Archive for the 'Portuguese culture' Category

The Feast of St. Anthony

This week is traditionally the hottest time of the year in Lisbon. It’s also the celebration of St. Anthony, or Santo Antonio. Although he is not Lisbon’s official patron saint (that honor belongs to St. Vincent), he is certainly its dearest.

Although he is associated with Padua, the city where he died, St. Anthony was actually born in Lisbon to a very wealthy family who wanted him to get a formal education. He went against their wishes and instead entered the community of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at an abbey on the outskirts of Lisbon.

St. Anthony’s feast day is June 13, the day of his death. Throughout the month of June and this past weekend in particular, Lisbon revs up the celebrating of its native son.

Neighborhoods compete to see who can host the best parades, best costumes, and street decorations.  Everywhere you turn, you can see sardines (the traditional food of this feast due to the fact that Saint Anthony was able to talk to fishes) being grilled out on the streets.

It’s an incredibly lively scene. We lived in downtown Lisbon when our daughters were toddlers and you could hear the parties and laughing and singing and smell the grilled sardines well into the morning.

In addition to being the patron saint of lost things, St. Anthony is also the patron saint of weddings. To this day, some Portuguese couples get married in mass weddings during the celebrations.

Manjerico (basil bush) is also associated with Saint Anthony. The tradition is that a man can proclaim his love by bringing a bouquet of manjerico with a poem attached to his beloved. The woman must touch it and then smell her hand to ensure that the plant doesn’t die.

My daughter Tati was born on June 14. Now she’s turning 17. I love this picture of her on her first birthday (in one of my first designs) wearing a Saint Anthony medal given to her by her father. She still wears it today.

Also, this week: The anniversary of the birth of Portugal’s most famous poet, Fernando Pessoa, who was born in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood on June 13, 1888.

Next week, St. John is celebrated in the northern town of Porto. The entire period of celebrating is known across the country as “Popular Saints.” These celebrations and traditions embody Portugal at its best. And, despite the heat, it’s a wonderful time to visit.

Travel Insider: Catherine’s Favorite Lisbon Restaurant


Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23


Telephone: +351 21 342 14 66

Four generations of my husband’s family—including our four children—have been regulars at this restaurant behind the famous “Rossio” square In the heart of Lisbon. With dark wooden interiors, very little natural light, an all-male staff, and graying clientele, Gambrinus could be mistaken for a men’s club.

So what could a 45-year-old American woman find so alluring about a place like this? No longer in need of a room full of young bright things to validate my evenings out, I am drawn to Gambrinus for the same reasons I am drawn to most things: a huge nostaligia for the past, old fashioned attention to detail, and painstaking efforts to maintain quality.

Among Gambrinus’ many charms: white starched tablecloths, immaculately set tables, abundant waiters who actually understand service. And how could they not?  They have been serving tables at Gambrinus for their entire lifetimes.

The other evening when I was there, I finally asked them how is it that they never move on to other restaurants and other careers. They all responded in unison that they love their work and they love their “team,” that to leave has never crossed their minds.  I could not help but envy them and did not suppress the urge to imagine myself in their shoes–secure in their work, total professionals at their trade, proud to be of service.

Gambrinus serves the best seafood and shellfish in Lisbon. Crab, langoustines, lobster, barnacles, clams: shellfish lovers arrive in paradise upon entering the doors of this Portuguese institution.

My favorite Portuguese dish is Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato–clams in a coriander, garlic, and butter olive oil bisque.  Be sure to dip the toasted buttered bread Gambrinus is also famous for in the bisque to absorb every last drop of this “soup” that the clams are served in.

I recommend a cold bottle of Planalto to round out the whole clam experience. Planalto and Joao Pires are my two favorite Portuguese white wines.

Gambrinus also specializes in grilled fish of every kind imaginable–fresh and prepared with the simplicity that leaves no doubt as to who are the world masters when it comes to fish.

