Francesinha is a local speciality from Porto.
It's a sandwich served in sauce made from tomato and beer.
What is inside the sanwich can vary from place to place, but you will usually find ham and sussage in it and it's almost always served with fries on the side.
I really like francesinha an like the version that has a fried egg on top.
This type of food is especially popular among football fans before or after a game.
The growth of the biggest towns, destroy the characteristics and way of life of the absorbed quarters and villages. When the growth is quick, it is possible to have a period when old and new, stand together, until the loss of the old images, or its transformation as a cultural remain, if deserved.
In Ramalde I saw much of the old village that my grand sons will never see.
Called the barcos rabelos, these traditional boats were used to carry Port Wine here in Porto and on the Douro River. In Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto you will find many of them below the Port Wine distilleries, most of them are today copies and not the originals.
There are some tours that you can take where you board one of these boats, have a meal and are serenaded with local music, can't tell you more than that as we did not do this.
Vinho do Porto is the geographic name of origin.
Port wine is a sweet fortified wine, which is exclusively produced in the Douro Valley, then aged and bottled in the city of Porto.
Apparently, there is some conlict between the farmers and wine producers who claim that this world renowned drink should be renamed Douro and not Port, as this is where it is initially made.
To be continued........
The real port wine is produced only in the upper region of the Douro Valley. Although wine was made here as long ago as in the Roman times, the moment when brandy was first added to it is considered a turning point. It was in the second half of the 17th century and the reason was to 'fortify' it for the sea transport to England.
How is port wine made?
There are about 40 varieties of grapes grown in the port wine region. They are picked by hand in September. In the past the grapes used to be trod upon by foot, but nowadays modern methods are used ( although for the sake of tradition a small fraction of grapes are still prepared for fermentation in this old way). Then the 'must' is mixed with a strictly specified quantity of brandy to prevent futher fermentation. All kinds of ports, except for a 'vintage', are aged in oak casks before being bottled.
Basic kinds of port wine:
- vintage - the finest and most expensive of all ports. It comes from best vineyards form one year and must be bottled within 2 years of harvesting. Its minimum maturity period is 15 years.
- tawny - blended wine from different years, amber-brown in colour;
- ruby - blended wine from different years, deep red in colour, fruity in taste, usually takes from one to three years to mature
- white - served chilled as an aperitif, either dry or sweet in flavour
People are laughing, drinking, dancing and of course 'playing' with their hammers. Some of them instead of hammers have garlic or onion with long stems, which they use to tickle you on the face. They seem to be very amused when you flinch with disgust.
I am surprised that in spite of all the crowds there are no fights, nobody is drunk, everybody just seems to have a great time. In some places local bands are performing, which gathers big audience around. But we decide to get to the other bank - Vila Nova de Gaia- hoping it will be quieter there. Luckily, the lower level of Ponte Dom Luise is open for pedestrians - I wouldn't risk walking along the upper tier now. Under the hail of hammer blows we manage to get to the other side. Yes, it seems to be a bit more peaceful here. We stop for a few moments next to the river to admire the city - all illuminated for this greatest night of a year. Aren't we lucky to be part of it? But here again we fail to find any free places in bars, so we buy some sangria in plastic cups to quench our thirst and we continue walking. It's almost midnight so we have to find a good place to watch fireworks display. We decide to climb a cathedral hill. The show is impressive - it's a pity my pictures don't reflect it.
Then it's time to go to the hotel. It's the end of the celebrations for us, but not for the city. People play and dance in the streets till early morning.
On the next day we ask about the meaning of the "hammer custom". We find out that in the past tapping one another was to introduce the idea of equality, at least for this one night - a peasant could hit an aristocrat, the poor could hit the rich. Now it is to chase away bad thoughts from your head. And the herbs in pots are given to a person you fancy, instead of flowers.
The atmosphere of expectation can be alredy felt a day or two before the big night of June 23/24. In the streets you can see plenty of stalls selling herbs in pots, long-stem garlic and onion, plastic helmets and of course hammers made of plastic in different sizes and colours.
In the morning of 23rd people start decorating their houses and streets with colourful streamers and paper chains.
The whole feast starts late in the afternoon. Everywhere you can notice barbecues on the pavements, and soon the wisps of smoke can be seen all over the city as codfish, sardines and green pepper are being prepared for late dinner. At the same time streams of people are heading for Ribeira, most of them equipped with plastic hammers. OH, THE FIRST BLOW ON THE HEAD! I hoped to be only the spectator but it appears impossible. More and more people tap us, not only children, but also adults - even the elderly. No, of course it doesn't hurt, but the squeaking sound is a bit unpleasant, especially when you don't expect the blow.
We come to Cais de Ribeira hoping to find a free table in one of many restaurants. Unfortunately, all places are filled with crowds of people. By now, we don't react to the hammers any longer, the frequency of 'blows' is so high that sometimes it's even not possible to see the 'attacker'. The squeaking sound dominates over the people's voices. Now I understand why so many people are wearing helmets, although the blows in their case are a bit stronger.
A typical Saturday morning flea market in the centre of the city. This one fascinated me, as everyone seemed oblivious to us tourists being amongst them taking pictures. They were probably too busy looking for a bargain.
This market can be found in the Campo dos Martires da Patria street.
We unfortunately did not find any bargains that day!
This super is absolutely great. You wouldn't think that a cabbage soup could be this flavorful and unique...but it is! It has a dark green cabbage and chourico in it and is fabulous! I wish I could have made an entire meal out of this dish.
If you come to Porto, someone needs to try tripe. People here are referred to as tripeiros, or tripe eaters. It is rich in tradition that Porto's inhabitants supported Henry the Navigator by giving up all their meat for expeditions and settling for the tripe. As Rob said, it looks like stomach lining, but it doesn't taste like anything other than the spices. Two good restaurants for this are Abadia and O Ginjal.
You can see the clouds of smoke from far away and just assume it's something else. There are people selling roasted chestnuts (which they burn old phone books for!) all over the place. It's definately better to partake in when its colder, but they're always tasty.
Only in the second year after the harvest Port Wine Producers submit their sample Vintage Ports for approval at the The IVDP - The Douro and Port Wine Institute.
Once approved, the wines to be sold as VINTAGE must be bottled in BLACK GLASS BOTTLES. This specific is mandatory according to the government's law.
Mr Emilio Barros has been managing this business for 52 years now.
Manteigaria do Bolhão (in english: Buttery of Bolhão) is located in the upper level of Mercado do Bolhão (the Bolhão Market) itself.
Click here to see more pictures of Mercado do Bolhão.
Many Streets in Porto (Oporto) are quite narrow. Many of these streets are so narrow that it makes impossible for any car to drive through. I found quite interesting this particularity - this is a consequence of Porto's several centuries old heritage.
I speak fairly fluent Spanish and I thought since Spanish is the closest language to Portugues that it would be a welcome form of communication instead of being ignorant and speaking english. I knew some basic phrases in Portugues, but I noticed on multiple ocassions that the locals did not appreciate me speaking Spanish and said that I should speak just speak English if I didn't know Portugues. I think they feel kind of cramped. I think they thought that we were unaware that they spoke Portugues there. At any rate, I would suggest not speaking Spanish in the tourist areas, because they all know English fairly well. When people don't know English for certain, go ahead and speak Spanish just to be able to communicate and I think they won't mind then....