Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Incantato Update: Lisbon

Lisbon was voted top city destination in Europe!
Portugal’s cosmopolitan and intriguing capital has been named Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2013 at the World Travel Awards, considered to be the “Oscars” of tourism.
This win is the third time Lisbon has been recognized as Europe’s Leading City Break Destination over the last five years. Known for its year-round pleasant climate, rich culture and beaches located just 20 minutes from the city center, Lisbon also has a price-quality ratio unrivaled anywhere else in Europe.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

JSerra Catholic HS 2014 Tour Route


The first stop in for the JSerra Catholic HS travelers will be the Spanish capital of Madrid (A). From there, the journey continues south to Cordoba (B) and Sevilla (C). En-route to Portugal, the group will stop in Huelva (D) and then travel to Evora (E). The final destination of the tour will be Portgual's capital city of Lisbon (F). 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Welcome to Lisbon with Incantato Tours


Lisbon, (Portuguese: Lisboa) the capital and largest city of Portugal, is the twelfth most populated urban area in the European Union.

It is the westernmost capital city in Europe, lying on the western Iberian Peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean and Tagus River, less than 200 miles northwest of Cape Spartel, Africa.
Like IstanbulAmmanRomeSan Francisco and Bergen, Lisbon is built on seven hills

Lisbon is recognized as an alpha city due to its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education, and tourism. 
It is also the world’s 25th most livable city, according to the lifestyle magazine Monocle, and the sixth most visited city in Southern Europe with more than two million tourists annually.
As with the rest of Portugal, Portuguese is the main language in Lisbon. However, most younger people know enough English for basic communication and it is possible to get by speaking only English. Spanish is widely understood, though few are fluent in it, and many locals will respond more readily to English than to Spanish. Nevertheless, any attempt to speak Portuguese is always appreciated, and even simple things like basic greetings will often draw smiles and encouragement from locals.

Lisbon reigns as one of the world’s oldest cities. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been confirmed or granted officially - neither by statute nor written form. 
Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

The city boasts two registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Belem Tower constructed during the maritime exploration, and the Manueline-style Jeronimos Monastery. It was honored in 1994 as the European Capital of Culture.

The Portuguese capital enjoys subtropical-Mediterranean climate. Among all of Europe’s metropolises, Lisbon experiences the warmest winters with average temperatures of 59 degrees from December through February. Snow and frost are very rare.
The typical summer season lasts approximately six months, from May through October, however November, March and April often also experience temperatures upwards of 68 degrees. Rain occurs mainly in winter, the summer is very dry.
Lisbon is very close to the Atlantic ocean and that brings windy and fast-changing weather, so you'd better bring an extra pair of underwear or an umbrella with you, at least in winter, spring and autumn.

While in Lisbon, why not explore the city by riding the famous street cars or enjoy watching people strolling by at one of the beautiful plazas?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Discover Portugal's Capital with Incantato Tours


Lisbon is full of beauty and charm. However, don't scrape the surface thinking it's just like any other place in the world. Lisbon has a list of interesting secrets as you see below:

  1. In Lisbon, the streets are pretty much all black and white. People say the reason for this centers around the patron Saint of Lisbon; Saint Vincent. It's said that the black represents the attire worn by Saint Vincent whereas the white represents the white outfit of the Christian Crusaders who vanquished the Moors.
  2. The main river basin of the Tagus Estuary in Lisbon stretches up to 14 km (8.7 m) across and is said to be large enough to contain all the warships in the world.
  3. Beneath the streets of Lisbon's downtown shopping area lies a hidden Roman Underworld with chambers, rooms, bridges and corridors. The entrance to this fascinating world is marked by a block of metal at the top of Rua da Conceicao which is only open to the public two days a year due to the dangerous conditions lurking below.
  4. Lisbon was practically destroyed on 1st November 1755 as a massive earthquake tipping the scales at 8.9 took the lives of 40,000 people and could be felt as far away as Scotland and Norway.
  5. Visit on of Lisbon's favorite attractions; the Torre de Belem. The tower's first purpose was to safeguard the harbor but from the late 16th century up till the 19th, the tower served as a prison. Today however, it serves as a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery and it provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
  6. Lisbon is also known as "the town of seven hills" which are compromised of the seven hills: Castelo, Graca, Monte, Penha de Franca, S.Pedro de Alcantara, Santa Catarina and Estrela.
  7. Instead of hiking, why not take a one of a kind the Ascensor de Santa Justa (street elevator). This is another beloved landmark which takes passengers 45 meters (147f) from the Baxia elevator to the Chiado district.
  8. A very large statue of Cristo Rei (Christ the King) stands on the left bank of the river. This statue was erected to commemorate Portugal's survival of World War II without its direct involvement.
  9. Ironically, The Alfama, which is the oldest section of Lisbon, was spared by the 1755 earthquake and is one of the places to visit if you want to see that Lisbon is full of history.
  10. The Santa Engrácia church is in the Guinness Book of Records. Why? It has had the longest construction time of all churches in the world - it started in the 17th century and in 1966 was the last dome completed.
  11. Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe. The world record for the largest dining table was set when some 15,000 people were served lunch on the bridge as part of the inauguration celebrations.
  12. The Lisbon Half Marathon, held every year in March, is one of the most attended events of its kind in the world.
  13. Lisbon is home to the Stadium of Light, one of Europe's biggest and famous soccer venues in which the main sporting team Benfica play their home game at.
  14. Speaking about Benfica - the football club is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest number of fans (an estimated total of 14 million worldwide and over 170,000 registered paying supporters).
  15. The first passenger streetcars were built and introduced in the U.S. in the 19th Century (New York and New Orleans). The rails are called “carris” in Portuguese and this is the name given to Lisbon’s public transport company that operates the trams today. Due to their origins, Lisbon’s trams were originally called “americanos” and the first operational route was inaugurated on 17th November, 1873.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Incantato Insider: Evora, Portugal

