Interview with Nelson Carvalheiro: Top Portuguese Travel Writer | Catavino
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Interview with Nelson Carvalheiro: Award Winning Portuguese Travel Writer

DSCF0173Editor’s Note: Today we’re heading off the beaten path to introduce Nelson Carvalheiro, an award winning Portuguese travel and photo blogger who’s been garnering heaps of attention for his dynamic and passionate tales. We, however, are more interested in what causes saudades (homesickness) when he’s thousands of miles from home. 

What instigated your desire to travel? Do you have an Portuguese explorer gene lodged deep inside you? 🙂

I just want to tell the stories about my travels, so that people who read them can be inspired to repeat and enjoy what I experienced. I believe that each and every one of us has a distinct way of traveling and I am happy that my audience appreciates mine. I seek the details, the characters, the people, the food, the locations that makes the sense of place of a destination. These are unique from place to place and being able to harness the unique descriptive power of these elements is what I look for when I travel.  I believe this gene is present in every Portuguese, no matter how dormant. We gave new meanings to the words “world” and “communication” and “trade”. Portugal a country of less than 800.000 habitants in the 15th century, ventured out into the unknown ocean and for almost 200 years controlled the New World’s commodity and spice trade. This is what I relate to the most:  the need, will and determination to seek adventure in foreign territories.

Who is your target audience(s)?

My audience are persons who seek “sense of place” travel inspiration. When I first started the blog, it was with the idea to telling the stories of my travels with the former guests of Palacio Belmonte, with whom I became intimate friends. They are movie stars, architects, musicians, fashion designers, venture capitalists…All persons who enjoy luxury through simplicity, individual and personalized travel, that seek what most authentic and characteristic a destination has to offer away from the crowd, persons who feel as comfortable in a 3 Michelin star establishment as in a forgotten small eatery in the middle of nowhere, but where the food is exceptional.  This is how I travel and what my audience is looking for. Sense of place travelling.

Nelson_Carvalheiro_Food_Portugal-1-18What inspired you to do the book now? Why is this the right time?

The right time is always now! I am very happy that I took the opportunity to write a book about Portugal and Portuguese cuisine 9 month after starting my blog (the journey was made during the summer of 2014). The idea for the book came from a latent desire of mine to tell the story about the places, the people, the products, the recipes and all the culture that surrounds Portuguese traditional cuisine in today’s modern era. Far beyond the digital revolution or the boom in tourism that Portugal is experiencing in the last 5 years, there is a Portugal of the interior, of the old recipes, that does things “the old fashioned way”, who is proud of its heritage, its values and its flavours. These are people who make Portuguese Traditional Gastronomy happen every lunch and dinner time in all the four corners of Portugal. Portuguese gastronomy and its humble origins are bursting with travel inspiration, candid photos, stories, history and emotions which are capable of provoking feelings like any other cuisine in the world. Portugal has the advantage of (still) being a relatively unknown country in the world culinary travel panorama. Our other great asset is that we do not need to invent, alter or produce anything – all we have to do is to tell the stories of the persons, the recipes and of the places which make traditional Portuguese Cuisine happen on a daily basis.  It is places like the ones you will see bellow that are the true bastions of Portuguese Traditional Gastronomy. Places like Adega velha in Mourão, the Solar Bragançano in Bragança,  Zé Manel dos Ossos in Coimbra or Café Correia in Vila do Bispo. Much beyond the tremendous deepness of flavour that is produced in places like this, there is soul, character, authenticity, pride and plenty of stories to tell – written and visual ones. Basically there is raw, unprocessed Portugal in these places. I travelled to learn and document their stories, with the final purpose of providing the Portuguese and Foreign reader with a “shop window” into what it is like to travel through Portugal Through Food. Set to be published in late March, “The Portuguese Travel Cookbook” sets out to showcase the Portuguese feeling of saying “I Love you” through food. The book is a journey through the Portugal which is Semper Fidelis to its origins, proud of its culinary identity and heritage, where stories about the food, the places, the restaurants, the eateries, the villages, the producers, the fisherman, the farmers and the chefs who dedicate their life and their everyday to make this reality more tangible.

Nelson_Carvalheiro_Portugal_Travel_Cookbook (6)What have been some of the challenges of “selling” Portugal over the years? What’s changing?

I believe nowadays the image of Portugal as; Lisbon, Porto, Algarve and Madeira is rapidly dissolving. The promotion purely based on the masses and on the summer holidays has shifted into the discovery of the rest of the country, and a clear definition that it is this rest of the country that defines Portugal. As I mentioned in a conversation not too long ago. Selling Lisbon is easy…Hearing a German friend of yours, to whom you recommended a Portugal journey, say that the highlight of his journey was to sit in the public square of a forgotten interior village, eating charcuterie and drinking wine, knowing that he was the only foreigner in town is a completely different thing.

How does traveling effect your view of Portugal?

I think it puts a lot Portuguese history and culture into context. Even though we are 40 years past a dictatorship which prevented any foreign influence on the country, the Portuguese people still have this quaint way of being and of telling stories ; we are small, but we are beautiful ; and within this small world we are, at the same time, the best and the worst. Sometimes it can be frustrating to speak with a Portuguese producer who states that his produce is the best in the world, or to a city guide who says her city is the prettiest in the world, when I know that there is a whole world that I (we) have yet to discover. Having said this, I cannot go for more than 6 months without my grandmother’s chargrilled salt cod…

What do you long to taste, eat, see or experience whenever you come home?

Besides my grandmother’s food, what I constantly crave while in Portugal is fish and seafood. In all my travels, I have yet to find a place or person that serves such fresh and flavourful fish and seafood. Even Ferran Àdria says that “Spanish fish is good, but the best fish in the world come from Portugal”. Personally, I love it prepared as simple as I can get: just grilled over charcoal with a pinch of sea salt. Life doesn’t get much better.