Letter from Portugal Part 1 –

The budget for the Europe holiday was dealt a severe blow in parts north of here and a bit of a shock even by Dili standards.  The wallet was haemorrhaging severely until the arrival in Portugal.  As a strong presence in TL, it seemed a reasonable place to put high on the visit list.

Being a bit warmer than other euro countries north of here, it felt a little more comfortable and conducive to nudging the odd amber beverage.  Fortunately, the Portuguese invented pastelarias where one can buy pastries and snack-like items along with beer.  In some parts, it seems like there is a pastelaria every 20 metres.  Hard going if you struggle to walk past one and can not keep walking.

I heartily approve of the ability to obtain beers every 20 metres, at pastelarias, restaurants and for the first time in my experience, beers at McDonalds … sophisticated.

Try as one might to get a cold beer at a supermarket (thinking they will be cheaper), one pays very little more to obtain the chilled article at a premises as mentioned above.  We are talking about USD1 to USD2 a beer (ie bottle) and down to USD0-70 for a smaller glass poured from the tap.

The 2 main beer companies are Sagres and Super Bok.  I tried them all and have pronounced “Super Bok Abadia” and “Sagres Bohemia” as my personal favourites – nothing to do with the 6.5% alcohol content.  The “Sagres Preta” (or black beer) is my next choice.  Pity Sagres is so much harder to get in TL.  There is also “Tagus” beer and one or 2 others.

Having covered the required refreshment after a hard day on the tourist trail, there is the dinner drinks to worry about.  Again, this is a relief after some pretty stiff prices in some places further north, but an enormous relief to find competent wines at around USD5 and others I dared not touch at USD1-50 a bottle.  At this point, I am being won over.

There is a reason that traditional Portuguese food does not appear as one of the 6 great world cuisines (neither does Australia food) but if you select carefully, you will get some pretty honest food at reasonable prices.  The usual caveats apply around tourist traps.  Pay more and you can get more international cuisine.

I brought Timorese ground coffee with me, on the basis that hotels/pensions may have a kettle in the room.  Such foolish Australian thinking means I am still carrying around TL coffee.  Fortunately, the Portuguese pastelarias make coffee drinking a breeze.

More on coffee and port in the next letter from Porto, north of Lisbon.