Evora is one of Portugal's finest and most delightful towns. It is a true open-air museum with a large number of wonderfully preserved monuments and buildings of public interest that led UNESCO to protect it as a World Heritage Site.

Each age has left its trace on Evora. It was the Celts who named it Ebora and the Romans gave it its most famous landmark, the Temple of Diana. Dating from the 2nd century, it is one of the Iberian Peninsula's best preserved Roman monuments, raised on a 10ft high stone platform, with 14 of the original 18 granite Corinthian columns still standing. The whitewashed houses, arches, and twisting alleyways that characterize the town reflect the Moorish presence.


Outside the city walls on the road to the train station is Ermita de São Brás ("Hermitage of St. Blaise"), an extraordinary building that looks like a medieval castle, complete with large battlements, gargoyles, and round buttresses. It was built in 1485 in thanksgiving for survival from the plague.

Around Evora are also numerous prehistoric monuments - dozens of sizeable Neolithic menhirs, cromlechs, and dolmens (the one in Zambujeiro, now a national monument, is the largest in Europe, consisting of seven stones, each 6m/20ft high, forming a huge chamber).
The Cromlech of Almendres dating from somewhere between 4000 and 2000 B.C has been called "the Portuguese Stonehenge." It is the most important megalithic group in the Iberian Peninsula, consisting of a huge oval of almost one hundred rounded granite monoliths, some engraved with symbolic markings, assumed to have been used for cult purposes. They have their origins in a culture that flourished in the Iberian Peninsula before spreading north as far as Brittany and Denmark.


Pictures and information are courtesy of http://www.golisbon.com/



Friday, September 6, 2013

Welcome to Sevilla with Incantato Tours

Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville has a rich Moorish heritage, and used to be a prosperous port that carried out trade with the Americas. 

The streets and squares in the historic quarter of the capital of Andalusia are lively and busy. They treasure many constructions that have the World Heritage designation, and many districts, such as Triana and La Macarena, are full of traditional culture.
Seville is a prominent business and service centre in the south of Spain and has many hotels distributed all over the city which enable visitors to discover endless attractions. Museums and art centers, theme parks, cinemas, theaters and clubs are some of the many leisure options that a great city like Seville holds. Without forgetting, of course, the numerous terraces, inns and bars where visitors can practice one of the most deeply rooted and tasty traditions in the city: "Going out for tapas".
Another good excuse to come to the Sevillian capital are the festivals. The celebrations of Easter Week and Feria de Abril (the April Fair), which have been declared of National Tourist Interest, reflect the devotion and folklore of the people of Seville, always open and friendly to visitors. But Seville's appeal does not end there, as the city is also the starting point for the many cultural routes the province offers, such as the Roman Bética Route or the Washington Irving Route. 

The visitor will also discover the immense natural wealth of this region, which sits halfway between two continents, in natural treasures such as the Doñana Nature Reserve, declared a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and the Sierra Norte Nature Reserve. They will be the ideal setting for practicing outdoor sports, including hiking, horse riding, and cycling routes. 


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Incantato Favorite: Cordoba, Spain

Córdoba was an Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. The old town contains numerous architectural reminders of when Corduba was the capital of Hispania Ulterior during the Roman Republic and capital of Hispania Baetica during the Roman Empire; and when Qurṭubah was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, including most of the Iberian Peninsula.
It has been estimated that in the 10th century Córdoba was the most populous city in the world, and under the rule of Caliph Al Hakam II it had also become a centre for education under its Islamic rulers. Al Hakam II opened many libraries on top of the many medical schools and Universities which existed at this time. Such Universities contributed towards developments in mathematics and astronomy. During these centuries Córdoba had become the intellectual centre of Europe and was also noted for its predominantly Muslim society that was tolerant toward its Christian and Jewish minorities. Today it is a moderately-sized modern city with a population of 330,033.

