Redentor here above the bridge. Toss in an Eiffel Tower, and the gang would be all here. The promenade around the monument to explorers had amazing views of the bridge and city. It was nice to take some time to soak it all in without having anywhere to go or anything specific to do. Dave and I stood in line to take the elevator to the top of the monument, but agreed that it was not worth the long wait. I had hit the wall, so it was time to take an Uber back to the hotel for a late lunch.

The hotel had a small courtyard with a two-story wall water feature and a restaurant where I had cod croquettes, French fries, and a well deserved beer. It was just what I needed to wind down a couple marathon days. Afterwards, I took a couple hour nap long enough to recharge my batteries, short enough that I would still fall asleep at bedtime.

Dave and Merry Jo had found a nice restaurant close to our hotel the night before, so we went to it for dinner. We had a nice bottle of wine while chatting with the waiter and deciding what to order. I had a very tasty mushroom, rocket toast, followed by a low temperature chicken breast. As a chef, I really try to give a lot of leeway to restaurants, and not be critical: however, this chicken deserved all of the wrath of Brendan it was about to receive. Naked and afraid, that is all I can say for this poor chicken. It had no sauce, no salt, no moisture, no flavor. It was served on a pool of carrot puree with 2, count them, 2 rings of grilled leeks, exactly 3 zucchini sticks and 3 carrot sticks. Yes, it was artfully presented, but no, it was not good. Luckily, we had ordered another bottle of wine, so I was not only jet lagged, but tipsy. I let the dish pass without storming the kitchen. Crisis averted, we moved on to dessert. Chocolate went a long way to soothing the savage beast I had become. It was a lovely (my word of the trip) chocolate cake with salted caramel and, vanilla ice cream. On that note, we left the restaurant and went back to the hotel to call it a night. All in all, this was a great way to start the trip, and for that, I give the coveted A+ to the city.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


The 25th of April bridge The 25th of April bridge
The 25th of April bridge

Now, doesn't this look like a shot from SF?
Before it went sidewaysBefore it went sideways
Before it went sideways

Still enjoying the appetizers
Mt. Rainier 2Mt. Rainier 2
Mt. Rainier 2

I liked this so much that I wanted to add it.

16th October 2021

Bom Dia!
I just read the Binkleys posts in Spain and was thinking I wonder when BV Chef will post and viola there it is! You are probably a great person to travel with because you’ll critic and seek out all the great food. I’d be trapped eating the custard tarts in Porto. Have fun and continue on free-range Brendan!
16th October 2021

Trapped eating custard tarts
I loved the image of you being trapped with the custard tarts. Not really a bad thing, though. Thank you for the comment. The Binkleys and I travel well because we all seek out the good food. I hope you enjoy the rest of the blogs to follow.
16th October 2021

That Chicken!
Glad you 3 have been enjoying the wine and company. Lisbon is fascinating. Actually enjoyed all my meals there so I feel sorry for that chicken! Tsk Tsk. But your narrative gave me a good laugh. Keep writing. Hugs to the 3 pandemic travellers-- you guys surely know how to beat the odds!
16th October 2021

3 pandemic travelers
We are enjoying this trip, and other than the chicken misstep, have found very good food. It is nice to see that travel is picking up here in Lisbon, but it certainly isn't what I would expect it to be. Thank you for the comment, especially that you enjoyed the narrative. I hope that one day our paths will cross.
16th October 2021

The Wrath of the Brendan
The Vermillion Room Spa House has been unused since your stay...the sign still standing...the snake still in the mandarin tree. Bet you can hardly wait for your cruise of the Duoro where the imaginary Wrath of the Brendan can be packed away...never to emerge as The Three Amigos and the band hold sway!
19th October 2021

Oh, That Snake and the Vermillion Room
I love that you still have the room and snake. That was such a good Aussie welcome. Yes, we are on the cruise, and the wrath of Brendan has been packed away. This trip is going very well, with good food, drink and great friends.
17th October 2021

Glad to see you back on the road
If you thought the chicken was bad, don't try the bacalao (dried cod).
19th October 2021

Too Funny!
Sadly for the chicken, the dried cod had more flavor. That was only a small blip on an extraordinary food journey so far.
21st October 2021

Travel Brenno is set free
Friend, chef and world traveler.... it has been too long since you traveled and far too long since you traveled with us. Our next caper is in the planning stages! I swear the night before the food at the restaurant was significantly better. That poor sad chicken was embarrassing. Better things came after that meal. Love exploring with you! Pastry, coffee and chocolates always improve things. I'm glad you didn't go to the top and try any stunts on the monument to the explorers! MJ
21st October 2021

Free Range Travel Brenno
It is very great to be out in the world again, especially with such good friends. The dinner was still nice, and honestly, without some less than memorable dishes, life would be less interesting. And, no. No stunts on the monument, although you know there will be others.
28th October 2021

Travelling with friends.
I had my couple of days with MJ and Dave in Granada and they’re great company , and as always it’s great to share the travel tales ....good and bad. It must be difficult for you as a chef not to criticise the food, but I’m sure there will be delights ahead.
29th October 2021

Thank you so much
I am glad that you were able to spend time with Dave and Merry Jo. They are great travel friends. It is good to be on the road again, and although not all food hits the mark, I am usually pretty happy to have someone cook for me.
29th October 2021

Travelling Again
Yay! I'm so pleased to have read this, to see that you are travelling again Brendan ? I enjoyed your Australian travels very much, and was in fact wondering when your next trip would be. Glad to hear you have the new job/city/state organised now, and that you are now on the road again. I have been following Dave and MJ's trip so far, so it will be certainly interesting to read an additional perspective on this as you all go! More of a food critic perspective too, lol! Enjoy your travels Brendan, and thank you for giving us all the enthusiasm and courage to start getting out there again ?
29th October 2021

Thank you Alex
It is great to be out on the road again. Portugal seemed to be a safe trip to take. Our initial plan was to visit Bosnia and Croatia, but we changed our minds as numbers went up and down. Yes, food is a big part of my journey. I am glad you are following along.
9th November 2021

Chocolate makes everything better!
Travel Brenno! I have so many blogs to catch up on, lovely reading your tales from the road again. When I read "a low temperature chicken breast", I thought this was a new thing akin to maybe the slow-cooked 63-degree egg that every hipster cafe seems to have these days... but no... it was just plain sad cold chicken :( Thanks for the laugh :) I'm literally drooling over those custard tarts - they look perfect!
13th November 2021

Good Food/ Bad Food
Thank you Ren, I am glad you enjoyed this. I was so excited for that chicken, but such is life. Yes, the tarts were truly delicious. It was a great start to the trip.

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