The country of Portugal emerged in the tenth century during the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula: first as a region under the control of the Counts of Portugal and then, in the mid-twelfth century, as a kingdom under King Afonso I.
The throne then went through a turbulent time, with several rebellions. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries overseas exploration and conquest in Africa, South America and India won the nation a rich empire.
In 1580 a succession crisis led to a successful invasion by the King of Spain and Spanish rule, beginning an era known to opponents as the Spanish Captivity, but a successful rebellion in 1640 led to independence once more. Portugal fought alongside Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, whose political fallout led to a son of the King of Portugal becoming Emperor of Brazil; a decline in imperial power followed. The nineteenth century saw civil war, before a Republic was declared in 1910. However, in 1926 a military coup led to generals ruling until 1933, when a Professor called Salazar took over, ruling in an authoritarian manner. His retirement through illness was followed a few years later by a further coup, the declaration of the Third Republic and independence for African colonies.
Food & Dining
Portugal’s cuisine is as rich and varied as its landscape. The most distinctive feature of Portuguese cuisine comes from the sea. As you enjoy a simple grilled fish, always fresh like the seafood that abounds from end to end along the coast, you can be sure that you are in Portugal! Cataplanas, bouillabaisses and any other fish or seafood dish are also excellent choices. For meat dishes, our main suggestion is cozido à portuguesa, a mix of meats, vegetables and various sausages, cooked in a delicious way. We have excellent DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) meats, from north to south, whether it’s beef, pork or kid. Many vegetables and fruit also preserve the taste of the old times, and some also have the DOP label, especially as many are produced organically. Portuguese olive oil is of prime quality and is part of every dish, including cod (for which it is said that there are 1001 recipes!), which we excel at preparing and enjoying. Each dish is matched to the right wine. The whole country produces wine and, while Port wine is famous, the Douro, Alentejo and many other table wines are no less superior. And the cheeses! While Queijo da Serra (mountain cheese from Serra da Estrela) tops the bill, all the cheeses from Centro de Portugal, Alentejo and the Azores are delicious. The sweets, whose roots go back to the many convents where they were originally prepared, even today make us “give thanks to heaven”. And a pastel de nata (custard tart) is a must. It is delicious with coffee, which we drink in the form of espresso. At the end of a meal, we might make a toast with some Port or Madeira, fortified wines that have been spreading our name to faraway lands for centuries. Or with an excellent sparkling wine produced in Portugal, to celebrate a memorable meal provided by the country’s talented chefs.