Thursday, May 17, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 1. From Cape Town via Luanda to Porto

The beginning: Continuing our quest to see the world before time, money or our mobility run out, seeking new experiences, places, food and wine. This year it was to be Portugal and Spain. A new airline has made travel to this part of the world so much more inexpensive. TAAG is Angola Airlines; you can leave from Cape Town or Johannesburg and travel to Lisbon or Porto, with one stop (2 to 2.5 hours) to pick up passengers in Luanda. The planes are operated by Emirates. The incentive, if you choose your flights carefully as we did, is the cost. Our return fares were half those of our KLM trip to Amsterdam last year which cost R24 000. This was just over R12 000. Depart 17h20, arrive Porto 06h15. Porto and Luanda are on English time, so one hour ahead of SA
Two things we learnt never to trust on this holiday: The weather reports and Google Maps. All will become evident. Before we left Lynne checked the weather in Porto. Cape Town was 19°C to 21°C and 13°C at night. Porto was reportedly the same and it was Spring, so getting warmer, we surmised. So we packed accordingly, with one warm jacket each, rain coats and some vests and socks, just in case we had a wet chilly day in the European spring.
Our flight was at 17h20. We did not wish to get caught up on home going traffic on the N2 so we took an Uber to the airport. The adventure started: as we drove down Strand Street the driver was waved down by a Taxi and told his front right tyre was flat. Indeed it was. He drove on towards the first garage in Woodstock and we expected him to change the time. No such luck. He just filled it to bursting point and off we drove to the airport! We feared we were going to get stranded on the motorway and then what?! He made it by the skin on his tyre.
We checked in quite early to get rid of our suitcases. This was a late lunch and a precaution against waiting hours for anything on the plane. John had his last Hamburger and chips for weeks to come, smothered in caramelised onion, with a beer…
.. and Lynne a smoked salmon and cream cheese croissant. Enough cream cheese for an army, and plenty of salmon. We ate at the restaurant in the duty free waiting area, not much choice but reasonable
Our plane awaits, it is a Boeing 777
After a bit of a bumpy ride, we arrived at a wet and steamy Luanda at 20h20. There was thunder and lightning
They remove all water from you when you board and exit from planes nowadays and we did not have Angolan currency to buy anything. So we waited in the lounge till they called our onward flight to Porto
They then moved us to the “departure lounge”. It reminds us of Cape Town Airport in the 1970s. We sat there for an hour or more watching a rampant brat whose mother had not yet learnt the word NO!
Dinner is served on the plane and we thank heavens that we had our meal before we left. It was stringy shark (or you could have beef). Dessert was an olive oil cake, not bad. Perhaps eat before you go. This is the breakfast we were served the next morning. Scrambled eggs, everything unseasoned, flabby potato slices, a Vienna sausage (hopefully not from Tiger Brands) and a bit of tomato. Some watermelon and a roll, butter and jam. Something made Lynne ill later, John tasted the egg and ate the fruit and the roll, drank the juice
Arrival in Porto’s modern airport. Lynne sailed through the biometric process at the automatic gates for EU passports. SA passport holder John was grilled in Immigration, had to produce all the documentation provided with his visa application and was the last through. Made to feel really welcome. The luggage came through slowly. Then it was time to get a sim card for our phone. Vodafone is in the airport and it cost 10 for 30 days purportedly for use in both Portugal and Spain. Hmmm. Just don’t try to top up in Spain. And airtime seems not to be available everywhere like it is here. Only at Vodafone shops
They did not serve coffee with breakfast on the plane because of turbulence, so when we landed we needed some to keep us going and had good strong Americanos and two delicious Pasteis de Nata before heading off take our Metro into town to our AirBnB
Waiting for our train. Porto has a similar system to our MyCiti card and travel on the tube is reasonable. It is called an Andante card and costs 4, plus money for fares. However the tube lines are limited in their range
The trains are modern and fast
We booked a room in this ground floor apartment for our first two nights in Porto. And they very kindly let us check in early as we were very tired after our flight. Our local metro station was Carolina Michaelis and we wheeled our suitcases from there. Not doing that again
A neat and tidy room, but one of us had to crawl across the bed to get into it. The flat where the owner lives is spacious and modern. We could use the bathroom and the other common areas
The handsome owner Amaro, who is an IT specialist. When he left for work and the cleaning was complete, we were able to sleep for a while. Sleeping on planes is not easy for us
The apartment has a lovely large terrace
 Sadly, we didn’t get to sit outside as the weather was very cold and wet
Our street, Lynne is talking to a neighbourhood cat. We were off to explore some of the local area and find a supermarket to buy some food supplies for breakfast and the odd meal
We walked down the hill to the Musica area where the Casa de Musica, Porto’s concert hall, is situated. In the centre of the circle is this monument which celebrates the heroes and the dead of the Guerra Peninsular (Spanish War of Independence against Napoleon 1807-14)
Porto is known as the City of the Camellias and we found many trees in the circular park in full flower with many dropped blossoms from the rain
An old cemetery wall and some graffiti near our local Lidl, where we bought some provisions and, as we were so tired after the flight, some lasagne for dinner. We walked for about two hours and then climbed the hill back to our apartment
An elegant age
Old and modern, and everywhere parked cars
A local church
Plaster figures of Mary, angels, city gents or is that Galadriel?
