Sip Trips #138: Exploring Europe (Part 3)

Our arrival in Porto, Portugal, unfortunately occurred on a Sunday afternoon, meaning all stores and most restaurants were closed. We didn’t let that deter us though, finding Bao’s Taiwanese Burger. I had the Pulled Pork Bao, while splitting an order of Fries 101 with Mrs. Sip. To drink, I had a bottle of Opo Gyroscope IPA and we both finished our meal with a Happy Ending Shot, made with Licor 43.

As we ate, our laundry was going through a wash cycle at a nearby laundromat. So, as we waited for the load to dry, we popped into Café Candelabro for a beverage. There, I had a bottle of Cristal Preta, while Mrs. Sip enjoyed a glass of wine and Baby Sip gnawed on a drink coaster!

Laundry.jpg

The next day, we went on an excellent Food & Wine Tour. The trek began with traditional egg tarts at Manteigaria, before cod cakes and veal pockets with a generous serving of wine at Imperio. Next, we were off to O Pretinho Do Japao for a charcuterie platter and more wine, followed by Port tasting (white, red and tawny) at Pouriga. The main event was a fantastic bifana em pao sandwich, paired with a Super Bock Lager at Conga. This sandwich, with meat marinated in a mix of beer and peri-peri sauce, was the highlight of the tour, as far as Mrs. Sip and I were concerned. McDonald’s actually has their own version, which I also tried, but obviously it was just not the same.

Following the tour, we made our way to the city’s riverside area, where we joined an English tour of the Calem Port Museum. The tour and five tastings cost us 27€ for me and Mrs. Sip. Unfortunately, Baby Sip was being really fussy during this tour, so we didn’t get to fully enjoy it, but the tastings kind of made the difficult experience a little more tolerable.

Looking to get back on track, we continued along the riverside, ending up at Sandeman Cellars outdoor patio area for some Port cocktails. Mrs. Sip had their Vau Nilla (Sandeman Branco Port, apple, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, bitters), while I went with the Club Ruby (Sandeman Ruby Port, red fruit puree, pepper, lemon juice, mint). The drinks were delicious and the setting spectacular.

Wine Flu

Sadly, our short stay in Porto was over and we were onto the capital city of Lisbon via train. Upon arriving, we ventured to LisBeer, home to a variety of Portuguese craft beers. En route, we passed a Napoleao wine and spirits shop, so decided to have a looksee. There, we found a bottle of Sharish Blue Magic Gin to bring home. While I have yet to use the liquor, it apparently turns pink when you add ice, tonic water or another mix to it. When we finally made it to LisBeer, we selected a pair of 8a Colina Brewing products in the Urraca Vendaval IPA and Ze’ Arnaldo Porter. This bar had a very relaxed atmosphere and we enjoyed our brief visit.

For dinner, we made our way to Lisbon’s Hard Rock Café. The busy restaurant provides priority seating for guests with babies and young children, which was a nice bonus. I ordered the Original Legendary Burger, with a pint of Sagres Bohemia Beer, while Mrs. Sip had the Tupelo Chicken Tenders and a bottle of Sagres Bohemia Wheat Beer. Our food was very good and the staff at the eatery were top notch in our books.

We wrapped the long day with some cherry liqueur tasting at Ginginha do Carmo. While I enjoyed the booze straight up, Mrs. Sip had hers out of a chocolate cup, adding a whole new element to the experience. While these venues are very small, patrons are able to enjoy their drink outside the establishment. Our next morning also began with cherry liqueur, this time from A Ginjinha Registada, the oldest of these hole-in-the-wall shops.

Pace Yourself

Our main tourist activity on this day was a two-hour walking tour of the city. Afterwards, we joined the guide and a few fellow tourists for a drink at Noobai Café. Upon entering the place, I spotted what looked like a beer tasting opportunity, so promptly ordered that menu item. My flight was comprised of four Super Bock Seleccao 1927 varieties, including a Munich Dunkel, Bavaria Weiss, Bengal Amber IPA, and Thames Porter.

