Gift Guide: Mother’s Day 2017

Gift Guide: Mother’s Day 2017

If you’re like me, you like to drop gift hints here and there to your significant other ahead of special occasions…hoping to avoid receiving gifts that you really don’t want or need….or like!

So in hopes of the special mom in your life receiving a lovely and thoughtful and useful gift this Mother’s Day, I’ve pulled together a list of spectacular things that I would love, and would recommend for anyone still wondering about what to buy.

  1. Fragrances – For those women who don’t have fragrance allergies and enjoy spritzing themselves with a lovely scent, these are some of my favourite classics (and they are available at Shoppers Drug Mart, where you can spend points or collect points with your purchase!):

Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, Eau de Parfum

Chloé, Eau de Parfum

Miss Dior, Eau de Parfum

2. Jewellery – You can never go wrong with new jewellery, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to be nice! Some of my picks include:

Stella & Dot Signature Engravable Bar Necklace

 

Pandora bracelets

Tiffany Infinity Pendant

3. Books & Accessories – If she is an enthusiastic reader, always looking to get her hands on the newest novel out there, here are some good bets, along with some mugs to drink her coffee/tea/water while reading or travelling; also a unique locally hand-made bag with the best fabric designs:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Good Morning Beautiful ceramic mug

Kate Spade New York thermal mug

 

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

 

Anchors Lop bag by Cloud Rabbit Designs

4. Home decor – Beautiful and locally-made home decor signs for your home (or get a custom-made one!), and stunning mid-century modern plant stands:

Wood sign by Spring Meadow Co.

 

Walnut Wood Plant Stands, made in Canada by Hook & Stem Co.

5. Portuguese Culture gifts – lovely ideas to give much saudade to the Portuguese women in your life or to those who love anything Portuguese:

Earrings from Átrio, Etsy shop – Antique Azulejo Tile Replica

 

Benamôr Créme de rosto face cream

 

Mosaic fish platter

 

Casa Cubista Striped Horizontal Jug

 

But of course, nothing is so valuable as a tender, thoughtfully-made home-made card, complete with written words of love and appreciation. This gift has no link, no monetary value, but is the best gift of all. I’m sure all mothers would agree.

Happy shopping! XOXO

Travel Portugal: Lisbon, part 3

Travel Portugal: Lisbon, part 3

Welcome back! If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two parts of my series on visiting the city of Lisbon, you can find Part 1 and Part 2 here and here!

Continuing on with my Travel Portugal: Lisbon series, we’re going to travel approximately 10km west from the centre of Lisbon today, to the area of Belém.

If you decide to take transit to tour the city of Lisbon, like we did, the popular double-decker hop-on hop-off tourist buses have a few stops in Belém on their routes.  We purchased a two-day pass on Yellow Bus Tours which included the Belém tour, and we took advantage of the marvellous stops on this route to take in all that Belém has to offer.

We first hopped off at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). This 16th century architectural wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Monument in Portugal and is on my “must-see” list.

The main public entrance is here, in between the Cloister (on the left) and the Church of St. Mary of Belém (on the right). If you are just wanting to visit the Church, the visit is free admission.  However, with a reasonably priced paid admission, you can visit the cloisters, the High Choir, the Refectory and more!

In fact, we discovered that while buying your admission at the Jerónimos Monastery, you can buy a cheaper 2 for 1 admission ticket for €12 that also gives you admission to the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), and therefore you can avoid any possible long line-ups at the Tower (which is very common to see during the high tourist months).

Lisbon is known for it’s many days of sunshine and beautiful blue skies… and seeing it from this view inside the Monastery is spectacular!

All of a sudden a lovely choir started singing in a corner of the cloisters, adding to the peacefulness and meditation-like atmosphere.

Visit the High Choir above the Church of St. Mary of Belém to see different viewpoints of the church and it’s architecture.

The view of the High Choir as seen from the main floor of the Church….

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is also where the tombs of two of the most important figures in Portuguese history are located. The first tomb belongs to Vasco Da Gama, who was the first explorer to navigate a maritime route from Europe to India.

The other tomb in the Church of St. Mary of Belém belongs to Luís de Camões, who was a great Portuguese poet and author of Os Lusíadas, an epic poem describing Vasco Da Gama’s maritime journey from Portugal to India.

