Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Colin Churcher - Azores and Portugal - 2008

Trip to the Azores, Madeira and Portugal June – July 2008

Click here to see pictures

Wednesday June 25, 2008.
(IMG 2730-2766)
Hotel Vila Nova, Ponta Delgada
Rua João Francisco Cabral, 1/3
9500-208 Ponta Delgada
The Hotel Vila Nova is a comfortable three-star property situated in the historic part of town, close to many interesting attractions such as the imposing Convento da Esperança and the Renaissance-style Forte de Sao Bras. It is also located within easy walking distance of the future site of the Ponta Delgada exhibition centre.

The trip was quite comfortable and relatively short as the Azores are a long way out in the Atlantic. This flight continues to Terceira and then returns to Toronto.

We took a walk around the town around lunchtime and spent some time at the market where we had a tasting of several cheeses from the islands (IMG 2735-2738). Many were very good, particularly the aged ones. Lunch was a bag of fried fava beans.

Afterwards Colin went to the Port Authority and was able to get in to see the two broad gauge steam locomotives that have been languishing in a workshop for many years. He first had to negotiate a language with the office staff. It turned out that French was the best way to ascertain that the locomotives still existed and that he could see them. Amerigo Careira, who showed him around spoke excellent English. These are quite a find although they are in bad condition having been left outside in the open for some twenty years before being brought inside under cover. (IMG 2742-2760).

There is a very pleasant park (Jardim Antonio Borges) a short walk to the north of the hotel (IMG 2761-2763) with some interesting plants. There is one tree with a root system like a large snake. The town has lots of balconies while the streets are laid in attractive patterns in stone. (IMG 2764-2766)

Thursday June 26
(IMG 2767-2833)
The group is coming together well although there is a lot of loud shouting in Portuguese. The guide doesn’t help and seems intent on giving a performance, which he shouts, rather than informing us – he is just playing to the Portuguese gallery.

First stop this morning was at Ribeira Grande (IMG 2767-2775) which is the second largest town on Sao Miguel. Very clean streets with decorative sidewalks. We were taken to a shop that sells flavoured liquors, fruit and coffee. It was very sweet, not very strong and not very good.

From there we went to Lagoa da Fogo which is a beautiful crater lake. (IMG 2777-2788) 30% of the island's electricity is geothermal. Most of the trees on the island are a Japanese type of fir which are quick growing and good for construction.

There was a run along the south coast with a couple of photo stops (IMG 2790-2794) finishing up at Lagoa de Furnas where we saw them retrieving the Cocido Portuguese from the ovens set in the hot ground. This is cooked by steam for 6 hours but it is in a pot with a tight covering so there is no liquid and no seasoning. (IMG 2797-

We followed the van carrying lunch to a hotel in Furnas where it was served. Potato, sweet potato, cabbage, kale, chorizo, blood sausage, chicken, beef & pork served with rice. All this with all the wine we could handle. (IMG 2797-2805) Dessert was fresh island pineapple.

The hotel opens on to a botanical garden with many interesting varieties of tree, fern and flowers. There was an opportunity to laze around a hot thermal pool but those who went in said it was too hot to swim comfortably. After this we visited the hot springs and waited in the rain for the bus to return. (IMG 2806-2822)

The main theme of the afternoon was a visit to a Tea Factory, set in pleasant grounds. (IMG 2826)
There were a number of horse drawn carts while many hedges were hydrangeas, white and blue. The journey back gave us some good views of the north coast (IMG 2828-2830).

Back at the hotel, Colin took the opportunity to photograph the ancient water tank in the Port Authority yard. It is cast iron and shows “J and C Rigby, Harbour Works, Holyhead, 1862”. (IMG 2831-2833/2838-9)

The dinner buffet at the hotel is well done and contains a number of local specialities.

Friday June 27
(IMG 2838-2877)
Colin went out early this morning to visit the market in operation. There were not a great number of fishmongers and there was a great emphasis upon fruit and vegetables. Just one cheese shop but it was was doing a good trade. (IMG 2834-7).

A street sweeper in municipal garb was whistling loudly as he noisily cleaned out the gutters.

We first visited a pineapple operation. The plants have to be transplanted several times and grown under glass. This makes them very expensive but the locals are adamant that they are better and the only true pineapple. The sad truth is that many pineapples sold on this island and on the others are from Costa Rica. (IMG 2841-2851)

Siete cidades was beautiful but we didn't get the full benefit of the colours because the clouds obscured the blue sky. (IMG 2856-68) Lots of hydrangea hedges made parts of the road seem more like a garden or park. (IMG 2852-3). The little town was full of tourists but the lake was very peaceful although we were attacked by a squadron of marauding ducks looking for food.

