Saturday, July 25, 2009

Porto, Days 4 and 5

The bus numbered 502 takes us from the old part of Porto to the end of the Duoro river into the Atlantic ocean, and with it the beaches beside the Forte de São Francisco Xavier, or Castelo do Queijo, which was built in 1661. It looks much more exciting than it actually is.

Truly a welcome sight! On Sunday we will be surfing with Fabien.

This is called a "francesinha" and is a specialty of Portugal. Underneath all that cheese topped with a mildly spicy red sauce, is a toasted sandwich of fried meat (and perhaps tripe) topped with a fried egg. Surrounding this are fried potatoes. I am sure that if we had not shared this sandwich, one of us would be in cardiac arrest.

For the banquet of the conference we went to the Taylor Port vintner and got a tour. The English came to Portugal in the 17th century to buy wine because trade with the French had come to halt due to some disputes. The wine produced by Portugal did not do well on the journey to England (it would turn rancid by the end of the boat trip), so the English merchants experimented with the wine to see if they could make it last longer. They discovered that by adding brandy or Cognac to the wine, it would stop the fermintation. It also made the now fortified wine pretty strong (40 proof!). According to the guide, the Taylor Port company was started in 1691 and is the oldest vintner in Porto that has remained in hands of the founding family. The room of aging Tawny's smelled very sweet and nice. We learned the difference between vintage, late bottle vintage, and crap. The tour guide amused us by claiming the wine at their factory is still pressed by human feet. Carla leaned over to me and said, "I read in our tourbook that they say this even though it is not true to make you think you are getting the real handmade thing. Everyone uses machines." Fine be me. I have something against feet presses.

The balcony of the vintner provided an absolutely lovely view of Old Porto during sunset. We even got to see an arial acrobat practicing!

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