Final Thoughts

Well, we have now been back home for over a week and many people have asked what our favorite things were.   As we have talked about the trip, we both felt that it wasn’t a typical “sight-seeing” trip.  Instead, it was a trip to settle into a community and get to know the area and the people who live there.

We were excited to meet Cristina who served us breakfast most mornings.  She and I are now Facebook Friends which I am VERY excited about.

We also enjoyed meeting Luis…..DSC07846

…..the fun waiter at our favorite “Praia Mar” restaurant.

And then there was the young waitress at another restaurant who would always smile, point to her watch and shake her head when we would arrive before the cafe opened!!    And, yes, many of our friends were made over food!!!!

We cant say enough good about our wonderful landlords, Jose and Franchesca.  There was a period of about a week where I didn’t post a blog and Jose emailed and asked if we were ok.   He was concerned because I hadn’t posted anything!!!   It was really sweet!!

And of course, we had a wonderful time driving our little Fiat down all of the narrow, walled lanes and listening to Gwyneth calmly recalculate our route when we missed turns over and over again.

The walks along the beach were a blast, especially as it started warming up a bit at the end of our journey.   By the way, it finally hit 80 degrees on the day that we flew out of Porto!!!!

Our time in Austria was enjoyable and Vienna is a beautiful city!!!  We had a wonderful time visiting with the two families there and really appreciated them including us in their family times. 

Unfortunately we ran into a couple of rude male waiters, one of whom we walked out on before ordering.  Everyone else was extremely helpful!

We have never had this before, but both of our Mother’s had some issues while we were gone and twice during the trip, we debated returning early.  Fortunately they are both ok now!!

To end up our journey, we flew back to Lisbon for one night, setting a wake up call for 2:00AM so that we could catch a 5:00AM flight to Amsterdam.  We had planned to grab some food in the airport, but by the time we made it thru passport control, it was time to board the plane.  Fortunately, we had fantastic meals on the plane so we arrived in Atlanta full and happy!!!

Our Daughter-In-Law, Amber picked us up at the airport and we were soon walking into our home and falling happily into our recliners…..yes, we missed them when we were gone!!

We had a great laugh when we got home as our “friends” (Wayne & Kathie and Roy & Diane) had gotten together and decided to prank “rent” our house on AirBNB while we were gone.   The prank was elaborate including a letter welcoming the guests to our home…..

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There were empty wine bottles all around the kitchen, a one page document detailing local amenities, copies of local event information and even a “guest book” signed by people from several countries…..

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All I can say is that I am glad that these people are our friends.   If they go to this much trouble to prank a friend, I can imagine what they would do to an enemy!!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip where Michael made scientific connections, helped many students just getting started in Science, and reconnected with many friends in the Scientific community!!

As we were driving out of Vila Do Conde, we walked across the road to take one last photo at the beach……

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This should hold us until our next trip…..in SIX weeks!!!!

More to come…….

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Somethings going down!!!

The weekend was very relaxing, once again including walks and some clothes washing.   We have one favorite restaurant that we visited two days in a row, but ended up being early each time.   The waitress (who did not speak English) would smile, shake her head and point to her watch.  We would quietly wait for the appropriate time to order our food and it WAS worth waiting for!!!

Each day we took a long walk, enjoying the fact that the weather was starting to get warmer and somewhat dryer.

On Saturday, we enjoyed watching  a couple of classes where young people were being taught to sail.  They would start out in the enclosed harbor…..

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….and then move out into the open ocean…..

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We counted 28 sailboats on the water with 7 or 8 “teacher” boats as well.   They did a great job of helping the sailors and watching over their safety!!

Michael and I had a sailboat for many years (in our younger days) and we were jealous of this sight!!

We walked further today than we had before, ending up at the end of a long point DSC07834

As we entered the walkway to the point, we passed this magnificent series of tile murals…..

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The pictures were very detailed and It was quite spectacular to see them all together in one place…..

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On Sunday, we repeated virtually the same walk, this time going out onto the harbor breakwater wall.IMG_6099

The weather was a bit clearer and warmer, but we still weren’t ready to do any sunbathing, especially if we had to do it this way…..

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As usual, there were a lot of fishermen out and about…..

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….however, I have to say that I have YET to see someone actually CATCH a fish!!!

As we returned to our apartment, we passed this church that is shaped like a boat……

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After we passed, we saw that a group of women had blocked off the street in front of the church and were doing something in the middle of the street.  I looked at Michael and said…..”Something is going down….let’s find out what!!”.

We walked down to where they were working and found large trays filled with flowers and chopped up foliage…. IMG_6104

The women were using wooden forms to build these ingredients into a floral design down the middle of the street…..IMG_6108

As we walked back toward our apartment, we saw another larger floral display with a red carpet leading up to it….

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Many women were hanging gold and red sheets off of their 2nd floor balconies.   One showed this saying…..

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….which basically says “Welcome to the Body of God”.

We returned to the apartment, but I vowed to come back out around 4:00pm and see what was going on. 

As I walked back out, I could see a large crowd at the intersection nearest the church and I hurried to join the throng.  What I beheld was a procession led by a group of older kids dressed in uniforms, followed by church officials…..IMG_6122

Then came a long procession of boys and girls dressed in their finery and carrying long stem flowers…..

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More dignitaries followed……

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The final procession participants were all adults who I assume were the parents and guardians of the children marching.  The most haunting moment of the entire event was listening to the parents signing as they walked…..

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They all marched into the church and I expected the spectators to leave, but instead they all stood on the corners (out of the rain that was now pelting down) and waited for everyone to come out again…

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Naturally, I didn’t want to miss anything so I stood there too…..freezing by this time!!!

After about 30 minutes, they started emerging from the church and I enjoyed looking at the clothing that was worn, especially by the Mother’s, Sister’s, Aunt’s and other women attending…..

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I particularly loved this little girl in her long, fancy dress and her tennis shoes…..IMG_6149

Now the most bizarre part of the whole event happened.  As the families are flowing out of the church, hugging their kids and talking to their friends, the Street Cleaner’s start working their way down the street…..

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I originally thought that this was just a bad coincidence, but then realized that they were there to clean the flowers off of the road  One guy had a leaf blower and was blowing all of the flowers and foliage onto the side so that the machine could clean it all up….

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By the time that I walked home, there were absolutely NO signs on the street that anything had happened!!!