Back at Ponta Delgada there was supposed to be a festa but it either was “mañana” or started very late. (IMG 2874/8)

Saturday June 28
Angra do Heroismo (Terceira) - Hotel Angra Garden
Praca da Restauração
9700-201 Angpra do Heroísmo
(IMG 2879 – 2936)
The flight was uneventful although some were concerned that it was a propeller plane. The hotel is in a good location in the centre of town but is otherwise very poorly managed. The staff are unhelpful and surly.

The town is getting ready for the festa which tomorrow culminates the bull running season for the villages. (IMG 2879 – 2888). The whole town had a festive air about it.
Kids were rapelling out of a window of the town hall and also swinging down on a cable onto the main square.

There is a small harbour, mainly sail boats, with a beach. The town has been a World Heritage site since 1983 and has been well manicured - the sidewalks are attractively patterned, the black rock is local but the white is imported from the mainland. The municipal market is small and concentrates on fruit and vegetables. We spent some time in the garden behind the hotel and walked up to the top of the hill where there were good views across the town.

Lunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary was at Bahia Mar with a good view of the harbour. (IMG 2889 – 2893)
Shrimp bisque in a loaf of bread - exceptional.
Beef/ cod with finely diced marinated pickled carrot and dill in a cream sauce.
Fruit melba
White wine from Pico.

One of the first things we did when we arrived was to get tickets for the bullfight which took place this evening. (IMG 2894 – 2927). Concourso de ganaderias Feira de S. João We wisely paid the extra to get seats in the shade, not so much for the heat but those in the sun had the setting sun in their eyes. We had front row seats which gave us a good view of the activity behind the boards. We even had a short conversation with one of the bull breeders who had spent some time in Toronto. Beer was €1.00 a bottle (stubby) and the crowd really enjoyed themselves. They don’t kill the bulls in Portugal although there is some blood. In some events a man has to throw himself on the bull’s head between the horns. This is risky and one was thrown down and trampled a little. The eight or nine others then crowd around the bull to hold it and one grabs its tail, having grasped a handful of sand to get a better purchase. On a signal they all drop back in a circle leaving one man holding the enraged bull by the tail. It proved difficult to get the bull to leave and, in some cases, they let out six or seven cows, with cow bells ringing. They ran around the ring and then ran out with the bull following.

There were two bulls each from Rego Botelho, Casa Agricola Jose Albino Fernandes and Santa Maria, with three back ups, one from each farm. At the end of the evening the bulls were judged and the winning breeders were awarded plates.

Dinner at the hotel was disgusting.

Folklorique procession. Essentially people dressed in traditional garb singing accompanied by guitars. One of the streets had been turned into a children's playground. (IMG 2929 – 2936).

Sunday June 29
Half day tour of Terceira. (IMG 2937 – 2976)
Visited Monte do Basil. (IMG 2939 – 2943)
This is a green island with little cultivation, mainly cattle for milk, butter and cheese. We passed several fields of bulls which are quite placid when together. (IMG 2945/7)
Biscoitos is an area where the lava is at the sea and several pools are used for swimming. (IMG 2950 - 2957)
The airport is located at the big American/NATO Air Force base. This has a very long runway and is one of the alternative landing sites for the space shuttle. It was here that Colin landed in the SAS flight which took him from London to Johannesbourg in 1986. It was also here that the Air Transat flight from Canada managed to land when it ran out of fuel over the Atlantic.
Several wind mills are being built for power generation.
Praia da Vitoria is the second largest town on the island, notable for its pavements. Pavement construction is an art form and the rock will last a very long time, even on vehicular streets. (IMG 2959 – 2965)

We stopped in Sao Sebastian, Manuel's village The Society Hall is magnificent and there was a well attended mass was taking place in the church. (IMG 2966 – 2968)
Lunch was at the restaurant in the market. (IMG 2969)
Fresh cheese and olives.
Espiritu do Santu soup (thin consomme soaked in bread flavoured with mint)/black pudding.
Cozido (steamed meats and vegetables)/veal cooked in an earthenwear pot.
Rice pudding.
Terceira wine.
The soup and cozido was traditional for this Sunday. The cozido had no herbs or condiments and was a little tasteless. There were no other tourists in the place.
Dinner in the hotel was a disaster. The waiter refused to bring us a glass of water.
There was a procession down the main street again (IMG 2974/6). This time the bands of the brotherhoods of the various villages, 21 of them. Lots of fun - there was some drinking in the bars at the top of the hill and the music was of varying quality but entertaining. Each band was lead by banner bearers, usually small children trying desperately to keep in step. There were also some small children playing flutes, clarinets etc.
Our favourite band was from Biscoitos which played New Orleans style. The rest were more traditional marching bands.