It is located in southern Spain (Andalusia), on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. It has a rich architectural and artistic heritage including particularly the Great Mosque in the provincial capital and the archaeological site at Medina-Azahara.
It is well worth exploring its stately white villages, olive groves and mountain landscapes in places such as the Sierra de Hornachuelo, the Sierras de Cardeña and Montoro Nature Reserves.

Cordoba also boasts a rich gastronomic tradition typical of the interior, featuring several products which have been awarded the Designation of Origin label - Los Pedroches cured ham and virgin olive oil, for example; as well as characteristic recipes such as stewed bull's tail and "salmorejo" (a kind of thick gazpacho). These delicious dishes are perfect when accompanied by the wines to be found on the Montilla-Moriles Wine Route.

picture and information courtesy of http://www.spain.info/

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Discover Portuguese Cuisine with Incantato Tours

Food plays an important role in Portuguese culture. Traditional Portuguese dishes are often made from simple ingredients, based on regional products with an emphasis on fish.
The former colonies in Africa, India and the Far East have influenced Portuguese cuisine making it very different from the nearby Mediterranean countries. Many herbs and spices such as pepper, saffron, ginger and coriander were introduced into Europe by the Portuguese, as were coffee, pineapples, potatoes and rice amongst other ingredients.

Breakfast (Portuguese: pequeno-almoço) consists mainly of milk, coffee, bread rolls or toast, butter and jam. Lunch (Portuguese: almoço) is the main meal of the day and can be a leisurely affair, while dinner (Portuguese: jantar) is usually served late in the evening.

Portuguese recipes are characterized by their use of a wide variety of spices, for example, piri piri (a spicy chilli pepper), vanilla, cinnamon and saffron. Southern Portuguese cuisine has Arab and Moorish influences and an old tradition of almond and fig sweets.

Many of Portugal's dishes are fish-based due to the country's situation on the Atlantic. The most famous fish dish is salted cod, bacalhau, which it is said can be cooked in 365 different ways. Each region has its own bacalhau speciality, for example bacalhau à Gomes de Sã from Porto (salted cod, potatoes and onions topped with eggs and onions) or bacalhau à bras from Estremadura (salt cod, potato, onion and scrambled eggs).
Other popular fish include sardines, especially grilled (sardinhas assadas), sea bass, octopus, squid (often stuffed), anchovies and swordfish. Shellfish such as mussels, prawns, oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams are also very popular.

One of the most popular meats in Portugal is pork, which can be cooked in a variety of ways. Roast suckling pig (leitão assado) is a delicacy of Central Portugal. Another popular pork dish is the carne de porco à Alentajana, which consists of pork marinated in wine and is garnished with clams.
A common meat dish is the cozido à Portuguesa, a sort of hotpot of beef, sausages, potatoes, vegetables and rice. Grilled skewers of beef with garlic (espetada) are often served, as is aromatic grilled chicken (frango grelhado), seasoned with piri piri, garlic and olive oil. Feijoada, a meat stew with kidney or butter beans, is a dish popular throughout Portugal.

Soup is served at most meals. Seasonal vegetables, fish and meat are used to make a variety of soups. One of the most famous Portuguese soups from Minho is the caldo verde, which consists of a mashed potato base, green Galician cabbage, olive oil and black pudding (tora) or slices of sausage, such as chouriço and salpicão. Bread soups (açordas) where shellfish and vegetables are added to thick slices of bread are found in all regions.
In the south, gaspacho, a soup of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, garlic, chillies and vinegar, is popular. Caldeirada is a fish soup made of water, tomatoes, onions and garlic and other ingredients that traditionally will depend on the fisherman's catch.


Many of the desserts in Portugal are rich egg-based specialities, often seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. A popular dessert is the arroz doce, a rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and lemon. The Portuguese have a variety of cakes and other delicacies that can be found in a pasteleria or confeitaria.
Northern delicacies are rich, very sugary and often flavored with cinnamon, whereas in the south the sweetmeats reflect the local harvest of figs and almonds.
Throughout Portugal variations of the pão de Ló can found; this rich sponge cake can be flavored with lemon, port wine, cinnamon or orange juice.

Bom apetite!


Source: http://portugal.angloinfo.com

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome to Portugal with Incantato Tours!

Bem-Vindo a Portugal!

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt all throughout the country. It lies in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. The westernmost country in Europe, Portugal is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and Spain to the north and east.

