Portugal, what a country!

It is great to be here! We still wake up every day and pinch ourselves that it’s true, we live in Portugal! The summer was wonderful; the weather couldn’t have been better, mid 70’s to low 80’s. Now, I’m told that this was a very unusual summer and that it is usually much warmer. And to that I say, thanks universe, and hope that cooler summers will be a trend. 

And, of course, the food has been fan-freakin’-tastic everywhere we have gone. The same goes for the wines. I used to be such a wine snob. In the US I would look at the wine list and sometimes not even have wine if there wasn’t anything that looked good on it. Here, the house wine is fine! They are nearly all good if not excellent. 

As for the Portuguese bureaucracy, we have been extremely lucky. At our visa renewal appointment, we only had to wait about 15 minutes and when we went to finanças (Portuguese IRS) to register after getting our resident visa cards, we waited five minutes tops. Incrível! So far, so good. 

The DMV (IMT in Portugal) was another matter. You have three months after you get your resident card to turn in your foreign driver’s license for a Portuguese drivers’ license. (Although, I have been reading that that is about to change, and it will soon be three years before you must get a Portuguese license.)  If you make the three-month deadline it only costs 30 Euros. If not, it costs 60 Euros and you must take a driver’s test. (Ugh!) Before you can go to the IMT and get your new driver’s license, you must register with the Centro de Saude, (national health system) and get a certificate of health. You must also get a certified copy of your driving record to prove the validity of your current driver’s license.  Three months, no problem.  Right. 

After wrangling with the Colorado DMV and the USPS for a month, we received the certified copies of our driving records by registered mail.  At this point, we now had 10 days before the deadline to turn in our US licenses.  It cost $64 and change to mail four pieces of paper to arrive in Portugal within a week.  International logistics are still costly and time-consuming. 

It took three trips to various Centros de Saude and a trip to the wrong IMT office before we made it to the right office and spent the afternoon waiting for our numbers to be called. (It reminded me of the afterlife waiting room scene in the movie Beetlejuice.)  Happily, though we spent the day from 9-5 between the health office and the IMT offices, we made it on the last day of the deadline! Whew! Got ‘er done! I guess long waits at the DMV are universal.  

Now, theoretically, we should be Portuguese bureaucracy home free until next June when we will have to renew our resident visas again.  It has certainly been an adventure! 

Coming soon: The Last of our Stuff, and Festival Season!

So, we just figured out that the last two boxes that we shipped from Denver should arrive soon!  They cleared customs about a week ago.  These were the things we forgot to pack up and send with the movers: a framed botanical print (heirloom) and some miscellaneous kitchen things that we had to have.  We should have just left them, but noooo…that would’ve been too easy!  Hopefully, they will arrive soon.

Meanwhile, Portugal has officially entered festival season!  P-A-R-T-Y, because we gotta!  The Porto Beer festival kicked it off for us.  Craft beer in Portugal is just getting started which is awesome!  As much of a wino as I am, it is great to have a good beer occasionally.

PBF.Signage
Porto International Craft Beer Festival Sign.

The Porto beer fest is the biggest artisanal beer festival in Europe with 47 breweries and 368 beers to try and, they do it right here!  It runs over four days and there are lots of food trucks to choose from for having a good nosh to pair with the beers.  You pay 4 Euros for a glass and purchase tokens for beer samples.  You can come and go as you please over the four days.

This eliminates the insanity that we see at the GABF:  Huge mobs of drunken hooligans in Denver for three days trying to sample 3,000 beers in one day because the tickets are so expensive ($70-85) with no real food.  The Great American Beer Festival was fun 15-20 years ago before it became such a behemoth scene.  It’s so American; take everything to the extreme and charge as much as possible.

We had some great brews from Portugal, Spain, Estonia and the Netherlands, to name a few.  There were even a couple from the US, Sierra Nevada and Kona Brewing.  There was also a nice Spanish whiskey and coffee liquor to sample from Yria out of Madrid.  Their beers were great as well and they had a delicious mead made with cherries.  Yum!

PBF.Beers
Porto Beer Fest Beers for purchase.