The parade was followed by a firework display over the water which we saw from the terrace of the hotel. The colours were reflected in the water and the whole made a good substitute for the Canada Day fireworks from Ottawa which we will miss this year.

Monday June 30
Hotel do Canal
Largo Manuel de Arriaga
9900 Horta
It was a quick flight across to Faial with glimpses of the volcano on Pico.
Hotel do Canal is located in the historic area of the capital of Faial, on the main ocean front avenue in the center of Horta. It is across the street from the port and marina.
Walked around the town and visited the market where Colin bought some cheese (IMG 2980 – 2985).
Lunch was at a local place and was forgettable, the wine was the best part.
Cheese and olives
Spicy pork/bacalao - both had too much burnt garlic.
Beer and Dao red wine.
We had a half day tour of the island (IMG 2985 – 3017). A farmer was riding a horse to get around, rode side saddle.
Very windy, original settlers Flemish, built windmills. (IMG 2990).
The caldeira was clouded over - pity as it must have been a wonderful sight.
Community pasture land.
Lava flow.
Had a drink at a local cafe.
Lighthouse, land beyond was created during the 1957-8 eruption. The highlight f the tour for many was the stop by the ocean where several of took off their shoes and paddled on the rocks looking for limpets (lapas) which they prized off the rocks with house keys and penknives.
Picnic area with house reconstructed to show how people lived in the past.
Excellent dinner at the hotel with a bottle of Terceira wine.

Tuesday July 1
Boat trip to Pico and tour of the island, return to Horta. (IMG 3018 – 3076)
Everyone was ready 30 minutes before the appointed time.
The boat left on time after a two and a one minute fart.
Good trip over, the boat was not crowded. There were a lot of people outside but there were two good cabins with comfortable reclining, padded seats. (IMG 3018 – 3030)
Pico winery. We tried a dry sherry type and also a sweet one over 20%. (IMG 3033 – 3036)
Vines grow in small plots enclosed by lava stones. (IMG 3039 – 3044)
Sao Joa cheese factory. (IMG 3045 – 6). Colin bought a cheese which travelled with us as far as Funchal.
Lunch was at a small restaurant in Sao Jao (IMG 3047). It started with a Pico aperitive wine and cheese then:
Potato soup with carrot and onion
Buffet with beans and shellfish, meat with sausage, roast potatoes, boiled yam, fish.
red and white wine
Coffee and aguar dente.
Toast to Canada as it was July 1 – everyone unanimously stood up and raised their glasses – for most of us Canada is a new country.
Staggered back to the bus via the church which is well maintained. (IMG 3050/2)
Whaling museum at Lajes do Pico, boats well made, six oarsmen. Good view of Pico from harbour. (IMG 3057 – 3064)
Lagoa do Capitoa. (IMG 3067)
Lava pools similar to Biscoitos. Because of the volcanic nature of the islands there are very few beaches. (IMG 3068)
The whaling factory museum at Sao Roque do Pico was interesting and there were good views of Sao Jorge. The complete elimination of whaling as a result of the international decision completely destroyed a way of life for the community – in fact, the island. By this time our party was more interested in ice creams than learning about history.
The final visit was to a World Heritage site devoted to the traditional production of grape and fig fire water. It is still used by the local people during the harvest season. (IMG 3072 – 3). A car was flying the Portuguese ad Canadian flags.
The trip back to Horta was quick and pleasant although there was a little swell as we left Pico. (IMG 3076)
There was another excellent buffet dinner at the Hotel Canal. The hotel is well run, the staff are helpful and the rooms are good.
The church next to the hotel has been closed since the earthquake yet it is kept clean and painted and is floodlit at night.

Wednesday July 2
(IMG 3077 – 3086)
Made the flight in good time and there was a long lay over in Sao Miguel. We took a taxi into Ponta Delgada with Marie. We stopped at the broad gauge cement mixer and the taxi waited while I took photos. The know-it-all guide at Ponta Delgada said that the cement mixer didn’t exist any more yet we passed it on the way out to the airport last time. (IMG 3077 – 3082)
Lunch was at el Mercado de Peixes. (IMG 3083 – 3086)
Mary had fish soup and I had grilled limpets, (IMG 3083) followed by Cataplana (IMG 3085). The cataplana was good but not as good as one we had late in Lisbon. Marie had shrimp followed by Monkfish. With a couple of bottles of wine it was all we could do to walk into the square and have a coffee etc.
We flew on to Madeira and were surprised that our bags arrived safely as they had to be transferred at Ponta Delgada.
The guide on the bus to the hotel was an old fart who spoke bullshit - everyone was upset because he wandered around and spoke either English or Portuguese but did not translate. The hotel is not good – the room is very noisy.

