Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Porto, Portugal, October 16, 2018

It was a gorgeous sunny day with lots to see.  I started with a 3 hour walking tour around to most of the places I'd visited yesterday.  I always enjoy the walking tours, even though I remember very little about what the guide says!  Lucy from New Zealand began by telling us that first the Celtic people ruled the Iberian peninsula, then the Romans, followed by the Germans, the Moors and finally the British.  More recently, Salazar was a dictator who ruled from 1933 until 1974!  He changed the style of the city.  At the Porto Cathedral, he removed the 4 inside columns that were baroque/rococo style and put in plain ones, emphasizing the importance of minimalism-

He also erected a market cross in the style from Medieval times in front of the cathedral.  Then, it was used as a spot to humiliate those who spoke out against the government.  People were put in cages and the cages were hung from the hooks at the top of the cross.  Salazar didn't actually do this but the cross was a reminder to be careful-

During the dictatorship, people couldn't listen to rock music or smoke in the streets.  He had old ideas and drove the country into massive poverty.  Finally, the people revolted in a very passive way.  The carnation became a peaceful symbol and only 4 people died.  Portugal has never looked back.  Today, Porto's skyline is filled with cranes as many buildings are being renovated.  People who have lived in places forever are being kicked out and their former apartments are being turned into hotels or hostels.  Tourism is booming but life for some Portuguese is not as they are forced to move further and further from the city centre.

The Inquisition arrived in Portugal in 1496.  Anyone who wasn't a Catholic had 3 choices:  convert, leave or be killed.  There were many Jews living in Porto and those who stayed, became Crypto Jews - pretending they converted while in reality they hadn't.  There is a plaque on the wall of a church of all places commemorating the "cleansing"-

Views were gorgeous in the sunshine-

Beautiful narrow streets-

Flores Street was opened in 1521 and was where nobles and the bourgeoisie lived.  Today it's a busy pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants-

There are always lots of buskers where there are tourists.  The wooden box is like a player piano.  I'm not sure what the fuzzy bird on the bottom left is about-

The panda could sing-

Funny underwear for $3.25-

The Torre de Clerigos looked better today-

As did the book store-

And speaking of the bookstore, J.K. Rowling used more than its staircase to write Harry Potter.  There's a griffin in this nearby fountain-

And she makes numerous references to the dictatorship of Salazar.  As well, second year university students wear long dark cloaks and it's thought that her wizard idea came from them.  I haven't read the books to know what else I might have seen that triggered an idea for her.

Another spot we visited was the Igrejo de Carmo which is actually two churches side by side with great tile work on the side.  In the centre of the church is a small white window where the janitor lived.  This is rococo style and the tile work was influenced by the Dutch-

I tried another Francesinha, this one compete with a fried egg and French fries-

I also enjoyed sangria, sitting close to the Douro-

There's at least one cake shop on every block, I'm not kidding, and the delicacies!  This is a nata, a specialty of Porto.  It's a custard filled tart and very delicious-

These large cookies taste like gingerbread-

In the afternoon, I crossed the Ponte Luis I-

to Vila Nova de Gaia and went on a port tour and tasting at Calem.  All the grapes come from the Douro Valley which was demarcated in 1756-

They grow many varieties-

Harvest begins when the grapes have ripened to the desired sugar levels, usually in September and October.  Once picked by hand, they are carefully transported to the winery. If they get crushed, fermentation starts immediately so they must make sure the grapes arrive intact.  Once at the winery, they are de-stemmed and put on wide stones or inox tanks called lagares to be crushed.  Some wineries still crush the grapes by walking on them!  Grapes are full of sugar and their skins contain yeast so once the skin is broken, fermentation begins.  The juice must stay in constant contact with the skin so the grapes are constantly stirred.  It takes 3-4 days for the process to be complete.  In order to make port, brandy is added.  The alcohol content of the brandy must be 77%.  Adding brandy interrupts the fermentation process.  The port wine spends the winter in the Douro Valley, then is moved to Vila Nova de Giai to start the ageing process.  The wine is then put into oak barrels that hold 45,000 - 60,000 litres.  They are used for at least 100 years and come from England-

Ruby port ages in large oak barrels to maintain a fruity taste, while Tawny port ages in pipas that give a more nutty taste due to higher oxygen exposure.  To complete the process, the winemaster will blend different wines from different harvests to get the perfect taste. Calem produces 4 kinds of port:  white, ruby, tawny and rose-

The color varies tremendously-

White port is the driest and the skin is removed before fermentation begins and lasts 8 days.  For all the others, fermentation is only 3 days.  Rosé is brewed in stainless steel and was invented for the millennials who seem to prefer beer over sweet, strong port.  Tawny is actually a ruby until it's put in smaller barrels so it can come into contact with more oxygen.  Port also has an alcohol content of 19.5% and an open bottle can last for 4 to 5 months.

I've always known 1961 was an awesome year!  Colhelta is the best port on the planet and 1961 is still for sale for $500-

1937 Port, the year my Mom was born is even more expensive at close to $1500-

I didn't buy either but I did do a tasting of 10 year old tawny, ruby and white which tasted like strong white wine.  I prefer the tawny, hands down-

Later, I sat on the river's edge with a vinho verde which is green wine.  I don't like white wine, except for breakfast and this didn't do much for me either-

However, the view of Porto was very nice-

Walking home, this great face was painted on a wash stand-

Looking forward to moving on to Coimbra tomorrow!

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