Monday 30 September 2013

It was all going so well until

Easyjet, in their wisdom, decided to land our plane in Santiago instead of Porto! The staff are saying the problem is the fog here - pictured - but we can hear other planes taking off and landing so that's a lie.
We should have started boarding at 14.35. At 16.00 we finally got some news and were told that boarding will begin at 21.15. Oh joy! If Easyjet actually stick to this, we might get home by about 1am. If not, I might be going straight to work from Gatwick.
Fortunately I have several audio books on my headphones and there's a Costa with comfy armchairs. Silver linings?
P.S. We finally got a plane which took off about 10pm and landed at Gatwick shortly after midnight. We were all given vouchers to buy food. Arrived home at 2am.

Sunday 29 September 2013

A tram ride to the coast

for our last full day in Porto.

We started with a visit to the church of St Francis which is such a vision of ornate gilty cheruby excess that it's overwhelming - and not in a good way. The origins of the church are medieval but most of the decor was added in the 1700s.

The tram terminus is just outside the church and it's only €2.50 for nearly half an hour along the river to the sea. Both the tram and the Metro are great ways to tour Porto cheaply!

The huge sculpture pictured is some minutes walk from the sea end of the tram line. There's a sandy beach with lots of surfers in the sea and a wide promenade to stroll along. We kept walking past the fish docks and along a street with a dozen or so stalls grilling fresh caught sardines. We got as far as Mercado, a huge glass roofed market building.

Saturday 28 September 2013

This striking art deco villa

is in the Fundacao de Serralves park which also contains a contemporary art gallery, a tranquil tea house, rose and herb gardens, a small farm and an arboretum.

We weren't particularly taken by the art. Alexandre Estrela had several sound and video installations, a couple of which were intriguing, and Bochner was the main visiting exhibition. Fun images comprised of words were the more memorable of his works.

Fortunately today had very little rain - yesterday afternoon we got drenched! So we could walk all around Serralves, took tea in the Tea House and then walked back to Hotel Teatro along the river. We calculate nearky six hours walking in all.

Dinner tonight was a disappointing salted cod dish with tinned boiled potatoes. T'was an odd restaurant! A shame as yesterday's monkfish risotto at Restaurante Novo Paris was really nice.

I am developing a taste both for the little pastry custard tarts they sell everywhere and also for tawny port. Oops! More walking is needed tomorrow.

Friday 27 September 2013

Enjoying Porto despite the rain

which has been torrential in bursts this morning. The hotel has umbrellas to borrow though!

We've seen the Bolhao market, the gorgeous bookshop with the Hogwarts staircase - Lello - and so much beautiful architecture. I love that there as so many grand old buildings with fabulous tiled frontages and interesting statues like the one pictured. All the pavements are cobbled, some with black and white images.

Yesterday, there were several groups of university students, elegantly dressed in black capes and suits all over the city centre. Apparently it is some sort of initiation rite for the freshmen students but it was bizarre to see them all together. Perhaps J K Rowling was inspired by their appearance as well as Lello?

I think this afternoon we might wander round some more and drink in the atmosphere. I quite like being in the rain as it is still warm and with only a light breeze. Photos aren't coming out so well though.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Happy Birthday Dave!

It's a very special day today! 
Not just any another Wednesday, but Wednesday the 25th of September!

That means it's Davey's Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my Gorgeous Boyfriend

May you have a lovely day with lots of Chocolate and Sunshine

Saturday 21 September 2013

Blackberry bakewell tarts recipe

I walked along the Cuckoo Trail into Hailsham this morning and, along the way, saw a couple of women picking blackberries which reminded me that I had not yet gotten around to posting this recipe. I found it originally on the +BBC Good Food website and baked the little tarts pictured for when our friends Andy and Barbara came round for dinner. They went down so well that the plate was cleared within a few minutes! Dave and I had 'tested' a few straight from the oven earlier in the afternoon - purely to make sure they were up to standard you understand? I think they actually taste almondier when cold than when hot.

Ingredients (made 18 tarts) Apologies for the mixed measurements - I always make pastry in imperial!