Thursday July 3
(IMG 3087 – 3141)
Tour of Botanical Gardens and birds. There is a wonderful collection of plants from throughout the world. (IMG 3087 – 3113). The setting is on a hill high above Funchal with views of the harbour. One of the most impressive displays was a garden with a chequerboard centre piece. A gardener was busy trimming back the plants. They grow so quickly he has to do this every two weeks or so. There was also a display of exotic birds. The peacocks and parrots were especially noisy.
Tasting of Madeira wine - medium dry, medium sweet and sweet. This was disappointing as the wine-making process was not explained – they cook the wine. It was just an opportunity to give us a couple of free drinks to get us to buy their stuff, they didn’t explain the different types of Madeira very well.
There are African flame/tulip trees all over town.
Embroidery factory. Here there was a better explanation but the emphasis was upon getting us to buy items. (IMG 3114 – 5)
Visit to the mercado, colourful flower sellers. This was very interesting (IMG 3125 – 3132). The group was mainly interested in the shellfish and persuaded a merchant to get out a sack full of limpets (lapas) over which they poured and took back to the room.
Lunch at Almirante on an outside patio was pretty good.
Portuguese tomato and onion soup.
Grouper/beef on a stick/duck with orange sauce.
Vinho verde.
After lunch we walked along to the funicular and went up - it took 15 minutes. (IMG 3133) A girl was taking our picture at the bottom. She must have e-mailed it to the top because another girl was trying to sell it to us there.
We watched the toboggans start out on their controlled two kilometre slide down the hill. The toboggans are wood with a wicker body. The wood slides must need frequent replacement. (IMG 3136-3141).
We took the free shuttle bus back to the hotel. There wasn’t enough room and several had to make alternate arrangements. We passed a sign for a restaurant “Cipriani” – I had wondered about the origin of the English rugby fly half of the same name, now I know it is Portuguese.

Friday July 4
(IMG 3143 – 3173)
Very pleasant weather. While waiting for the bus we saw a butterfly in a tree with white flowers (IMG 3143).
Second highest cliffs in the world. Hairpin bends, bananas, vines. We stopped for an early morning coffee and brandy (IMG 3145)
Fish farms - sea bream.
At Ribeira Brava the money machine worked for us. The church front was decked out with so many decorations that it was difficult to see it. (IMG 3149 – 3153).
Miradouro where we could see both north and south coasts. This was followed by a hair raising ride to Porto Moniz for lunch (with a short stop to see a waterfall and taste some local poncha which is made with cane rum, I think.)
Lunch was served in a wonderful room with wide windows overlooking the sea – the food was good but nothing special –but the view made up for any shortcomings in the cuisine (IMG 3163 – 3166).
Soup, beef, fries, salad, bananas and ice cream.
There was a monument to the ladies who are paid to weep at rich people’s funerals. (IMG 3168)
The afternoon return to Funchal took us into the eastern highlands, over 4,200 feet where there are cattle, lots of heather and low scrub. Much of the water in the island is collected by the plants from the rain and mists and fed into the water collection system which uses a series of small ditches and tunnels. (IMG 3170 – 1).
There was a stop at Ponta do Sol which is a small beach between to tall cliffs. (IMG 3172 -3)
We took the main road back. It has been improved by the use of many tunnels and bridges.
Dinner this evening was a barbeque followed by a local singing and dancing group. Colin joined in – one of the little girls wouldn’t let go of his hand until the piece was fully ended.

