Saturday, June 25, 2016

Next stop Porto, Portugal

My apologies from the outset if my writing is a little slllurred. I am in Porto, the home of port – the fortified wine not the shipping yard. It appears that any time is the right time for port. It would be culturally insensitive to be in Porto and not drink port. Like visiting Champagne and not drinking champagne, Cologne and not wearing some or visiting Adelaide and not eating a pie floater.

Suite entrance
I started my time in Porto with two days at a 5-star hotel and spa – I needed to unwind from all of the stress of this first class holiday. I was upgraded from a room to a suite, a suite, which was bigger than my Melbourne apartment. It did not help with my desire to not get lost for at least a couple of days. I am not used to a space big enough to have two wings. Everything I wanted was always in the other wing and bathroom breaks needed to be planned ahead. Two days of massages, spas and saunas… and complimentary port.

The Clerigos church tower was clearly not designed for modern tourism, Kryal Castle on the other hand was designed not only to protect Ballarat from the centuries of attacks from Horsham and Bendigo it also accommodates tourists with babies, backpacks and cameras. Clerigos barely allows room for a soldier armed with a bow and arrow let alone a machine gun or a cannon. As a defensive tower it does provide 360o view of the city, hence the need for room for people wielding cameras.

A glass of port helped to overcome the disappointment of this tour.

Porto like its bigger cousin, Lisbon seems to be loose and easy with the offering of marijuana. This might explain why McDonald’s signs whilst still containing the signature golden arches they are on a green background instead of the more traditional Ronald’s-hair-red.

Another glass of port helped calm my nerves after this shock.

I joined a cruise of the Douro river which is really a tour of Porto’s bridges. Porto loves a bridge even more than Seville. My tour was crammed full of retirees and the chop of the waves meant that the flap of upprt arm skin acted as either an effective fan or dangerous slapping machine depending on how closely one was situated.  The Douro River flows through the Douro wine and port region, one of the best wine rejeons, and only port resshions in the world.

Porto’s port cellars – listen in Australian wineries serves only small samples of wine on a wine tour, in Porto the glass is full. Considering port is a minimumum 20pershent alcohol, an afternoon spent tasting nine different ports is a fun summer activity. What is not so fun is negoshiating the
Cocburn's cellar
cobblestone streetsh in a hilly regssion down to a river bank. I still had enough of my wits about me not to order a tasting of a port left to age since the mid 1800s at $120 a glass.

To help soak up the alcohol I went for a local dish, the Francesinha sandwich. Please note this not a local delicacy as there is nothing delicate about it. It is a cube of fat and carbohydrates. Start with about 5cm of the whitest bread you can find – so white that it should not rap and definitely can not jump. Fill the sandwich with steak, a hot dog sausage or two and some cured ham. Lightly toast and then cover top to bottom with sliced cheese. Put it back under the grill to melt the cheese. Serve this with fries and the cover with a special beer-based gravy. The flavour of this gravy is like Gravox and American ketchup got together and had a child. The gravy is equally salty as it is sweet, and very runny.

Porto was meant to be the location that I ticked off a fifth continent on my bucket-list item, white-water rafting on every continent. Unfortunately the rivers in Porto were too low for rafting so I will have to return to Europe again. The rivers however were the perfect depth for canyoning. Canyoning is a mix of hiking, rock climbing, swimming, body surfing, abseiling, cliff jumping and caving; sometimes more than one at a time. It is a total adrenalin rush and completely exhausting. The parts of my body that do not ache are completely numb and the parts that are not numb totally ache.

Ribeira at dusk

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