How travel can help you make friends (or meet your future husband)
No matter where in the world I travel, no matter how many beautiful sights I see, it's always the people I remember most...
In 2019, when I first started planning a Portugal culinary tour for Oldways, my biggest concern was whether all our guests’ luggage would arrive on time. That was another lifetime ago.
A lot has changed in the last two years…
Although planning a culinary tour is a little more complex these days, the same magic will be waiting for us in Portugal when we arrive next April. The heart of what we do on Oldways culinary tours hasn’t changed.
I’ve traveled three times to Lisbon, Porto and the Douro Valley, making discoveries that I can’t wait to share with our travelers. I’ve met people who love their country, their city, their business, their cuisine, and are bursting with pride to show it to as many people as possible. It’s always great to get to know locals.
Here are a few of my new Portuguese friends, who are ready to welcome us to their country in April. If you’d like to meet them, too—join us in Portugal April 3-10th!
I met Tiago Cardoso Soares Ribeiro of Miss Can, a Petiscaria—canned fish shop— in Lisbon. As he explains, his grandfather started selling canned fish many years ago, and he followed suit, selling his canned fish in a small 3-wheeled vehicle, the Yellow Submarine. His path changed in 2015 when he won a National Prize for Creative Industries, and won 1st prize in an international challenge in Copenhagen, Denmark. This changed the course of his life, and that of Miss Can, which is now a beautifully designed, very popular canned fish shop.
A few minutes speaking with Tiago at his shop in Lisbon, and the world began to feel a lot smaller: as it turns out, Tiago met Rufus Gifford, the nephew of Oldways’ founder Dun Gifford, when he was in Copenhagen. Tiago has the photo of Rufus displayed in his shop, which Dun would have loved to see.
My daughter Casey and I had the pleasure of meeting Luis Pato of Luis Pato Winery, in the Bairrada region, halfway between Lisbon and Porto. He is fanatical about promoting the wines of the Bairrada region and its indigenous Baga varietal, and from our experience, there is every good reason to follow him. As you’ll find when you visit the winery—because yes, of course, you are signing up to join us!—he’s a fun loving and whimsical guy, taking unusual photos with his visitors. We loved the wines, and luckily we were not driving, as we tried quite a few of them!
Eduardo, Rogerio, and Tiago
After almost 30 years of travels with Oldways, I have checked in and out of hundreds of hotels. There are a number of things that make or break a hotel—the room, the bathroom, the bar, the breakfast room—but the people are among the most important.
In Lisbon, Eduardo Dinca, the concierge at the Altis Avenida, gave me his personal cell phone, so he could help connect me with restaurants when he was off duty.
Rogerio Martins and Tiago Morais, the concierges in Porto at the InterContinental - Palácio das Cardosas, were equally conscientious. Their help was constant, even after I returned to the U.S., including checking in on me during COVID.
My three new concierge friends helped me discover hidden gems in Portugal, which I can’t wait to share with all of you.
Thierry and Isabelle
The Olive Oil Experts
Not surprisingly, I’ve tasted a lot of extra virgin olive oils in my travels around the Mediterranean, and one thing that always impresses me is the pride of each producer in the product(s) she or he makes. Perhaps because olive oil is sold everywhere, I’ve visited very few stores in the Mediterranean that are entirely devoted to olive oil— until being introduced to Olistori in Lisbon. The shop is one that is so inviting we could have stayed much longer than we had time for. Thierry and Isabelle, the owners who are French + Portuguese, have personally selected all the oils and present them by region and terroir. My daughter Casey also remembers the amazing magical box of salt and pepper that they have to go along with tasting olive oil. We have our wonderful friend Patricia who has led us to quite a few treasures in Lisbon to thank for the introduction to Isabelle—it’s true, the people always make the difference.
On an Oldways culinary tour, we don’t just see the sights—we make connections. We’ve been invited to dinner at the homes of locals, included in family parties, and asked to attend weddings. Not to mention the camaraderie among fellow travelers. In my experience, I’ve found that people who love food are interesting and wonderful people, and in experiencing new places and new foods and wines together, friendships are made for life.
And it’s not only friendships.
Our Director of Finance, Abby Sloane, met her future mother-in-law at an Oldways culinary tour in Turkey. She thought Abby would be the perfect match for her shy but very handsome son. And five years later, Abby married Tim, that very handsome son of an Oldways traveler!
Whether you’re looking for a wife or husband or new lifelong friends, or if you just want to have a great adventure with some incredibly interesting and fun people, take a look at our Culinary journeys and sign up. I’ve got all the details of our Portugal culinary tour at the end of this email.
P.S. Calling all New England-area readers! If you’ve got Italy on your mind, join me for a special Umbrian Wine Dinner at Giusto Restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island on March 10th. It’s a special menu designed by Chef Kevin O’Donnell, who’ll be leading our Umbria culinary tour next October, and featuring the wines of the Lungarotti Winery. Visit Giusto’s website, and make your reservation for March 10th.
Global-Inspired Recipe: Caldo Verde
This delicious soup, which means "green broth,” is beloved throughout Portugal. It’s the perfect comfort food on a chilly day, bursting with flavor and plenty of good-for-you leafy greens. Dried and fresh Piri Piri chili peppers are popular in Portugal, but a fresh jalapeño makes a great substitute if you can’t find it.
Get the Caldo Verde recipe here
Comment Below: What local knowledge would YOU share with a visitor to your hometown?
If you were welcoming a visitor to your hometown or home state, what special, insider info would you share with them? The best place to get a cup of coffee? The perfect spot to watch the sunset? A secret route to avoid traffic? Comment below and share your expert advice!
Insider Travel Tip: Start at the Salon
(But not for the reason you think)
One of the first things I do in almost every place I visit is book a wash and a blow dry. Even if we don’t speak the same language, it’s easy to pantomime when I enter the salon. And here’s the real secret: the salon is the best place to hear stories from locals, and ask them questions. If we can communicate—even if not so well—I always ask about food and cooking, and walk away with recipes and memories about someone’s mother or grandmother’s favorite dishes. The old ways, to be sure.
Some of my more interesting experiences a la hair salon have been:
In Buenos Aires, having my hair washed while lying on a bed.
In Istanbul, getting my hair done for 10 Euros in the salon by the Blue Mosque, that accommodates veiled women in a separate room.
In Verona, discovering that half of the women on the Culinaria also booked an appointment at the same salon. Hi, friends!
In Hong Kong, having a wash/blow dry, manicure, and pedicure all at the same time, with three people circling me. Perhaps a New York or LA thing, but all new to me!
If you choose to do your own hair, remember to use the hotel (or Airbnb) hairdryer. Don’t waste space in your luggage bringing your own hairdryer and voltage adapter. It won’t end well.
April 3-10, 2022 - Reserve your spot on the tour today!
Spend 7 days immersed in the food, history, and culture of Portugal with me and Chef John DaSilva of Chickadee restaurant. We’ll be based in Lisbon and Porto, learning about Portuguese food, ingredients and cooking. Plus, we’ll explore wineries and taste wines, cruise down the Douro River, enjoy historical walking tours and museum tours, and much more. It is an experience not to be missed!
On our trips, you don’t just get to taste a fabulous meal—you get the recipes and knowledge to bring these “old ways” home with you. And in between all the excitement, you’ll have time to shop or take a siesta, and then relax in luxurious hotels at the end of the day!