Hi from Rick: It's the Nuns' Tummies
|In Portugal, allow plenty of time for freshly-baked sightseeing detours.|
I'm well into my annual spring book-research and TV-filming trip. During my twelve days in Portugal I visited nearly every place covered in my guidebook, and I left with my enthusiasm for this country rekindled.
I met very few Americans there. (Today in Athens, where I am now, I've seen more of us than in a dozen days in Portugal.) I also found great prices: $5 meals, $60 doubles and $6 tickets to major sights — even with the euro at $1.55.
I particularly enjoyed the Alentejo region, where many pastries are simply called "convent sweets." In the old days, daughters of aristocrats who were unable to marry into suitably noble families often ended up in high-class convents. Life was comfortable, yet carefully controlled. Rather than sex, the girls focused on prayer...and sweets. The convents became famous as keepers of secret recipes for exquisite sugar-and-egg-yolk pastries — leftovers from egg whites used to starch the nuns' habits. This explains why only in Portugal can one find sweets with names like barrigas de freiras — nuns' tummies.
In this month's Travel News we're looking beyond the barrigas to see what's happening in Iberia this year (including a couple of new tours we've just announced), and a rundown of what's nouvelle in France. Budget travelers (and who isn't this year?) can dig into some money-saving flight tips, a handy cost-comparison of cities, and a traveler's tale of hunger pains at the Last Supper.
Aside from the research and pastries, I'm really enjoying the chance to blog from Europe again (and to hear back from you). Let's keep in touch.