Friday, 5 September 2014

First Week in Portugal

Wednesday 27th August – Friday 5 September

Porto - The Home of Port

We discovered in Viana that a new marina had been built in Porto since our Pilot Guide was published in 2012. And within walking distance of the town rather than the 10km we were expecting.

The next day (Thursday) we set off for the walk to Porto along the river bank and indeed it was a very nice walk as had been described, if a little longer than we were led to believe. Still it only took 90 minutes and we were in the centre of Porto.  Lovely city (2nd largest in Portugal) with an historic old centre that developed around the Port trade with England. Our walk around the city would have been more structured if the Tourist Information Office had not run out of English guides and our Portuguese is not yet up to translating a town guide (but we are very good at ordering beer). After a 5 hours walk up and down the hills of the town, we walk back to the marina which seems to be much longer on the way back.
On Friday we visited one of the Port producers in the afternoon. We chose Taylors (we had read somewhere that it was the best) without realising it was at the top of the hill on the other side of the river. I am not a great port fan so spending 30 minutes walking up a hill in 28 degrees of heat to sample a couple of glasses was a little perverse, particularly as we passed 5 others on the way.

The view from the Taylors Port warehouse was stunning

The tour lasted about 30 minutes. Ruby port which is the cheapest port, matured in medium size barrels while Tawny port is matured in much smaller barrels which interact with the wine giving it “complexity”. The best is vintage port and only about 2 years in every 10 years is declared a vintage year. In 1970, the port trade came up with the idea of “Late Bottled Vintage” port which is matured in the largest barrels and is less regulated than the true vintage port. Over the last 40 years there has only been 2 years in which the Late Bottled Vintage port has not been declared as “vintage” and it is produced on an industrial scale in 100,000 litre barrels. It is heavily marketed and so it is the best-selling port. Reading between the lines, unless you are a connoisseur of port (and why would you want to be?) the Tawny port is the one to go for.

Figueira da Foz

A brilliant 3 hour sail today on the way to Figueira da Foz. With 15 knots from the west with all three sails hoisted we sailed at over 7 knots. If only the other 9 hours could have been so good. We had a 2 metre swell coming over the beam and a wind from the South of 7 knots so not strong enough to stop the boat rolling and often violently which makes doing anything just that little bit more challenging.

We had a Chinese meal in Figueira that night - just fancied something traditionally English for a change. It was a choice of either Chinese or Indian. It was almost like being in a Chinese restaurant at home with the same menu more or less and the waitress speaking good but slightly broken English. Catherine managed to persuade the waitress to make some pancakes to accompany the crispy duck (not something they do here). They need to work on how to make the pancakes – not like the authentic ones we get at home.

Coimbra University founded in 13th Century
One of the reasons for coming to Figueira da Foz was to get the train inland to see Coimbra, some 45km away inland. Always exciting using public transport in another country and more so for us because we were not driving, the train did not pitch or roll and we had something other than sea to look at. 

After walking round the university at Comimbra (see picture), we visited the old cathedral built in 12th century on the way back down the hill. The church has a picture of Queen Saint Isobel who was canonised in 1625 because she had suggested to the bishop, in 1320, that they hold the feast of the immaculate consumption in the church that year. She did not actually organise the feast, pay for it or make the sandwiches – she just made the suggestion to the bishop and for that she was canonised. Every church we visit I now drop a note to the same effect in the suggestion box on the way out. You never know.

On the Monday we decided that we should have a day off . May sound strange that we should need one but everyday has been taken up with sightseeing, maintaining the boat, washing and cleaning, planning trips or actually sailing. So we lazed around the boat reading in the shade of the bimini for most of the day. For dinner we cooked the hake that we had bought in the market that morning, a whole hake and they are not small. Will do us for a few meals.

Nazare was a shock.

Bleak is not the right word
The next day we head off to Nazare which is described as bleak by the Pilot Guide. I think they have oversold it. Mind you it does say that the surrounding area is worth visiting so we will stay for one day. It will also give me the chance to do a few repairs.

Nazare - Where boats come to die

Wednesday morning we walk around the old town after the 1.5km walk from the marina. A very pleasant town with old streets leading away from the beach where we found somewhere for lunch before going up the funicular railway to the top of the cliffs. Spectacular views of the town and the surfing beach (the best in Europe according to the Tourist Information Guide) because of the 
Marianna trench.

We liked the town enough to come back out in the evening to eat and enjoyed a local dish of clams in a regional sauce which is definitely on our list of must have again.

Sao Martinho – a taste of the Mediterranean

The next day we decided to sail the 5 miles to Sao Martinho do Porto in 9 knots of wind and smooth seas but it did take us a couple of hours. A couple of hours well spent!
Through the small entrance in the cliffs opens up a beach and town which is very reminiscent of the Mediterranean. We both feel instantly at home and decide to spend at least of couple of days here.And it has been very hot for the last few days and we might even go for a swim!

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