ONE MONTH IN PARIS, LISBON AND ROME

The Church of La Magdalene



My one month in Paris started on the first of July; the weather in Paris this time of the year feels like a combination of Spring and Autumn. I walk around with a light rain jacket, an umbrella for the rainy days, or a linen jacket if the weather is sunny. I decided in this trip to let myself get lost in the city; walk with no agenda or plan with the exception of food. 

                                   

My daily plan the last two days was to pick a patisserie where to get sweets for my coffee; and a Bistro where to have dinner for the day. I took a studio in the 10th Arrondissement, in an area of the city that is rather young and offers many choices of healthy eateries, all opened late. I bought water for my room and settled in; went for a walk and dinner at a near by Bistro where I had my first dinner, a vegetable pate and a fillet of fish with mornay sauce; but this was not one of the brasserie I came to visit in Paris and I returned to my hotel satisfied but unimpressed. 

Entrance to the hidden street leading to my hotel

Local bistros offer daily specials and food is not bad but being conscious of ingredients I prefer to eat at restaurants I know are also conscious of using only the best ingredients; I also found out in Paris that the cost is very similar both at common bistros and the special restaurants I had researched prior to my trip.


The very private street of my hotel
I stayed in a studio located in the tenth arrondissement; the room was not modern but clean; floors were wooden and recently swept; the fridge and kitchen were not new; the bed was clean and made up; the best feature was the bay window. I was to stay here for one month and I was not certain I was going to be happy; I like comfort and I am used to a more updated environment. Never the less when I arrived I was made feel at home. I settled in and stepped out that evening to find a warm neighborhood inhabited by young people; bistros, organic markets and ethnic eateries. I was charmed and returned to my studio feeling like a local.




On July 4 I woke up earlier and just in time to arrive at Pain de Sucre at ten in the morning. This is a super small patisserie, boulangerie with prepared sandwiches and pastries; I purchase a few items and headed out to walk and get lost in the city.



I stopped at cafes for espresso and to connect to a wifi, talk to my girlfriend and family in the States and basically connect with my normal life of family friends and work. I ate as I walked and shopped in little shops around the Picasso museum; I decided to visit it but never found it. Tired I called an Uber and headed back to my studio for a rest; I carried with me a Serrano Ham sandwich from Pain de Sucre.



CHEZ MICHEL 5.0

Late in the evening I headed out for dinner at one of my new favorite Bistros in the world, Chez Michel located not too far from my pied de terra; 10 Rue de Belzunce in the tenth Arrondissement. This turned out to be one of the best prepared meals I have ever had; all parts and ingredients were to perfection.



I ordered the 37 Euro choice that included appetizer, entree and dessert; I was also served an surprisingly delicious amushbuche  of miniature snails, about two dozen piled in a small dish accompanied by pin to pull them out of the shell; a side of a luscious mustard mayonaisse and a basket of rustic bread. My appetizer was as fish soup poured on top of chorizo and croutons; soup was perfectly spiced poured at the table from a ceramic vessel.



I had to consumed the entire thing, enough for two portions. My entree was the best breast of duck I have ever had, smoked and sautéed to perfection; eating it felt as if I were eating a thick slice of bacon dipped in a perfect apricot demi glade mixed with toasted almonds and other amazing things like clove and green herbs.



At this point I decided I wanted to see the chef, meet the person responsible for this perfect food; Chef Masa came to see me; very cordial and delighted to meet, I complemented him. My dessert was comfort food, rice pudding served with the best tasting preserves of apricots and raisins. I will definitely visit Chez Michel one more time this month.











Arroz con leche and fruit coulee; extraordinary!
BISTROT PAUL BERT 3.5



On July 6 I spent my morning at Starbucks; shopped for organic lunch at Bio-cooperative, and ate at Starbucks near my place. On my way home I purchased lamb chops 11.50/Kilo at a butcher shop that had a great display of meats. I had not plan to cook but I could not resist the display at this shop. later in the evening I headed for dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris (I learned that the number 11 at the end of the code identifies this address as being in the 11th arrondissement).



For my prefix dinner I had the fillet of Herring served on warm potato slices and topped with thinly sliced red onions, thin slices of carrot, Keta, and a mustard mayonnaise; pork ribs roasted with the skin on, small yellow potatoes, shallots and onions and an apricot demi glasse and lemon tart for dessert; I did not ask if the tart was made at home but it was perfection. I ended with an espresso; my bill was 50.






I retuned to Che Michel to taste the pate appetizer served with poached pears, mustard and pureed fruits; The beef stew which was perfectly cooked served on a perfect denis glass, and polenta. I had the custard dessert, a recipe from Brittany.