For the pastry:
8oz plain flour
5oz butter
3-4 tbsp cold water

For the filling:
100g butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)

Start by making the pastry. Chop the butter into cubes and rub in into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water slowly and mix it in until you have a soft-but-not-sticky dough. Chill the dough in the fridge while you make the frangipane filling.

Preheat the oven to 200c / 180c fan / gas mark 6.

Put the chopped butter, caster sugar, egg, almonds and plain flour into a large mixing bowl. If using the almond liqueur, add it now too. (Dave had a bottle of +DISARONNO so I 'borrowed' some!) Beat all the ingredients together until combined and fluffy. Don't overmix though.

Roll out the pastry into a thin layer and use a 8-9cm pastry cutter to get circles. (The pastry in the phot was a bit too thick.) Grease a bun tin and line each of the indentations with a pastry circle. Fill each pastry case with a good tsp of frangipane and push a blackberry into the centre. I intended to use the blackberries from our garden, but there weren't enough so we got a punnet from +Waitrose instead. They were huge.

Bake the tarts for about 15 mins and try not to serve them ALL immediately!

Sunday 8 September 2013

Sweet pepper soup recipe

This recipe makes my favourite end-of-the-week soup and is a frequent Saturday lunch for us served with slices of hot buttered toast.

1 tbsp olive oil 
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp garam masala spice mix
2 red, yellow or orange peppers, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
500ml chicken stock
Salt & pepper 

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and garam masala and fry until the onion is soft. 

Add the peppers and stir to coat everything in the oil. The pictured soup was made with one red and one yellow pepper. I find the yellow ones are usually the sweetest, then orange, then red. I try to avoid making soup with green peppers, especially if they are dark green because they have quite a bitter taste that takes a lot of spice to disguise.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. When boiling reduce to a simmer and cover the pan to prevent too much evaporation. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the pepper pieces are very soft. Remove from the heat and season to taste.

When cooled enough not to scald if it splashes, blend the soup and reheat until almost boiling. Serve with plenty of hot buttered toast!

Friday 6 September 2013

Thinking about what I might miss

We had what might turn out to be the last firebowl of the season yesterday. Hopefully there will be more warm, still evenings but there’s a definite chill in the air in the mornings now and a real sense of autumn approaching. Watching the wood burning and chatting with Dave got me thinking about things that I might miss while travelling because sitting by our firebowl would be one. Dave pointed out this is daft because we don’t sit out in the winter months!

Obviously it will be strange not having our families and friends around and I do have some guilt about being away for the first Christmas without Mum. Several people have expressed the intention of coming out to meet up with us for a few days though so that will be nice and there’s always Facebook and Twitter and Google+ for keeping in touch.

I definitely won’t miss getting up to an alarm clock before I’ve had enough sleep, or sulky Stagecoach bus drivers and their unique style of timekeeping. There’s a pretty good chance that I won’t miss my actual job – sorry Ewelina – only the people with whom I work. Perhaps someone could Facebook the mad stuff Yelda says?

Foodwise, I’m reliably informed that there are Cake Shops in Portugal so that’s a relief! But I’m not sure if they have +HARIBO Tangfastics so I might take a secret stash. And tubs of Horlicks. And boxes of +Twinings because Fermin, who is Spanish, says the tea is awful. On the plus side, I’m looking forward to the fresh markets, stacked high with bright colours and real flavours, and trying lots of new recipes.

My beloved theatre trips will be pretty pointless because of the language barrier, although we might be able to catch an +National Theatre Live screening if we’re in the right place at the right time. I don’t know whether other cinema trips will be possible. I’ve read that films in Portugal are often shown in their original language with subtitles, but as we watch a lot of European cinema this might just mean two languages we don’t understand well enough to keep up. However, there is still music and dance as well as the art and architecture that we both love. 

Tiny technology means that most of what I would have really missed can be taken with us in our home-from-home. I’ll have my talking books and campsite book exchanges will help me discover new authors. And, of course, all our music is on an iPod and we're taking an old laptop with a few DVDs (just in case of occasional boredom). Plus sporadic wifi means I’ll be able to blog about our experiences and make you all jealous! 

Can't wait!