Where Have I been?!

We have had quite a few visitors from the states in the past few months.
And from our galavanting around town like touristas, we both got sick.
Ugh. The first time in three and a half years. It was so awesome to be sickness free for so long.
The upside to Covid, staying home kept us healthy.
After several weeks of feeling like crap, we finally feel good again.

The benefit of showing visitors around town is that you get to see sites that are new to us as well.

Falcon outside of McDonald´s with its handler.


Two places I have wanted to see are McDonald´s in what used to be an Art Deco club and Clerigos Tower.
Unexpected bonus outside of said McD´s: A woman with a falcon.
The raptor was on the job keeping the pigeons away. Very cool and so ingenious.
The interior of the building is classic Art Deco. Very beautiful. It is a shame that it is inhabited by such a dreadful American burger place.
At least it is preserved and can be seen by the public.

Clerigos Tower.

Clerigos tower is a great way to get some steps in. And the views from the top are worth the effort.
Once visits to historic landmarks are accomplished, it is time for a drink and a nosh!
Cross the bridge and get ye to Vila Nova de Gaia!

The view from Vila Nova de Gaia to Porto. And the Offley port house rabelo boat.


Quevedo is a fabulous Portuguese family-owned winery that also makes fantastic gins. The tasting room is spacious and homey, and the snacks are superb! They have an array of great food and drink to choose from.

Gins and snacks at Quevedo.

And no trip to Porto would be complete without a visit to a Port house.
We chose Cockburn´s. They are the only local port purveyor that has an in-house cooperage. The art of barrel making is fascinating.
The only dilemma regarding the port houses is which ones to visit. There are so many, and they are all great and unique in their own way.

So much to see and do in Porto but so little time!

New World Order, take 2.

It seems that people in the US continue to show more and more epic levels of stupidity. (Thanks, Jordan Keppler. Or not, it is horrifying to watch.)
Meanwhile, here in Portugal, we have just celebrated the feasts of the popular saints. St. Anthony in Lisbon and St. John here in Porto.

Lights for São João 2019. Notice the do not enter sign below the letters. The sign of things that were to come.

When we first arrived, I had heard many stories about São João and the attendant epic party that overtook the city to celebrate it.
I couldn´t wait to experience it, grilled sardines, fireworks, and just an epic good time to be had by all.
Back in 2019, we had to be in another city on that day, so we missed it.
And then the party was canceled due to the pandemic.

Enter 2022, and the party is on!
And here is where the New World Order comes in. (Besides even more stupidity in the US with rampant idiocracy). Since Covid, I don´t want anything to do with people. Much less hordes of people in a packed environment. Can you say super spreader?

Sardine salad and a Douro red wine. All you need for São João.
Meio Escudo 17º red wine from the Douro. 17º because it is 17 percent alcohol! Almost port, but drinks like an unfortified red wine. Dangerously delicious!

So, we stayed home, ate sardine salad, and had an excellent Douro wine to celebrate instead. We watched local fireworks from our balconies and saw our neighbors launch Chinese lantern balloons. It was quiet and enjoyable. And we avoided all the potential diseases we would have been exposed to due to proximity to huge numbers of people.
Sad but true, my days of attending any event with lots of people are over.

And in 2019, had we been in Porto, I would not have thought twice about joining the throngs to celebrate the day of São João.
A lot has changed since then. Sadly.
I guess I am lucky to be older because I would rather stay at home now anyway.

Because you know what? It is not worth the risk.

Pinhais Sardines

Sardines are a polarizing comestible. You either like them, or you don´t.
And as much as I have always liked them, they are not as good stateside as in Portugal. In Portugal, they are a national treasure. The little fishes are deliciously grilled fresh throughout the country from June through September, the best months for them.


Canned, they are a delicacy that comes in many flavors.
They come with olive oil, tomato sauce, spicy olive oil or tomato sauce, or mustard sauce, to name a few.
They are available at the supermarket for about a buck. And gourmet versions run about four or five euros.

We had the immense fun of touring the Pinhais sardine factory in Matosinhos. Matosinhos is just west of Porto and is famous for the fish and fish restaurants.
The Pinhais sardine factory has been in operation since 1920. And they operate pretty much the same way today as they did back then.
The front office and entry have remained unchanged since the 20s.

Tile work at the entry to Pinhais sardine factory.


The Ajuelos tile work is beautiful. Much care went into the design of the factory.
The staircase to the second floor looks like a fish when viewed from below. It is artful and ingenious.

The fishy staircase at Pinhais.

Only the best sardines are chosen for canning by the women who work the floor. They sort and prepare the fish on long marble tables.

