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Any Port in a Storm – Day 7

Checking out of the hotel in the morning and a flight in the evening meant filling a day in Oporto. Normally I hate that period when one is waiting to fly home but this was different. We still had a boat trip and a visit to a port (wine) house to use up on our tourist voucher.

The boat trip was really good helped by the fact that the weather was still fantastic. The port of Oporto has is stunningly beautiful at the best of times but with a blue blue sky it is amazing.

Following our boat trip we walked over one of the six bridges and found ourselves at the Callem wine house we were scheduled to visit later.

What a coincidence 😉🍷🍷

A guided tour explained the various vat/barrel sizes with one of the vats being a hundred years old

Apparently after use the barrels get sold to Scotland for whisky who , after using sell them to the French for making brandy, who after using them sell them to the Americans for making Bourbon, who after using them sell them to the Jamaicans to use for rum. Or at least that’s the theory.

This was not a posed picture and Pretty Officer Sue actually had a sip of white po. She almost liked it! Prepare the way for the slippery slope.

We stopped at a nearby restaurant for a light lunch of clams, tempura beans, both of which were lovely followed by some hake that was so fresh i swear it was still flapping its tail!

Walking back we watched kids jumping off one of the bridges into the harbour. A height at least equivalent to jumping off Tower Bridge. Mad!

As a method of transport not used yet we took the funicular up to the high part of the city. Nothing to do with avoiding the walk up the very steep incline, of course.

Returning to the hotel to collect our suitcase we first realised the the French air traffic controller’s strike was going to delay our flight home. Les sang Francais ! As it turns out it wasn’t too bad in comparison to other cancelled flights, as we only suffered a two and a half hour delay. The flight time was also an hour longer as we had to avoid French airspace. Perhaps we should have done that in WW2! That would have taught those Froggies a thing or two!Anyway home by 3.00am. Steve and Theresa declined our offer of a bed for the night so had a further hour and a half drive. The sacrifices people will make rather than endure another day in our company. 😉

As for the trip, this sign that was hanging up in the restaurant we had lunch, to me, says it all and will be a lasting memory of a fabulous trip. Thank you Steve and Theresa for being such good company. No way would it have been as good without you.

Also a special thank you to Emma King for putting the icing on the cake with the accommodation and Sofia for all her research and suggestions.

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Any Port in a Storm – Day 6 Last Day

Yesterday,, after yet another superb breakfast, on the advice of others, we took the Yellow Bus tour. It has two routes, the Orange Route which concentrates on the historic area of Oporto and the Purple Route which goes out of town. We did the historic tour first but once it had passed the Majestic Café we realised a visit was mandatory.

Pastel de natas have played a big part on this trip. I never knew custard tarts could be so delicious

We then rejoined the tour but this time we were on the Purple Route which took us not only to the beach but also to some amazing restaurants where the specialty seemed to be cooking fresh fish over charcoal in the middle of the street.

After lunch we continued our sightseeing trip, visiting many bridgesand many buildings adorned with the famous Portuguese blue tiles

All very tiring so back to the hotel for a siesta before whatever the evening might bring. And what a surprise it brought.

Again, using Trip Advisor we selected a well rated nearby restaurant called La Maison Rouge. When we eventually found it we were shown down into a cellar by Marguerite, the owner. We the only diners and immediately regretted our choice. Rather than just turn around and leave we decided not to eat but stayed to have a glass of wine. Marguerite struggled a little with English (as she did with Portuguese) so asked us if any of us spoke French. Foolishly I answered with my usual “ Je parle le Francais comme une vache Espagnol“ which she mistakenly took to mean that I could speak French. From then on she was happy to speak in French and at a speed even a Frenchman might struggle to keep up. It was great though as Theresa is learning to speak French and goes to French lessons, so it was good for her and I muddled through

This is where the journey begun. She quite understood that we were uncomfortable and wanted to leave but in her own delightful way explained that it was a tapas restaurant and that she made everything herself. So we fell for her charm and stayed. And how glad were we?

We couldn’t just order a glass of wine, we had to taste three different varieties to select our preference. The tapas were delicious, I even tried a Francesinha. Given I didn’t like any of the ingredients I was hardly like to like the end product. Which I didn’t.

She made us so welcome that not only did we stay but we had a really good time. Finishing off with a glass of Port seemed mandatory in Oporto but we had to sample six different varieties of that before we could select which one we wanted!

Great restaurant. Thoroughly recommend it.

Any Port in a Storm – Day 5 Part 2

After a comfortable but, in truth, not a particularly interesting three hour trip on the train, we arrive at Porto and our hotel the Intercontinental Palácio das Cardosas. What a beautiful hotel and what a beautiful room we have. Set on two floors.

The view down from up. Thank you Emma.

Looking for somewhere close by to eat in the evening, we decided to use Trip Advisor to see what they suggested. And what a great suggestion it was. Rated number 8 out of a 1000+ it was called the Tapibento. It was fully booked but with Theresa’s incredible negotiating skills a table for 4 was reserved for 7 o’clock. I’m wondering whether perhaps Theresa would be well suited to negotiating Brexit.

Amazing food for a Tapas bar. Famous for its foie-gras toasties (middle picture) they were so delicious that I had one as a main course as well as the one I had for a starter.

A permanent queue waits patiently outside the Tapibento in the hope a table becomes free.

Any Port in a Storm – Day 5

There are people who read this blog who don’t know me, but those that do know that many years ago I must have sold my soul to the Sun God. As a result I seem to be outrageously lucky with the weather.

Even Portuguese are calling this week a second summer. The weather has been glorious

And judging by this little blighter popping up around the corner, it looks like today is another scorcher.

We leave Estoril after breakfast and make our way to Oporto. This will involve an Uber into Lisbon and then the train to Oporto. Not sure if we have to change anywhere but no doubt all will become evident as we proceed.

more to follow…..

……incidentally a number of people have commented that my photos have been published small or sideways or upside down. For this I apologise. I write this blog on an iPhone and so am completely at the mercy of Apple as to how  they choose to interact with WordPress. And sometimes, I think, they don’t choose very well. When I get back to a proper pc I will try and tidy it all up, but until then…..

Any Port in a Storm – Day 4

Today we are off to Sintra, a World Heritage site up in the hills behind Estoril. But not before breakfast here at this amazing hotel. Whilst on the subject of this lovely hotel I have just seen the most ridiculous thing in our bathroom

A pair of scales. I’ve never stayed in a hotel anywhere in the world where there has been a pair scales in the bathroom. Must be bad for business. Surely hotels want you to eat and drink , to excess if possible, and spend. Luckily for me it was calibrated in foreign money so had I stood on it I could have never worked out how much I weighed,

plus there was a sign on it warning me I might slip off. I don’t need telling twice!

I suppose it could have been worse. They could have been ‘speak-your-weight’ scales which when I stood on them would say “One at a time please”

After breakfast in what can only be described as the most idyllic setting, we took an Uber up into the hills of Sintra (about 15€ away) where we visited the Palácio da Penn. I have up to this point avoided mentioning Uber but it is the most amazing service especially here in Portugal. They turn up normally in less than five minutes, they invariably speak English, they are more than helpful, and of course exceptional value. Enough said.

The Palácio was amazing. Built in 1840 for Ferdinand 2 of Saxe-Coburg and later used by Queen Amelia. Vacated after the uprising in 1910. It is just so ludicrous. Designed by a Bavarian and built to look like a Bavarian Castle it is the height of kitsch.

Where else could you find an archetypal Turkish waiter carrying an electric chandelier

In the evening Steve and I wandered up to the Estoril Grand Casino, supposedly the largest Casino in Europe.

Having stayed at the Hotel Palácio in Estoril during the Second World War Ian Fleming supposedly got the inspiration for his first novel Casino Royale from this nearby Casino, although it was in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ with George Lazenby that the hotel was actually used in the filming. Incidentally the Casino is horrible, filled with smoke and wall-to-wall slot machines. Glad I went though!

This the last night at the Intercontinental before we move on to Oporto in the morning. After breakfast of course!

Any Port in a Storm – Day 3

The family or families from hell must have moved out because this morning we were woken just by the sound of the cockerel. As my friend Steve said yesterday, the sound of the cockerel, a bit like the sound of church bells, is a very tolerable noise. One feels that both were there first!

Quote of the day from Steve”I’ve just had this really good idea. I’m going to stop hitting my head on this lightbulb every time I get up from the breakfast table”. Anyway a very good nights sleep which is good because today we are off to our next two day stop in Estoril. So we said goodbye to the 73 steps between the street and our room. and the building work going on next door. Had I not mentioned that?

Assuming the London rail strike hasn’t spread to Lisbon the train journey to Estoril is about 40 minute

For the total cost of 10€ for the four of us made our way to Estoril. Unfortunately we chose the wrong station so we had to trundle our bags down, or in fact up to the hotel. Arriving a little early we walked down on to the promenade to enjoy, what turned out to be , an excellent lunch. Quite the freshest of fish. But that was not before the very dapper Hotel Manager welcomed us to his hotel, of which he was justifiably proud.

Finally checked in, we are overwhelmed with the luxury.

I could really get used to this. About 4-ish a knock on the door and fruit, chocolates plus s complimentary bottle of water were delivered to our bedroom.

Unfortunately not to Steve and Theresa. As I’ve always said “it’s not what you know…..”

This evening we walked along the promenade (with an independent air?) to Cascais, or ‘cash-cow’ as we call it) where we had a fun dinner in an outside restaurant called, rather unfortunately, The John Bull.

The walk back to the hotel, under a full moon, was a delight.

For a moment, I thought I could smell a bit of romance in the air. Unfortunately it was just ozone. The evenings are still incredibly warm though, so you never know…..

Any Port in a Storm – Day 2

The hotel decides the day starts just after 6am. Or at least the occupants in the rooms below and to the side do. But hey we didn’t come all this way to spend it in bed. Sleep is for wimps! And besides, everybody should experience sleeping (or not as the case may be) in a whole kindergarten playing marbles on wooden floorboards.

This morning we went to Belém to queue for a custard tart. Well that was never going to happen. They’re good apparently but they can’t be that good!

So we crossed the road ( eventually finding the underpass) visited the most magnificent statue to the explorers and navigators of Portugal .

It being Independence Day the Presidential Palace was open to the public (the one day a year)

and indeed the President himself was mixing with his loyal subjects, although most, like us , were tourists. He did smile a lot and was very happy doing selfies. especially if you were female!

iOne cannot visit Portugalwithout sampling one of the national dishes, chicken Piri Piri. And so we headed off to the A Valencinia for lunch, where, according to Rick Stein, is the best place to sample it. It was really delicious only to be by enhanced beer and green wine. We thought, rather than walk or ‘Uber’ our way back to the hotel, we woul get a tram. Great idea, but with no idea where to get off we landed up further away from the hotel (or YMCA as we have now affectionately christened it) than when we started.

Tonight’s light supper at the Sinal Vermhelo (another great recommendation from Sofia) included the mandatory sardines and yet another ‘best chocolate cake in the world’. Wasn’t as good as last night’s. But it was good!