Every day at tea time we learn a little more about Portugal. It started with queque, little muffins which are lovely to have with tea. I’m sure Proust would have approved. Then we discovered the Pasteis de Nata. These little custard tarts were so good that it took us a couple of days to move on. Even after that, we got a little hung up on various queijadas, which are filled tarts. The Pasteis de Nata are just one example. We had one filled with passion fruit, another with apricots and topped with roasted almonds.
But yesterday at tea time we discovered a wonderful bread with a sweet coconut topping which is called, very poetically, Pao Deus. The web is full of recipe after recipe for this wonderful tea-time delicacy.
It seems to me that if I were to be in Portugal for another two weeks I would be able to walk into a pastelaria and order a snack without having to point at things.
Lisbon seems to be in the middle of a slow renewal. Every cab driver we talked to told us the story of how Marquez de Pombal rebuilt Lisbon after the disastrous earthquake of 1755. He has a huge Praça named after him, with a statue atop a gigantic pillar. I wonder who will be deemed responsible for the ongoing renovations.
The metro nearest my hotel in Lisbon was named after Marquez de Pombal. Before rushing off to work in the morning, I would sometimes have a quick breakfast at a pastelaria (bakery) on the way. I liked the busy atmosphere of the bakery. The coffee was good, and I liked the array of cakes to choose from. I was fascinated by the fact that the pavement in front of the bakery had its name done in mosaic tiles (see the photo alongside). Clearly the city had torn up the pavement to install these tiles, or allowed the bakery to do it. I thought this was pretty cool.
As I had my breakfast, I watched the empty facade of the building opposite me being worked on. The rest of the building was gone, and one wall was held up by an ingenious scaffolding. I suppose that eventually a whole new building will come up behind this facade. Later, as I walked along the street, I wondered how many of these beautiful facades hide completely modern houses behind them.
Probably it is only the shapes of the windows and doors which are old. The beautiful tiles and plaster mouldings must have been added after the rebuilding, if one believes that the building under reconstruction is typical. I wonder how little authenticity this leaves to the very beautiful looking buildings.