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Pasteis de Belem
Iberian Adventure:
I've Died and Gone to Heaven With Egg Custard on My Face
(Dispatch #5)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Pastéis de Belém inscription on decorative mosaic cobbled street

thought I'd died and gone to Heaven."

Ever heard that expression? I'm sure you have, but have you ever experienced it?

Well, joined at the hip with my "band of merry media" – 29 travel journalists and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to experience a portion of its Iberian Adventure through Portugal and Spain – I'm about to find out, firsthand, the foodie meaning of expiring on the spot and heading for the pearly gates.

lining up at at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém

Off the luxury motor coach and down onto the decorative mosaic cobble we go, headed for an Insight "signature" moment at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, the iconic sugar cane refinery-turned-pastry shop in this bustling district of Lisbon, where the Holy Grail of Portuguese sweets, Pastéis de Belém – egg custard tarts – have been baked, sold and consumed on the premises since 1837.

making Pastéis de Belém

Bypassing the lengthy queue – there's no waiting in line when you travel with Insight – we're ushered inside for a VIP tour of the facility with Francisco, chief of the wait staff, to see what all the fuss is about.

Francisco, chief of the wait staff at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém

According to our well-fed expert, the centuries-old recipe for Pastéis de Belém – invented by monks at nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimosis until the doors were bolted shut during the Liberal Revolution of 1820 and the clergy sent packing and forced to sell their prized, step-by-step culinary instructions just to survive – is a closely guarded secret known only to an inner circle of three.

That's apparent, as mum's the word on the lips of each and every employee I encounter. COME ON. GIMME A NAME!

The best I can coax out of any staff member during my impromptu interrogations is a shrug and a smile. Okay, be that way.

inside the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém

Reserved seating inside one of the azulejo ceramic tiled rooms awaits, and coffee orders to accompany the goodness we're about to receive are taken. Uh, let's see. I'll have a single-shot baca topped with whipped cream. No, make that a double shot, por favor.

plates of Pastéis de Belém

After just one bite it's easy to understand why Pasteis de Belém are adored by Lisboetas.

The pastry's shell is made from massa folhada, Portugal's equivalent to France's puff pastry, consisting of hundreds of crisp, flaky layers, and it's filled with a rich, luscious egg custard highlighted by the distinctive mottled brown top.

pasteis de belem with single-shot baca topped with whipped cream

Of the 10,000 tarts that'll be baked today, I'm plated several. A dash of cinnamon completes the prep, and quicker than you can say "Vasco da Gama," they're devoured and I immediately ascend into Heaven with egg custard on my face.

Iberian Adventure brochures from Insight Vacations

For complete information on Insight's premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Iberian Adventure and 112 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

With a sugar rush just about ready to kick in, my "band of merry media" and I are back out on the decorative cobble racing up the street towards our last stop in Belém: the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Manueline-style monastery that serves as the final resting place for numerous Portuguese kings and queens, along with the aforementioned Vasco da Gama. See you inside.

Related Articles:
The Age of Discovery began in Belém; Walking the Decorative Cobble of Lisbon; Bem-vindo a Lisboa (Welsome to Lisbon); Iberian Adventure; Lisbon's Streetcars; 3 Things We Didn't Know About Portugal

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Relaxing at The Inn at Laguna Beach

Greg at Huntington Beach

There is nothing like sleeping in an ocean-front room and awakening to the sounds of waves crashing against the sand. It is one of the finer things in life. And it is exactly what I experienced recently on a memorable getaway to The Inn at Laguna Beach. The adventure began when a friend I pulled off the 5 Freeway in Orange County and took SR 133 south nine miles through winding lush hills and wilderness areas to the ocean.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

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