I am still not entirely sure what this was, but I am assuming that it was the celebration of “First Communion”.  The very cool thing is that so many people from the community were there to support the young people and their families!!

And I was right…..something was going down!!!!

Last day in Porto and a family Celebration!!!

Much of this week has been spent working….Michael spent Tuesday in Porto speaking at the University and meeting with researchers there and then spent Wednesday in Lisbon doing the same.  I have enjoyed the technology available and was able to accomplish a number of client tasks, including a 2 hour Skype phone call.

I tried each day to take a walk along the beach.  There had been several strong storms in the area and the choppy seas were proof of that.   I found it mesmerizing to sit and watch as they crashed along the rocks…..

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One of the days we climbed out on the observation tower…..IMG_5929

….and also walked along one of the points, enjoying photographing some of the fishermen dropping their lines in the ocean…..IMG_5947

On one of the walks, I found Igreja Nossa Senhora Da Lapa, a quiet little church…..DSC07779

….and found that the adjoining town (Pavoa de Varzim) has a Casiino and a beautiful swimming beach, complete with Cabana frames ready for the canvas to be attached before the tourist season gets started….DSC07793

Thursday was a National holiday although we never knew exactly what holiday it was.   People were walking all along the sea wall with a few venturing into the sand.  Michael I spent it taking a long walk and enjoying catching up on our favorite shows on CBS All Access!!!

On Friday I made one last foray into Porto with the intention of visiting two museums…..Museu Serralves (a contemporary art museum) and National Museum Soares dos Reis (a museum of the Arts an Crafts of Portugal). 

The modern art museum only had three exhibits and I was very disappointed in two of the three, one of which was simply a room with a Lego game board….

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….and the other made up of several projects featuring light displays.   I did like the trees in this darkened room…..

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….but didn’t understand these lights so much…..

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I did enjoy the Giorgio Griffa exhibit.  He works on un-stretched canvas and employs minimalist simplicity.  His work reminded me of  the “Modern Quilt Movement” and I enjoyed the space that would allow for copious quilting!!IMG_5971

 

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The number 1.618033988749 appeared over and over in his works and I asked one of the Docents about this.  He patiently explained that it is the atomic weight of Gold which is considered to be the “perfect” metal!!

I also loved this quote….

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….”When a beautiful rose dies, beauty does not die because it is not really in the rose.  Beauty is an awareness in the mind” – Agnes Martin

I did find three pieces that I loved……

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They were located in the hall by the stairwell!!

There was also a large park that had works of art in it, but I simply couldn’t be bothered walking to find them.

I headed to the next museum and happily enjoyed the various galleries.  The first piece that I saw was this “tongue-in-cheek” statue that, upon closer inspection, was made out of Duct Tape…..

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I didn’t completely understand the statue, with the horse having a peg-leg and the flag pole holding a pair of underwear!!!

I enjoyed the patterns in this vase…..

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….and this plate seemed to choose an unfortunate model….

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There was an oil gallery with several paintings that called to me. 

This one is a self-portrait and I could just see the artist looking in the mirror as he painted…..

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These Sheaf gatherer’s also caught my attention…..

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My favorites were this set of 6 scenes…..

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The most amazing thing was the detail in the skin on a statue of a small boy….enlarge the photo so that you can see it…..IMG_6014

When I left the museum, I wandered down toward the river, stopping at the tower attached to the Clériigos Church…..

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I had wanted to climb this tower previously and this was my opportunity.  The stairwell was tiny and steep…..

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….and you had to stop and wait in the corners for people coming from the opposite direction.

I loved passing the bells and wished that they would ring while I was up on top…..

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The views from the top were excellent….

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I continued downward to the Ribeira area, enjoying a few minutes looking at the houses (I’m thinking of quilt ideas)…..

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….and watching the ever growing crowd….

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I slowly made my way back up to the Metro station, enjoying every sight and sound of the city and knowing that it was probably my last time in the city.

On Friday evening, we were invited to Paulo and Paula’s home for the 22nd birthday of their daughter, Beatrice.  We arrived to find a table filled with food and a smiling Birthday Girl…..

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The Family began arriving a few moments later and soon the apartment was filled with Aunts, Cousins, Nephews, Brothers, Grandparents and all the rest.  It was a wonderful gathering…..

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….and we were very happy to be included as “one of the family”.

Winery weekend – part two

As part of our weekend at Quinta de Maroccos we went on a winery tour and Port tasting….yum!!!

We were met by Caesar, the 72 year-old owner of the farm.  He told us that he was the 4th generation owner of the property with his Great Grandfather having purchased the farm in the 1920’s.    He was a sweet gentleman in his “pork pie” hat and his love of the grapes and the wine making process came thru as he talked…..

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He started out by telling us about the Port trade in general.  Originally, Port could only be produced by a handful of wineries and those larger houses purchased grapes from the 20,000 growers that produce in the Douro Valley.  In the 1990’s, the rules changed, allowing smaller farms to produce their own product as well and he chose to make this change for the farm.

He told us that this year has been a strange one weather wise and that the Douro River is very high and has actually overflowed it’s banks.  When he mentioned it, we could see where there were trees in the water that should have been on the bank…..IMG_5814

He also said that the water was flowing so quickly right now that none of the Cruise boats could make it up the river, fighting the strong current.  We got to thinking about Wayne and Kathie and their planned trip up the Douro….they only got a short way out of Porto before the cruise had to be canceled and returned to shore. 

He told us that the vineyard remains much the same as it did in the 1920’s with the exception of roads that have been put in to allow the grape harvest to be driven down rather than being carried down in baskets.  He showed us where the grapes were loaded into a chute and taken to the processing room that starts with the pressing vats……

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Amazingly, the grapes here are still pressed by people stomping on them.  He said that this non-mechanical process is much gentler on the grapes and makes the flavor better.  I really wish that we could be here during harvest season (September or October) so that we could have helped!!!

The grape juice is then transferred to another room that is filled with vats and casks….

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We asked how much of the juice was turned into wine versus Port and he told us that the Port trade is highly regulated and that they are told each year exactly how much they can produce.  This property produces over 100,000 liters of wine each year, normally split about 50/50 between table wine and Port.

This farm also produces olive oil from their trees.   When the olives are picked, they are transferred to a co-op where they are pressed and bottled.

