Portugal, Spain and Brazil

September - December 2015
A 85-day adventure by No Cheese Read more
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  • 8.9kkilometers
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  • Day 1

    Arrival in Oporto

    September 30, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    I decided to set up this blog as an afterthought, a companion to Roch's "Less Cheese" blog which chronicles our travel adventures. I, however, only want to write about "food", and what we as vegans are eating on our cycling journey.

    We arrived in Oporto September 27, 2015, a Sunday, which meant a lot of things were closed. We were happy to sit out in a sunny piazza and munch on some mandarin oranges and bananas that we had bought for lunch.

    For dinner, we decided to go to Espaco Compasso. Although they were open, the chef was unfortunately sick that day. We asked the kind young man who greeted us if he could recommend another restaurant and per his suggestion, we ended up at Tia Orlando, a Mozambic restaurant where we had a delicious mushroom and bean dish done in a coconut curry sauce. Yes, I know, not very Portuguese but it sure made our tastebuds and bellies happy. 17.90€ for the both of us and that included a local beer for Roch.
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  • Day 1

    Black Mamba

    September 30, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    On Monday, many establishments were still closed but Tuesday, everything was open. Porto was like a new city.

    We decided to go to the market today. Yesterday's trek to Mercado Ferreira Borges proved fruitless since it's no longer a farmer's market. The Mercado had been converted to a cultural centre of sorts and we enjoyed an interesting photo exhibit but no fruits.

    Today, we walked up to Mercado do Bolhao but found it rather disappointing. It had none of the typical hustle and bustle that we love about a market and frankly, the prices were quite high. We left the market with just a small cherimoya for 1.30 euro.

    For lunch, we went to "Black Mamba - Burgers & Records", a totally vegan burger joint that also sells vinyl records. I had read some reviews where people were put off by the hard metal/punk rock music that the restaurant plays but we found the music was not very loud and as a result, not very intrusive.

    We both decided to order the "666" burgers. The patties were made with potatoes and leek and they came topped with lettuce, tomato and a slice of vegan cheese. I was even able to get a gluten-free sesame seed bun for an extra 1.50€. The burgers were scrumptious and the pan fries were perfectly seasoned and nice and crispy. 4€ for a burger, 2€ for pan fries, 1.50€ for a beer for Roch.

    As much as we were tempted to order a crumble or brownie for dessert, we wisely left and bought some figs from the little grocer down the street instead. We got about 20 oh-so-sweet green figs for 1.30 euro. We stopped at another fruit stand on the way home and bought 6 beautifully ripe persimmons for just over 3 euros. Add in some bananas, some white peaches and we had a feast for dinner.
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  • Day 1

    Casa da Horta

    September 30, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today for lunch we went to "Casa da Horta", a cultural and environmental association that also serves vegan and vegetarian food. The menu changes daily depending on who's cooking and or volunteering in the kitchen. Today's menu was vegetable soup followed by lentil burgers served with rice and salad. The highlight was definitely the vegetable soup - so flavourful. This soup was definitely not made with OXO cubes! The lentil burger was good but we both found it a little heavy on thyme. The price could not be beat. 12.50€ for the both of us, including a glass of kombucha each.

    Dinner once again featured fresh figs amongst a selection of other fruits. The prices for fruit was generally better at the local grocers then the big Mercado. One of our favourite merchants was "Casa Oriental" close to Torre dos Clérigos. Some typical prices:
    Figs: 2.95€/kilo
    Bananas: 0.79€/kilo
    Persimmons: 2.45€/kilo
    Grapes: 1.79€/kilo
    Mangoes: 3.25€/kilo
    Peaches: 1.59€/kilo
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  • Day 3


    October 2, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We arrived in Aveiro after a fairly long 86.5K ride that left us famished despite the fruit stop we made along the way. Our first priority after checking in and showering was to find food. We consulted the Happy Cow website and found a vegan/vegetarian friendly cafe called Biscoito a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

    There were only 3 vegan options available, a hummus sandwich, a vegetarian bruschetta and sautéed mushrooms... so we ordered all three.

    Although the portions weren't huge, they were undeniably quality dishes and very delicious. The total for all three including a small beer for Roch came to 14€.
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  • Day 3

    Restaurante Ki

    October 2, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We started our 2nd day in Aveiro visiting the Mercado Manuel Firmino. Maybe the Market is busier in the early morning but we didn't start our day till close to 1:00 pm - ahhh, the joys of retirement! We weren't sleepy in the early afternoon but the market was.