For food there were delicious empanadas, prosciutto like ham and Serra Estrela Portuguese cheese sandwiches which were outstanding, several different kinds of burger trucks, crepes, sweet and savory and a tasty doughnut like cake from the Algarve that was dangerously delicious.  There were even several vegetarian offerings.  Yes, all in all the event was a taste treat sensation.

On June 23rd, we will have the festival of São João here in Porto, which is a BIG deal, I’ve heard.  Can’t wait.  It is the official start of the grilled sardine season, one of my favorites.  And don’t even say ew until you’ve had one here.  They are delicious and nothing like the sad fishy things you get in the states.  (Even though I liked those too!)

Stay tuned!

The Douro Valley, Part Three.

Tile work at the train station in Pinao.

We visited two more wineries in Pinhão while we were there:  Quinta de la Rosa and Quinta do Seixo.  One would think that it would get old touring port wineries but, they were all quite unique.  Pacheca, while a rather large operation, was spacious with lovely grounds and a wide selection of wines.  Quinta do Pôpa was a small boutique wine house that sat high above the Douro river and gave individual tastings from the terrace overlooking the water below.  (They were doing renovations, so tours were not available at the time.)  You could also order a picnic basket lunch to have with your wine tasting, which looked great!  (We had a cheese plate that was perfect with the wines.)

Quinta do Monte Bravo was the smallest and most endearing with unequalled personal hospitality as well as being the perfect place to get away from it all at the same time.  The food and wines were fabulous, and we felt like we were staying with friends.  It was an unparalleled experience which we can’t recommend enough.  geral@quintadojontebravo.pt.

The vineyards at Quinta do Monte Bravo.

Quinta de la Rosa was medium sized and, like Pôpa, offered panoramic views of the river.  It also had rooms and an excellent restaurant as well as an informative tour.  They also make beer at Quinta de la Rosa; a lager, an IPA and a stout, all of which were as delicious as the wines and ports.

Quinta do Seixo was the largest operation we saw and is owned by Sogrape which is a huge port wine conglomerate that also owns Sandeman, one of the biggest port houses that has holdings in Spain where they make sherry as well.  The Sandeman brand image is an international icon of port wine.  He is a silhouette of a man with a Spanish hat and Portuguese cape to symbolize both countries that was created in 1928.

Quinta do Seixo is a state-of-the-art port winery that gives a fun and informative tour.  The tour guide wore a hat and cape and made sure that everyone had a good time while learning about the process of making port wine.  There was wine tasting at each winery and Seixo was the only one that only offered port wines.  (That is one of the great aspects of visiting the Douro valley; most of the wineries make great table wines as well as port so, if sweet wines aren’t your thing, the dry wines are delicious as well.) They did, however, have a bar where you could have port cocktails after the tour which was awesome!  Porto tonico, anyone?

Porto e tonico (dry white port and tonic water) is our new favorite cocktail and we have one or two almost every evening to celebrate the fim do dia.  Try it and you’ll be hooked, at least for the summer!

In all, we made it to five wineries in three days and had an incredible time.  The Guia de Enoturismo lists 16 top wineries in the Douro valley so we will be returning for more sometime soon!

The Douro Valley, Part Two.

After a hapless day of travelling (just call us “wrong way”), we took Jiver back to the Airbnb and went out to seek internal nourishment.  We had a couple of recommendations for places to eat from a local friend in Porto and found Taberna do Jéréré to be close by and by some miracle, Google actually got us there!  Holy mother of wow!  I had the chef’s seafood special and Joe had a veal steak.  (Roast, more like!  Well, look!)  While the seafood dish was like a baked seafood surprise it was dee-licious!  Crab, shrimp and cod all baked with mashed potatoes, and vegetables in a sort of cream sauce.  Waugh!  It was all crazy good.  And chocolate Charlotte cake for dessert.   All for about 40 Euros for two with apps and wine!

After dinner we strolled back to our place and found that Jiver had eaten the entire bag of doggie downer treats!  OMG, the bag said one per day per 20 kg. of dog!  Well, we hoped they wouldn’t kill him!  The fact that they didn’t and only gave him horrendous gas tells how useless they really were!  He was fine and ready to whine the next day!