As described on the website for the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos:

“In 1880 the remains of Vasco da Gama and the poet, Luís de Camões, were transferred to the Jerónimos Monastery. Their tombs, made by the sculptor Costa Mota, are now in the lower choir of the Monastery’s church. Vasco da Gama (on the left-hand side) and Luís de Camões (on the right-hand side) were the two most important representatives of this epic period in Portuguese history. They were given the honour of a final resting place amongst kings.”

After finishing your visit to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, take a short walk down the street, about a block and a half, to the famous Pastéis de Belém bakery and café.  Even though it will look busy outside the doors, you can walk inside and past the front counters to the sitting areas in the back, where there is a large café with many tables to accommodate the large numbers of people who visit every day.

You will definitely want to enjoy a nice warm just-out-of-the-oven custard tart sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon, or as it’s called here, a pastel de Belém.  Although these look like the traditional Portuguese pastel de nata (or just “nata”), these unique Pastéis de Belém are made with a secret recipe that actually began in 1837 in the Jerónimos Monastery. To find out more about their history, click on their website here.

Take a walk through the café and you will come across large viewing windows into the back where you can sit and drool while watching large trays of pastéis coming out of the ovens.

You can eat as many Pastéis de Belém as you can while visiting, or you can take some to-go for a snack for later.  Or you could do both!! Either way, it’s definitely a necessity to stop in here while in Belém.

After you’ve filled your tummy with a nice espresso and a pastel (or two), you can continue walking down the main road to the next block, and past the Palácio Nacional de Belém (Belém Palace), which is also the official residence of the President of the Portuguese Republic.

You can then wait at the nearest stop for Yellow Bus Tours so that you can get on the next bus that goes by and takes you further along the Belém route. The next stop to hop-off at is at the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This stunning monument was completed in the 16th century as it was commissioned to be built in order to protect the city of Lisbon, which had become one of the world’s main trade hubs.

With the 2 for 1 ticket you bought at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, you will be able to go right to the entry, as usually the long lineups found here are actually lines for buying entry tickets.

You can go on your own self-guided tour, and take your time exploring all of the levels in this historic fortified tower.

The next stop on the Belém route where you should definitely hop-off is at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries); just down the Tejo river from the Torre de Belém, this newer monument in the city was actually built in 1940 for the Portuguese World Expo.

To Prince Henry and the Portuguese that Discovered the Sea Routes”

The total height of this monument is 56 metres, or almost 184 feet.  Here is my son standing in front of it, just so you can see the scale…. It really is enormous and stunning.

The website for the Monument to the Discoveries describes it best:

“A stylised caravel seems to be setting out to sea, with Henry the Navigator in its prow. On the two lateral ramps ascending to the symbolic figure of the Infante are some of the major figures of the Portuguese overseas expansion and cultural figures from the age of the Discoveries, 32 in total, all portrayed with symbols that allude to their identity: navigators, cartographers, warriors, colonisers, missionaries, chroniclers and artists.

Composed of a vertical element consisting of a stylised mast oriented North–South, with two Portuguese coats of arms on each side with its five small shields, surrounded by a band with 12 castles and stylised fleurs-de-lis in the centre.

On each side are three triangular structures, each with one curved side, giving the illusion of sails blown out by the wind.”

Belém has so much more to see, especially if you love to visit museums. All of the following museums are located just in the Belém area:

Whew! Sorry for the long post, but the beauty and history of Lisbon and the vast amounts of things to see and do should be shared with anyone looking for an amazing place to visit and that’s what I hope to do!

Stay tuned for part 4…Yes, there is still more to see and experience in Lisboa!

Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 3

Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 3

It’s time for the continuation of my ever-growing list of traditional Portuguese sayings…and these are really interesting ones! What is it about doing things after the sun goes down that is so bad for the Portuguese people?? Four out of five of these all relate to sundown and what NOT to do…

First though, I just wanted to express my appreciation to those who take the time to share their knowledge and stories with me. Family is everything to me. I love getting together with my immediate and extended family to eat good food, drink some great wine and chat for hours. This is where this inspiration and these stories come from.  It just takes me asking a question to my parents and cousins about traditional sayings or customs that they grew up with in the motherland, and the conversation flows.  One remembers a custom and another has a story to go with it, which sometime helps to explain the background behind it. I don’t take these minutes/hours for granted.  It’s making memories of reminiscing and learning about our family history and I treasure these moments. So thank you mom and dad and to my sweet cousins for sharing your memories with me.