    Nonetheless, at one of the three produce stalls, we found strawberries on sale for 1.49€/kilo so we got a bag and started selecting the nice ripe ones. We were picking from the various crates till we were tsk'ed tsk'ed and told that only the crates containing the "small" strawberries were on sale. The big strawberries were regular priced, 3.49€/kilo. No worries. We're not into size!

    After the market, we went for lunch at Restaurante Ki, a macrobiotic restaurant offering a daily-changing 2-course set menu for 8€. We started with a chickpea & sweet potato soup, followed by a plate composed of polenta, veggies and seitan. The tea was complimentary. Everything was very enjoyable, especially the soup even though it could have been a tad hotter. The set menu was a good deal but the desserts at 3€... not so much.

    We sat out in a beautiful piazza after lunch and with the warm sun upon our faces, we felt truly blessed as we gobbled our small succulent strawberries.
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  • Day 4


    October 3, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    We cycled from Aveiro to Coimbra today with many a 'up-the-hill' and 'down-the-hill' and 'up-the-hill' and 'down-the-hill'. As much as I liked the descents, I started to dread them knowing that what goes down, must come up.

    We arrived with quite a hunger around 2:00 pm and were very pleased to find a fruit store just around the corner from where we're staying. Many of the fruits were on special for 2€ for 2 kilos. For 5.86€, we bought a large melon, a huge bunch of grapes, 6 persimmons, 2 big peaches, 2 nectarines and a plum. This was the best fruit deal we've had since arriving in Portugal.

    After lugging all the fruit back up the 2 flights to our little apartment, we went in search of a sit down meal. Our apartment is located right in the historical centre where restaurants abound and luckily, we found one offering vegetarian options within minutes.

    We took a seat at one of the outdoor tables at Cafe A Brasileira and we both ordered the "caldo verde", a popular soup in Portuguese cuisine which we had been looking forward to sampling. The basic traditional ingredients for caldo verde are potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt. Additionally garlic or onion may be added. If all caldo verdes taste as good as the ones we had today, I want a caldo verde everyday of my life! What's more, the large and generous bowls at Cafe A Brasileira cost a mere 1.20€ each.

    The vegetarian special of the day which we thought was asparagus with tofu was actually a type of pasta with tofu. Boy does our Portuguese suck! The pasta was rather disappointing and the grouchy waiter we had was hardly Mr. Charming... but still, I'd go back tomorrow for another caldo verde!
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  • Day 5

    La dolce vita

    October 4, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    In the short week that we've been in Portugal, we couldn't help but notice the abundance of "pastelarias" or pastry shops there are in every city, town and village we've come across... and they're always full of locals.

    So what do you do on a rainy Sunday when almost everything is closed? You join the locals for a moment of indulgence because the pastelarias are open! After returning to Cafe A Brasileira for a big bowl of yummy vegetable soup, we fell off the vegan bandwagon and sat ourselves down at the award winning Pastelaria Briosa where Roch ordered a bolo formigo and some almendrado cookies to share.

    The bolo formigo was a very moist cake that tasted of walnuts, coconut and chocolate chips. The almendrados are gluten-free cookies made with mainly almonds, eggs and sugar, and they have a wonderful chewy texture.

    Coming out of the cafe, ohh sweet serendipity, we see a poster for a pastry show at the Antiguo Convento de Sant'Anna... happening today. How could we not go?

    With determination, we trudged up and up and up the hill and eventually found the Sant'Anna convent. On display and for sale were pastries from some of the best pastelarias in Coimbra. We ogled and drooled at every table, tasted free samples or simply feasted our eyes. At Doçaria Paula Rosa's table, we even found gluten-free treats so as we left the convent, down and down and down the hill we skipped swinging our little pastry box of "bolo rançoso" and "toucinho do céu".

    PS: Bolo rançoso is made with pumpkin, ground almonds, egg yolks and sugar. We mistakenly thought "toucinho do céu" meant touch of heaven but later learned that it meant 'bacon' of heaven! The name was so derived because the traditional version of the cake was made with lard. Thank goodness the modern version is more Esther-the-wonder-pig friendly!
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  • Day 6

    A Toca do Gato

    October 5, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    Another rainy day in Coimbra and a good day to curl up with a book, do laundry and take a nap.

