Mojitos and soft pillows were the perfect remedy for yesterday’s long, winding drive. We slept well and woke early. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was, needless to say, bountiful. After trying a little bit of…..ummm…..everything, we took a taxi into Porto.
We started our day at the Mercado……a bustling morning market with booth after booth of foods for sale…..fresh fish, meats, cheeses, flowers, vegetables and fruits…..the bright red strawberries looked so ripe, so luscious, that I was sorely tempted to buy some but our day was just beginning and they wouldn’t hold up to the journey.
Porto is another hill city rising from the banks of the river. The market’s near the top of the town so from there, we started our walk down to the river.
We walked down steep, winding streets laid out in confusing, convoluted patterns…..one intersection had five streets…..at another intersection, all the streets went uphill! We finally reached the river using our innate water-finding skills.
The riverfront was quiet…..we could only imagine how lively it must be in warmer weather when it’s bustling with activity…..but the serenity along the bank of the river on this warm winter day had an enchantment of it’s own.
Walking along the river’s edge, gazing up at the tiled buildings that so many people have called “home,” sitting on cold stone benches to reflect on where life has taken us…..this was the perfect day to be here.
After waxing nostalgic, it was time to get back to the business of touring. The port wine lodges are across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. Port spends one year in the Quintas of the Douro Valley before being shipped downstream to age in the lodges. Each port manufacturer has a lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia…..some of them are near the bridge and some are near the river’s edge but the one we chose, Taylor-Fladgate, was up a high hill. We did the only logical thing we could…..we hailed a taxi for the drive across the river and up the hill.
Taylor-Fladgate wasexquisite ….. high on the hill, it escaped the noise and congestion of the other lodges. After walking through their gates you felt like you were in a different world, a tranquil, beautiful world…..with a gently splashing fountain, fragrant orange trees and exotic birds strolling the green grounds.
During our tour, we learned more about the different types of port and how each is aged….
Ruby (young and fruity) is aged in large vats for 2-3 years, LBV-Late Bottle Vintage (still fruity but more full-bodied) is aged in vats for 4-6 years, Tawny (mellow and smooth) is aged in wood casks for 3-40 years, Vintage (only produced in harvest years deemed best by the Port Wine Institute) is bottled after 2-3 years then aged for 10 years or more.
Taylor-Fladgate’s winemakers have come from the same family for generations…..the current winemaker has two elementary school children whose palates are being trained to discern the nuances in ports in hopes that one of them will become the next winemaker.
Lunch began when a tray of four delicious appetizers was whisked to the table….olives, cheese, seafood pate, croutons with herbed olive oil. To complement our lunch of Cod with Olive Crust (me) and Steak with Ham and Port Sauce (Craig), we ordered a bottle of Vinho Verde Tinto (Red green-wine….a slightly sparkling, light, dry red wine).
It was late afternoon when we started our walk back to Porto……walking down the hill, along the riverfront, across the bridge and back up to Rua Santa Catarina for an espresso at the Cafe Majestic…..a coffee shop with tuxedo’d waiters, silver trays and a pianist playing a grand piano…..Starbucks and Panama Red were never like this.
Now that we were ready to head back to the hotel, there were no taxi’s in sight so we walked down to the train station (stopping in to take pictures of the beautiful tiles inside). Outside, there were taxi’s aplenty to whisk us back to the hotel, for a bag of ice for my overworked ankle and some mindless telly for Craig.
with due respect to the Beatles….. I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink