Modena is the birthplace of balsamic vinegar or as the Italians say Balsamico. To be honest, this was news to me – I was in this town for a conference, again, I feel very lucky that I had the chance to explore this little Italian town. Modena is a University town and the locals are very proud of this. In fact, the Mayor came to the opening ceremony of the conference and said how proud he was that Modena was hosting the conference…
It’s small enough to explore in a day or so, but every corner you turn you discover something new. The mercado or the town market is full of fresh produce: fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, cheese and even fresh pasta. I guarantee you will walk out of here with a bag full of goodies. Oh and obviously bottles and bottles of balsamico – the most expensive bottle of balsamico that I laid eyes on was about 80EU! These Italians take their balsamico quite seriously!
The University is spread across town, so you will see alot of young people and bicycles. Even the police cycle in Modena! The town centre has a huge cathedral with crypts in the basement. In general there were alot of archways in Modena – the architecture was simply beautiful!
I’m quite lucky that I get to travel for work – and work is what brought me to Brescia. I was in town for a few days during the course of a conference that was held at the University which is spread out across the entire town! I immediately loved the city as soon as I arrived!
There are numerous piazza’s where one piazza joins onto another via a small laneway. The food was amazing, the restaurants spill-over onto the streets and create a nice atmosphere in the evenings. Some restaurants even had live music (so watch out when booking your accommodation!). I stayed at Albergo Orologio (Via Cesare Beccaria) which was not the greatest place but had a brilliant location. I definitely recommend having dinner at I Du Dela Contrada (Contrada del Carmine) which is run by a few young lads who were very friendly and down to earth. The food is only made with local ingredients resulting in an amazing dinner.
In terms of sights: enough to see in Brescia. Typical Duomo in the centre of town, Roman excavations, arches and arches all around the town… simply wander about aimlessly around the streets and this will give you a taste of Brescia.
I’ve been to Porto a few times before, so this trip I simply wanted to chill out and enjoy the various neighbourhoods of Porto. Nevertheless, there was one thing on my list that I simply had to see: The Lello & Irmão Bookstore! Seeing as though I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I just had to see it. BOY WAS IT AWESOME! The only thing was that there were too many people in here, this was all the time… Our Airbnb was close by, so we’d always have to go past the book store when going into town, we’d peek inside to see if it was full, sometimes we wouldn’t even have to peek given the huge line out front… In any case, it was still awesome – you should definitely check it out!
We hung out along the river Douro quite alot, and the night shots are taken on the city side of the river. On one of the days that we were just walking around, we crossed the Ponte Luis I bridge and there was a young man preparing to jump off the bridge and into the water. He was gathering a crowd before doing so…. he was fine. We then crossed the bridge and saw a whole bunch of people jumping into the water (disclaimer it was boiling hot!!). There was even a group of men dressed up in weird outfits, continuously jumping into the water – it was actually quite funny!
We stayed in an Airbnb on Rua de Cedofeita, our hosts were really nice and the apartment itself was bright and spacious. Great location as it was where the locals mainly lived, so there was also local bakeries and grocery stores. The end of the street towards the city was pedestrianised and was a shopping street.
In terms of food, we found amazing restaurants on Rua das Taipas. The first one we discovered was called Tia Orlanda, which was food from Mozambique. The staff were amazing and the restaurant was VERY FULL! it seemed as though alot of people had booked prior to coming for dinner, we were lucky that there was one table for two. The food was simply amazing, plus it was cheap! The second place we discovered was at the bottom of the street (I can’t recall the name) but we had fish and rice – was amazing! We sat at the back, outside, where we had a view of Porto – truly amazing! I would definitely recommend exploring this street as the restaurants were cheap yet also really good!
Now because I’m a bit of a foodie (others may call me a food snob), I am dedicating an entire post to the ever so delicious Portuguese tart: Pastéis de Belém.
My history with this particular goodness goes years back as I was first introduced to this speciality by my good friend Nancy – who has a Portuguese background. When we were both living in Sydney city, she took me to the Portuguese burrow of Petersham. We went to a cafe called: Sweet Belem Cake Boutique. The first bite was AMAZING! Just biting into the pastry makes all the flakes get on your clothes, and honestly, you don’t mind, because it tastes oh so good! So this became a regular “go to” place for me. The last time I went here was with a friend visiting from Porto years ago – who actually said that these pastries were as good as where they were from originally = BELEM!
So there you have the history of my obsession with these tarts… A few years ago, I visited that same friend in Porto and there the name of this pastry is called Pastel de nata. They were ok, but not WOW…
On this trip, I was very excited to be having the real thing = FINALLY! So when we all sat down and our Pastéis de Belém arrived with our homemade lemonade, I wanted to squeal with delight. I ate all THREE!!!! they were oh so YUM! I then got some for take away (will not disclose the number…) and enjoyed some more later on the beach…
If I haven’t convinced you to try the real thing – you simply don’t understand how good it is. It is DEFINITELY worth it! If you do nothing else in Lisbon and just go to Belem to get the pastries – I’d declare that an awesome trip in itself! I really am not exaggerating – they are simply YUM! Oh and just a note: do not wait outside in the line like all the other tourists, go and find a seat inside, the place is massive and you won’t wait as long! You can also see the place where they make them, take them out of the cases etc, it’s simply brilliant!