Celebrating Portugal’s Equestrian Gift to the World: The Lusitano

lusitano breedPortugal’s centuries of equestrian tradition took off from from a long time and in the 17th and 18 century with the royal houses taking interest in the sport with a mix of European and Arabian as well as the local horse breed. Some inbreeding must have taken place and the result is a sturdy breed that has enjoyed world patronage as a fast and easily trainable horse in the Lusitano. The tradition lives on with several major annual sporting events celebrating the Lusitano breed throughout Portugal.

The Breed’s Roots

The Lusitano breed is one of the most distinguished horse breed in the world. It is believed to have come from inbreeding of the native Iberian Berber horse that have been a product of inbreeding with various European breed that came with the conquering Carthaginians, Romans and Germanic tribes. With the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Muslims in the Middle Ages, the inbreeding with the Arabian horse gave the Lusitano new breed characteristics.

But it was only in the 1940s that a serious concerted effort by the National stud farm to come up with a thoroughbred to distinguish it from the Spanish breed came to fruition. The Lusitano as the world knows it today was officially distinguished as a Portuguese breed in 1962 from a similar horse from other Spanish breeders. The Lusitano horse breed is a Portuguese horse highly appreciated amongst equestrian aficionados the world over. They can be found in abundant numbers notably in Brazil, France and Mexico and often seen in shows and equestrian events.

Portuguese Olive Oil

Portugal olive oilOlive oil is a staple in many kitchens across the world. In Portugal, a country that produces large quantities of olive oil, it is a given that you will find olive oil to be part of a large portion of their cuisine. Thanks to the health benefits and other purposes of olive oil, expect this product to be continuously produced and exported by Portugal.

When visiting Portugal, it is inevitable that you will see the many beautiful fields and vineyards that produce some of the world’s most famous white wines. What many people do not notice is that a large majority of these areas are also the same locations where quality olives are grown and harvested.

Olives in Portugal

It is still an exact mystery as to why Portugal has the ability to produce large quantities of high quality olive oil. Portugal olive oil is void of acidity and contains organoleptic compounds that promote cardiovascular health.

One thing is for certain, Portuguese are also experts in the production of olive oil. After all, the use and consumption of olive oil is so engraved in Portuguese culture that it is almost unimaginable why this is hardly ever noted of their country.

Uses of Olive Oil

Olive oil is used around the world for various cooking and food preparation purposes. It is prefect for frying seafood, curing vegetables and as a base mixture for some sauces as well. In salads, olive oil makes for a perfect dressing; one or two spoonfuls are more than enough. Olive oil is also preferred by chefs as better alternative to other types of cooking oils because of the taste and the health benefits of olive oil. This culinary oil has less fat than conventional cooking oil.

Olive oil is also an effective moisturising agent for skin care application and is best used as shaving oil for body and facial hair removal.

Portuguese Embroidery

The Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo is nestled in the beautiful northern Minho region. The town enjoys a rustic provincial atmosphere bordered by a scenic river and the majestic Atlantic Ocean. Its people enjoy a long cherished tradition of impeccably distinct rural arts exemplified by its fine handcrafted embroidery.

Embroidery is an artistic craft anchored on meticulous handiwork in needles and thread to showcase the historic arts and cultures of a country and its people. Its rich embroidery finds inspiration from the natural beauty of the Viana do Castelo locale, from the simplest designs and uniquely Portuguese patterns to the more elaborate floral accents. And there’s no better medium to embody this than on table cloths and tray cloths that lend a distinct touch of class and elegance to your dining moments.

At Portugal, we are proud to carry this exquisite line of embroidered Viana do Castelo linen and cotton fabrics in the form of table cloths and tray cloths of timeless beauty and understated elegance. Check out our wide selection of exquisitely embroidered textile products designed and handcrafted in Portugal.