                                                 






SIGHTSEEING

La Magdalena


BRASSERIE L'ALSACE 4.5

LAUDERE PATISSERIE 5.0

On July 3 I woke up in the early afternoon, rested and hungry. I thought of a patisserie but decided to skip breakfast and at the suggestion of my girlfriend headed to Brasserie l'Alsace 39 Av. des Champs-Elysees. This old establishment has possibly the best onion soup I can recall, alsacien dishes of boiled smoked pork parts served with boiled potato and sowercraut . I ordered the onion soup and the Choucroute Maison D'alsace a combination of salted boiled pork, sausages which included the best blood sausage I've ever had; this is serious since I grew up eating blood sausage and this was in fact the best.  I ordered espresso but did not have dessert; my bill came to 38 Euros without wine or liquor. For dessert I stepped a block away to one of my favorite patisseries in Paris, Laudere where I had in a mood of the moment one of their specialty cold chocolate drinks and a chocolate Decois. I requested a window seat and I enjoyed the view outside of the Champes Elysees. Both my dinner at Alsace and my dessert at Laudere were memorable and the real beginning of my month in Paris. My bill at Laudere came to 23 Euros. I returned to Brasserie L'Alsace on two other occasions; they had the only onion soup in Paris and the best at that and I could not resist.

                                            








PORTUGAL 

THE VIP GRAND LISBOA HOTEL 4.0

This was a grand hotel; modern and luxurious, with a spa and pool deck. The room was spacious and comfortable; there were two problems with the bathroom that were promptly taken care of by the management. My only disappointment was at the reception desk which I found slightly condescending; both managers on duty could have been more welcoming. I arrive early and was informed that my room would not be ready until after one thirty in the afternoon; when I asked if there was a possibility for an earlier check in I was told 'no' but I felt as if I had interfered with the reception desk person's other important business; not good. I was later pleasantly surprised to find out Portuguese people everywhere else were actually sweet and always ready to help in all situations during my short stay of three nights in Lisbon. I would return to this hotel if the price was one more time appealing; but would come with not expectations of receiving a warmer welcome.








 


RESTAURANTE JERONIMO
Belem

R. de Belem 74-78 1300 085 (Belem) Lisbon; I came to this area of Lisbon searching for local food and found it at this very small restaurant situated on the main street. I sat at a counter, cafeteria style and order what I saw in front of me; blood sausage or 'morcilla' sliced and grilled; perfectly spiced and sprinkled with sea salt. I had soup of fish pureed and very pleasant, and finished with my favorite; grilled sardines. I sat at this counter totally satisfied and wanting to return. Belem is about twenty minutes from the center of Lisbon; the center of government and a separate neighborhood that offers three museums and a myriad of small restaurants and shops. Overall Belem felt a bit touristic but it had the 'old world' charm and appeal of a luxury resort spot I want to return to.









Fish soup pureed served oner croutons and sausage
we had a delicious goat cheese with bread; I noticed a group of locals enjoying this delightful combination and had to ordered it. Bread here is also excellent, close to a sour dough recipe.
We ordered a half bottle of wine for my friend she enjoyed very much; service here is easy and prompt. In general watering stuff and service personnel displayed difficulty understanding my English, Spanish, Italian; or my friends French and German. On one occasion I had to say the word 'car' in five languages before the person acknowledged I wanted my car.
Piero, our waiter was very nice and spoke good English; he was cordial and eager to help us enjoy our first meal in Lisbon.



Piero kindly posed for me, after he brought us the Portuguese paella. This was a seafood combination of cod fish, shrimp, clams and rice; differently from a Spanish paella, this version has more broth and also a marked tomato and pimento flavor. My friend commented on the differences of French cuisine; and my mind went to a Boullavaisse. 

Portuguese cuisine is homelike; and that is why I am so attracted to it. I grew up in South America where food was basic; and the taste of sausages, pork and grilled meats transports me to my roots. I do not have much red meat these days; but I allow myself this luxury when I am here in Portugal.

My friend grew up in a French home where her mother served her daily treats of Cassoulet, made with sausages and pork; or Endives with ham and Bechamel sauce; tart tatin and such Bistro dishes. She is familiar with French recipes and flavors. 

These recipes were unknown to me, until I learned to cook; read Escofier and how to make the French cuisine staple sauces. Bouillabaisse was a surprise for me, my first time tasting the rich broth or that French seafood reduction; as were all other French sauces and combinations of ingredients that go into the recipes; but the nice thing about cooking is that once you get 'the science' behind the process, you can see a dish and know exactly how to make it; this is not easy but one gets there after falling in love with cooking.

