Nicole and I jumped at the opportunity to visit Portugal with our Europa Village friends on the Duoro River Cruise for Wine Lovers. I think we were the first ones to sign up! And, we are so glad we did!
We did, however, kind of hide out together at the beginning of the trip in Lisbon. We stayed at a wonderful little boutique hotel H10 Duque de Loulé and enjoyed a wonderful European style continental breakfast each morning complete with the Portuguese version of Iberco ham (jamón ibérico.) We walked the city each day for four days. The capital of Portugal is known as “The City of Seven Hills” And, yes this is so true! Legend has it that Lisbon, like Rome, is built on seven hills. Each one has its stories to tell and its viewpoints reveal the city’s legends.
Of course, we did our research on chefs and restaurants where we MUST dine. All were such great decisions. Restaurante Tapisco was our first stop. We sat at the bar for 2 ½ hours and enjoyed a great Vinho Verde wine and tasted way too much on the menu to the point that the server said we had ordered too much food and should reconsider. We did so until dessert, then walked off all the calories we had consumed, ready for the next day.
We walked the Avenida da Liberdade, the central street of Lisbon, all the way down past the plaza with beautiful fountains and to the ocean river to witness the gateway to Lisbon. Open little markets along the way made shopping for Nicole easy and not too expensive. Most everything, including wine and cuisine was very affordable in Portugal. I loved that for sure!
After so much walking, we needed a drink and lunch and had this place called Bairro do Avillez picked out. However, we were at the entry to Lisbon and the Restaurant concept was at the TOP of the neighborhood called Chiado (Chiado is the name of a square and its surrounding area in the city of Lisbon.) The city kindly offered a “lift elevator” but the line was long and we like to walk so after what felt like 15 stories of steps straight up, we had to stop for a breath. Finding the right little street also became a challenge. Finally, we came upon a small hanging street sign “Bairro do Avillez.” We walked into the Taberna cute bistro feeling, hams hanging and a giant mural on the wall with pork facials…my kind of place!! The interior was a seafood concept “Paleo” opening to a second-floor veranda with a Pisco Bar…Jackpot! Pisco Sours and three varieties of Peruvian ceviche followed by a chef’s selection of skewers. My favorite was the beef heart!
Shopping in Lisbon was our favorite! Very inexpensive and lots of items made from the famous cork tree. Cork being one of the top five manufactured items in the country. I now have a cork hat and a cork wallet, both waterproof that also float.
We ended up at the river and went to the Time Out Market. Half is a real vegetable floral market, the other half a food hall that seats about 500 patrons in the center with a Wine Bar, Beer Garden and a Gin & Tonic Bar. To get a booth or restaurant at this location, it must first be approved by the group of food critics that coordinate the facility. Needless to say, the quality was quite admirable. We decided to stay behind the scenes and sit at the bar stools next to the kitchens. Tartars of all kinds with foam and even a beet and herring tartar – fabulous! The next bar stool brought us Iberco braised cheeks and fried cabbage, Bacalao Cod slow poached and of course Vinho Verde! I was in search of the famous Portuguese Sardine. At the booth in the market I asked about a few specific products I was destined to find. They stated they did not have these items but go across the street turn left then right and find the “pink” street – an all PINK painted street, like the yellow brick road, we came upon this bar called Sol e Pesca. I entered, asked about sardines and was shown a glassed-in wall full of extraordinary items. Nicole left me in there for about 30 minutes. When I left, I had spent a worthy 65 Euros on fish treasures of many types to bring back home to America.
The last night our friends landed at the airport and we walked directly to 100 Maneiras, meaning 100 rules to be broken. This highlight of a six course Portuguese Wine Pairing was interesting, creative and delicious. One course was served on a clothes line of crispy fish skins, another was actually served on top of the very sidewalk cobblestones that were once walked upon. Lots of wine was poured and tasted among the hours of great conversation, until we were asked to give up our table for the next awaiting reservation. We would have liked to start from the beginning all over again. Nicole and I walked back to the H10, and on the way, found a late night ceviche bar where we sipped a pisco sour on the sidewalk. Merci D & B!!
The next morning it was time to depart Lisbon. The train ride was wonderful, complete with a bottle of red wine, cheeses, chorizo and bread. Nicole and I had more time to converse of dreams for the future. On to Porto, the City of Six Bridges, which we had visited briefly the previous year. A beautiful, quaint city with a Ribeira on the river full of shops, bars and restaurants. Then there was the other side of the river full of warehouses of Port wine that had made its way down the Douro River, waiting to be sipped. So, this is exactly what we did for the next couple of days.
Then came the river cruise. Delightful ship and Portuguese staff. What a magnificent river with natural foliage on the hillsides, until you came to the vineyards that covered the slopes. Enjoyed dinner in a monastery, cruised the river enjoying Portuguese wines until Dr. Doug, Europa Village’s Sommelier & Wine Educator, took charge educating us for an hour or two which included Europa Village wines.
We visited historical village of Castelo Rodrigo, located on a hilltop with every kind of flavored almond one could imagine. On our walk up the hill, we found what looked like a lost traveler begging for money on the sidewalk. We stopped to share a Euro, but then low and behold it was Dr. Doug pulling out a mini split bottle of red wine and a Europa Village glass for a photo opportunity. Good for a laugh.
The next day, we stayed onboard the ship with three other couples just to relax. Had a private luncheon together, then walked to Spain, crossing the bridge and watching fishermen catch red mullet from the river, along with crazy local’s bungy jumping off the narrow-gauge railway bridge. Relaxation. I read a whole novel and forgot about the world as we know it.
On another stop back down the river, Nicole and I departed and walked the quiet cobblestone streets of Pinhão. There was the most fascinating railroad station with beautiful blue tiles as a mural. Maybe we will have such a thing here at Europa’s future. There is this mascot called the Barcelos Cockerel in Portugal, a rooster that you find on all kinds of art and artifacts. Do take the time to find the legend story behind this mascot, worth the storytelling time at the campfire with a bottle of Portuguese wine.
Some of the best Octopus I have ever enjoyed!!
Travel! Eat fantastic food! Sip enjoyable wines! Do this all with your very best friend in life, merci beaucoup Nicole Marguerite!