Friday, October 27, 2006

Should they stay or should they go?

Oh how I love the month of March. Beautiful spring flowers begin to appear, signaling the beginning of Spring with summer just round the corner.

It is also the month I was born. Nothing wrong with that, of course because I get lots of lovely presents. It is bad however, because I've been cursed with having the star sign of Pisces - the most indecisive of all the astrological signs. This trait has been an affliction for as long as I can remember. Don't even bother asking me to make a decision about anything, because I just can't. Now I'm not one to usually believe in this mumbo jumbo, but 'indecisive and complacent' is what they call our kind and indecisive and complacent is what I am.

Which brings me to my point. I had a pair of green Converse All Star when I was 14 and I loved them. I bought a black pair last week, took them home, tried them on and decided I didn't like them. So back to the shop they went. The whole of the next week was spent staring lovingly at peoples' canvas clad feet whilst asking myself why they looked better on everyone else. And why they made me look like a clown? I spent an hour trying on various shades of khaki yesterday and then decided against them. Today I decided it had gone too far and I bought the above pair. I love them. I love the colour. I' m sitting here as I type with one shoe on, exhausted after having tried them on with almost every item in my wardrobe. Something is telling me no, yet I know if I took them back, I would want them again.

Is it because everybody else seems to have them? I don't know. I need your help dear bloggers. Do you like them? Are they cool? But ultimately I want to know, should they stay or should they go? I have until tomorrow afternoon to decide so the decision is in your hands.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 3 -The Beach & things that live in the sea

Oceanário de Lisboa

If you like sea life, a visit to Europe's largest Oceanarium is an absolute must. It's inhabited by 16,000 animals and plants and based around four smaller aquaria, displaying the fauna and flora of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Antarctic. We spent hours with our noses pressed against the glass, entranced by menacing sharks, enormous tunas, cute penguins and cuddly Otters. The central tank is visible throughout the Oceanarium and holds an incredible 4 million litres of water.

The Beach

We went to the beach three times in the week that we stayed and we were spoilt for choice. There are some great beaches in Lisbon, only a 30-40 minute train ride from the Cais do Sodré station in the centre. On our first trip to the beach, we visited Cacsais, a popular tourist resort and former fishing port, it has several small beaches in and around town and lots of lovely shops and restaurants.

For our last two visits,we opted for Estoril. As soon as you step off the train, you walk through a tunnel and you're on the beach. I prefered the fact that there were virtually no shops, only a handful of restaurants and bars along the beach giving it more of a sense of isolation.
Estoril is famous for its casino, the inspiration for the casino gambling scene and title for the Ian Fleming's novel 'Casino Royale'.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of the man behind us wearing white socks.

He should have been wearing these

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Perfect Sunday

Sunday is the most miserable day of the week for most. A constant reminder that Monday is fast approaching - back to work and no more lie-ins. The only way to get over it is to prolong the weekend with some lovely food, lots of drink and a good film.

Yesterday I made bruschetta with tomatoes and garlic, roast beef, roast potatoes and a rocket salad with red onions and pine nuts.

Bruschetta con pomodoro

For the bruschetta topping, I chopped some fresh tomatoes out of my Mum's garden, garlic, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. It'll probably be the last time I'll be using fresh tomatoes until next summer even though they'll be selling them all year round in the supermarkets.

Roast Potatoes with rosemary

I always boil the potatoes first and then shake them around in the pan before I roast them so they break up and get nice and fluffy on the outside (great little tip from Jamie Oliver). Put them in a roasting tin with olive oil, plenty of salt, a sprig of rosemary and some some whole garlic gloves. Roast for an hour and a half to two hours until crispy.

Green salad with rocket, red onion and toasted pinenuts

Cut a large red onion into six and fry in plenty of olive oil until soft. Mix with the salad, toasted pinenuts and balsamic vinegar.

Is there really anything better than a roast and a nice bottle of red on a Sunday afternoon?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 2 -About Town

Lisbon has hundreds of museums from military to puppets, tiles to electricity but we didn't set foot in a single one. Apart from the fact that the weather was too nice to be stuck indoors in a stuffy old building, Lisbon is the kind of city you can just walk around with no particular destination in mind. We explored the whole city on foot, only occasionally jumping on a tram when too exhausted to tackle the steep hills. And Lisbon is very hilly. On our first night, the funicular to the Barrio Alto was out of order so we foolishly walked all the way to the top - it was so steep that with each step I took I thought I was going to slide back down again.

Our hotel was in a perfect position between the two main squares Restauradores and Rossio. The road which we had to walk down to get everywhere was full of touristy restaurants - you know, the ones with pictures of food and the menu in 10 different languages? Brushing aside the menus which were constantly shoved in our faces by over zealous waiters was like swatting flies. We spent many a happy hour looking for a good restaurant, preferably full of locals. We'd trawl the streets diving into the odd bar for a capirinhia and continue our mission. Unfortunately for being so fastidious, there is a price to pay. The food would probably always be good but the menu indecipherable. I thought I'd easily get by knowing Italian and a bit of Spanish but I was wrong. Some of the words sound nothing like the foreign languages I was more accustomed to using. For example, ementa is menu, frango is chicken, jantar, dinner, mexilhao, mussel, lula, squid, fiambre, ham, bife, steak but not necessarily beef. Huh? We would spend the first 10 minutes passing the trusty Time Out guide (open on the menu page) under the table to each other.

The chances of a romantic tete - a - tete in these places were slim as the tables were always pushed so far together you could be forgiven for mistaking your neighbour's plate for your own. It was in the restaurants that I noticed how similar the Portuguese are to the Italians. Hunched over their food they would chatter noisily and gesticulate animatedly whilst tackling their food. We had to almost shout across the table to be heard.

One thing I always try to do in a foreign country is speak as little English as possible. We found the first couple of days slighly intimidating, but by day three I was speaking confidently in a hybrid of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese - people seemed to understand me and that's the main thing.

The number 28 creeps up the hill... Sé Catedral

Torre de Belem

Rossio Square

Largo do Carmo

Castelo São Jorge from Restauradores

Elevador de Bica