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…..


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…..


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……


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

More to come…….

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…..


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


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…..


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


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…..


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


….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……


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….


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


….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…..


More dignitaries followed……


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…..

First Communion Procession

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…


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…..


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…..


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….


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…..

Ocean Wave Video

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….


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


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


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



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….


….”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……


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…..


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…..


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


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…..


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


My favorites were this set of 6 scenes…..


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…..


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


….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…..


The views from the top were excellent….


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


….and watching the ever growing crowd….


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…..


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…..


….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…..


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……


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….


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….


….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…..


….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…..


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


….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……


….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…..


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


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…..


…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…..


….and Roasted Goat……


Both were yummy!!!

We were also served a bowl of rice……


….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……


This photo of Caesar and his wife was sweet….


….and this lamp was a bit funky…..


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……


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


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!!!



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….


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!!!


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…..


….and this folksy applique scene……


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…..


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


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)….



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


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


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…..


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

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



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…..


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……


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…..


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


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


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


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


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…..


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…..


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…..


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…..


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


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….


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….


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