When we originally thought about a Portuguese respite, we pictured beaches. But the weather forecast continued with clouds and sporadic showers so we made a spontaneous choice and headed for the mountains of northern Portugal near the Spanish border.
Via Airbnb we found a stone cottage in the very small town of Vilar, a bit north of Terra's de Bouro.
Because Vilar had no restaurants we enjoyed cooking in most days. Many of our veggies came straight from the store owner's garden. We took a couple leisurely reading, writing and crafting days. The other days we explored a section of Portugal's only national park.
Along the edge of the park we followed a Roman era cobblestone road through several villages, dropping down over 1,000 feet, crossing over a river in a long canyon like valley and then back up. Lots of flowers, budding fruit trees and general nature love.
Our park hike looped around a large reservoir used to generate electricity. We climbed up to around 4K feet and covered a modest 6-7 miles.
Getting to Porto took no time at all. Our across the street neighbors from Vilar (owned the grocery store) dropped us off at the bus and a few hours later we are toasting you!
Got serious on port tasting after some initial light hearted tastes. We had a selection of five; a young white, a 10 year white: a young and older tawny and a vintage late harvest ruby. The older tawny won our votes.
Turns out all the Portuguese ports are blends due to the small size of the old vineyards used for their ports. The years are also blended. For example, a 10 year port will includes 7 year and 13 year port. The average is 10 years. After this round of port education my understanding of port and its history has permanently changed.
Besides port tasting and food I was most interested in hearing some Fado music, a unique style of music popularized in Portugal. Turns out non commercial live Fado music is not easy to find. Thanks to random luck we found a 'pop up' club and enjoyed awesome and earthy musicians and community singers into the wee hours of the morning. Our recordings came out pretty darn good. I'm still pinching myself to make sure I'm still here on earth and not off in some other plane. What an experience!
Franny loved this local sweet treat, a Bola de Berlim. In her words it's the closest pastry to a New Jersey creme donut (that she has tasted). I couldn't disagree.
It's sardine season in Porto. No meal is complete without a plate full!
Our best sunset in the EU so far. Farewell to Porto, a wonderful city!
One last task before heading to Austria. My barber is fantastic and full of charm and talent.
My new look for the Danube bike ride. Onward!