If you missed the first two parts of my list, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here!

Now let’s get to Part 3 and five more traditional Portuguese sayings:

11. Do not sweep dirt out of your house, or even shake your mats outside, after sunset, as you are letting your money or wealth leave.

12.  It is bad to luck to whistle after sundown!  Apparently if you do, you are calling the snakes/bad or evil things to your home…. or in Portuguese they say that you are “chamar as cobras para casa”

13.  If a rooster crows after sundown or if dogs are howling constantly it means someone you know will die soon.

14. Don’t eat oranges at night time, as this can be bad for you as it is too much acid in your stomach before bed. There is an actual rhyming saying that goes like this: “De manha é ouro, ao meio dia é prata, e a noite mata”.  This translates to say “In the morning it is gold, at noon it is silver and at night it can kill you”.

15. If you have a dinner party and are only expecting 13 people in total (including yourself), you need to set another place setting for a 14th person.  Therefore, if you have 13 people seated at the table, you would need to have 14 place settings set out, as if to say you are waiting for someone else to show up.  If not, it may be that one of those people may not be there the following year.

Yes, I know, many of these can be depressing right? Way to make all the sayings about bad luck or death, right? But I guess there is no need for sayings or traditions about good luck, because if you follow all of these, you will only have good luck!

Wishing you all a restful week and much good luck!

Travel Portugal: Lisbon, part 2

Travel Portugal: Lisbon, part 2

Last week I started my travel series on the Western European country of Portugal, and I decided to start first with the capital city, aka the City of Seven Hills, aka the home of Fado music: Lisboa/Lisbon.

I could fill this post with tons of stunning pictures and imagery of Lisbon that I have experienced over the years, but so many of these images have fascinating stories behind them, and it would be a shame not to share them.

So in the last post I talked about getting yourself to Lisbon and about finding a place to stay. Once you’re in the city, there is much to see and do!  Whether you’re into seeing historic monuments and buildings, visiting museums, taking in the traditional food and wine or shopping for souvenirs or fine goods, you can find it all in Lisbon. Let’s start with a map of Lisbon:

Much like most major cities in the world, Lisbon is divided into different areas that each offer unique characteristics and special places to add to your must-see list.  The area called “Baixa Pombalina”, or just “Baixa” for short, is central in the heart of the city and runs along the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), and goes North to the famous Rossio train station. In the Baixa you can find a large shopping district, many pedestrian shopping streets, museums and large squares.

Starting along the Rio Tejo, you will find the enormous square called Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) or Terreiro do Paço.  This square hosts many events, and at the time we were there in the summer of 2016, the square was set up for showing the live feeds of the soccer (futebol) games of Euro 2016 (which Portugal won and became the reigning champions!).

Surrounding the square are three rectangular buildings set up in a “U” shape, open towards the Rio Tejo. This square was part of the rebuilding effort of Lisbon, after a large earthquake, tsunami and fire destroyed most of the city in 1755.  During this time the King of Portugal was Dom José I, and in 1775 a bronze statue of D. Jose I was inaugurated in the Praça do Comércio.

Leading out of the Praça do Comércio is the majestic Arco Triunfal (also called Arco da Rua Augusta), which is at the entrance to Augusta Street, a stunning pedestrian street of shops, cafés and restaurants.

At the top of the Arch are statues representing Glory crowning Genius and Valour.  Other Portuguese historical figures represented along the Arch are of Viriato, Vasco da Gama, the Marquês of Pombal and Nuno Álvares Pereira.

There is public access to go inside the arch for a cost of approximately 2.5 Euros, from where you will have amazing views of the Praça, the Rio Tejo and the parallel streets of the Baixa. We didn’t get to take advantage of this as we didn’t know it was a possibility! I recently read that this was possible and it’s now on my list of things to do.

