Southern Love : Portugal
All The Sun Light You Can SeeFor everyone who loves a good story, who works hard to travel, who dreams of European summers, who is attending my wedding in July; To my husband, without whom this would not have been realised; And to my cat, who couldn’t give a sh*t; This is for YOU.
Portugal and Malaysia might inherit more than half a century worth of history together, but the process for É and I to get legally married wasn’t friendly. Spoiler: We succeed against all odds. This also means it would only be right if I get to know my ‘new country’ better. (É already knows more about Malaysia’s history, politics and geography than I do.) What greater way to do that than a road trip across 14 districts (out of 18) and 30 towns / cities throughout the nation?
Most of the magic from our humble ROM in Kuala Lumpur 2 years ago is reserved for our reception in Lisbon, making this a destination wedding for my side of family and friends. Which is why this series is specially dedicated to them.
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Of course – there is a massive library of guides on the net ranging from CNN Travel to The Guardian overflowing with information like Lisbon’s Best Attractions, Best Bars in Lisbon, or Top 10-anything-under-the-sun. So why write this?
The cinspiration came when I was searching for Portugal travel tips and dining suggestions online. I realised that the results yielded for big cities (i.e. Lisbon and Porto) looked either too text heavy or replicated. When they are not replicated, I started doubting the authenticity of their suggestions – did the author recommend them because he happened to be there, or did he go all the way there just for them? What is his relationship with Portugal?
In smaller towns, search results perform poorly due to perhaps a lack of SEO, sites with zero English keywords or simply no websites were built for tascas and ‘chuletas‘. This happened several times when É was driving so he left the food search to me. Whether I had 30 minutes or 1 hour, I got nothing promising. But when he stopped the car to search (in Portuguese), his results yielded differently.
And can I just say, that TripAdvisor is either plain confusing or deceiving. Just because a restaurant is #1 on their list, it’s usually because it is touristic enough to get the most ratings. The best leitão restaurant in Mealhada is Restaurante Casa Vidal (it is said that the Queen of England gets her supply here), the most famous being Pedro de Leitões (The Guardian got it right on this one) but on TripAdvisor, it ranks at #3, while Vidal is not in there at all! As a traveler with limited time, who wants a more local, rustic experience, how would we know which is the right one to pick?
“Southern Love: Portugal” is built by researches, layered by experiences throughout a beautiful summer with a true born and bred Portuguese. It might not be a Portugal travel guide about ‘the best of the best’ (I have not been to the famous Pastéis de Belém, where you can find the most original egg tart in the world) but you won’t experience anything short by following this guide site by site. If you want to know something that is not featured, have any questions or simply want a chat, write to me at email@example.com.
Counting down to my wedding, I hope this work-in-progress ‘e-book’ will inspire you to explore Portugal; unearth its bountiful secrets (sometimes forbidden love stories) in century old towns, roam its untouched rich soil, savour the rustic flavours served in earthenware dishes and the taste of ocean in sea creatures you’ve never heard of, or count how many bacalhau dishes you’ve tried out of a thousand recipes.
If you don’t leave with a heavy heart, you’ve done it all wrong.