From Régua, we drove to Quinta do Pôpa, a dog friendly winery way up on a hill overlooking the river that had the most fantastic view as well as wines and port.  Quinta do Pôpa is a small winery on the way to Pinhão that has the most user-friendly website of all the wineries I looked at.  I signed us up for our visit and ordered a cheese plate for us to have while doing our tasting without having to make a phone call.  The staff was awesome as were the wines.  They asked us if they could take a picture of us with Jiver to use online to show that dogs are welcome and we said, of course.  C’mon Portugal, more places like this, please!

After a wonderful time at Quinta do Pôpa we drove toward Pinhão and our next stop, which was Quinta do Monte Bravo, a working winery that doubles as an Airbnb.  Several times we asked ourselves, is this right?!  The road was so full of turns and so deserted.  At one point we drove across what looked like someone’s driveway!  Finally, we saw the sign on the winery.  This place is way off the beaten path but is so beautiful and tranquil that it was worth the effort to get there.  Teresa greeted us and took us to our room which was lovely and spacious for an Airbnb.  The only sounds were of chirping birds.  Now, this is a vineyard retreat in the heart of the Douro valley!

We were supposed to go to another winery that afternoon but decided to stay at Monte Bravo and walk the vineyards instead.  We were there for two nights and had dinner on site in a building where they feed the workers during harvest.  It was amazing!  Teresa cooked for us and her husband Pedro, the proprietor joined us for some pleasant conversation which was a mix of English and Portuguese.  The food and wines were outstanding.  Suffice it to say, that a good time was had by all!

Festival Season!

Portugal has officially entered festival season!  P-A-R-T-Y, because we gotta!  The Porto International Craft Beer Festival kicked it off for us.  Craft beer in Portugal is just starting to take off which is great for veteran beer geeks like ourselves.  As much as wine is usually my first drink of choice, it is great to have a good beer occasionally. And when I say a good beer, I don’t mean some fruit flavored concoction the likes of which are so popular in the states right now.

The Porto beer fest is the biggest artisanal beer festival in Europe with 47 breweries and 368 beers to try and, they do it right here!  It runs over four days and there are lots of food trucks to choose from for having a good nosh to pair with the beers.  You pay 4 Euros for a glass and purchase tokens for beer samples.  You can come and go as you please over the four days. 

This eliminates the insanity that is seen at the GABF:  Huge mobs of drunken hooligans in Denver for three days trying to sample 3,000 beers in one day because the tickets are so expensive ($70-85) with no real food.  The Great American Beer Festival was fun 15-20 years ago before it became such a behemoth scene.  It’s so American; take everything to the extreme and charge as much as possible.

We tried some excellent brews from Portugal, Spain, Estonia and the Netherlands, to name a few.  There were even a couple from the US, Sierra Nevada and Kona Brewing.  There was also a nice Spanish whiskey and coffee liquor to sample from Yria out of Madrid, Spain.  Their beers were great as well and they had a delicious mead made with cherries.   

Yria Whiskey and Coffee Liquor

For food there were delicious empanadas, prosciutto like ham and Serra Estrela Portuguese cheese sandwiches which were outstanding, several different kinds of burger trucks, crepes, sweet and savory and a tasty doughnut like cake from the Algarve that was dangerously delicious.  There were even several vegetarian offerings.  Yes, all in all the event was a taste treat sensation. We will certainly plan to attend the Porto beer fest again next year!

The Douro Valley, Part Three.

We visited two more wineries in Pinhão while we were there:  Quinta de la Rosa and Quinta do Seixo.  One would think that it would get old touring port wineries but, they were all quite unique.  Pacheca, while a rather large operation, was spacious with lovely grounds and a wide selection of wines.  Quinta do Pôpa was a small boutique wine house that sat high above the Douro river and gave individual tastings from the terrace overlooking the water below.  (They were doing renovations, so tours were not available at the time.)  You could also order a picnic basket lunch to have with your wine tasting, which looked great!  (We had a cheese plate that was perfect with the wines.)

The vineyards at Quinta do Monte Bravo.

Quinta do Monte Bravo was the smallest and most endearing with unequalled personal hospitality as well as being the perfect place to get away from it all at the same time.  The food and wines were fabulous, and we felt like we were staying with friends.  It was an unparalleled experience which we can’t recommend enough.  geral@quintadojontebravo.pt.

