Fado is cathartic, and full of a longing to return to a place and time that never was. But, like anything about Portugal, there is a lot more there that you might think. Fado is often referred to as a Lisbon song, and that is not exactly true. The Fado, the oldest form of popular music still practiced in Europe, reflects the complex soul of the Portuguese. Neither sad nor joyous, the Fado is a song of "fallen souls, lost nights, strange shadows, love, jealousy, ashes and flames."
To most North Americans the sardine is a little fish that comes in a can. To the Portuguese, the "sardinha" is THE flavor of summer. From north to south, Portuguese relish the smell of fresh-grilled sardines. So, what is the difference? In the summer 6- to 8-inch sardines are caught in Portugal territorial waters--from the mainland to Madeira, to the Azores, and back.
Ask in any café in Portugal for a bica and what will follow is a taste of heaven. It may look like an espresso, but the truth is in the beans and no one does it like the Portuguese. It’s helpful to know that the Portuguese have a huge sweet tooth. They love pastry and each region has its own unique claim to special cakes and pastry. What does this have to do with Portuguese coffee?
For those who know the magic of Portugal, it will come as no surprise that hidden in its southern most part lies Beja, an undiscovered jewel that once was the setting for the greatest love story ever told. There, a young twenty-six-year-old nun, the daughter of a rich nobleman met, fell in love and was abandoned by a French officer. Her passionate letters to him published in 1669 took Paris by storm and incited a crucial turn in world literature that inspired generations of artists including Braque, Modigliani and Elizabeth Barret Browning. Built on the highest hill in the Alentejo, Beja still holds the same appeal.