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My Favorite Things – Lovely Lisbon

On our recent trip to Portugal, we were fortunate in that the weather during our week in the Alentejo region was absolutely spectacular.  Unfortunately, the book ends of our trip – two weekends spent in Lisbon – were more typical of November weather with several days of showers or outright downpours.  But even on a gloomy day Lisbon is a spectacularly beautiful city.  Here are a few pictures to give you an idea…

Of the ornate iron grill-work balconies…

Pretty iron grill-work balconies in Lisbon, Portugal

Historic shops (this one dating back from 1888!)…

Photo of Paris em Lisboa shop in Chiado

(And this glove shop from 1925!)

Photo of Luvaria Ulisses glove shop in Lisbon

Vintage street cars make their daily routes up and down the hills of the city…

Tram car along the Mirador de Sao Pedro de Alcantra, Lisbon

And the hilly landscape provides for stunning vistas at pretty much every turn!

View of Elevador de Santa Justa and downtown Lisbon

Being forced indoors out of the rain wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, either.  We browsed tons of bookstores (the Portuguese are rightly proud of their literary heritage – author Fernando Pessoa is one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets of the Portuguese language), and I even came across the lesser known but equally charming Fernanda Pessoa in Livraria Bertrand (a charming bookstore which has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation!)

Lisbon is a city with charm, history, beauty and culture.  I feel rightly proud to have been born there, so I’m raising this glass in thanks.



A Happy Take On My Heritage

When I was tasked recently with creating a new illustration with a “heritage” theme, my own Portuguese background quite naturally came to mind.  Maybe my happy genes come from across the pond?  You be the judge…

Portuguese themed cartoon illustration by Joana Miranda

(P.S.  For more happy cartoons and illustrations – including holiday-themed greeting cards, please visit my shop at Etsy.)

New Holiday Card from Joana Miranda Studio

The joys of decorating the Christmas tree with your spouse?  This card may just put it all on the level…so to speak!

Funny Christmas card for couples by Joana Miranda Studio

(Card reads “May you reach new levels of joy this holiday season!” on the inside.)

Funny Xmas Card for couples by Joana Miranda Studio

Hop on over to my shop at Etsy to buy it for the man in your life, or gift it to your favorite couple.  Either way, they’re sure to chuckle.



My Favorite Things – Marvelous Marvao, Portugal

On our recent trip to Portugal, we rented a car and drove northeast to the Alentejo region of Portugal.  Our destination was the magical, medieval, mountain-top town of Marvão – a town on the border with Spain so high up that the locals say “from Marvão you can look down on eagle’s backs.”

We stopped first in the nearby town of Castelo de Vide, arriving at midday – siesta hour – when the town was mostly vacant except for the few locals by the town square fountain.

Locals at the fountain in Castelo de Vide

Making our way up the narrow, winding and quaint streets…

Pretty street in Castelo de Vide.jpg

We arrived at the castle where we had picturesque views over the town…

View through castle window over Castelo de Vide

And all the way to our next mountain-top destination (see black arrow) of Marvão.

Looking towards Marvao from Castelo de Vide.jpg

Driving to Marvão was easy enough, but once we got within the castle walls,  I was afraid the side mirrors of our small car wouldn’t fit.  Here’s what  driving in Marvao is like…

(Fortunately, I just had to be the supportive co-pilot!)

We checked into the Pousada Santa Maria

Photo of Pousada de Santa Maria in Marvao, Portugal

Where our room and terrace overlooked the mountains of Spain, as well as the pretty tiled roofs towards the Pousada dining room below.

View towards Spain from our balcony at the Pousada Santa Maria

View from our terrace in Marvao, Portugal

View from the Pousada de Santa Maria in Marvao, Portugal

Since it was getting to be late afternoon, we made our way towards the castle to explore and catch the sunset.

Castle of Marvao

As was advertised, from here you can see all of Europe!

Funny sign just inside Marvao's castle walls

The higher we climbed, the more spectacular the views.   Suffice to say, there isn’t a bad view ANYWHERE in Marvão!

Views over the castle walls of Marvao, Portugal

Looking north from the castle walls of Marvao, Portugal

Views toward the west from Marvao

Marvao as seen through the castle wall

Fall colors in Marvao

It was from the above vantage point that I created this quick illustration:

As you can see, we had the run of the castle (that’s my husband waving from his rampart…)

Castle walls of Marvao, Portugal

And it felt like we got our own private sunset, too!

Sunset over Marvao, Portugal

Photo of the sunset over the castle walls of Marvao, Portugal

Sunset over Marvao, Portugal

The next morning we were up bright and early (we pretty much had the dining room to ourselves)…

Photo of dining room at Pousada Santa Maria in Marvao

Photo of beautiful dining room at Pousada Santa Maria in Marvao, Portugal

And we feasted on local meats, cheeses, juices, fresh fruits, cereals…


Breakfast buffet at Pousada Santa Maria in Marvao, Portugal

And a homemade cake or two!!

Table of breads and cakes at Pousada Santa Maria in Marvao, Portugal

Nicely sated, we explored the streets of the town…

Pretty street in Marvao

Divided street in Marvao, Portugal

Woman sweeping

And passed by the local laundromat…

Old washing basin in Marvao

Laundry day in Marvao

Before climbing back into our car to head down the mountain.  This will be one town we’ll never forget!