Caesar told us that when he tastes a Port each year, he makes a decision as to whether it is good enough to submit to the Port board to see if it can be classified as a Vintage port.  Once again the regulatory body has a lot of pull!!

We saw the area where it is manually bottled….12 bottles at a time, and then on to the area where it is boxed up and ready for shipment.   We loved the logo on the boxes….

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….it reminded us of our Elementary School Spanish lessons with Senor Sapo!!!

After the tour of the buildings, we were led into the tasting room and had the opportunity to try 3 White Ports, 4 Tawny Ports and 2 Vintage Ports.  Caesar would carefully pour a small amount in each glass…..

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….and then invite us to taste it and talk about whether we liked it or not.

He would, of course, drink along with us and I loved the way that he closed his eyes and truly enjoyed each glass…..

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At the end of the night, there were a bunch of empty glasses…..

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….and a bunch of people CAREFULLY making their way up the stairs to the rooms!!!

On Sunday morning, we were ready to do some exploring so we headed to the town of Lamego which is about a 25 minute drive from the farm.  We had been told that there was a wonderful church that we should see, along with a series of staircases leading up to the church.  We planned to park at the bottom and walk up, but Gwyneth had other ideas and deposited us at the church itself.   Since there was a Mass going on at the time, we decided to walk down to the city and then work our way back up again.

The views as you walk down the steps are gorgeous……

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….and each landing is decorated with a beautiful blue and white tile tableau….. IMG_5858

When we got to the bottom it was incredible to look up and see where we had come from…..

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….but the scene was even more stunning when you got a bit further away from the church and could see the murals as well…..

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We walked around the center of town, stopping at another church and observing a portion of their Mass.   It was different from most that I have seen here as the music was very modern.  The church was sweet and seemed to have some life to it.

We slowly made our way back up the steps, arriving at the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios….that is a mouthful!!   The outside of the church is beautiful…..

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…as was the inside, although no photographs were allowed.

We were starting to get hungry at this point so we drove back toward the Quinta, stopping in the city of Régua for lunch.  Our waitress spoke no English but pointed to a few English subtitles on the menu.  We used “Google Translate” to figure out the rest and enjoyed a plate of pork chops…..

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….and Roasted Goat……

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Both were yummy!!!

We were also served a bowl of rice……

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….adding to the Carbohydrate load of the meal.   I must say that the Portuguese DO love their Carbs.   Each meal has bread, potatoes, rice and often a Beer!!

When we got ready for dessert, the waitress motioned for us to follow her so that she could SHOW us what was available rather than trying to describe them to us!!

In the afternoon, we did a bit of exploring around the property, finding the common room that was used by the other guests.  It was a comfortable room, once again decorated with items that had belonged to the family……

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This photo of Caesar and his wife was sweet….

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….and this lamp was a bit funky…..

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On Monday, we regretfully left the Quinta, heading toward home.  But first, we wanted to visit the town of Amarante and see a couple of sights there.  Well, it was a nice plan, but trying to find out WHERE the sights were did not prove to be easy!!! 

Gwyneth had some issues as we traveled, especially when she did not recognize the new road that we were traveling on……

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She did lead us faithfully to the church, but we felt like we were driving on the walkway rather than the road…..

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When we got to the end of this thoroughfare, Michael was veering to the left to drive in front of the church but a gentleman shook his head “no” and pointed to the right.  If you blow up the photo, you can see a TINY doorway that you are supposed to DRIVE thru to get to the parking lot!!! 

Michael accomplished the turn itself but then we could not find any parking places so we said “well, we have at least SEEN the church” so we didn’t stop further.

We stopped for an Espresso and to let Michael’s nerves settle after the harrowing parking lot entrance and then we hit “Go Home” on the GPS and headed happily back to Vila do Conde. 

We met up briefly with Roy and Diane before they headed toward the airport and then went for a quick walk along the shore.

Alas, our long weekend was over and Tuesday marked the start of another work week, but we had wonderful memories of our time at Quinta da Marrocos!!!

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Celebrations at Quinta de Marrocos

Friday, the 20th, was Michael’s and my 39th anniversary so we had made plans to spend the weekend away, preferably in the Douro Valley.   While reading Rick Steve’s guide, he mentioned a small family farm and winery that had a few rooms that you could rent, so we emailed and asked for information.   They told us that they had a room for us so we headed out on Friday morning. 

The owners had told us not to use the street address for the Quinta because it would take us to the wrong place but they had provided written directions.   My I-phone seemed to take us to the correct place so we made the trip using THREE different sets of instructions….

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It was a bit confusing!!

When we had arrived at the spot (or so we thought), Michael saw a truck with the winery’s name on it coming out of one entrance so he turned in there thinking that it was the way to go….WRONG!!!!  Our little car pulled up the steep incline with the wheels slipping as we went.   We finally decided that this couldn’t be right so Michael carefully did a 14-point turn, on the ledge overlooking the Douro River!!!  I commented as he was carefully heading back down that there were Olive trees lining the road.   He later said that he couldn’t believe that I noticed the trees during that harrowing drive.   My answer was that I knew they were the only things that were going to keep us from plunging into the river so I was VERY interested in them!!

We called the winery and were told that we needed to go a short way further and we would reach the ACTUAL entrance!!!

We were met by Anna and were shown to our room……or should I say apartment!!!

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Since we were staying longer, they had given us an apartment that had two bedrooms and a separate seating area!!

The apartment was wonderfully decorated with items that had been passed down thru the 5 generations that had owned the farm.  We felt as if we had been invited into someone’s home for the weekend.

There was a lot of needlework displayed including this intricate tatted (or crocheted) lace cloth…..

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….and this folksy applique scene……

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This chest in the living room contained family photos and other interesting items….IMG_5655

This mirror and tiny bidet were at the entrance…..IMG_5659

After we had unloaded our suitcases and made ourselves at home, it was time to explore a bit., but first we had to drink a glass of White Port that Anna brought to us…. IMG_5592

Happy Anniversary to my sweet husband!!!!

 

There were people working on the slope nearest to the house so we went over to watch. IMG_5595

They were in the process of planting new vines and it was so intriguing to watch the process.

They would first use a type of hoe to dig a hole in the ground and then the woman would use a stick with a yam-shaped end on it to poke a hole even further down and the man would use the hoe to plant the vine…..

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Another woman was carrying jugs of water up the slope to water in the new vine…..