Although originally settled in prehistoric times, Portugal did not become an established nation-state until 1143 during the Christian Reconquista. The country is the self-proclaimed oldest European nation-state.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, as a result of the maritime exploration, Portugal established a global empire that included property possessions in Africa, Asia, and South America, thus becoming the world’s prime economic, political and military power of the time. The Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau in 1999 and granting of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002.
Portugal's international status was reduced during the 19th century, especially following the Independence of Brazil - the largest colony.

Portugal is a developed country with the world's 27th highest quality of life as of 2010 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the 25th in Bloomberg's Global Innovation Index. It is the 13th most peaceful and 8th most globalized country in the world and a member of the European Union and the United Nations, and a founding member of the Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, OECD, NATO, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the eurozone and the Schengen Agreement.

Portugal is defined as a Mediterranean climate, and is one of the warmest European countries: the annual average temperature in mainland Portugal varies from 53.6 °F in the mountainous interior north to over     64.4 °F in the south. The Algarve, separated from the Alentejo region by mountains reaching up to 3,000 ft in Pico da Foia, has a climate similar to that of the southern coastal areas of Spain or Southern California.

Portuguese music encompasses a wide variety of genres. The most renowned is fado, a melancholy urban music normally associated with Portuguese guitar and themes of longing. Fandango is one of the most popular regional dances, a lively Andalusian folk dance performed in triple-meter. Internationally notable performers include Amália Rodrigues, Carlos Paredes, José Afonso and Madredeus.
Here you can watch a traditional Fandango dancer perform to the live accompaniment of authentic Portuguese guitarists.

If you want to learn more about Portugal - here are some interesting facts:

Did you know that...
  1. ...Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries in the world?
    Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macau and East Timor.
  2. ...Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world?
    Portugal produces 70% of the world's cork exports. Main importers of Portuguese cork are: Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. The country also has the largest cork forest.
  3. ...the longest bridge in Europe is in Portugal?
    The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 10.5 miles long, which makes it the longest in Europe.
  4. ...Portugal is one of the world's top surf-sports?
    Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles and is known to have 364 days of surf.
  5. ...one of Europe's oldest universities is in Portugal?
    The University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

Monday, September 2, 2013

Incantato Introduction: Spanish Cuisine

The Spanish food tradition has varied ancestry, though most Spanish dishes have rather humble origins and are the result of ingredients put together by farmers or shepherd families - many times using leftovers, or at the very least products from their own farms and orchards.
Mountains run through Spain in several directions, acting as natural barriers to communication and making transportation difficult until the last half of the 20th century. This is one of the reasons why cooking differs so much from region to region. Many times the only common ingredients are olive oil and garlic, the two basic ingredients of Spanish food!
Many dishes are prepared today using the same cooking methods and ingredients as they were two or three hundred years ago. Other dishes sprung up from European and American influences and were adapted to the Spanish taste. One thing is for sure, food in Spain is fresh, abundant and full of taste and the Spanish love their food dearly.

Unquestionably pork is par excellence the most favorite Spanish meat:
the Spanish like to make use of all of the ingredients they can and often include a number of different meats in the same dish.
Of course there are many other meats served in Spanish tables including lamb, beef and chicken. But Spaniards are not exclusively carnivorous, there are many vegetarian stews and other dishes that are enjoyed from North to South, from East to West. Vegetables are grown throughout the country, and the varied climates and terrains in Spain mean that a variety of different vegetables are grown. As a result, the vegetable dishes in Spain tend to also vary from place to place.

But what makes Spanish food so popular? The answer is simple it is the quality and variety of the ingredients used. For instance, it was the Romans that imported rice to Spain, giving way to the creation of the Valencian paella and many other rice dishes. Since then, these dishes have come to form part of the typical dishes of Spain and are a definite must for any travelers who are planning on visiting Spain and doing a bit of gastronomic tourism.

There is also a great variety of seafood, including fish and crustaceans from the coast areas, which are used in the preparation of many delicious dishes. The fish industry in Spain is extremely important and forms part of the livelihood of many of the population. Furthermore, Spain is a country that is blessed with such a large and varied coastline, including the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This gives rise to a whole manner of different species of fish and seafood being available for Spanish chefs. Therefore the range of Spanish seafood dishes is endless!

When it comes to sweet things, Spain has a very rich dessert tradition. On one hand it was also influenced by the Moors, and on the other many of them are centuries old creations from nun convents.
If you have a sweet tooth we recommend you to sample some of the many deserts Spain has to offer for a example Churros, Spain’s answer to a donut, a crunchy, deep-fried sweet snack that resembles the horns of the churro sheep. It is mostly served with hot chocolate to dip it in.

¡Buen provecho!

Source: http://www.spanish-food.org