Saturday July 5
(IMG 3174 – 3242)
We met Mr. Lewis from Swansea who had been thrown off a previous elevator,
"I was too hea-vy, see".
We met his wife in the lobby.
"How do you like Madeira? Bloo-dy hilly isn' it?"
He said to his wife,
"Just list-en to how he pronounces Maenclochog. Lov-ely, isn't it?"
Day trip on eastern side of the island.
Monte (IMG 3176, 3184-3187) - there are clear signs of the funicular railway which was closed down during the second World War. (IMG 3174)
Toboggan (IMG 3181). This was pretty hair-raising, particularly in the cornering. They slew the toboggan around well before the turn and it feels as if it is going to roll. The descent is made down public roads with traffic coming in the opposite direction and also with a couple of cross streets. The two men who took us down were pretty surly and miserable.
Pico de Areiro. (IMG 3189 – 3200). Great views from the top even though the clouds came in from time to time. One of the valleys was called “Valey of the Nuns” and, until recently, some women born here had lived their whole lives without seeing the sea. There was an “igloo” which was used to store ice in the summer – men had to carry this back on their backs into Funchal, and do it quickly before it melted.
Ribeira Frio - fish farm, rainbow trout. (IMG 3201 – 3205).
Lombo de Baixo – lunch. This is in an isolated location perched high in the hills with wonderful views.
Chicken/scabbard fish. Bourgainvilla, jacaranda. (IMG 3206/8).
Santana- festa. (IMG 3214 – 3232). This was the highlight of the day.
They were setting up for 48 hours of folkloric singing. There were lots of police in anticipation of big crowds later on. The festivities had not begun but it was possible to buy the bread. Bolo de caco - sweet potato and flour bread cooked flat and eaten warm with garlic butter or sausage. There were many sides of beef which will be cut up into cubes, marinated and then cooked on a laurel spit. In spite of the enormous amount of beef they said it would all be eaten by eleven o’clock this evening.
Last stop was at Machico, the location of the first landing on the island. This is a pleasant, small town with a short, large pebble beach - people were sitting on wooden boards.
Machico is close to the airport the runway of which was recently extended on stilts into the sea. The area underneath has been used for tennis courts etc.

Sunday July 6
(IMG 3233 – 3260)
Hotel Mundial Lisbon is a first class hotel located in the heart of Lisbon, just 300 meters from the Praca do Rossio. This hotel has been completely renovated and recently enlarged. The Hotel Mundial Lisbon features 373 rooms and a full range of services, including car rental, currency exchange, travel assistance and 24-hour room service. The hotel also has a terrace, which offers a panoramic view of the surroundings. Guests will find the location is convenient to shopping, business offices and Lisbon's exciting nightlife.
Even though we had an early flight the group was down and ready with plenty of time. It was an uneventful flight and we trundled our bags out to find the guide for the day tour before going to the hotel. Today’s guide was very good, speaking excellent English and explaining many features we saw.
Our first stop was at Obidos, a walled city (IMG 3233 -3236). Picturesque but overcrowded with tourists. We sampled the local cherry liqueur, ginja - not bad but not worth repeating (we later found a Ginja place in Lisbon which was well patronized by the locals – in this case there were a few cherries in each glass which made the drink more interesting.
Nazaré was our destination for lunch. It is a small seaside town with a good sandy beach - heavily overcrowded. (IMG 3239 – 40).
Lunch was superb - it was helped by an excellent waitress who had a great sense of humour and three bottles of wine to a table of four.
Soup of carrot and potato.
An excellent fish steak cooked just right, salad.
Rice pudding.
Liqueurs - agua dente or almond
Batalha is an excellent large church with some good stained glass. (IMG 3241 – 3258)
Fatima is distressing because it demonstrates the enormous power that the church still has over a large part of the population. (IMG 3259 – 60). It was crowded, with many old, many infirm, many women and nuns. The gift shops were doing an incredible trade selling cheap trinkets and other souvenirs. There were so many candles to be burned, many of them are enormous, that they use a bonfire. For many, this was the highlight of the trip.

Monday July 7
(IMG 3261 – 3291)
We were pretty busy today. Colin said goodbye to the group after filming the electricos in the Praca Moniz. Used the bank machine just around from the hotel and then took the metro to Oriente to make our reservations for the trip to Porto on Thursday. Back to Praca Figueras (IMG 3261 -3) where we changed to a #15 electrico (articulated) to visit the Carris museum. The driver was not very good. He nearly overran a switch leaving Corpo Santo and overran a switch at Calvario. He put it into emergency and had difficulty in recovering his air. He then had to back up by driving it from the back (these cars are single ended).
We bailed out and walked the one stop to the Carris Museum (€5.00 entry, total and Colin forgot to ask for the seniors’ discount). (IMG 3264 – 3270). We quickly made our way through the small exhibits and a driver was waiting to take us to the car barns. He told us to wait while he got out the electrico (IMG 3264). It is beautifully restored right down to the electric lights, stained glass and catcher pilot. It was like having our own private excursion and certainly better than paying €25 for a guided tour along with thousands of tourists.
After visiting the barns he brought us back to the exit - all for $5 total.
The real reason we visited the Carris Museum was to waste time until we could go to lunch. It was now 1230 and we walked across the street to the Restaurante Ste. Amaro where it seems impossible to spend a lot of money. It was just as busy as last time and just as much fun. A half bottle of white wine and a bottle of water accompanied a plate of cheese slices to start.
Colin had Frango Carris - chicken roasted in lots of garlic and rice.
Mary had dourado grillado which as a complete fish slit into two pieces and accompanied by boiled potatoes and salad. The fish was well cooked and both meals were very tasty.
The entire meal cost €20 (and that included the more expensive of the two white house wines). It was pretty full and they were turning that tabled over rapidly. The clientele were workers from the car barns and office people. Many knew each other and this produced a convivial atmosphere. There were four kids eating at one table who appeared to be the children of the staff.
We walked back to Calvario and took the #18 electrico to the end of the line at the Ajuda Cemetary (IMG 3271). We walked back downhill (IMG 3272 – 73) to visit the botanical gardens and then took an electrico back to Praca Figueras. One of the fountains (IMG 3273) was designed to have water spout through serpents and fishes. It was enough to give one nightmares. The people at the tram stop were very polite and insisted in fair play – not ladies first.
After a short sleep back at the room we took the #28 electrico to the Alfambra and walked through along the tram route. There is one section that is so narrow that a single line only is possible and we had a beer on the sidewalk in this section watching the action. (IMG 3275 – 85). The street is very narrow here and the track is single and controlled by traffic lights. At another section the tracks have been gauntleted, again controlled by traffic lights. There is one part where a double track becomes single and then splits with one line going up and one line down – with fierce gradients in each direction (IMG 3288). No wonder Carris has decided to retain the old four wheel cars for these routes.
There was just time to take the Sao Justo lift (IMG 3290) before it closed and we walked back to the hotel via the Rossio station which has been beautifully restored even though it only serves the suburban service to Sintra nowadays (IMG 3291).