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We later learned about the new vines….

In the mid 19th century, there was a blight of the grape vines in Europe, caused by an Aphid species called Phylloxera.  For some reason, American vines were not susceptible to this bug so, for many years, they have used rootstock from America, grafting their own vine onto this rootstock.   In the above photo, the grafted vine is protected by the green latex.

Now, of course, it was time to eat….what else do you do on vacation!!!  We entered the dining room that we were sharing with a tour group of 30 visitors from France.

The meal started off with the usual appetizers….sausage, Presunto (the Portuguese variation on Prosciutto), bread and olive oil (fresh from the farm)….

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  Next was a rich, creamy potato soup, served in a metal bowl…..

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….followed by a casserole of potatoes, carrots and Baccala (salted Cod)…..

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This was not our favorite, but it was a nicely prepared and we enjoyed trying something new.

The meal was followed by the sweetest orange that I have ever had…..IMG_5627

They are grown on the property as well and were magnificent.   The meal ended with a pound cake with Tawny Port and then tea and coffee.

Michael enjoyed the afternoon sitting on “our” deck and enjoying the views…..

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….while I enjoyed the inside of my eyelids with a long nap!!!!

It was the perfect way to celebrate our lives together…..

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We woke up on Saturday morning, ready to do some exploring but first needed some sustenance….not really, but who is going to miss a meal!!!   

We had breakfast in a room that used to be the kitchen for the property….DSC07761

…..complete with many reminders of how this room was used in years past…..

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Now it was time to do some walking and get our stomachs ready for lunch!!!  Our host, Caesar (pronounced SAY-sar) suggested that we start at the two huge Cedar Trees……

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He told us that the winery was originally a Monastery and that, typically, religious places were marked with two Cedar trees!!

As we walked, we kept finding rough stairs that would lead us up from one terrace to the next…..

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We heard a train tooting its horn and were happy to see it chugging its way across the valley…..

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The grape vines were just starting to set their fruit, bringing visions of juicy grapes dripping over the vines in September…..

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The vines were obviously just getting started on their growing season and were twining everywhere…..

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The vines were held in place with posts that looked wooden but were actually made from heavy slate…..

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We were told that the old posts were cut by hand but that these new ones were carved from the slate by machine…..IMG_5674

 

There was even a funky slate table…..IMG_5712

As we climbed even higher, the views across the valley became more spectacular…..

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The tiny red roof that you see in the center of the valley is our abode.

We found a manmade cave that is apparently part of the spring system that supplies water to the farm…..

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We came across this grave that is the resting place of the matriarch of the farm family.  Her daughter said that she was the soul of the winery and was greatly missed…..

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The property was lined with soft, green, olive trees…..IMG_5745

We slowly worked our way back down the vineyard with some of the steps having a large drop-off on one side.   I preferred to hug the wall in these cases…..

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…while my crazy husband was a bit more adventurous…..

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We were enamored with the rock walls, wondering exactly how old they were!!!IMG_5760

We came to the orange tree grove and fought our impulses to pick one on the spot….

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We ate our lunch once again in the dining room with 30 Frenchmen, this time dining on  cheeses and bread with a MAGNIFICENT orange rind marmalade……DSC07767

and ending with a meat rich pasta….

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Since we had exercised and eaten, we returned to our favorite pastimes of sitting on the deck and taking a nap!!!

The Ups and Downs of Porto

On Wednesday, we dropped Roy and Diane off at the Airport so that they could pick up their car and continue their journey thru Portugal.  Since we were halfway to Porto we decided to continue on and spend the day there.

There is one turn that we have missed every time and this time I thought that I knew what we had done wrong,  but alas we missed it again….just in a different manner.  Consequently, we got to come into the Old Town of Porto from a different direction!!   We made it to our parking garage, found an easy spot to park in and headed aboveground.

The first part of the morning was spent shopping for some gifts for us and for others.  We had scoped these out in previous visits and knew exactly what we were going to buy so the actual shopping didn’t take too long.  Since we were close to the car, we threw our packages in the trunk and headed out again for some sight seeing.

Michael had wanted to cross the Ponte Luis bridge from the top as Roy, Diane and I had last week so we started making our way up the countless stairs to the top.  I wanted to climb these stairs because they were the inspiration for my quilt “Escala Azul”…..

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As we climbed further up, we entered areas where people were living and doing life among the steps…..

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Michael stopped to walk down one small lane thinking that we might want to walk that way to reach the bridge.  A lady emerged from her house and (in sign language) asked if we were heading for the bridge.   When we said yes, she indicated that we still needed to climb further and told us to walk with her.

She was carrying two bags, one containing a heavy looking blanket.   Michael offered to carry it for her and she shyly handed it over….

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We climbed together for a few minutes and then she stopped and pointed to a side street  that we would NEVER have seen.  Within 20 steps we were on the bridge!!! 

We asked her name and she told us it was Fatima.  When I asked if I could take a photo of her, she shrugged and reluctantly agreed…..

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We thanked her profusely and made our way across the “Eiffel” bridge, stopping to take another “blue screen” photo……

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As we arrived on the other side of the river, in the city of Vila Nova de Gaia.  We wanted to get down to river level so needed to head downward quickly.  We could see the street that we needed but had no idea how to get there.   As we walked in the general direction, Michael saw a set of stairs so we took those and ended up exactly where we wanted to be!!

We were heading for S. Goncalo, the restaurant that we had visited the previous week but ended up arriving there too early to eat.   So, to kill a little time, we walked on down the street, heading for the boat building area that we had seen previously.  We were excited to see that they were working on the boat and were pleased when one of the workers told us that we could come closer and watch the work.

The scaffolding holding the boat in place looked insignificant compared to the size of the boat……

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We debated about which end was the prow but solved the problem when we saw the propeller under one end!!   We could see that the bottom boards had been attached to the boat, where the upper ones were still hanging free…..

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We could also see that some of the screws had been epoxied in place and some had already been sanded down….

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She will beautiful when finished!!!

We had now killed enough time so we returned to the restaurant and ordered a 1/2 Dose Steak platter which arrived with plenty of fries and a fried egg on top…..

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After enjoying our meal, we crossed the Ponte Luis again, this time on the lower level, looking up at the intricate metal work…..IMG_5508

This time we were headed for the “art district” of Porto and once again knew that we had to go UP and preferably without having to wind around and around on the city streets.   The map showed yet another set of stairs, so once we found them we headed up, up, up…….