The older areas of Lisbon are well known for their spectacular collection of streetlamps. Driving through the different bairros, I was always looking carefully at the buildings I passed to see what the streetlamps looked like.

During a day of touring and wandering, you must stop at one of the many Ginjinha kiosks you will find.  Ginjinha is a traditional cherry liqueur made from sour cherries and is the typical drink of Lisbon.  You can pick up a shot of it in a cup or in a chocolate cup for approximately 1 to 2 Euros at various kiosks or shops in the Baixa area. A quick shot and you can get moving onto your next destination (as long as you’re not driving)!

Once you pass under the Arch, you enter onto Rua Augusta, which is a pedestrian-only street.

Here you will find many boutiques, shops, hotels, cafés and restaurants.  There is something for everyone. If you like to visit museums, there is even the Museum of Fashion and Design (called MUDE) located here, on Rua Augusta.

Walking up Rua Augusta, you will pass many other charming streets that can take you over to Rua da Prata or to Rua dos Sapateiros which also have many lovely shops to entice you. Once you reach Rua de Santa Justa and look to your left, you will see ahead of you an enormous vertical steel structure that will leave you wondering what is taking up that prime real estate.

What this structure is is the Elevador de Santa Justa (the Santa Justa lift or elevator). It was built in 1902 to link the lower city area of the Baixa (which literally means “lower”) to the upper area of Carmo up on the hill. In 2002 the Elevador de Santa Justa received it’s classification as a National Monument.

During the day when we would pass it and inquire as to going up to the viewpoint, we would find that there were enormous line-ups to wait to go up. When we found out that the hours of operation in the summer meant that it was open until 11:00pm, we decided to come back after dinner and see the city by night. It was a great decision!

There was still a line-up after dinner, but it was much smaller. This gorgeous historical cast iron structure brought us up to the viewpoint where we able to take in Lisbon by night in all her glory.

The streets of the Chiado district are stunning at night (and busy!).

The view at night of Praça Dom Pedro IV (Square of King Peter IV; most commonly referred to as the Rossio square) with the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (National Performing Arts Theatre) behind it.

Looking towards Castelo de São Jorge…

Finishing off the Baixa district…once you take the elevator down and continue up Rua Augusta again, you will end up at the end of the street with a few options ahead of you. On the left is Rossio square (Praça Dom Pedro IV) with it’s amazing calçada or paving design.  The unique paving designs you can find throughout Portugal are made of limestone cubes and are done by hand.  Imagine working on this huge Praça with this design???!!!

 

 

This statue is of course of Dom Pedro IV, after whom the square is named.

Across the street from the Praça Dom Pedro IV is the Rossio train station (Estação do Rossio).  Yes, this palatial-looking building is actually a train station! And you can take a train from here to Sintra to go see more palaces!

The style this building was built in is Neo-Manueline and it was completed in 1890.

Don’t get fooled by the Starbucks coffee shop tucked in the side of this stunning building. There are plenty of other good coffee and espresso drinks to be had much cheaper at any other café. I do love Starbucks when I am home in Canada, and I admit I did go in to this Starbucks location only to buy a souvenir mug for a friend and for my own mug collection…

 

Even if you are not taking the train anywhere, it is worth it just to enter through these magnificent doors and discover the interior of this building.

Nearby the Rossio train station, I encountered this stunning sculpture dedicated to the music of Fado, which has been declared by UNESCO as being on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Going back to the top of Rua Augusta, you could stop to eat a pastel de nata (or a few!) at the Confeitaria Nacional, which has been in business since 1829! (and then you can compare them to another little bakery that I’ll write about in Part 3…)

The next large square to the east is the Praça da Figueira, where you can find the statue of Dom João I (King John I), with the Castelo de São Jorge in the background.  (Again, Lisbon by night is a must!)

And here is the bustling square during the day…. In this square is a stop for Yellow Bus tours, which makes it super convenient if you are also staying nearby.

One route on the Yellow Bus tours includes a Hills Tramcar Tour, which is a must-see! Included in your ticket is access to Tramcar 28, which is what you would take if you don’t want to walk all the way up to the Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St Jorge). The other bonus of having a ticket with Yellow Bus tours is that it includes free access to the Santa Justa lift!