Hard at work on the floor of the factory.


After canning, they are hand wrapped in colorful paper. The ladies doing the wrapping

Sardines in spicy tomato sauce.

are quick and efficient. We got to try wrapping cans ourselves, and we were slow and inefficient in comparison.

No surprise there.
After taking the tour, we sampled the tinned fish, and they did not disappoint. Our sardine factory adventure ended with a glass of Vinho Verde wine and a sampling of sardines. It was the perfect mid-day snack.
Who knew that canned fish could be so much fun and so delicious?

Sardine sampling.
Felgueiras Vinho Verde Rosé. Crisp and dry, made from the Espadeiro grape. One of the few red grapes of the region. About two euros a bottle here in Porto. Eat your heart out Two Buck Chuck! 😉

Milestones and The Weather Part 2.

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Snow in Denver, Colorado. Do not miss it!

I have slept through January and most of February.
When it is cold, I prefer to stay in bed and hibernate.
Having followed the sun to Portugal, I have been following the sun into my bedroom as well.
The rays do not hit the windows until between ten and ten-thirty AM.
That is when I start to consider raising the shutters.
We have added curtains and two heat and A/C units to our place. These additions have helped immensely with temperature control.

Our new curtains. Even Jiva likes them. 😉


I guess I should just stop trying to be like my Portuguese neighbors and admit my failings as an American; we like things to be easy and comfortable.

And, happily, this has been the warmest and driest winter in Portugal since 2000.
This is good and bad, of course. It has put the entire country into a drought situation.
That pesky climate change thing again. Yesterday it was 70+ degrees in Porto.
Most unusual for this time of year.

And yesterday was a milestone for us.
The third anniversary of our arrival in Portugal.
It is hard to believe it has been three years already. We have never looked back and are so thankful because life is so much better here.

I still have to laugh that Portugal was never on our radar as a possible place to live until it was pointed out to us. And it has turned out to be the best possible place to live!
There is no comparison to the states because everything is so superior.

Meats and Cheese board with some local wines at Mercado Bom Succeso, Porto.


The quality of the food and wine alone is worth moving for. Not to mention the great weather and low cost of living. The country itself is spectacular.
Covid notwithstanding, I could be content to spend the rest of my days traveling through Portugal alone. It is tiny but so packed with eye-popping beauty.


As much as I love wines from other countries, it is hard to drink anything other than the local wines.
They are so good and can be had for a fraction of the price. Anything you could want can be had here. If you like Burgundy, get a Jaen (red) or Encruzado (white) from the Dão. Bordeaux? A red or white from the Douro. California? Alentejo, Tejo, or Sétubal has drops that compare. Champagne? Bairrada has you covered.
Fabulous sparkling wines, in general, can be had from any wine region in Portugal.

And it does not stop there, dessert wines?
Porto, Madeira, and, Sétubal all have a unique diversity of sweet wines.

Quinta do Tedo award winning tawny Port.

The fun never stops, as I like to say.

I used to say that I could spend the rest of my life exploring Italy, another wine mecca.
Now, I know that I will spend the rest of my life exploring Portugal. Hopefully, I can revisit Italy too. 😉
Meanwhile, viva Portugal!
Sáude.

Portugal and the weather.

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View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia.

Winter has arrived in Portugal. We have been lucky to have had mostly sunny days through November. But now it is cold and rainy here in Porto, as is expected this time of year.
The pleasant weather is one of the things that attracted us to Portugal.
And we chose to live in Porto to avoid the heat of summer that can be extreme in the southern parts of the country. Mission accomplished there. The summers have been beautiful, and in the 70s for the most part.
Fall is fabulous, with warm days and cool nights through the end of October. Spring can be very hit or miss, some cold rainy days interspersed with sunny days.

Last year, we suffered through the coldest winter in 30 years here.
And our electricity bill showed it. 300-350 euros for the coldest winter months. Yikes! We are used to paying 35-50 per month.

When we first visited Portugal, I noticed the lack of heating in most buildings. I thought, wow, the weather must be so mild that heating isn’t necessary. Silly human! Au contraire, mon frère.
Here is what I have learned after living here for almost three years. The Portuguese are incredibly stoic when it comes to suffering through cold weather. Yup, it is winter, and it is cold. Suck it up! That is the attitude. I don’t know if it is a holdover from the Salazar dictatorship or what, but doing without heat does not seem to bother most of them.