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There was a historical marker that told us that the stairs were built in the 14th Century and were part of a belt of walls that encircled the old town of Porto. 

We continued climbing up and trying to veer to the left as we went.  We walked thru many streets clogged with locals rather than tourists and stopped to photograph various street art along the way.   I really liked these three….

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We entered a small park and I excitedly exclaimed that I know where we are…..I was lost here a couple of weeks ago!!!!

We finally found the Rua de Miguel Bombarda, the street listed as having art galleries.  We walked for a while but didn’t see anything and then realized that it was time for the “after lunch” break and many of them were closed.   We kept walking and looking in windows to see if it was some place that we wanted to return to. 

We came to this window and looked in, seeing some paintings that we liked and didn’t see a sign saying that it was closed, so we tried to open the door.   IMG_5569

It was locked and we started to walk away, but a sweet gentleman standing on the sidewalk showed us that we needed to ring the bell to be allowed to enter.  A young woman (named Paula but pronounced “pow-lah”) came to the door and invited us in.  We looked at the paintings in the front room but could see artists working in the back rooms. 

Paula told us that this shop was part gallery and part conservation service.  She proceeded to give us a tour of the work that was being done…..IMG_5558

…..and other pieces that had already been restored…..

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In many cases, she was able to show us what the original colors had been and show us what had been painted over thru the years.

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She told us that they did all sorts of work, from ceramics, wood, paintings and even metalwork…..

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She spoke very passionately about her work and it was evident that she felt a connection to the pieces that she helped to restore…..

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I had noticed the handles on this apparent chest of drawers…..

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….but she surprised us by showing that it was actually a metal safe and that only one of the knobs turned to open it…..IMG_5565

As we were leaving, she showed us her portfolio filled with “before” and “after” photos of the work that she had done.   She was obviously quite accomplished at her art!!!

We reluctantly said bye to her and started our jaunt DOWNhill to our parking garage again. 

The last photo of the day was of this brightly colored housing area…..

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This is so typical of the architecture that makes Porto such a treasure to visit!!

Two days of driving fun….or not

On Monday morning we reluctantly had to leave Santiago de Compostela although we had a laugh seeing the sign leading down to the parking garage…..

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….”acceso peons” ….who are you calling a peon!!!

While trying to get out of the city we ran into a bit of bother with Gwyneth.  We are thinking that she may not be as well organized for Spain as she is for Portugal.  Once she told us to “turn right here” but it was a walkway and not a road. 

Finally, we started following street signs and heading in the direction that we THOUGHT we should go and eventually she caught up with us.   The bottom line is that after driving for 20+ minutes, we  looked up and saw the cultural center that we had basically walked to the day before!!  

Michael stayed calm and collected thru all of the vagaries of trying to leave town…..

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….but the scene in the backseat was a bit different…..IMG_5309

We finally made our way out of the city and headed for the city of A Coruña.  We chose this city because one of Michael’s colleagues was from there and had greatly extolled its virtues, including an ancient Roman lighthouse!! 

While driving on the highway we had a couple of “incidents”…..

Firstly we came to a toll road where you had to take a ticket as you passed.   The car in front of us missed the ticket so they stopped the car, a lady in the back passenger seat hopped out and pulles the ticket and then scurried back to the car. 

Secondly, one of the toll booths was marked as “direcciones”, where you could ask for directions along your route?    He asked where we were going and Michael thought he was asking where we had come from.. The gentleman looked quite perplexed until Michael explained that we were heading TO Coruna but a relieved look appeared on his face when he realized that he didn’t have to turn us completely around!!!

The city of A Coruña was very sweet and we followed along a fun beach road to reach the lighthouse…IMG_5314

The lighthouse is also known as the Tower of Hercules, was built 1900 years ago and is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use.

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We waited for a while to be able to climb to the top, but the wait became longer and longer so we finally decided to just walk around the property and capture some of the sights……

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I loved this guy……

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….especially the dog sleeping at his feet…..

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The sights heading toward the harbor were enthralling…..

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…..and I loved this huge compass built into the rock…..

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There were tile designs in between each compass point with this one being my favorite…..IMG_5360

And, I am always a sucker for patches of white and yellow flowers (my bridal bouquet was made of daisies)…..IMG_5369

We returned to the car and drove all the way around the harbor, ending up on the point opposite to the Tower.

While driving, we passed this fountain and I snapped a photo out of the car window.   It is not a great picture, but it was a very cool fountain with two surfers riding the wave…..

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At the end of the point, we came to this huge obelisk……IMG_5398

It had pictures on the sides but they were very indistinct.

We walked along the rocks for a bit, exclaiming how blue the water seemed…..IMG_5405

We reluctantly returned to the car and headed back south and into Portugal.  For the most part, this trip was uneventful although we did have a few issues getting out of the city and onto the highway.

After we arrived home, I felt the need for a good walk so headed down the beach, walking about 1-1/2 miles.  This was the furthest  that I had been and was surprised to look up and see that there was a fort (which is now a restaurant)……

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A little further took me to a beautiful little church that we returned to on Tuesday to take photos of……

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The inside was rustic and sweet….

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…..with a gorgeous painted ceiling that was easy to miss unless you were looking for it…..

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Outside there was a sensational cross and mast……

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On Tuesday I had two driving adventures….

Firstly, while driving home from taking Michael to work I had to stop at a crosswalk.  This is not unusual, but the fact that it was a dog waiting for the traffic to stop was not the norm.   Myself and another car waited as he calmly crossed!

Also, as I was driving out to pick Michael up, I came across a tractor pulling a trailer and trying to back the trailer into a very narrow gate opening.  He made several attempts but his front wheels kept hitting the stone wall surrounding the road, keeping him from being able to turn properly.   I watched as he made a few more passes and was amazed that he was able to move the trailer into the gate.  DSC07746At this point he needed to pull out again and straighten things up but there were several cars waiting so he just stopped and motioned for me to go ahead.  But, to my eye there really wasn’t enough room for my car to go thru!!!  So, with Diane watching the right mirror and me staring at the left one, I VERY slowly made my way thru the opening.   As I cleared the tractor I looked up and saw a truck driver sitting in  a vehicle on the other side patiently motioning that I had plenty of room.   Maybe it was plenty to him but surely not to me!!!!

