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.
- Historical Travel
The People are nice. Just some stories :)
My last night in a whirlwind 4-day solo tour of Portugal was in Porto. I regret that I didn't get to see more of it. Anyways, it is a big, slightly overwhelming city at first glance. I found someone passing out maps and they were eager to give me directions. Unfortunately my hostel was on the other side of the city, but they at least navigated me to the train station. At the train station, I asked a guard in English where the hostel was, and he showed me in the general direction because he did not know the exact address. I circled the area for about an hour and a half to no avail. Finally, I started just asking passers-by (in Portuguese) if they could possibly help me. Most said no or ignored me, but finally an older man offered to take me some of the way since he was heading in the same direction. He was nice, asking me if it was my first time in Porto and where I was from. It was great, after a 2 hour bus ride from Lisbon (on which the bus driver refused to give me the bathroom key and simply ignored me even though I was speaking his native language), to have someone help me out of the kindness of his heart. Turns out I had been past the street where the hostel sits, but the only marking was a teeny tiny sign on the front of the building. I then needed to find some food, because I was starving. It was around 6 pm, so my dinner time, but too early for the Portuguese! I went to a café/restaurant and asked about the menu (in Portuguese). The woman there was really sweet and said there wasn't any food yet but she did have pasteis and coffee! I happily sat down to have those and she even brought me some magazines to read because I was alone. I thought that was very hospitable and was again grateful for the kindness. Lastly, I went to a small grocery store where the owners immediately helped me find what I needed and offered to open things to show me, etc. People just made my day so much better when I was worn out from travel.
This was the best experience I had with the Portuguese. In Lisbon people where so rude to me everywhere I went and unhelpful (except at the hostel, they were cool). That is not to say everyone is that way, but just in my experience. Even the vendors didn't seem to give a rat's ass about being polite to people.Two men taunted me for being American---way to give me a good impression of your country. Also, a man turned toward me on an escalator at the Rossio station as if he was going to rob me. In that case, I just glared at him so he wouldn't bother me. It worked because he then ran down the escalator away from me! I was just really disappointed with the manner of the Lisboetas, because all the Portuguese people I know in the US are super warm and nice. Porto's people seemed a lot less snobby (again, just personal experience) and welcoming even if your Portuguese is not perfect. Definitely would be a destination if I return to Portugal.
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.
- Food and Dining
Boats for carrying Port Wine
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.
- Historical Travel
- Wine Tasting
Vinho do Porto
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........
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
- Wine Tasting
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
- Wine Tasting
Sao Jao Feast (2)
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.
- Adventure Travel
Sao Jao Feast
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.
- Adventure Travel
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!
Vintage Port is bottled is black glass bottles
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.
- Wine Tasting
Manteigaria do Bolhão
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.
Don't speak Spanish!
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....
- Work Abroad
- Business Travel
Queima das Fitas
Thanks to Ana (portgrl) for explaining me ... "Queimas das Fitas" is the students week of celebration at the end of the academic year (first week-end in may). All students are dressed in traditional black clothes and cape and celebrate the end of uni.
- Study Abroad
swimming in the Douro
Local kids pictured here swimming off the docks in the Rio Douro. I have no idea how clean this river is, but as long as they don't get parasites and ultimately spread them to me, I have no problem with their actions.