We wrapped our second day by visiting a marketplace in the center of the town, sitting down to a plate of various sausages and glasses of red and white sangria. We also picked up a bottle of Rose Wine, which the vendor opened up for us right there, allowing us to walk the stalls of the market with glasses of vino.

Before travelling to Belgium, the final stop of our expedition, we visited Sintra, Portugal, a beautiful little town, highlighted by Pena Palace and a Moorish Castle. Given all the pushing of Baby Sip’s stroller I was doing up and down cobble stone streets, I enjoyed a couple Super Bock cans to reward my efforts.

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Dominican Republic – Brash Monk

Amazing Americas

Did you know that breaking out into a round of applause when a plane lands in the Dominican Republic is an enforceable law? If your answer is no, then you’re probably also unaware that Santo Domingo, the capital of the D.R., is the first city of the Americas and where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 to create the first European settlement and Spain’s first capital across the pond. Here is that story:

Christopher Columbus

As some of us will remember, Columbus left Spain in search of new lands with three ships: the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara (aka the Niña). After weeks of sailing, Columbus and company finally landed on the island of Hispaniola (what is now split between the Dominican and Haiti) on Dec. 5, 1492.

Things started off friendly between both sides. In classic European style, though, the voyagers first took over using force (once their conquest was resisted by the natives) and later through disease, as smallpox and measles wiped out a great chunk of the Taino population.

As part of the settlement, the Dominican is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress in the Americas. These are all located in Santa Domingo’s Colonial Zone, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Heck, there’s even a Hard Rock Café there!

Once Spain conquered the Aztecs and Incas, they forgot about their holdings in the Caribbean and French pirates (think buccaneers searching for wine and cheese, rather than gold and rum) swooped in to take the neglected land. A series of peace treaties between Spain and France first gave what is now Haiti to the French and later what is now the Dominican Republic.

pirate-cat

As for Columbus, he continued to make voyages between the “New World” and “Old World,” which sounds like some sort of science fiction plot. In 1504, Columbus returned to Spain for good. He died on May 20, 1506, as a result of reactive arthritis, which could have been brought on by anything from food poisoning to sexually transmitted diseases (which one would you rather contract!?). Estimates state he was 54 years old.

And here’s where the explorer’s story takes an interesting twist that has helped his legend endure throughout the Dominican Republic, as well as around the world: both the D.R. and Spain claim to be in possession of Christopher Columbus’ remains. And both have legitimate claims to the relic.

Columbus was first buried in Valladolid, Spain, where he passed away, before being moved to the La Cartuja monastery in Seville, Spain, by request of his son Diego. Columbus had stated that he would like his final resting place to be in the New World, but no monument was grand enough yet for this request. Finally, in 1537, Christopher and Diego’s bones were shipped to Santa Domingo and placed in the cathedral there.

Later, came the aforementioned period of French rule. The Spaniards, fearing what the French would do with Columbus’ remains, moved them to Havana, Cuba. The Spanish-American War of 1898 forced the bones to be moved back to Spain, once again. This time, they were housed at the Cathedral of Seville, amongst an elaborate setting, featuring a tomb and statues.

Celebrating Columbus

In 1877, however, a box inscribed “Don Christopher Columbus” was discovered in the Santa Domingo cathedral, which contained human remains showing signs of advanced arthritis. This led the Dominicans to conclude that either Spain took the wrong remains away all those years ago, or that a bait and switch was pulled and the Spanish were in possession of bones not belonging to Columbus.

For their part, Spain had their Columbus artifacts DNA tested with experts finding that the remains in Seville are likely that of the legendary explorer. The movements of Columbus’ bones are also well-documented through their remarkable journey.

The Dominican Republic has never exhumed their version of Columbus’ remains for DNA testing, perhaps for fear that tourism, which the Caribbean nation heavily relies upon, could take a hit without the Columbus connection.

DNA Test

In the Dominican, Columbus is entombed in the Columbus Lighthouse. While recently visiting the country, Mrs. Sip and I went to this landmark with a tour group, but our guide didn’t allow us enough time to actually go into the site… he was more concerned with yapping on his phone all day and pigging out on the lunch buffet.