• Embroidered Cotton Tablecloth makes use of cotton in both its textile and embroidery. A wide array of designs inspired from the traditional Viana do Castelo design motifs like brambles, leaves, and flowers in various patterns are embroidered by hand. And since they are made by individuals variously inspired, no two tablecloths look the same. The textile and the embroidery can come in a monotone or in various contrasting colors like blue on white or red in white.
• Traditional Embroidered Linen Tablecloth is the best specimen of fine Portuguese craftsmanship inspired from the Viana do Castelo embroidery tradition. Design elements using flowers, brambles and leaves form the artistic embroidery that comes in various colors of blue on white, or red on white textiles or in any combination.
• Bars Linen Tablecloth is an embroidered tablecloth specially piped with bars framing the tablecloth that is of a different or identical color as with the textile cloth itself. The bars may also share the same color as the embroidery work.
• Bars Linen Traycloth is a rectangular linen traycloth specially embroidered with pipings or bars framing the textile. The pipings can came in a different color from the textile or similar to it or its embroidery color.
• Silvas Linen Tablecloth is a large embroidered tablecloth that comes in different sizes to cover the entire table top dimension with the smallest starting at a rectangular size of 2.5 x 1.7 meters. “Silvas” are brambles used as design motifs arranged in heart patterns and come in blue, white or cream colors.
• Rich Linen tablecloth, as the name implies, carries a richer diversity of embroidery designs and patterns inspired from Viana do Castelo. The fine embroidery comes in a range of colors that are sure to add a touch of class to any dining experience.
• Embroidered Linen Traycloth carries the Carmella floral motif. The fabrics can be customized to various color preferences though the embroidery often comes in red, white, blue, cream or in combination with other colors. Inspired by the Viana do Castelo tradition of fine embroidery.

Linen tablecloths are available at the Portugal Shop, the online shopping portal of the Portugal Web.

Horse riding in Portugal

Horse riding PortugalBeautiful Alto Minho in the Paredes de Coura district of Portugal offers one of the best sights for a memorable and thrilling horseback riding experience. With an expansive 20,000 square meters of riding area, the Alto Minho Center provides various riding trails raging from the easiest to the most challenging trail. This is offered as a 3-4 day horse back riding program for local and foreign tourists.
Most of its programs have handicaps in mind for a therapeutic horseback riding course alongside its TREC or Techniques of Equestrian Randonee for competitive sporting events. The equestrian and wildlife school is focused on educating riders about cartography, horse grooming, basic horseshoeing, first aid for horses as well as environmental orientation. The Center’s programs are not just for those who wish to learn about riding horses but also for those who just love horses and find riding them an excellent way to commune with nature while getting the marvelous countryside air through the majestic Minho regions.

Food & Accommodation

Local and foreign guests get billeted in a rural hotel, like the Casa Paz do Outer with typical Minho comforts and a provincial kitchen. The hotel is situated 8 km from the center’s riding stables.
Many of the quaint provincial hotels have limited facilities for a few guests. It offers two twin bedroom accommodation, another two double bedrooms and one suite, with private baths each. They all have the basic hotel amenities except air conditioning. It has a pool, laundry and babysitting services.
Guests are treated to a daily breakfast made from its rural kitchen. Lunch is served picnic style at various spots along the program’s riding trail as guests would already be in the great outdoors on horseback. Then, when they end the day’s ride, they get treated to a local restaurant that features countryside delicacies with the Portuguese cooking flare.

Best of Portugal

Portugal olivesIt’s not always easy to experience the best of what any single country can offer. For a country as complex as modern day Portugal, there’s always the chance of missing out of the best, with its mix of exotic cultures from various influences in towns and architectures, resorts and beaches and the cosmopolitan sophistication of its cities, restaurants and hotels. The internet is full of websites offering the wonderful sights and sounds of Portugal. But for Portugal Web, the best of Portugal come in both large and small packages:

Olive Oil

Recent statistical data point to Europe as the main source of olive oil, accounting to 93% of the world production of this exotic liquid. Greece, Spain and Turkey are the major producers of this cash crop. Portugal ranks 8th overall and has one of the finest quality olive oil products. The country is not only known as one of the best wine makers, its olive oil products are similarly prominent. Its olive groves found in the Moura regions, the Norte Alentejano the upper Douro as well as the Tras-os-Montes are often in close proximity with its vineyards.
As the warmest European country, Portugal enjoys the kind of climate that sustains olive and wine production. With a more rationalized DOP or Designation of Origin system and more modern cultivation techniques that include greater farm mechanization, we can see Portugal maintaining the world-class quality of its Olive products and just might overtake the three countries earlier mentioned as the prime source of this product.