After a good night’s sleep, and a good breakfast of coffee and chocolate croissants, we were able to tackle our first full day in Porto. We took the Metro and a long hike up a steep road and began at the top of the hill, searching for a camera shop as John’s laptop’s SD card reader was discovered to be on the fritz and needed replacing. We had an enjoyable walk all the way down Rua Bon Jardim, our first hint about not trusting Google maps. The shop we sought was near the bottom of this very long street. Google said it was at the top.
Beautiful churches
Stylish hotels …
… and restaurants
 After a long walk, we thought we must be near the river, Nowhere near, we were about half way down the hill,
also many municipal buildings
In front is a choice of two streets, we chose Rua das Flores, and it was a great choice. A pedestrian mall, with lots of interesting shops, restaurants and bars, street artists, buskers and lots of renovation of the old buildings is happening
Yes there are some plastic flowers, but lots of real ones too
People having lunch on the sidewalk
More of those plastic flowers!
A very talented draughtsman, drawing in infinite detail
For beer lovers like us, this frontage spoke to us. John didn’t recognise Ronaldo’s face
So in we went for our first experience of Estrella Galicia beer, 5 for two 350 ml glasses
A pale lager with good hoppy bitterness, slightly fruity and creamy on the palate
It starts its life in Galicia, is transported in barrel and then finishes its maturation in copper vessels here in Porto. 1.30 on a Wednesday, this was just the refreshment we needed
The Japanese couple in front of us ordered something which smelled like heaven; duck rice, a local speciality, full of wonderful garlic aromas. We were not yet hungry but vowed to return…
It was getting colder and colder and was threatening to rain. Still no sight of the river, but it must be down there somewhere. Onward we strode
Our mission was to visit the Municipal market in the Jardim do Infante Dom, Google told us where it was
It was NOT TO BE. They moved the market! This is now an exhibition venue, restaurant and nightclub, and the police station is in the basement
We were not the only tourists led a merry dance. It turns out we walked a road away from the new(ish) Municipal market at the beginning of our trip at the top of the hill that morning! Very frustrating.
Onward, ever downward and onward, suddenly we could see the river
The Bolsa Palace (the old Stock Exchange) and the Church of St Francis
The monument of Prince Henry the Navigator. He was regarded as the main initiator of what would be known as the Age of Discovery. Two years after his death in 1460 aged 66, Bartholomew Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope
Strutting young gulls. Porto is very close to the sea
The view of Sandeman’s Port house across the Douro river; in front is one of the famous port barges that bring the port down river from the quintas where it is produced
The gulls are magnificent gliders
Known as the Dom Luís I Bridge, this railway bridge was built in 1877, and is attributed to Gustave Eiffel or his partner, you can see the similarity in style to the Eiffel Tower, which was his next project. Cars, buses and pedestrians walk across the lower span, trains and pedestrians the top level
One of the joys of living by the sea is watching the gulls, such magnificent aviators
The Douro river is wide and full at this time of year. Its source is in Spain and the snow melt on the Sierras is what fuels this huge river which flows out to sea at Porto. We found a bench and ate rolls with ham and cheese while admiring the view
There are many of these tourist boats plying the river. An hour’s trip costs in the region of 15 per person. Some include a visit to one of the Port houses.
Some beautiful buildings line the side of the river, and they are lived in!
We walked along the river bank looking for the Wine Museum which we had found on the map. You go past the Motor museum and we saw journalists test driving some Mercedes Benz vans on the way. We don't think that this car was their greatest advertisement
Sadly the Wine Museum is closed
and will apparently relocate later in the year
 We walked as far as the Arrábida Bridge, the final bridge before the river joins the sea
Can’t you just imagine someone royal on this balcony waving to the crowd?
There are two tram lines in Porto
And different bus companies. Trying to figure out your route can be a challenge, as it is all in Portuguese
We then turned back and found that the 500 bus would take us to Peace Square and then changed on to the Metro. An hour later we were home. We walked many kilometres that day
This was the local restaurant which was recommended to us. Owner Arnaldo has been in business for a long time. And spoke not one word of English. So figuring out our first Portuguese only menu was a challenge. We used Google on our phone until a regular came in who was able to translate for us. This is definitely a local not tourist restaurant. Regulars come for their dinner every night. At these prices you can see why, they don’t need to cook at home. Portugal is football mad and the Porto team is very good. Many diners were watching the match on the restaurant TV so we did too. Even John, who prefers rugby
This was the menu. Prices are very good
Seating at the bar
We had two half bottles of his house wine with dinner, a Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde from a co-op, simple and refreshing, and a Tavedo Douro red made from Tinta Barocca, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, drinkable but not going to excite anyone. Note in both Portugal and Spain, if you eat the rolls, you are charged for them
This was Lulas Grillhadas - Grilled calamari served with black olives, boiled potatoes cabbage, pimento, and lemon. It had a light garlic sauce. Enjoyable and the Vinho Verde was good with it
Prego no Prato translates literally as Nailed to the plate! It is well flavoured skirt steak, very marbled; a bit hard to cut but not to chew. Topped with a fresh fried egg, it came with salad and O.K. chips
Our quiet street as we walked home. It was so cold that we felt there might be frost. The temperature was down to 3°C that night. We had to get warmer clothes. We could not live in the same ones all the time

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