Overlooking houses in Marvao

Bragging Rights (For Just a Moment!)

A cartoonist’s life is a lesson in patience, or so I’m finding.  I’ve sent many of my “babies” out into the world over the past few years only to hear…Cricket cartoon


(crickets – a.k.a. NOTHING!)

But every once in a while the Gods smile down and a cartoon is accepted for publication.  That elation is only topped by receiving the publication and seeing how the editors have chosen to place the cartoon within the publication.

So excuse me as I put my feet up and flip through “my” latest publication.

(I’ll get back to work tomorrow!)

My Favorite Things – Portuguese Sweets!

(Dedicated to my mom, Marta, Julita and Paulinha – the Miranda family champions of sweets!)

If I had to choose two words to describe my fellow Portuguese, I would probably pick “gentle” and “sweet.”  Could it be that the old saying ‘You are what you eat’ really holds true?  Are Portuguese people sweet because they eat so much sugar?

Whatever the case may be, I invite you to take a virtual tour through this remarkable land of delicacies where:

At Cafe Nicola you can sit for hours with your (excellent) coffee and pastry watching life go by…

Photo of Cafe Nicola in Lisbon, Portugal

Or, admire the sumptuous window displays at the Confeitaria Nacional.

Cake display at Confeitaria Nacional

Pastries at Confeitaria Nacional as seen from the street

In fact, as you can see, afternoon tea at Confeitaria Nacional just happened to be the first stop on our visit!

Confeitaria Nacional.jpg

(Along with our tea, we shared a slice of the heavenly Bolo Rei (King’s Cake) – a seasonal cake that celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.

Slice of Bolo Rei at Confeitaria Nacional

Bolo Reis were a fixture in many other pastry window displays…

Photo of Bolo Rei cakes in Lisbon pastry window

And we noticed that cute “Reizinhos” (little King’s Cakes) – about the size of a large muffin – are now being offered, too!

Small King's Cakes

Later in the week, we needed a hostess gift for dinner with relatives and were drawn to the window display at Pastelaria Alcoa in Chiado, the chic fashion district of Lisbon.

Photo of Pastelaria Alcoa as seen from the streets of Chiado.

Once inside, the selection looked even more enticing!

Photo of pastries in Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

Doces de Ovos or egg sweets at Pastelaria Alcoa in Lisbon, Portugal

(I was tempted to buy one of each cake, but after surveying the entire assortment, we chose this nice selection…)

Fortunately, our social calendar also included dinner with old family friends, so we had the excuse to visit Pastelaria Versailles, and elegant tea- and lunchroom dating back to the early ’20s.

I admit I was a bit shy initially about making my way past the throngs of diners and immaculately dressed waiters…

Photo of a Pastelaria Versailles on a busy afternoon.

To elbow my way to a spot among the locals having their morning pick-me-up at the counter.

Photo of customers dining standing up at the counter at Pastelaria Versailles

With this dizzying array of choices, narrowing down a selection was hard…

Photo of egg based sweets at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of assorted pastries at Pastelaria Versailles

Photo of croissants at Pastelaria Versailles

Cookies at Pastelaria Versailles

Small cakes at Pastelaria Versailles

(But I persevered!)

By this point I can imagine that you’re probably wondering if the Portuguese eat anything besides sweets.  Rest assured that the Portuguese diet is well balanced with…

Exceptional cheeses, meats…

Photo of meat display window in Lisbon, Portugal

And, of course, port wine!

Port wine display in Lisbon, Portugal

Bom apetite!

My Favorite Things – Portugal by Night

My husband and I just arrived back from a visit to my homeland of Portugal.  This visit was unusual for us since we went in November – a time that we’re usually tied up in New York with work, and also a time that’s considered more “off-season” in Portugal due to the chance of rainy weather.  However, Portugal is so beautiful, that even the gloomy, rainy skies have a poetry all of their own.

Shortly after we arrived, we went for a twilight stroll to the Praça do Comércio

Praco do Commercio in Lisbon Portugal at dusk

And then on to buy some fresh roasted chestnuts…

Chestnut vendo stand outside Rossio at night

Outside the Rossio train station!

Rossio Train Station at night

Rossio Train Station entrance at night

From there we meandered up to the elegant streets of the Chiado shopping district.

Chiado corner at night

Armazens de Chiado at night

Chiado district at night

Chiado district of Lisbon at night

Fortunately, we’re both in good shape, so we didn’t need to rely on the Elevador da Glória funicular (just one of the historic trams running through the city) to propel us up the hills of the city, but we have ridden the trams for fun in the past.

Elevador da Gloria at night

Lisbon isn’t the only city with a night life, though!  In the Praça do Giraldo in charming Évora, a world Unesco heritage site, the tourists and locals mingle in the town square to catch up on news, happenings and even death notices.

(We caught up on our people watching there!)

Praca Giraldo in Evora at night

We were lucky enough to stay at the Pousada Convento de Loios, a former convent now turned luxury hotel.

I confess I felt reverent as we descended into the lower courtyard each night…

Entry to dining room at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

Dining room hallway at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

To make our way to the dining tables for our dinner.

Dining room at Pousada dos Loios in Evora

P.S.  Splitting a Queijada da Evora (a sweet cheese filled confection) turned out to be the perfect way to cap off the meal.

Dessert at Pousada Loios in Evora