Portuguese Wine

Portugal’s warm climate makes it a great region for cultivating grapes, and the wines that come from it. The fact is that Portugal ranks as one of the finest wine-producing countries on earth, second only to France. Its origins are a bit clouded in legends but it is clear that wine cultivation in Portugal started under the Greeks in the 7th Century BC. And the rest is history.
The two foremost wine producing regions Portugal are the Douro Valley and the Pico Island. These vineyards have now been regarded by UNESCO as world heritage sites. They produce some of the finest grape varieties called “castas” in Portuguese that include, Douro, Bairrada, Dao, Porto (port wines), Madeira, Vinhos Verdes, Colares and Algarve to mention some. The most famous among them is the Porto or Port wine and the Madeira, accounting for much of the country’s wine exports.

Equestrian

In the sporting world, while football is without doubt the most popular sport in Portugal, equestrian sports also figure as among the most favored with a tradition the dates back to the 18th century among the royalties and landed class. Not only has the sport retained its charm as a leisure activity, it is an integral part of it’s the country’s tourism attractions.

Equestrian sports evolved from the country’s storied militaristic and adventurist pasts. Horses have been interbred with other superior breed from the conquering nations that have settled in Portugal over the centuries resulting in the famous and popular Lusitano breed. It has likewise spawned an industry catering to equestrian accessories like saddles, bridles, stirrups among many handcrafted industries distributed around the world.

Portuguese cork

portuguese-corkCork has become one of the most profitable industries for the Portuguese as it has been able to contribute millions of Euros to the country’s economy through the consistent export of this product. In fact this country accounts for around 50 percent of the total production of this item throughout the world and this can be attributed to the Portuguese climate which is quite conducive to the growth of the cork oak tree.
This product is regularly used to seal wines and keep their freshness but it also has loads of other functions. It has been used to serve a variety of purposes, from roads, to fishing boats, to floor tiles. Whatever its function may be, it is a fact that the high versatility of this product has helped make the economy of Portugal flourish.
Portuguese cork is produced from the bark of cork oak trees which are harvested for as long as ten to twelve years. Some trees are even known to grow up to 170 years; the older the tree gets, the more it is able to produce. It takes a long process for this natural product to become wine plugs as the bark strip obtained from the trees need to be dried for around 6 months before they are worked on. These strips are then boiled for a period of ninety minutes, and after which are left to dry for another three weeks.
It has to go through this lengthy procedure before it is cut into specific shapes for wine bottles. Corks are vital in preserving the freshness and the taste of wines as they prevent oxygen from making contact with, and spoiling the wine. For wine enthusiast much can be told by merely observing these wine plugs, such as the source of the wine, the wine’s age, and how long the plug has been in the bottle.
It is in the Alentejo region in Portugal where the world’s largest cork forest resides. Although it has a very large lands mass (over one fifth of the country), this region has a considerably small population and its economy thrives from the production of these wine plugs. This rural area is a beautiful countryside that boasts of the highest mountain tops and the most enchanting plains and rivers. The trees are most abundant in the hot summer months as this region alone accounts for almost 80 percent of the total wine plugs produced in the whole country.

A Portuguese blog

Beach Portugal

Well one my wonder if a Portuguese blog should be written in Portuguese language or in English. In order to have a potential broader audience this blog will be written in English although its main focus will be in Portuguese places, Portuguese events and Portuguese products. Thus, Portugal in an indirect way will be the main topic about this Portuguese blog. As a diary it just want to express personal views, writing about what feels right to write about. Portugal is an ancient country and although is not a big country it is very diverse so there is a large number of thing one might be tempted to speak about. For instance I like Portuguese old villages from the South with all their houses painted in white but I also like the traditional villages from the North where the houses instead of being mainly white are with their walls made out stones. I like the seaside and to walk in the beach and I also like to go for a hike in the countryside. Portugal has a lot to enjoy and that’s what I intend to write about.