As wussy Americans, we are not keen on freezing our keesters off for months at a time. So, this year we got a more energy-efficient space heater and ordered some heavy draperies in hopes of warding off the worst of the winter cold.
If that does not help, we may have to install heating. We are crossing our fingers that window coverings will be the answer.
In the meantime, we will be drinking lots of spiced wine and doing plenty of cooking and baking to keep things warmed up.

Harvest in the Douro Valley.

The Douro River Valley.

I have said it before, and I am sure that I will say it many times more, the Douro wine region in Portugal is one of the most breathtaking in the world.

We had the good fortune to attend a harvest day at Quinta do Tedo this past September. And it was no end of fun. It also showed us how much work goes into harvesting grapes and making wine.
My hat is off to the owners, Vincent and Kay Bouchard because the amount of work required to make a good bottle of wine is staggering. Not to mention the manpower that is necessary to hand-pick fruit and process it. Much less running a successful Quinta with accommodations and a restaurant. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Quinta do Tedo Vineyards.

Before going out into the vineyard to pick grapes, we were treated to a breakfast of hearty soup and pataniscas, which are cod fritters.
After this fortifying snack, we were armed with clippers and a bucket and went out into the vineyard. We picked grapes for about half an hour. And let me tell you, I would not want to have to do it all day. This is back-breaking labor.
After emptying our grape buckets, we walked back to the winery for a light lunch. A Feast is a more apt description. The table was a groaning board of Portuguese delicacies. Holy mother of yum! And all accompanied by the house red wine. Delicious.

Harvest lunch at Quinta do Tedo.

After lunch, we went to the lagares, large stone vats, to stomp the grapes we had just picked. Again, it was fun for about an hour. We did get to sample some port wine while we were at it, which helped. Portugal is one of the only countries that still use foot treading to crush the grapes.
Workers typically stomp the grapes for about four hours at a time. Oy!

Quinta do Tedo Tawny Port, a shining example of the species!

After giving the grapes a good stomp, we took our newly purple feet back to the tasting room to sample more port wines. Divine is what they were. Ruby, Tawny, and Vintage, oh my! Port wine is a deep subject and one of the great Portuguese gifts to the world. The wines from Portugal are diverse and outstanding, as is the food. And after spending the better part of a day helping with the harvest, I appreciate them even more.

Thanks again to the Bouchards and their staff for a memorable and delectable experience.

Vinhão Revisited

Vinhão, also known as Sezão or Sousão in Portugal, is one of the red grapes in the Minho or Vinho Verde region. It is known for its deep dark color and biting acidity and is usually blended and used for Port and table wines.
As grapes go, it is a pretty rare and exotic specimen.

Vinhão grapes on the vine.

It produces my favorite color in a wine. Black iris. A deep, dark purple that is almost black. If you spill this grape juice, you had better have some serious cleaning agents at the ready.
(Yes, we spilled it all over a white wall and thought we would have to repaint, for sure. Thanks to Neo Blanc, the wonder cleaner, for saving the day! We could not believe that it cleaned up so well you would never know it happened.)

And this brings us to the wine of the hour: São Gião (sow guy-ow) Vinhão (vin-yow. I know, Portuguese, oy!) Colheita Selecionada. https://quintasaogiao.pt/en.

This is new favorite red wine for us. It has black fruit, violet, and spice aromas with super blue and blackberry flavors. It is medium-bodied and bone dry on the finish with a killer minerality. It is unique. It is somewhat like a dry Brachetto (an almost equally obscure wine). Only Vinhão is drier, darker and, has more body. It pairs smashingly with salmon or other fatty fish and cured meats and cheeses. It is delicious with eggplant parmesan and the like. It also drinks well by itself. (Important safety tip, it does not pair well with light-colored walls or carpeting!) It is a great summer red wine and should be served with a slight chill. And check out that label. The artwork is stunning and is meant to reflect the terroir of the wine.

And now for the bad news. Good luck finding it outside of Portugal. The red wines from the Vinho Verde region are pretty rare, even in Portugal. They make up only about seven percent of the wines hailing from Vinho Verde.
When reading about the region, the red wines are often not even mentioned. The recommended red grapes are Amaral/Azal tinto, Borraçal, Brancelho, Espadeiro, (which makes a mean rosé), Padreiro, Redral, Rabode Ovelha and Vinhão. There are several more that are permitted in the DOC wines of the area. Welcome to Portugal, where 250 to 350 indigenous grape varieties exist, depending on who you ask!
It is a wine mecca second only to Italy. A foodie and winos paradise and a wine geeks dream. Sáude!

The Urban Jungle and the call of the Pterodactyls.