After we picked Michael up, I wanted to take all of them to the haunting cemetery that I had found on our first day at CIBIO.  We enjoyed walking thru it again and came away with a few stunning photos…..

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Our big meal for Tuesday was a restaurant that we had visited early into our stay.   The Chef was once again at the grill……

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….using nothing but sea salt to turn these dishes into scrumptious delicacies…..

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The restaurant was very busy when we arrived and we were impressed at the lengths that the owner went to in order for us to have a nice table!!!

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, Diane and I decided to visit the #1 sight in Vila do Conde (at least per Trip Advisor)……the Style Outlet!!!!  The mall was a modern, well designed area with a lot of top name stores, however prices seemed to be similar to the US so we didn’t purchase much. 

We did enjoy a walk thru the shoe store and marveled at these very popular shoes….DSC07752

The clunky sole and heel is extremely popular here, even in boots or dress shoes.   It will be interesting to see if this is the newest trend in Europe and whether it will be what we are wearing in a year or two!!!

Our favorite store was called BriCor.  It was a HUGE store with clothing on one side and a mixture on the other side rivaling Home Depot, Walmart and Pet Smart all in one place!!!

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It was a fun outing to end off our day together!!!

Right Place…..Right Time!!!!

Let me start this post with an explanation of why we are in the city of Santiago de Compostela…..  

Several years ago a friend suggested that we watch a movie called “The Way” which is about a man who follows the pilgrimage route (Camino) thru France and Spain to visit the Church of St. James, called the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where tradition says that the remains of St. James are buried.  

At the end of the movie, he reaches the cathedral and observes the tradition of the Botafumeiro, which is a famous thurible found in the church.  The thurible is 4 feet high and  filled with charcoal and incense.   It is then hoisted into the air and swings back and forth, filing the church with wonderful aroma.

After we had decided to visit the city, I was disappointed to find that the Botafumeiro is only used on certain holy days, but I was still excited to see it.   It was hanging magnificently in the sanctuary…..

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I was enamored with the pipe organ and have never seen one decorated in quite this way…..IMG_5137

The main part of the cathedral is ornate….

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….but what I truly enjoyed were some of the smaller chapels that lined the outer edges of the building.   One was particularly pleasant with earth tone colors and interesting stone murals on the walls…..

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I loved the perspective view that it portrayed!!

Of course, the magnificent tiled floors added to my enjoyment as well…..

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Michael and I walked around the church while Roy and Diane attended a Mass in a small chapel.  Afterwards, we left the church but were told that we couldn’t re-enter thru the main door because the 10:00 am Mass was about to start.  Not to be deterred, Michael continued walking around the sides of the church until he found a door that we were welcomed to enter.   We immediately saw a line forming and joined in.  It was worth the wait as it wound around behind the main altar and the view from there was enchanting…..IMG_5160

….although these giant cherubs were a bit scary…..

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We followed the line into another small chamber where the reported remains of St. James were interred…..

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While we were standing in line, we could hear the Mass being held in the main chapel.  At one point, they started speaking English and we heard the Priest say that today was a special day, that it was the Birthday of the Church.  When we heard this, Diane wondered aloud if that meant that they would perform the Botafumeiro.

Sure enough as we re-entered the main chapel, we saw several red robbed men standing near the pulley hoist……

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YES…..we were going to get to see it really happen!!!   I found a spot near the back of the church and stood mesmerized…. with camera in hand of course!!   Here is the video……

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I stopped filming so that I could just stand and enjoy the spectacle!!!!  It was a truly moving experience and I am so thankful to have been able to experience it!!

We moved outside and enjoyed the architecture of the church……IMG_5152

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The courtyard was filled with Pilgrims, many wearing the Shell, symbol of the Camilo trail…….

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We continued on into a Camino museum where we enjoyed learning about the history of pilgrimages around the world.  Mostly, I just enjoyed looking at the various statues and paintings……

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These are all supposed to be renditions of what St. James looked like.

This next piece was interesting as it was carved/embossed from metal but had an opening for a painting where the face would be……

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We split up from the Carrolls and returned to the street where we were both drawn to a busker playing a haunting, but strange looking, instrument.   We asked about it and he told us that it was called a “Hang” (which is German for hand), and was created in 2000.

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We decided to return for more Tapas, but this time we were going to order for ourselves!!!  We knew some of what we ordered but guessed on the rest.    The first thing out was bread and peppers……

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…..so far, so good.   Then the next course arrived…..

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Now, this wasn’t exactly what we thought we had ordered but it was wonderful.   It was an omelet with onions and cheese and went perfectly with the Padron peppers!!! 

Next was the same steak dish from yesterday.  We thought that we had ordered yet another course but nothing else showed up and, honestly, we were glad because we were already full!!!!  We did order desert….DSC07701

…..a soft cheese served with a thick jam slice…..delish!!!!

We sat closer to the serving area and realized that the kitchen was actually upstairs and all of the food was sent down in a dumbwaiter…..

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This is our waiter from the first meal.   He was so sweet and even stopped us in the street to talk later in the day!!!

Now we needed a walk to work off some of the food so decided to take a long walk.   We were headed to the Cultural Center that we could see in the distance.   In reading about this building, I had seen that it had been started but money had run out so many of the buildings were not completed.  However, there were a few exhibits there including one that looked like a fiber exhibit, so we made it our destination.

After walking down one road (and I do mean DOWN), all the time discussing the ramifications of this descent, we ran into a few street vendors and had to stop and look.   This gentleman was selling herbs and teas that were touted to cure everything…..

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….from acne to cholesterol!!!

We looked down a side street and found the entrance to a small, local Medieval Festival…..

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….forget the Cultural center…..we are going in!!!

There was food…….

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……food…….

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….and more food……

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There were roving minstrels…..

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……hand cranked kiddie rides…..

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….kids playing all sorts of games (without an electronic device in sight)……

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…..and crowds of happy people……

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….with a wonderful church in the background!!!

We walked back UP the street……IMG_5272

….enjoying the fact that we had found something that was designed for the locals and not just for the tourists.

By now, we had walked off our lunch so sought out something cold and sweet….maybe a gelato bar???

My “note to self” was….”next time order Pequeña (small) rather than Medio (medium)!!”…..IMG_5287

We met up with Roy and Diane again and made one last quick trip to the Cathedral…..