The Gambrinus menu also caters beautifully to red meat lovers and its chefs pride themselves on a huge selection of typical Portuguese game dishes.

Be sure not to leave without ordering the restaurant’s piece de resistance: Crepes Suzette. This is lovingly prepared with much fanfare by one of the head waiters at your table and will cure any sweet tooth for a decade.  During each of my four pregnancies, I craved this dessert– making the Gambrinus experience synonymous with a sort of physical addiction–one that even today I find very hard to kick.


Holy Week in Portugal

It’s Holy Week, which is Portugal means church processions through the streets. This video was taken in Obidos, a gorgeous Medieval town just over an hour north of Lisbon. I’ve shot many Papo catalogs against the town’s whitewashed walls and think this procession tells you everything you need to know about its unpretentious charm and love and respect for tradition.

If you are still looking for special Easter outfits for your children, we can ship them until Thursday for a Friday delivery. My favorite Easter dress this season is the Smocked Dress  in a pastel floral Liberty print. It matches the V-Back Sundress (perfect for older sisters) and coordinates beautifully with the Button Down Collar Shirt and Little Boy’s Shirt in rose and yellow grid checked.

I also want to wish a very happy Easter to Papo’s finance director Vera D’Orey and her husband Bernardo on the birth of their baby, also name Bernardo. Congratulations!! Enjoy your first Easter with your new little one.

Discover the Golega Horse Fair

This week, Portugal’s National Horse Fair gets underway in the lovely valley town of Golega. This event was founded in the 18th Century to coincide with St. Martin’s Day on November 11.  The weather during this time of year is particularly gorgeous, much like an American Indian Summer.

Photo by Aurelio Grillo

Golega is located on the Tagus River floodplain, which is a rich agricultural delta. The fair showcases Lusitano horses, a Portuguese breed that has roamed the region since before the Romans and was part of the same herd as the Spanish Andalusian. These beautiful and powerful animals are used throughout the country for dressage and bullfighting.

Prized for centuries, the Lusitano has a storied history.  When Catherine of Braganza was married to Charles II of England in the 17th Century, her dowry included over 50 Lusitano mares.

The highlight of the Golega fair is the hundreds of horses prancing through the streets. My children love this event and I have photographs of my husband sitting on his father’s shoulders, fascinated by the horses.

Everyone in my family—except me—rides Lusitanos in classical dressage and many of our friends are breeders with their own “brands.” During the fair they congregate in their casetas on the main square and entertain friends and family as the stallions and broodmares parade past the crowds.

The horse fair is steeped in tradition and is great fun for families. The streets are packed with vendors selling roasted chestnuts and Agua Pe, or foot water, which is the light and refreshing runoff from making wine. The festivities go all day and all night.

Like many European rituals, Golega’s traditions extend to the way people dress. People get decked out in traditional riding capes, boots, and leather hats.

Naturally, the event has had a great influence on some of my designs for Papo d’Anjo—most notably the Monteria Boots, which closely resemble traditional Portuguese riding boots. They look great paired with the Tweed Drill Coat, Tartan Trench Coat, and Quilted Jacket, which my own children wear to the Fair.

The entire scene is one of the most authentic events in all of Europe.  Of course it’s a must for horse lovers. But Golega is also about having fun with your family and friends and repeating the same rituals each year. Even my teenage daughters love to go and hang out with their friends.

Lisbon Insider: The Feast of St. Anthony

The streets of Lisbon are decorated with garlands to celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony.

All of Lisbon is gearing up for the June 13th feast day celebration of St. Anthony, the city’s patron saint. Because it’s a municipal holiday, the garland festooned streets are packed with people watching parades and listening to Fado until the early morning hours. Each neighborhood organizes its own parade–which makes the entire affair feel like a much less racy version of Rio’s Mardi Gras.

A shrine to St. Anthony enlivens a window in Lisbon's historic Alfama neighborhood.

