I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Video: Porto’s Temporary Bolhão Market

Porto, Portugal’s second city, is a bit stressed out. Its beloved Bolhão Market had gotten really dilapidated and, earlier this year, it was closed for a much-needed renovation. The vendors — with a firm promise that they’d be back home in July of 2020, and with the reassuring presence of their Virgin of the Immaculate Conception — are carrying on in the basement of a nearby department store…and so are those shopper-merchant relationships that literally go back generations. Follow me for a peek at Porto’s temporary Bolhão Market.

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Porto’s Taberna Santo António: My Kind of Restaurant

I spend nearly every evening in Europe hunting…hunting for places like Porto’s Taberna Santo António. This impromptu clip gives a sense of the neighborhood energy of a great little eatery, with a local friend giving me what we agreed is a little bit of “heaven on a spo­on.”

Looking for great new restaurants to recommend in the next edition of one of my guidebooks is also a lot like fishing: Sometimes you go home empty-handed, and sometimes you score. In Porto, I was a happy guidebook writer, having found several great new restaurants — some characteristic and rough like this one, others more romantic and elegant.

Here’s the write-up for the Rick Steves Portugal guidebook:

[$$] Taberna Santo António is a convivial, hole-in-the-wall place — the quintessence of a family-run, neighborhood favorite. There’s a tight dining room and a few prime seats at the bar where eaters are choosing from six traditional stews, marveling at the homemade desserts, and having fun with the waitstaff (Rua das Virtudes 32, tel. 222-055-306).


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Video: Porto’s People-Friendly Vibe

It’s Day 60 of my 100-day trip to Europe, and I’m in Porto — Portugal’s “second city.”

Porto is real. Its economy isn’t driven by tourism, but by hard work, good governance, and a great urban vision. Walk with me (past a couple using my Rick Steves Portugal guidebook — always a happy sight) through what used to be a parking lot and is now a romantic olive grove in the middle of Portugal’s second city.

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We Did It! $232,000 to Bread for the World

We did it! Our community of travelers has met our goal of raising $200,000 to help empower Bread for the World, an advocacy organization that’s devoted to fighting structural poverty and hunger at home and abroad.

I asked for your support. And 2,200 of you have given more than $132,000. As promised, I’m matching the first $100,000 — and together, we’ve raised $232,000. Thank you!

Industrialists pay for lobbyists to defend the interests of the extremely wealthy (leading to tax cuts, fewer regulations for corporations, and so on). But who speaks up for the hungry? With this small fundraiser, we are making a difference. Collectively, we are funding lobbyists to explain to our government what we believe America should be. We are a great and wealthy country — no American citizen should go hungry, and our trade policies should not make the lives of hungry people outside of our borders more difficult.

Let’s go beyond our goal. If you’ve got friends or loved ones who’d like to join in, this is a great way to demonstrate the true compassionate spirit of America. And if they make a gift of $50 or more on Bread’s website before July 15, 2018, I’ll send them a copy of my book, Travel as a Political Act.

Giving in partnership with caring travelers like you makes my work very gratifying. Thanks again.

Video: Marveling at a Templar Church in Tomar, Portugal

In this clip, I marvel happily about “discovering” something new — after all these years of travel.

It’s Day 56 of my 100-day trip to Europe, and I’m in Tomar, a delightful town in central Portugal with little tourism and an amazing history. It’s the hometown of our tour guide, Fatima, who was excited to splice a visit here into our regular itinerary. And I’m so impressed, I’m adding it to the next edition of our Rick Steves Portugal guidebook.

Towering above this charming, workaday town is a castle with an Oz-like circular church (or “oratory”) built 800 years ago by the Knights Templar. The church (modeled after the Dome of the Rock or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem) is where knights would go, often on horseback, to be blessed before battle as they defended Portugal against the Moors, protected pilgrims heading for the Holy Land, or just empowered Portugal in the age of discovery. After the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved across Europe in 1312, the Order in Portugal simply morphed into the Order of Christ and carried on. Henry the Navigator was a Grand Master, and later, King Manuel (who became a Grand Master in 1484) ordered much building here. Under his leadership, the stout early-medieval castle was decorated in exquisite Manueline decor.

The Knights Templar was a rich organization. It was both a popular Christian charity and Europe’s first great bank — pilgrims gave money in the west, were given a “check,” and could make withdrawals along the way as they ventured east. If they died, which was common, the Templars kept their estate. (Always read the fine print!) The Templars — you could call them the first multinational corporation — built and managed about a thousand forts, stretching from Portugal all the way to Jerusalem.

To gape up at the majesty of the Templars’ church here in Tomar has been a highlight for me on my Rick Steves Heart of Portugal tour…and I hope we’ll find a way to make it a standard stop for future groups as well.

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