    We managed to get out in the morning to visit the municipal market before the downpour. The fruit stalls at Coimbra's market had the best prices we've seen since arriving in Portugal. We couldn't resist buying a big bag of the juicy sweet green figs on sale for 1.99€ per kilo. On the way home, we stopped for some roasted chestnuts, 10 for 1.50€.

    Later in the afternoon, we once again ventured out, this time in search for a late lunch. Our intention was to go to a vegan restaurant we found on the Happy Cow website but we got sidetracked by "A Toca do Gato", a little mama-papa restaurant with only 3 tables. We asked if they could serve us something vegan and they offered up vegetable soup, salad, and rice with beans. Sound great, we thought, so in we waltzed and sat ourselves down on 2 of the 3 bar stools since all 3 tables were full.

    I've been wanting to go to a mama-papa restaurant since arriving in Portugal and this one did not disappoint. The place was quaint and unpretentious. The other patrons were all locals and as tiny as the restaurant was. The food was simple but delicious. We each had a home made vegetable soup followed by a plate of beans and rice, followed by salad... then followed by another plate of beans and rice and another salad! Oh what gluttons we were! The total including a glass of wine for Roch: 10.60€
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  • Day 7

    Dux - Petiscos e Vinhos

    October 6, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    The sun was supposed to come back out today so we decided to visit the university and its library dating from antiquity. Since the botanical garden was virtually next door, we went in for a stroll. The sun, however, remained shy behind the clouds and we had to duck under trees for rain cover on more than one occasion.

    We eventually strolled through the botanical garden and emerged on the far side and took a roundabout route to get home so we could see more of Coimbra.

    We needed to stop for a washroom break so we went into Dux, a "petiscos & vinhos", which is the Portuguese equivalent of a tapas & wine bar. The restaurant looked rather bland from the outside but inside, it was quite swank. They provided us with an electronic menu in English and we ended up ordering all their veggie options: soup, sautéed vegetables, cabbage greens, rice cooked with onions, and fried potatoes.

    We were so happy to see veggie options other than soup and salad on the menu. Everything was delicious but I must say the cabbage greens sautéed with garlic was exceptional. Total cost for our veggie fare was 16€, including a generous glass of red wine for Roch.

    PS: I later discovered that Dux is rated #1 out of 267 restaurants in Coimbra on TripAvisor
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  • Day 13

    Happy Thanksgiving

    October 12, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for, beginning with Roch, our families and friends, and after my bike accident, I am very thankful to be alive.

    Today is also the first day I’ve had a chance to get out and walk around Figueira da Foz since arriving here after the accident on October 7. Up till now, I’ve mainly been resting and recuperating in the hotel.

    I’ve been staying on a raw vegan diet to give my body foods that are as nutritionally dense as possible. The exception has been a big bowl of soup a day. I can’t count how many times we’ve been saved by soup here in Portugal. Almost every restaurant big or small has vegetable soup on the menu, some for as little as 1.25€, rarely for more than 2.50€, all of them without exception have been good, really good, or amazingly good.

    While I rest at the hotel, Roch has been bringing me a double portion of vegetable soup from one of the local restaurants. You can tell that this soup is home-made, there is a depth of flavour you just can’t get with bullion cubes. Some days there’s more carrots, other days there’s more cabbage, some days there are chickpeas, other days there are beans, every day the soup is scrumptious.

    I was looking forward to getting out and about today so we first went to the municipal market to stock up on more fruit. We wandered rather aimlessly afterwards, just enjoying the day. Since today was Thanksgiving, we decided to have a Thanksgiving meal out and as such, while strolling the streets of Figueira, we made a point of peeking at the various menus we passed along the way. We ducked down a small side street and noticed a quaint little home-grown restaurant with a billboard menu on the sidewalk. We went to take a look but there wasn’t much on offer for vegans… but looking inside pass the front bar area of the restaurant, we saw a back room filled with locals. We had to eat there.

    Roch managed to convey to the very sweet woman who came to greet us that we were vegan and after she asked us to wait for a moment, she came back to seat us. We started the meal with yet another delicious bowl of vegetable soup, followed by rice, potatoes, chickpeas and a mixed salad of lettuce, carrots, beets, corn and onions. Everything was simply prepared without any pretention, just down to earth goodness that we happily ate up with much thanks and gratitude. The total was 12€ including bread, a little carafe of red wine for Roch and a bottle of water for me.
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