Tuesday July 8
(IMG 3292 – 3301)
Got up late and took the metro to Cais do Sodre to look at the market which had a lot of fish and shellfish but also some excellent fruit and vegetables.
The #15 electrico (IMG 3292) took us to Belem where we visited the Pastelleria do Belem which was established in 1837 (IMG 3293).
Here comes the galau and pasteil - crash - there goes the pastel on the floor and all over the guy in a business suit at the next table. Not bad when we finally got them, the custard tarts had a crunchy flakey pastry. The mess on the floor was cleared up by an old crone with a slop bucket and mop. The mess on the businnessman’s suit was not cleaned up.
A short walk through Belem (IMG 3294/7) was not very inspiring as we made our way to the Torre and had lunch at Vela Latino.
The Torre was hung with a lot of balloons which looked awful. The Portuguese seem bound and determined to turn the whole area into a low end tourist destination with a vast parking lot and provision for tour buses. Access to the water front is restricted in a number of places and it is not worth visiting.
The meal was good:
Crawfish Vichysoise
Beef medallions and foie gras/Cataplana de Mariscos.
(this contained clams, mussels, fish, mackerel, lobster tail and langoustes in a tasty broth with carrots, tomato and peppers - no potatoes or rice. It was far superior to the Catplana we had at the Mercado de Peixes in Ponta Delgada).
Cake with egg custard/sorbet with vodka.
Good bottle of alvarinho.
The whole was pretty good but the waiters were very serious. They never smiled and walked around as if they had corks stuck up their arses.
Later on we went up the #12 into the Alhambra - it climbs the most amazing grades. A young woman and her mother were on the electrico. She made a phone call and another woman was waiting for her at the next stop with her baby which she handed over through the back door.
Wandered around the plazas and had a ginja at a location which has a historic marker to ginja. There were a lot of people standing around having a drink. It is good to know that this is not just something dreamed up for the tourists. There were a few cherries, with pits, at the bottom of each cup. IMG 3301 shows an electrico just outside the hotel with both pantograph and trolley pole. The lady tram driver was in the process of changing from trolley to pantograph for her return to the car barns after her runs.

Wednesday July 9
(IMG 3302 – 3334)
We had a prime location at breakfast this morning with a table looking out over the trams waiting to take up their runs (IMG 3302). The first item was to visit the Gulbenkian Museum after walking in front of the Rossio station to see the front in daylight (IMG 3304/6). The Gulbenkian has a very wise collection of exhibits, many of dubious interest. There was a good Turner of a town at the mouth of the Seine with wonderful colours and a flock of birds that moved the eye to the centre.
We took the metro to the Marquis de Pombal and walked down. Rode the Lavra funicular up and walked down.
Lunch was at a restaurant that looked expensive but turned out to be a local hangout with mostly office workers. (IMG 3339).
We started with a salad.
Pork a la Portuguesa/Bacalau a Bras - both were very good, the pork being cooked in olive oil with potatoes and pickled vegetables.
Half a bottle of wine each.
We went up the Lavra Funicular (IMG 3312 – 3323) and walked down. We tried to get on the Gloria funicular but it was crowded and there would have been a long wait.
After a rest we went out on the #12 to Sao Tome (IMG 3324 – 3330). A tourist dropped her Carris card down a drain so the macho driver got his switch turning bar and levered up the drain cover to recover the ticket (IMG 3326) which they already knew wouldn't work anyway. The gradients are amazing – IMG 3327/9 were taken with the camera resting on the body of the tram to show the gradient. We caught a short turn #28 to Graza and watched it turn on the loop (IMG 3330).
A small beer and a glass of white wine cost €2.50.
Back on the #28 to Praca Moniz. In the single track section we were blocked by a bus - the driver was having an argument with a pedestrian and people were beginning to get off. The intersection was completely blocked at one point. In the end the bus pulled forward where they could continue the argument without impeding traffic.
We then walked over and rode up the Gloria funicular to the Miradouro at the top. (IMG 3334) On the steps down to the station we passed many promising restaurants set out in the level sections between the steps – next time.