Portuguese food and recipes are straight forward; fresh food, uncomplicated ingredients, and healthy. Portuguese paella is a combination of the Spanish and French versions; flavorful but not as rich as rich as Boullavaisse.



Sardines remain extra-ordinary; full flavor and super fresh; how can one not love this dish. you eat eat with bread and olive oil. Our sardines were not clean inside, unfortunately, and we found the metallic  and bitter flavor of uncleaned sardines that took away from enjoying fully this treat,



This is my second visit to Lisbon; and Jeronimo was mainly the reason why I had to return. We will be spending half of out trip in the Coimbra northern area, to return to Lisbon for the rest of our stay; and visit the coast and southern town surrounding Lisbon. We made a new friend at the airport, Ana, a sophisticated Portuguese woman that is now sending us names of local restaurants around the western coast cities we will be visiting. I am hoping the food will be as good as the one here at Jeronimo's. We want simple, fresh and home-loving food to complement the beauty of this lovely country. I know my next meal will start with grilled octopus.



I visited two popular areas of Lisbon; Cerro Alto and Chiado both populated by cafes and restaurants and both offering beautiful views of old streets that serpentine up toward higher areas of the city. I sat at small cafes drinking espresso and taking advantage of wifi services most cafes offer for free. I had lunch at a small cafe in an area of the city that had a local feeling and was surrounded by small shops and cafes; dinner at a charming restaurant Pao cafe at Rua Dom Pedro V; sat outside and ordered grilled octopus; it came over a bed of polenta mixed with diced vegetables; and had a cheesecake for dessert. There are dozen of these cafes offering similar menus of local dishes; calamare and cheesecake being the most popular items.










Altar at La virgen del Monte chapel

Le club du Fado


After the game I went to an old part of Lisbon in search of Fado; the music from Portugal, a soft version of Flamenco with a romantic and melancholic style reminiscent of the American Blues. I arrived at Club du Fado; an old time club-restaurant with professional waiters that approached me as if assessing my quality as a customer. I had no reservation and was first denied entrance, but upon insisting I was escorted to a white-tablecloth dining room filled with customers. I was served a combination of black sausage, chorizo, olive oils and black olives as I sat. There was a stage where two Fado singers performed; two women in this occasion both with soft, melodic voices they used as musical instruments.  Each sang three songs; one nice aspect of this place was that the menu offered only Portuquese dishes I had been wanted to taste and had not found yet in other restaurants.



I ordered Caldo Verde which was delicious; it is a pureed potato soup with collar greens; 'Clube de Fado' the specialty of the club, a combination of Rojoes de Porco (fried pork mixed with clams in the half shell) it came on a bed of diced fried potatoes, the dish reminded me of the cuban or Haitian fried pork; It had flavor and went well with the potatoes. For dessert I had their house cheesecake with was very sweet and flavorful with layers of carmel and fruit coulee toping. At the end of dinner when I asked for my check the waiter escorted me to the bar where he asked me to add a tip; this was unusual because tips of fifteen to eighteen percent are always included in the bill. I added eighteen percent after the waiter assured me there was not gratuity added to the check. If you visit Club Fado you want to be prepared for this unpleasant treatment by the waiting staff.







ROYAL FADO RESTAURANT
Ten tables at this restaurant make the Fado experience intimate and personal. We arrived late in the evening and most dishes in the menu were not available; instead we ordered cheese and tapas.





PLAZA DO COMERCIO

I went to the Plaza do Comercio to watch the soccer game, final of the European cup, on a large screen;surrounded by thousands of funs; Portugal won the cup for the first time in history and people celebrated for two days in the streets of Lisbon. The national team arrived early afternoon the next day welcomed as heroes; rode straight from the Lisbon airport to the President's palace in Belem where they received directly from the president the highest national commendation for outstanding sports achievements.






LISBON MARRIOTT HOTEL





Our stay here was a nice contrast to our next destination in the countryside of Portugal; I enjoy the familiarity of my home in Miami, great service and comfortable surroundings. The hotel is located in a quite area of Lisbon, equidistant to all areas.

FATIMA









CASAS NO TERREIRO
Penacova, Coimbra




Penacova is a municipality of the district of Coimbra, population in 2011 was 15,251. The town is a approximately 2km, with local cafes and shops where one can get basic needs. There are several restaurants that offer local Portuguese dishes, and a weekly market for fresh products. 



The rural flavor of this country home and the isolated but beautiful landscape of this region of Portugal make a stay here memorable; country roads wind through small towns and larger cities like Coimbra are reachable within short drives that are charming and quaint. Locals are private but hospitable people, always ready to offer directions and friendly service.