The truth on the subject probably lies somewhere in the middle and both countries may be in possession of Columbus remains. I suppose it’s kind of fitting that he may be resting in both worlds.

Dominican Republic: Brash Monk

Brash Monk Cocktail

  • 1 oz Mamajuana
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Espresso Vodka
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with Chocolate Slice

Columbus’ journey to the New World was made into the feature film 1492, which was released 500 years after his voyage across the Atlantic. I’ve never seen the flick and given its 39% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I just can’t see it rocketing to the top of my ‘to view’ list!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Although a strong cocktail, I enjoyed this martini. Frangelico always burns a little harsher than other liquors, but the flavours were all really nice. The drink is supposed to be garnish with a coffee bean, but given I’m anti-coffee, there was none lying around to use. Mrs. Sip didn’t leave me much milk for the recipe, but I made due with what I had… at least she left me any at all!

April 23 – Highland Berry

London Calling

London is easily one of my favourite cities in the world. As we celebrate St. George’s Day (England’s National Day), let’s take a look at some of my favourite attractions in the kingdom’s capital.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour

I’ve been on a few of these tours and London has, by far, the most intricate and expansive map. You can hop on/off anywhere across the city, including Buckingham Palace, the famous Harrod’s department store, or Piccadilly Square. There’s only so much you can fit into one day of running around London, so plan ahead and be sure to use their transfer system and get full use out of your bus pass.

London Eye/Thames River Cruise

Going for a circuit in the London Eye, which is located along the banks of the Thames River allows you to see the entire city in all of its glory. When your ride is over, why not hop aboard a boat and sail down river on the world famous Thames. You get to pass by London Bridge, which thankfully is no longer falling down.

West End Theatre

I’ve been privileged to see a number of productions during my stops in London, including the legendary Mouse Trap, Wicked, Avenue Q and The Hounds of Baskerville. On our upcoming visit to the city, Mrs. Sip and I will be seeing The Book of Mormon and Rock of Ages. Surely these shows will measure up to the high standards the theatre district is known for.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Residing at 221B Baker Street, this is where the fictional Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson lived together, solving the various sundry tales that came to their attention. Today, a museum dedicated to the detective and his partner stands at the address. One of the newest incarnations (the BBC series) of Sherlock Holmes mysteries are a must-watch selection from this Sip Advisor.

Rock N’ Roll Tour

London is crammed full of Rock N’ Roll history. Just the number of musicians that died in the city reads like a who’s who of the industry. I’ll never forget being driven through London’s suburbs as our driver jammed out to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. You can complete your tour with a meal at either the Hard Rock Café or Rolling Stones-inspired Sticky Fingers.

Jack the Ripper Tour

The case of Jack the Ripper is a fascinating one. He murdered at least five prostitutes and intrigue into the identity of the killer remains to this day. I have personally accused a number of individuals, with varying results. The tour The Family Sip took a few years back finished at the Sherlock Holmes Pub, where a round of pints were the next mystery to be solved.

Tower of London

Speaking of Jack the Ripper, had he ever been caught, this is likely where he would have been hanged. The Tower is now home to the crown jewels of the royal family. If I could just get my hands on a trinket or two on display here, I’d be set for life. Perhaps Kate Middleton would come hang out with me, too!

Drink #113: Highland Berry

April 23

  • 1.5 oz Hendricks Gin
  • 0.5 oz Raspberry Liqueur
  • Splash of Cranberry Juice
  • Top with Tonic Water
  • Garnish with Raspberries

Mrs. Sip insists I also mention the numerous free museums around London. These are wondrous places, but I’m just not a massive museum fan, myself. That said, here’s a drink to merry old England. Thanks for the memories. Cheers!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
Not a bad cocktail to salute England with, but the Tonic Water was once again a bit detestable. Thankfully the Hendrick’s Gin and Raspberry Liqueur were both delicious in their own right and the Cranberry Juice made its usual contribution of not hurting a recipe. I loved putting this drink in a goblet… it just felt right!