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Reluctantly we left, knowing that our time in this beautiful city was coming to an end……

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A New Country for my list…..

 

On Saturday, the four of us (Roy, Diane, Michael and myself) loaded up in our car and headed to Spain, specifically to the city of Santiago De Compostela. 

The actual travel was easy, but paying the tolls was interesting.   First of all, .it was VERY expensive.  There was one area where we paid over 5 Euros for the toll and then had to pay 6 Euros about 15 miles down the road!!  When we were in Portugal it was easy because we had a toll collector in our car but it got harder as we moved into Spain. 

The first booth was only 3.4 Euros, so we were able to come up with that from our change but we knew we were in trouble with future ones!  Fortunately, the next ones had some attended booths so we were able to get change easily.  We finally realized that the attended booths had a sign with a little man on it.

The weather was gloomy and rainy for most of the trip, but it was still a fun journey.  This bridge was probably more spectacular because of the gloom….

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Our travel was easy until we got the hotel itself.   It was not over-savagely marked and we missed it the FIRST and the SECOND time that we drove around the round-about.  Michael then took a guess and moved along one street and sure enough we were able to see the name of the hotel, but there was no place to park to unload.  So, we continued further down the street, trying to find a place to make a U-Turn.  There was nothing available so he turned right onto a street….possibly a One-Way street but we were never sure!!!  We headed back the correct direction and fortunately, during all of the driving, I had seen the entrance to an underground parking garage.  We passed the hotel again, entered the parking garage and emerged at street level and about 50 yards from our hotel…..we MEANT to do it that way!!!!

We checked into the lovely Hotel Compostela and the hotel clerk reluctantly told us that it would be 10 minutes before our room was ready.  We said that we didn’t mind waiting but she said that we needed to hurry to get to see the Farmer’s Market so we should leave our bags and they would be taken up to our rooms. 

We walked about 3 blocks and entered the Mercado de Abastos.  As markets go, it was fairly typical, with fruits and vegetables along one aisle…..

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…..fish in another enclosed area……

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…..and meats and cheeses in another one……

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We found the oxtail particularly appetizing……

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And, what can I say about the tail on this particular cut of meat (maybe goat or lamb)……

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Everywhere you looked there was Bacalhau which is Salted Cod…..

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The bread aisle was enticing, especially the glorious aroma…..

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This sandwich was a monster……

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…and if I ate everything that I wanted here, I am afraid that I would look like this……

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But the thing that I liked the best about the market were the looks on the faces of the people (mostly women) who worked there…..

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We returned to the hotel, checked the view out of our bedroom window……

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….and headed back downstairs to check out the town.  The stairs in the hotel were made of luxurious wood and we felt an extreme urge to climb them rather than take the lift…..

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Notice the “Log Cabin” design on each landing!!!

Our helpful hotel clerk had suggested a particular Tapas restaurant and since Spain is the home of the Tapas Cuisine, we had to check it out.   The old town of Santiago is a maze of narrow roads bordered by shops, restaurants and other businesses designed for the tourists…..DSC07652

After wandering down a few streets, we found the restaurant and had our first look inside….. DSC07653

There were many people sitting at a bar at the front, selecting various items from trays lined along the bar.   A bit further back there were tables and after a 20 minute wait, we were seated.

Our Waiter was from the Philippines and spoke wonderful English.  The first task was selecting drinks for the meal, and Michael and Diane selected a bottle of wine while Roy and I went for the local beer….. 

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After a “cheers”…….DSC07657

….we were ready to select our food.   When the waiter arrived, he could see that we were struggling to select items from the Spanish menu and suggested that he bring us a sampler.  We happily agreed and were treated to an amazing array of food, starting with cheese (the Blue Cheese on bread was to die for)…..

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…..thin sliced meats……

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….and grilled Padron peppers with lots of sea salt……

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Next came the fish courses (yes there were TWO).  The first was a spicy Scallop and two shrimp…..

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For the record, I loved the shrimp but wasn’t as impressed with the Scallop.  I truly like the flavor but not the texture!!

Then came Fried Calamari that was absolutely delicious…..

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At this point we were all stuffed, but there was still the meat course to go!!   We were each served a small piece of steak, smothered in cheese, onions and mushrooms and topped with a quail’s egg……

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To finish up the meal, the other three had a glass of Port and I asked for “something chocolate”……

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Here is our photo from the start of the meal……

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…..and here is the after……

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Michael and I loved the hustle and bustle of the place.  Our waiter was in constant motion, bringing plate after plate of tasty food to the tables.

As we waddled down the street, we passed this amazing, and very beautiful,  Street Artist…..

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I walked over to give her a coin and she looked up and slowly motioned for me to come closer.   As I approached she handed me a small token that she was holding in her hands.

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We wandered around the Old Town area some more, enjoying the architecture, the people and the shops.  We giggled at this one selling “American Food”……IMG_5113

I would have thought that this store was here to cater to the Americans, but I really didn’t see (or hear) many of them so I am a bit perplexed at how it can survive!!  Maybe American Food is considered a delicacy???/

Roy and Diane returned to the hotel for a while and Michael and I headed out down one of the surrounding streets to just get some exercise.  We came to this statue……

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….which was interesting, but we had more fun making friends with the residents around the statue…..

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After stopping for a cup of coffee/tea, we met up with the Carrolls again and started strolling some more.   Diane heard loud music from a nearby park and suggested that we check it out.   What we found was a carnival, filled with happy, over-sugared children and their stony-faced parents.

At the center of the carnival was the largest Ferris Wheel that I have ever been close to……DSC07677

We left the liveliness of the carnival to revel in the solitude and quiet of a walk around the park…..

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This was a delightful path that wound all the way around the carnival. 

We stopped to photograph a few Eucalyptus trees that were larger than any we have ever seen……

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Roy and Diane planned to walk further, but Michael and I were ready to head back to the hotel, but first we had to stop for another Santiago specialty…..Chocolate and Churros…..

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The chocolate was the consistency of a thin pudding and the Churros were magnificent when they were dipped in the warm liquid…..

……a great nightcap!!!!

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride….aka, A Car Trip to Porto

On Thursday morning, Michael once again had to teach.   He hasn’t had much time to relax on this trip but hopefully he will get some time on the upcoming weekend!!