Thursday July 10
(IMG 3335 – 3342)
We took the 1009 Alpha Pendolino train to Porto Campana which arrived about ten minutes late. (IMG 3335) Aceleration out of Lisbon was rapid and we were soon doing 220 kph but most of the line was much slower than this. It is a multiple unit and a bit worn, they took out the phones and just left a gaping area. The staff were not helpful - I asked for orange juice from the girl with the trolley but she only had Fanta. Later I went back and found she had lots of orange juice in the bar next door but couldn't be bothered to get one for me.

At Campana, our purchase of tickets and transfer to the local train to Sao Bento was very quick. Porto has improved. The downtown street works have been completed and the heritage tram now runs to the funicular and returns in front of the hotel. There are a lot more pedestrian areas and even the area in front of the hotel is now a pedestrian concourse.

After lunch at the hotel we took the funicular down to the wharf and did a port tasting - seven, two white, two red and three tawny (IMG 3339 – 3342).

There were a lot of people on the quay and a few performers - one man was covered in buff colour and sat still until someone gave him money. He got up to stretch and a little dog came along and lifted his leg over the material covering the man's chair.

Friday July 11
(IMG 3345 – 3388)
We had a pretty full day today and made full use of our Andante local travel cards.
The buffet breakfast at the hotel was excellent and started with champagne. The highlight was a very well aged sheep cheese but there were a number of excellent cheeses.
It rained in the morning but didn't stop us. We took the tram from outside the hotel to Carmo and then through town to the top of the funicular. (IMG 3346 – 3352). At one point the tram runs down through a pedestrian walkway which is closed to cars. Trams and people seem to mix alright (IMG 3351) We then walked along Sta. Catarina a lively shopping street (IMG 3353) with some interesting places including a four level mall type which was constructed behind an old classical facade.
We walked back to the funicular and rode it down to the quay, walked along to St. Francisco church to take the #1 electrico to the streetcar museum at Masarelos. (IMG 3356 – 3365) The museum is well laid out and the exhibits are all in beautiful condition. It was just about to close for lunch and we only had twenty minutes to walk around.
We watched the action at Masarelos where two #1 electricos cross and a #18 from Carmo turns round. We took the #18 up the hill to Carmo (IMG 3366), admired a special from the Museum (IMG 3367) and walked back to the Cafe Majestic on Sta. Catarina street for lunch.
The Majeztic is art deco and has a good menu.
Cold melon soup/vegetable soup
Magret of duck/sea bass (both excellent)
Cheese ice cream/strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice cream etc
Alvarinho wine/coffee.
It was an excellent meal which was improved by a good, friendly waitress.
At Sao Bento station we bought tickets for the steam train excursion tomorrow out of Regua and then walked down the Rua das Flores (IMG 3369/71) with its high end jewellers, to the quay and went on a river cruise. (IMG 3374 – 3386). We had shopped around to find the cheapest cruise and were surprised to find they ranged between €10 and €12 for the same ride.
There was just enough time to get the funicular back to catch the #22 electrico back to the hotel. It was driven by a grumpy driver who we had seen earlier in the day (IMG 3387)
We went back out and stopped at a greasy spoon for a bifana, fries and beer. This was a new experience. You get a plate of boiled meat which is inserted into a roll. It was very good although a little salty. Total cost €9.00.
Next on the agenda was a metro ride over the big bridge to the end of the line and return to the south end of the bridge where we walked through the park before walking back over the bridge and back to the hotel. (IMG 3388)