Like I said before, there is so much to see and experience in this city…I can’t keep it all to just one blog post!

Part 3 is coming up soon, where we’ll go see the beauty that is Belėm.

Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 2

Traditional Portuguese Mamã Sayings: Part 2

A few weeks ago, I shared just five of the sayings or old wives tales that my Portuguese mamã has told me over the years, but since there are soooo many, I had to break them up over a few posts.  Thanks to many family and friends, I received a lot of feedback and suggestions of many other sayings that I took to my mamã and verified with her, so my list is getting very long!  And so without further ado, let’s get to another 5 interesting sayings!

6.  When pregnant, you shouldn’t have anything in the pockets of your dress or apron that could touch your belly or wear anything around it (ie. like the village women that would have a key hanging from their apron) because wherever these things touched on the belly, however the baby was placed (face, head or buttocks), it would leave a mark or birthmark on that part of the baby.  This also went for not allowing animals, such as cats or dogs, to sit or lie on your pregnant belly as it could leave a mark on the baby.

7.  Don’t allow young babies to get to close to a mirror as it can delay their speech.

8.  If you are around while an animal is being killed (such as chickens or a pig at your grandma’s house or a local farm), you can’t cry or feel sorry for the animal while it is being killed as it will take longer for them to die.  They can sense that someone is feeling sad for them.

9.  A similar saying as number 8 relates to the death of a loved one as well: if you keep crying for a great length of time over the death of a loved one, whether a family member or friend, their soul will sense it and will not be at peace.  Portuguese mourning is a special event in itself, with the very traditional wearing of black or very dark colours being used for at least the first year of the death of someone very close to you.

10.  Never put your purse on the floor or ground because it will make your money will go away faster.

Just a reminder for those who may be reading these and are not Portuguese/European…these are not verified/certified/real/professional/to be adhered to!  They are simply “sayings” or “old wives tales”.

Stayed tuned for more soon in Part 3!

 

Saudades of Portugal: Renova Tissues

Saudades of Portugal: Renova Tissues

HAPPY NEW YEAR and FELIZ ANO NOVO to everyone!  I hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday season with your loved ones and that 2017 will bring you much love, health and happiness.

My mamã always brings me sweet little treasures from her trips back to the motherland, and she knows that even the simplest of things are enough for me to be thankful of these little reminders of the other country I love.

My latest treasure is a simple 6-pack of Renova pocket tissues. I’ve always liked the different products Renova makes because they can be colourful or scented (lavender scented!) or both at once! I usually pick up Renova products when I’m in Portugal or even in my local Portuguese stores in the community that I live as they are different than what you find in the major retailers here.  However, I have recently found some colourful Renova paper napkins at my local Superstore, so they are making their way here!

Anyways, I digress….. This six pack of pocket tissues that my mom brought me have limited edition designs on the outside of the package of each pack which are typical designs found in Portuguese culture. One has a typical sardine pattern on it, one has images of the historic trams found in Lisbon and one has a pattern from the traditional “Lenços dos Namorados” that were used in the Minho province of Portugal many years ago.

It pained me to open the outside packaging as it is so lovely, and even the messaging on the packaging is sweet:

It may be such a simple thing as tissues, but it really makes it so much nicer when I have to reach into my purse to grab myself or someone else a tissue and I pull out a nice little reminder of Portugal.

When I visited the Renova website to see what other goodies they had, I was shocked to find so many different designs for pocket tissues, tissue boxes, toilet paper and paper napkins! I have seen many products on the store shelves but didn’t realize how many actual products Renova had to offer.

Did you know you could get colourful toilet paper in whatever colour you choose?

Sleek black toilet paper from Renova!

 

You can also find so many different designs for paper napkins, for all different seasons or celebrations, and such nice quality, like these….

Swimming Pool Napkins

And these….

Abstract Express

If you want to get matching products in keeping with the Portuguese designs, they also have tissue boxes and napkins too:

Viana Facial Tissues

 

Embroidery Love

Little thoughtful gifts don’t need to be expensive….these sweet souvenirs are a good example of that!

Now, I need to go do some online shopping… I see that they DO ship world-wide!

BTW, this post was NOT sponsored, all reviews and opinions are my own!