Roy, Diane and I dropped him off at work and headed down the highway into Porto.  As soon as we left CIBIO, the GPS (we call her Gwyneth) started sending us down smaller and smaller roads!!  We finally arrived at the Motorway and got about 20 miles along when we hit a major traffic jam that lasted for MANY kilometers.    Traffic was bumper to bumper and it was NO fun driving the stick shift!!!

We made it into Porto and, except for one turn, were able to follow Gwyneth’s instructions, however at some point I managed to mute her verbal instructions.  Between that and the fact that there was construction on one side of me and two buses on the other side, I managed to miss the entrance into the parking garage…YIKES!!!    Not knowing what else to do, I followed the road around, coming to the tunnel that lead across the bridge.  I knew that I didn’t want to go that way, so turned right down the road just in front of the River, which unfortunately led onto the tiny 10 kph road that we had driven on earlier in the week!!  I turned left at the top of the street and fortunately was able to find a place to pull over to have a quick word with Gwyneth!!

After a 3-point U-Turn in heavy traffic, I  made it back to the parking garage.  Now came the problem of actually parking!!!  The parking area is narrow and has cars on both sides so there is not much room to swing out to enter the space.  This is also a problem because our little Fiat has a HORRIBLE turning radius….we could do better in Michael’s Pickup!!   Because of the narrowness, most cars are not parked properly in the spaces meaning that there is even less space to park than usual.  I made a few passes at one spot and decided that there was NO way that I could get into it.  

Fortunately, I noticed a larger car moving out of a spot further down so I hurried there and was able to park….finally!!!    At this point, we were about 3 levels underground!!!  However, I have learned my lesson and next time will keep driving until I reach an easy parking spot or reach the end of the tunnel.

We found our way to the surface and started heading for our first destination…..Igregia de San Francisco de Oporto.

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It is apparently a great example of Gothic Architecture and was started in the 13th century but not finished until 1410.

There were no photos allowed in the church so these photos are stolen from the Internet……

The interior is all carved from wood and gilded with Gold (they estimate that it took 650 pounds of Gold).  The only word that I could find to describe it was gaudy……

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This photo makes it look bright and airy but, when we were there, it was dark and gloomy.   It didn’t help that most of the sculptures and paintings  were of people being tortured or beheaded.   

There was an intricately carved Tree of Jesse that was interesting……images

After we walked out of the church, Diane mentioned that we now needed to find a McDonald’s because we really needed a “Happy Place”!!!!

While on the Church property we visited the Catacombs, seeing crypts dating back to the early 1800’s.  IMG_4928

In addition to the crypts along the side walls, there were additional ones in the floor. IMG_4925  It was a bit freaky as the wood would creak when you walked across it!!!

The room was adorned with some unconventional skull sculptures…..

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….but also with some superb iron work….

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This was my last, and favorite view, of this strange church……IMG_4944

We now followed a walkway that led us back to the Riberia area of the city.  We looked in one or two shops and then found this man in his woodworking shop…..IMG_4945

After I took this photo, another man in the shop motioned that we should come into the shop and look in the back room.  We were surprised to see rows and rows of model ships, IMG_4946all beautiful and faithfully re-created…..

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It was an astonishing display and I still don’t know if he sells these or if this is just his hobby.   I did have one scare…..there was a man working there who was dusting some of the ships.  He was trying to lift one ship off of the floor but didn’t realize that the mast was stuck under one of the glass shelves.  Every time he would lift it up, the glass shelf would flex, scaring me that the whole thing was going to come down!!   Fortunately, he realized what he was doing and stopped before there was a disaster!!

To me, his work bench was a thing of  beauty…..

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We decided to stop and have a quick lunch, ending up at one of the restaurants with tables extending out almost into the street…..

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As we had walked up, we had passed a series of sanitation workers busily draining the sewage pipes.  We were sitting right next to a manhole cover and I kept hearing a sucking sound behind me.   All I could think of was the scene from “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” where Indiana is in Venice and comes up out of the sewer, right into a street cafe…..he looks around at the horrified diners and says “ Ahhhhh. Venice”!!   I was waiting for “Ahhhh….Porto”!!!

After a simple lunch of cheese and bacon sandwiches, we were recovered from our car ride and dark church and ready to start exploring!!

One of the things that I wanted to do was to walk across the St. Luis bridge on the TOP of the bridge rather than the lower ridge so we started looking for the way to get up there.   It appeared that we had two options….climb hundreds of steps or ride the funicular.  Guess which we chose!!!!

The ride only took about 3 minutes and the views as we rose were terrific…..

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As we walked toward the bridge, we noticed many houses that had pristine lower floors, but the upper ones were in pretty bad shape.  Looking down from the bridge we saw areas that had been grown over with ivies….

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…..and other areas that were being used and lived in…..

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The views of Porto were glorious and truly showed the various elevations of the city……IMG_4993

As soon as we crossed the river, we turned into the Monastery of Serra Do Pilar.  It is a pretty building…..

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….visible from most places along the river. 

Unfortunately you could not enter the Church unless you were on a tour, so instead we enjoyed the views from the courtyard…..

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One fun European tradition is where romantic couples attach a padlock to a bridge or other fence, thus “securing” their love.   They are called “locks of love” and were prevalent at this  gorgeous tableau…..

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We made the return trip across the bridge and started winding our way down and to the left to reach the river again.     We ended up on some small streets that were definitely for the locals and not the tourists!!IMG_5032

It was fun seeing older women sitting on each side of the street, talking quietly to one another as they snapped peas or did other household tasks.  It really was a fun area……

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We were able to find the stairs down into the car park but I wasn’t sure exactly which level we were on.   I stopped one level early and walked along the parking area so that I could find our car.   It was difficult since MANY of the cars were black and small!!!   I kept hitting the door lock as I walked and finally saw the car that was responding to my urgings!!!

The most interesting part of the drive back was trying to get out of the parking garage.   The parking areas were located on the outer rim of a spiral going deep underground.   The way out was to drive in a tight circle up thru the middle of the parking areas.   I was starting to wonder if I would EVER re-surface!!! 

Once on top, it took Gwyneth a few minutes to find her bearings so I drove “by the seat of my pants” until she caught up with me…..fortunately in the right direction!!!

The return trip to Vila do Conde was MUCH easier, except for one harried entrance ramp onto the Motorway!   

All in all, it was a fun day, but I will never look at a roller coaster in the same light again!!!!