Saturday July 12
(IMG 3389 – 3410)
0915 Porto Sao Bento to Regua 1104 CP 865
Steam excursion Regua - Tua - Regua
1903 Regua to Porto Sao Bento 2055 CP962
We had bought tickets for the 0955 train from Sao Bento. This is a suburban train and we would have changed at Caide. However we were there early and talked our way on to the earlier, faster, more expensive train (€5.90 as opposed to €8.00). We helped the guard by taking a Korean student under our wing who was going only as far as Campanha.
The direct train gave us time to watch the departure of the narrow gauge railcar to Vila Real (IMG 3390) and the steam train being prepared for its run in the afternoon (IMG 3389).
Walking around the town of Regua did not uncover any likely lunch locations and we eventually decided to eat at the Douro hotel which was excellent and had a wonderful view over the Douro and the terraced vinyards. (IMG 3392 – 3).
Chef salad/caldo verde
Roast kid/veal with chorizo stuffed inside.
Bottle of the Douro white wine. (Planalto)
The portions were enormous and we couldn't finish them - Colin even had to refuse a piece of goat.

It was a great meal, well served and very good value at €53.00.
Back at the station the passengers were beginning to mill around. (IMG 3394 – 98) The train was not full and we found good seats on the right hand side which gave us views over the Douro.

It is a great trip and we saw many Quintas while the vinyards are stunning the way they hang to the sheer sides of the valley. There is also a lot of olive oil and many oranges produced.

There are a couple of tunnels just outside of Regua and we were covered in coal smuts after traversing them. This is a problem with the soft coal they use here. It produces a lot of smoke and the fire does not burn clean. We stopped at Pinhao to take water (IMG 3339 – 40) and we were a little late into Tua because we had stopped on top dead centre at Pinhao and had to set back before we could start.

At Tua (IMG 3401 – 07) the engine was turned on the turntable even though it was a 2-8-4 tank. The little diesel also had to be switched in. This was complicated by the fact that a service train had to pass and the engine could not come out without protection into the forward section from a trolley.

There's not a lot at Tua but Mary managed to find an ice cream. There was a bar in the freight shed along with many craft stands.

There was lots of entertainment on the train and three or four young girls went through giving out bottles of water, a sort of ham and cheese sandwich where the bread has been baked with the ham and cheese inside, a free glass of port.

To get everyone on the train the driver not only blew the whistle but resorted to starting very slowly then stopping to give the late-comers time to board. We dawdled back to Regua and were about 20 minutes late but nobody cared as it was such a great ride through interesting scenery and in wonderful weather.

We were not the first off the train but we were certainly first to get draft beer in the station buffet.

The train back to Porto was driven by a cowboy who ran right up to the speed limits, left braking to the last minute and used heavy brake applications. This resulted in some wild rides downhill and we arrived at Penseil over five minutes early so we waited for time there and also at Campanha. He could have saved fuel and wear on brake shoes and still have got in on time.

We arrived at Sao Bento precisely on time and it only took seven minutes to walk to the hotel where we both took showers to get the coal smuts off.

Sunday July 13
(IMG 3412 – 3423)
This is the only hotel I know with a settee in the elevator. The breakfast is very good - there was an excellent selection of cheeses today.

We took the funicular down (IMG 3412 – 3416) and crossed the low level bridge to the quay at Vila Nova de Gaia. It was quite busy. We walked along the sidewalk towards the first bridge and waited to take video of the first streetcar but it didn't turn up.
We had lunch at Mineirao on the quay. It was Brazilian and was very good. We had Planalto wine - similar to yesterday.

The waiter suggested that we have one main course between the two of us - good advice as it was enormous. It was pieces of pork and chorizo cooked with black beans Brazilliian style with fries, rice and fried banana. We had a mixed salad as well. Very good but too much for the two of us. They provided a plate of orange to aid the digestion.

Most people were eating the Brazillian special meats - waiters came around with various meats on a spit - it was all you can eat and was very popular with families.
Our next visit the Ramos Pinto caves. The tour was in English and the guide was good. We finished up with a glass of white and a glass of ruby.

Back over the bridge and up the funicular only to find that the tram to Carmo didn't turn up. We couldn't find the correct bus stop at Sao Bento so we went back to the hotel for some downtime and came out later to walk to the Palacio Cristal. Good views over the river. There were many people out for a stroll.

We walked down to the centre of the town and eventually found a place for a beer.

Monday July 14
The ride out to the airport was quick and easy. We had to transfer to an airport metro at Trinidade. We had just missed an Airport metro so we had to wait eight minutes while the metros cycled through the other three routes. The two platform tracks at airport station were grassed over and the lawn was well cut. From the platform a ride down on the elevator brings you right into the airport building itself. At the departure gate we met up with those of the group who had elected to spend an additional week in Lisbon.

1 comment:

  1. "Chourizo" should be "chouriço", and "Trinidade" should be "Trindade" (and that’s from a scroll-down fast scanning. Also, the title should be «Azores and mainland Portugal».