Casas no Terreiro is a fully renovated estate, with charming country flavor. Our cottage was air conditioned, with a very comfortable bathroom done tastefully. The bedroom was small but the bed comfortable; storage was limited but our request for additional items we needed was promptly met. There were candles in the room, a well set small kitchen, a wonderful outdoor grill that inspired us to visit the fresh product market in the city of Coimbra, just 8km away. We were in the countryside; just as I imagine the beauty of Portugal to be, away from the major tourist cities; total quietness.
If one is looking for an unusual experience to really experience Portugal, this is the perfect accommodation.



This country home is located 3-5 hours from Lisbon, depending on the route you take. We stopped at Sintra and Fatima on the way and we arrived within six hours. The drive into the mountainous territory can be unsettling because the roads are small and very 'local', different from the more transited and autostradas. We got lost a couple of times but were pleasantly surprise by the isolated beauty of this inn; we were greeted by Mari Elise, a personable neighbor that proceeded to make us comfortable. There is a private courtyard for parking;  modern security system one operates; and the feeling of the place is of newness and upkeep. We were the only residents at this time and we felt as if we were at home. We were given keys to all the gates, including the pool backyard, and the main entrance one opens to park the car inside the gated area.
You will not see many people around the area; country residents keep to themselves, and seldom leave home for walks or socialize. Roads are empty; if you are looking for perfect peace, this is your vacation spot. 



We felt comfortable right away but we had not expected to be in such a rural setting; Pietro, the owner was very proper and attentive and took us in his car for a short but very informative tour of the area, that included a visit to the township. We became informed of several cafes, restaurants and shopping stores.




We settled in for the night; in the morning, we received a charming sack with breakfast items, fresh bread, and croissants. The kitchenette is equipped with fresh fruit, juices, and items to complement breakfast, like slices of processed cheese and ham. We shopped for fresh espresso and local cheeses at the market in Coimbra, twenty-five minutes away, and equipped ourselves with vegetables, local olive oil, and lots of fruits. We found this appropriate because the house is a few kilometers from the small local town where fresh produce is available only a couple of times a week.



The farmer's market in Coimbra has all the necessities, from fresh breads, vegetable stands, cheese from local farms, meat stores and dry good stands, wines, as well as fresh seafood. We were staying here for four nights and made it a point to visit this market to replenish necessities. Cooking and fresh food are very important to us, and we found everything we needed here on our first visit, and wanting to use the outdoor grill we searched for meat. To our surprise we found rabbit; we bought it.
We had to have it, and out dinner was memorable.


COSTA DA CAPARICA
One of the most beautiful beaches in the world, only twenty minutes from Lisbon, Costa Caparina is the perfect spot to enjoy a day by the sea.



Along the beach you find several restaurants; we lunched at a new one opened only a few weeks ago, Miami by the Sea. Owners Manuel and Olga decided to bring a flavor of the states to this Portuguese coast town. They offer fresh seafood caught at their door step, by local fishermen. 






Our lunch was fresh Turbo, served with white boiled potatoes, green salad, a  lemon merengue pie, and espresso. This meal made our beach day perfect.
Portuguese restaurants serve bread, lamb or goat cheese, olives, and hereat  Miami by the Sea, a tuna deep. You pay individually for the items you consumed; the cheese is always delicious, and an unusual touch.



The turbo was broiled to perfection, as requested; Olga made sure it was cooked to our liking.






VIEW OF THE BEACH FROM CAPUCINO MONASTERY


CAPUCINO is a monastery dating from the fifteen hundreds, situated in the mountain that overlooks this beautiful bay, also worth visiting.





PARIS AND THE LOUVRE




WALKING IN PARIS
JULY 12





THE LOUVRE






























Seeing Paris from the water in one of the river boats is a pleasant experience. The ride takes about one hour; a pleasant way to rest and learn more about the city. The views are unobstructed and the air feels clean as the boat slides easily along the Seine. I met a friend who was visiting the city and together we enjoyed first a visit to the Louvre and then the late boat ride. Each of these activities on its own would make an enjoyable day in the city. I found out at the Louvre that their new food and shopping court brought an added pleasantry to our visit. We met at a small but comfortable Starbucks next to the ticket line on the lower level and proceeded to visit our favorite artworks.












MONTMATRE



       

     

Montmatre has the highest viewing spot of Paris; and it is free. You find several tour vehicles here that can take you through historical streets



ROME

Rome and Paris are two of my favorite cities to visit; they offer so much culture it is impossible not to rate them among the most interesting places in the world.


The combination of art and food make Rome one of my favorite destinations.





The combination of art and food make Rome one of my favorite destinations


Sitting at a cafe, enjoying ancient architecture can be a delightful passtime in Rome.












Pasta Carbonara originated in Rome during the second world war, and is served st every restaurant in town.