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The US specializes in urban jungles. LA, New York, and Chicago all personify types of urban jungles. They all have areas that are asphalt jungles. Full of hard surfaces and danger. Los Angeles, especially since they concreted over most of the city in the first half of the 20th century. All three specialize in plenty of urban violence, which is epidemic throughout the states.

Here in Portugal, we have entirely different types of urban jungle.
There are oases of greenery everywhere if you know where to look.
And then there is the wildlife. Avian wildlife predominates. Followed closely by cats and dogs coming in a distant third. (We are talking urban wildlife here. The number one spot, of course, goes to the humans. Far and away the most dangerous of the lot!)

A seagull looking mean whilst subjugating a car.

I have mentioned the Atlantic seagulls before. They really are kings of the coasts. As near as I can tell, man is their only predator. The Portuguese Atlantic gulls can be vicious pigeon killers. It is actually pretty scary to witness. And with so many pigeons, the gulls will never go hungry. I wonder if pigeons are a delicacy to them since they mostly eat fish. It is pretty horrifying to hear the screams of the city rats when the seagulls go after them. I have seen them feed their chicks with fresh rock dove meat. Yum. It gives one new respect for the seagoing warrior gulls. And the screaming of the sea pterodactyls is near-constant in the cities near the coast.

On a lighter note, we have what seems like a flock of parrots in the neighborhood. They fly by so quickly, it is hard to tell if that is what they are. Given their screeching and small green bodies, we guess they must be renegade parrots. Songbirds are very popular as pets here and, you know they must escape from time to time.

A peacock in the park at the Palácio de Cristal in Porto.

When it comes to screeching, there is nothing like a peacock. The peafowl really makes the most Jurassic park sounding noise. Several parks have them in abundance and, they tool around like house pets in various parts of town. It is entertaining to see.

We hear about the shootings du jour in the US, and we think, wow, it just seems to keep getting worse in the not-so United States. We are happy to have traded the concrete jungle for a peaceful urban oasis.

Naked Vinhão

With the pervasive summer heat, naked is the way to go.
And in the obscure grape department, Vinão is the winner for this wine drinker. As much as I love a good white from Vinho Verde, especially the Alvarinhos, I still love a chillable red wine.
Vinão is one of the few red grapes from the Vinho Verde region in northern Portugal. This grape is hard to find even in Portugal but is worth seeking out. The red wines from the north are fruit juicy, delicious, and eminently chillable.

The Naked Vinhão from AB Valley wines is a white wine made from red Vinhão grapes. This wine tastes like a red. It is a bit disconcerting when you first take a sip. Tasted double-blind, I bet most tasters would say that it is red wine. Nope, it is a white wine from red grapes. It is crisp and refreshing, fruity, and grapey in a good way. It has great acidity that makes one want to have more after each sip.


Naked Vinhão is the brainchild of António Sousa, the winemaker for AB Valley Wines. The single varietal whites from the area are outstanding. Try some Avesso, Arinto and Azal on for size. These are all delicious well-made wines from the region.

Vinhão, red grape, white juice!

In Response to Covid: Que se Foda? Or, WTF?!

The label says, Verde (Vinho Verde) vintage 2020/2021. Que se foda (WTF). The Championship, We even drink it!

Que Se Foda. A wine whose time has come. It means what the f*%# in Portuguese.
More of an art piece, really. Wine as art, if you will. Or art as wine. The perpetrator of this bit of fun is Francisco Eduardo. An artist based in Lisbon. Here is the message on the bottle: “The message behind the coarse expression used in this work of art is a message of hope and a synonym of faith.
When we are in doubt, often our fears win over our dreams, and it is at that time that it is necessary to say, (WTF.) Que se foda?!”

Que Se Foda Vinho Verde back label. With F-it in six languages! Also, special edition, certified by the artist.

WTF indeed! Side effects of the pandemic include political insanity and random increased violence, especially in the US and on airplanes, it seems. Wow. Just when we thought it could not get any worse in the weirdness department.
And I love that this artist is selling his Que se Foda wines online with great success. The red sold out before we even knew about it. (Sounds like a great wine, I will have to seek it out from the winemaker.) I was lucky to score a bottle of the white Vinho Verde before it sold out. Hopefully, Mr. Eduardo will keep them coming.

The TTB (Alcohol and Tabacco Tax and Trade Bureau) would throw a fit if someone tried to sell wine with such profanity for a name on the label in the states. Puritanical mo-fos. I am pretty sure that the acronym would not be approved unless it stood for something else altogether. Much less spelling it out as it is on this fine Portuguese wine.
And look at me, unwilling to even spell the word out myself. This from a lifetime of conditioning and fear of offending anyone. WTF?!