Lisbon experiences – from shopper’s paradise through a vegetarian festival into a day spa
A few weeks ago I scored Ryanair return tickets to Lisbon (from Ponta Delgada) for a mere 30 EUR. Since I will only get back to Hungary on Christmas eve – give or take one day – I need to do my Christmas shopping before and I figured this will be the perfect trip for getting gifts for my family and friends. I highly recommend checking the Ryanair website because they have great promotional deals all the time.
I woke up in the wee small hours of the morning, only to find out the flight is delayed with 2 hours. However, I used the extra time well and gave myself a challenge to see how my Portuguese is progressing (I am enrolled in a very intense language course since September). I struck up conversation with a sweet Azorean family, and we had a really nice chat. They told me my pronunciation was good and that I understood everything I said, so this experience made me forget about the annoying delay.
The biggest surprise came when at the boarding I saw that a friend of mine is also booked on this flight, moreover, his seat is next to mine! What a lovely coincidence.
Thanks to another friend I had great accomodation downtown. So after dropping of my bags I headed to the mall. I have never thought I would enjoy the hustle and bustle and all these people around me – but I did. I loved looking around, and of course the shopping.
I located probably the only gluten-free bakery of Lisbon, and I went there to place my order so I don’t need to bake my own bread at home in Furnas during the next 2 weeks. All in all I had a wonderful day. In the evening when browsing through some tourist information materials I picked up at the airport I found that there is a vegetarian festival (VeggieWorld Portugal) this weekend in Lisbon – so I thought I will check it out on Sunday. Funnily enough, when I asked at the visitor center (at the airport) if there is something going on this weekend, they told me there are no public events. So the lesson learned here is that regardless what you are told by someone, grab these free information materials at the airport and browse them through in the evening in the hotel, or during a coffee break. The festival was great, and being able to communicate in Portuguese put me in a fantastic mood, and of course I have seen a few interesting things which I am going to share with you right now.
Gluten-free bakery – Zarzuela
All readers with food allergies please take a mental note and remember that the source of gluten-free and lactose-free baked goods is the Zarzuela bakery. You can read my personal experiences about this bakery below.
What I liked:
- The bakery is centrally located and easy to access from Praça do Comércio or from the Baixa-Chiado underground station;
- They have a huge sortiment of both sweet and savoury baked goods;
- Even though no bakery can beat my personal Hungarian favorite gluten-free bakery named Free the products I tried were very tasty (note: I haven’t tried their bread yet);
- The gluten-free Pastel de Nata was divine, so if you have food allergies and you are traveling to Portugal and would like to taste this very traditional cake: this is the place to come to.
What I did not like:
- Bread must be pre-ordered and prepaid, you can not just walk in and pick up a loaf so if you are in transit you might be out of luck here (unless you know someone there who can place your order and pay upfront);
- The store itself is not really welcoming: I would try to add music, colors, and a kind and competent sales staff in order to create a friendly atmosphere where customers return to with pleasure;
- It was a little bit strange that even the savoury products tasted sweet (even though this is more or less typical for Portugal).
Gluten-free bakery & patisserie – Choco and Mousse
The second gluten-free bakery I heard about is run by a Hungarian girl called Erika Szabo, and apparently she also works based on pre-orders. I will try and find out more about Erika and her business.
And now let’s head to the vegetarian festival. In the following chapters you can read about all my new discoveries.
Organic beauty products in conscious packaging – Ringana
There is a company in Austria focusing on creating preservative-free, organic products for face, body, and hair. What makes them really special is that they are not only focusing on their products themselves and their impact on the human body and the environment, but also on the packaging which is made of processed sugar canes. The filling material used during delivery to prevent breakage is made of wheat, and products are shipped in chemical-free canvas bags.
The have a special tooth oil, which I am about to try out. I have to admit I have never heard about oil pulling before, so I am excited to experience something new. I have been very impressed by this company and their Portugues spokesperson. Hereby I would like to thank them for the detailed information they have given me. Here you can find their website. From their online shop they deliver to mainland Portugal, but unfortunately not yet to the Azores.
It was lovely to see how the festival event itself has been environment conscious: I don’t remember seeing much plastic plates, spoons, forks, or straws anywhere. Most of the packaging I have seen was made of recycled paper. So what else did I see?
Bamboo toothbrush and stick swabs (Q‑tips) – Babu
On the festival there was a booth promoting environment friendly bamboo toothbrushes and bamboo stick swabs (Q‑tips). The toothbrushes even had their own cute bamboo travel case. These wonderful eco-friendly, and naturally biodegradable products can also be purchased in Ponta Delgada. The sales representative in the booth has been very kind, we had a nice conversation. I am hoping to meet up with her next time she comes to Ponta Delgada. You can check out the company website here.
Bio grocery store – Celerio
Of course a lot of local vegetarian restaurants and shops were featured at the festival, the grocery store chain Celerio among them. Celerio is focusing on bio products and hence is a Paradise for people with food allergies all over mainland Portugal (unfortunately no store on the Azores). They had an impressive, very colorful booth with great presentations and a lovely staff. There is a huge Celerio store in Lisbon, at the Colombo shopping mall. You can check out the company’s website here.
Vegan and gluten-free cheese from Barcelona – Veggie Karma
Another discovery has been a small vegan and gluten-free cheese manufacture from Barcelona, with 3 salespeople behind the counter. The cheese offering war truly special, I had a difficult time to choose between the thyme & olive and the sun-dried tomato varieties. The feta was divine, too. They are delivering to mainland Portugal, but not to the Azores, not yet. Hopefully soon. All their products are vegan and gluten-free. You can check out their website here. Photo: Veggie Karma website.
Mini vegetable patch, also for inside – OKPlants
I find it difficult to describe but probably the best way would be to say that this company is making mini (vertical) vegetable patches which come in different shapes and sizes which allow you to grow herbs & spices or smaller plants on the wall, inside your apartment even, or in one of their stylish (vertical) planters. Moreover, they are also giving their specially engineered soil alongside this these planters. I am looking forward to tell you more about this in the near future… because believe it or not, I – who was on a Christmas shopping quest in the first place – ended up buying a planter and 10 liters of soil and flew it back to the Azores. I have to admit the notion that this maybe was not the best idea ever crossed my mind when I was huffing and puffing and lugging my precious cargo on the way home. But now the heavy bag of soil has arrived to Furnas, and I cannot wait to try my new planter. Check out the photos I took and of course the website of the company, if you are curious.
The VeggieWorld Portugal event was organized very professionally, with lots of environment-conscious participants, and I am very excited about my new discoveries. I highly recommend when you travel somewhere that you check out the tourist information materials about the events happening during your stay.
Highlight of the weekend: massage – Belezintemporal Day Spa
But the best part of the weekend was still yet to come. My friend is a massage therapist and lucky for me she could squeeze me into her busy schedule. I have longed for a massage for so long, and I was very grateful for this opportunity. It was divine! I can only recommend for everyone to reward themselves with a nice massage after a few long days of sightseeing in Lisbon, so next time you are in town and would like to be pampered: pay a visit to my friend Kriszti. The massage was definitely the highlight of my trip.
I am already on my way back to Sao Miguel, filled with experiences and suitcases filled with gifts, and tonight I have another Portuguese lesson. I hope with this article I could give you a few hints about where to buy environmentally conscious products in Lisbon, where to find gluten-free sweet delicacies and where to go for a bit of relaxation!
I am looking forward to hear your thoughts and feedbacks, and please let me know if you know any bakeries or restaurants in Lisbon or at the Azores which are also catering for people with food allergies.
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