‘When the walls come down, how do we move forward from here?’—is a question that most of us are musing about right now. Do we relish our newfound freedom by enduring long check-ins just to jet-set across the planet? Or should we exercise caution? Meekness? Choose staycations in the unexplored backyards of our country over far-flung trips to the dramatic landscapes of Iceland, for instance.
It’s hard to imagine the prospects of travel after the restrictions have been lifted. I say, different, but good. After being stuck in our homey realms for so long, this is an opportunity to rejoin the world with a gentler approach. Putting ‘holistic’ into our travel dictionaries as we navigate destinations in search of building more positive and meaningful connections.
As I spent the last few days flicking through my travel photo archives in a bid to snoop on holidays I can never take, also to ‘spark joy’, the photos of my most recent trip to Lisbon catch my eye. A fortuitous journey that I embarked on, right before the full-blown effects of the Covid-19 pandemic had rolled out; I’m struck by how much of the trip I had pledged to memory.
Prior to the trip, I had pumped myself up to sample the best of the best, but unlike so many of these foodie cities that I’ve visited, the Portuguese city’s offerings did not set me up for mediocrity. Quite contrarily, it bowled me over. If circumstance allows, once the coast is clear, I’m making a beeline for Portugal again. Hopefully with the partner in tow, if my eventual migration to France pans out. But that’s a story left for another day.
Egg tarts for the pious
“One pastel de nata, por favor,” I asked. That was my biggest mistake. I should have asked for half a dozen. It was a—brace yourself— flaky pastry crust cradling egg custard that’s been baked till it sports a leopard-spotted coat. It jiggles playfully when you pick it off the plate and tastes like the product of a happy marriage between a Kouign-amann and a creme brûlée.
Squirrelled deep in the hidden realms of Manteigaria’s buttery nirvana, I watched as men rolled up laminated pastry deftly below their palms on cool countertops. Custard is piped into trays of pastry cases before being gently lifted up to the convection oven to realise their full potential. All that was stopping me from suffering third-degree burns from fresh out-the-oven tarts was a little glass wall of separation, which also helped the busy staff ignore my overzealous photographing.
Technically, you can’t say you’ve been to Portugal if you’ve not had their culinary crown jewel, the pastel de nata. While the, Pastéis de Belém bakery is the first choice for most tourists, options for this egg tartare aplenty. It’s a wild goose chase that will require expandable pants to mow through the city’s finest, but I reckon that your hunger will not be sated till you’ve fully understood the significance of this saccharine treat. It harks back to Portugal’s rich explorative and colonial history dating back to the 1400s. Saddle in for a long ride, the least we can guarantee you is a complimentary sugar rush along the way.
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July - August 2020