In addition to being the city’s patron saint, St. Anthony is also the saint of marriage and matchmaking and many couples choose to get married on this day.  He is also known as a miracle worker who was able to speak to fishes. Because of this claim to fame, Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony’s feast day with delicious grilled sardines.

Patricia Grunebaum, who writes the copy for our catalogs, website, and emails, enjoys a meal of grilled sardines.

You can get sardines at many restaurants throughout the city–plates of uncooked fish are often displayed in refrigerated cases. My family prefers the restaurants and street vendors in the Alfama neighorhood, especially Pateo 13. They are traditionally eaten with grilled potatoes, a green bell pepper salad, and a glass of crisp white wine. Any Vinho Verde or Alvarinho varietal will do.

Grilled sardines are eaten through most of the summer in Portugal. But if you are visiting at another time of year and want to try the very best canned sardines you’ll ever taste, head to Conserveira de Lisboa in the Baixa neighborhood. Like most of Lisbon’s artisanal shops, it looks almost exactly as it did when it opened in 1930, with mosaic stone floors and a wooden cash register.

Travel Tip: If you’re visiting Lisbon during the summer, the tiled sidewalks can be very slippery, not to mention tough to navigate in heels. Instead, slip on a pair of our Leather Tassel Moccasins, which are available up to size 38 and are both stylish and extremely comfortable.

Chocolate eggs and more: Easter in Portugal

Holy Week is in full swing in Portugal, which means street processions and frequent visits to church. For Good Friday, most Portuguese don’t eat meat or any desserts or candy, which in a country known for its sweet tooth, can be a challenge.

As in the United States, Easter is a family holiday. On Easter Saturday many families go into the countryside for a picnic, made all the more delightful by the fact that the flowers are blooming. On Sunday, children hunt for chocolate eggs and extended families get together for a traditional Easter meal of lamb.

My favorite Portuguese Easter tradition is a sweet bread called Folar da Páscoa. The recipe varies from region to region. In the north, the bread is flavored with anise and lemon zest; the southern version tastes more like a cinnamon roll. All versions have hard boiled eggs–which symbolize rebirth–baked into them. I buy Folar da Páscoa at the bakery but you can try this American measurement  recipe that I found.

I love designing clothes for Easter. For this season, I chose a gorgeous cotton voile in coordinating pastels that I made in the party dress, classic shorts, Spanish shorts, and rompers. For little girls, the Smocked Liberty Dress is truly special and looks beautiful with any of the voile options.

Have a lovely Easter!

Insider Travel Tips: The Medieval Charm of Obidos

We shot the Spring 2010 calendar in Obidos, a Medieval city just over an hour north of Lisbon. Set high on a hill, much of Obidos’  charm lies in the fact that it’s a walled city where walking the streets feels like you’ve stepped back in time.

Over the years I’ve shot many of my catalogs in this beautiful town because it combines  a lot of what I most appreciate about Portugal in terms of both architecture and color.  I can always count on the village for a wide array of traditional backgrounds of houses painted in traditional white with blue-trimmed windows and either green, brown or red doors.

At the same time, Obidos has a relaible amount of grand architecture in the form of stunning old churches and marble columned municipal buildings dating from the 18th century. Obidos also has many ochre  painted window and door frames. When combined with the fuschia colored bougainvillea that spills over the walls, the city provides a great contrast for the clothes I design. It is really a feast for the eyes–especially because the Portuguese light provides a glowing finishing touch.

The only challenge with Obidos is that it’s extremely popular with tourists. Before we shoot our calendars, I’m always careful to make sure that there aren’t any Portuguese or Spanish school holidays. If you want to make the most out of your visit, it’s probably a good bet to call ahead to make sure there aren’t any major tours that day.

It’s also fun for me to share that Papo d’Anjo and I are featured in the March 2010 issue of Vanity Fair. It’s obviously a huge honor and my family and I enjoyed the photo shoot very much. The issue is on newsstands now and I hope you enjoy the story.

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