Quinta de la Rosa was medium sized and, like Pôpa, offered panoramic views of the river.  It also had rooms and an excellent restaurant as well as an informative tour.  They also make beer at Quinta de la Rosa; a lager, an IPA and a stout, all of which were as delicious as the wines and ports.

Quinta do Seixo was the largest operation we saw and is owned by Sogrape which is a huge port wine conglomerate that also owns Sandeman, one of the biggest port houses that has holdings in Spain where they make sherry as well.  The Sandeman brand image is an international icon of port wine.  He is a silhouette of a man with a Spanish hat and Portuguese cape to symbolize both countries that was created in 1928.

The Sandeman brand icon “The Don”.
(International port wine man of mystery!)

Quinta do Seixo is a state-of-the-art port winery that gives a fun and informative tour.  The tour guide wore a hat and cape and made sure that everyone had a good time while learning about the process of making port wine.  There was wine tasting at each winery and Seixo was the only one that only offered port wines.  (That is one of the great aspects of visiting the Douro valley; most of the wineries make great table wines as well as port so, if sweet wines aren’t your thing, the dry wines are delicious as well.) They did, however, have a bar where you could have port cocktails after the tour which was awesome!  Porto tonico, anyone?

Porto e tonico (dry white port and tonic water) is our new favorite cocktail and we have one or two almost every evening to celebrate the fim do dia.  Try it and you’ll be hooked, at least for the summer!

In all, we made it to five wineries in three days and had an incredible time.  The Guia de Enoturismo lists 16 top wineries in the Douro valley so we will be returning for more sometime soon!

The Douro Valley, Part Two.

After a hapless day of travelling (just call us “wrong way”), we took Jiver back to the Airbnb and went out to seek internal nourishment.  We had a couple of recommendations for places to eat from a local friend in Porto and found Taberna do Jéréré to be close by and by some miracle, Google actually got us there!  Holy mother of wow!  I had the chef’s seafood special and Joe had a veal steak.  (Roast, more like!  Well, look!)  While the seafood dish was like a baked seafood surprise it was dee-licious!  Crab, shrimp and cod all baked with mashed potatoes, and vegetables in a sort of cream sauce.  Waugh!  It was all crazy good.  And chocolate Charlotte cake for dessert.   All for about 40 Euros for two with apps and wine!

After dinner we strolled back to our place and found that Jiver had eaten the entire bag of doggie downer treats!  OMG, the bag said one per day per 20 kg. of dog!  Well, we hoped they wouldn’t kill him!  The fact that they didn’t and only gave him horrendous gas tells how useless they really were!  He was fine and ready to whine the next day!

From Régua, we drove to Quinta do Pôpa, a dog friendly winery way up on a hill overlooking the river that had the most fantastic view as well as wines and port.  Quinta do Pôpa is a small winery on the way to Pinhão that has the most user-friendly website of all the wineries I looked at.  I signed us up for our visit and ordered a cheese plate for us to have while doing our tasting without having to make a phone call.  The staff was awesome as were the wines.  They asked us if they could take a picture of us with Jiver to use online to show that dogs are welcome and we said, of course.  C’mon Portugal, more places like this, please!

Quinta Do Monte Bravo signage, a few kilometers outside of Pinhao in the Douro Valley.

After a wonderful time at Quinta do Pôpa we drove toward Pinhão and our next stop, which was Quinta do Monte Bravo, a working winery that doubles as an Airbnb.  Several times we asked ourselves, is this right?!  The road was so full of turns and so deserted.  At one point we drove across what looked like someone’s driveway!  Finally, we saw the sign on the winery.  This place is way off the beaten path but is so beautiful and tranquil that it was worth the effort to get there.  Teresa greeted us and took us to our room which was lovely and spacious for an Airbnb.  The only sounds were of chirping birds.  Now, this is a vineyard retreat in the heart of the Douro valley!

Azuelos tile depiction of a vineyard on the Torto River in the city of Pinhao.

We were supposed to go to another winery that afternoon but decided to stay at Monte Bravo and walk the vineyards instead.  We were there for two nights and had dinner on site in a building where they feed the workers during harvest.  It was amazing!  Teresa cooked for us and her husband Pedro, the proprietor joined us for some pleasant conversation which was a mix of English and Portuguese.  The food and wines were outstanding.  Suffice it to say, that a good time was had by all!