A Travellerspoint blog

Porto

Day 2 part 2

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Erin

Ok, so I have been really slack in updating the blog.....

After our ordeal at attempting a fresh fish meal we walk over to the other side of the river and let off some steam. We decide to do some touristy type event and see the Telérifico de Gaia which takes us to the top of the Porto to the government owned barracks. We walk back into town past the Sáo Bento train station and stop in coffee and pastry (4pm). We decide to hop on a bus and head towards the Matashinos (coast) for some portuguese "fish and chips". It takes a good 25 minutes on the bus and has great views along the river on the way. We hop off shy of the Matashinos and wander through town realising that it is on 6pm by now and have to wait around 1.5 hours for a restaurant to open. Kim jumps onto TripAdviser ( thanks to our handy TEP wireless modem) and locates a restaurant not far from where we are but does not open for 1 hour. We spot a little wine bar (Bar Tolo Meu) very trendy and good looking people over 3 levels so we decide to drop in for "a snack" before dinner ...

A bottle of local Douro wine and garlic pippies ( I have fava beans and chorizo) later, we roll out to the restaurant ( Cêpa Peixe ) for some fresh fish!!! We were able to choose from a bar of freshly caught fish of the day ( sea bass and something pink ) and octopus. We asked for a side of vegetables as the typical portuguese side of chips, potatoes and rice was too much so far. Our fish arrived looking and tasting beautiful as well as our side of 3 vegetables .... 2 types of potatoes (one that I love is boiled and dressed in olive oil - it seems to soak all the way into the potato without the oil taste. Had this in Liverpool St in Sydney years ago, but not since) and steamed Kale. Well, we did get veges ...

With very full tummies we head back towards the bus with a sprint to catch the last one home just in time.

I think that at this stage we are all very tired and FULL after consuming lunch and dinner in pretty much one sitting and looking forward to a good sleep (and sleeping in).

Posted by Kimerinallanah 11:22 Archived in Portugal Tagged fish restaurant matasinhos Comments (0)

Porto Day 2, Part 1

LIES ...

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You may have been wondering if everything was ok as there have been no blogs since our first day in Porto. Well, after being attacked by the toothless, bandanna wearing grey haired chihuahua i have had to recover from my sore stomach from laughing. Kim could hear the dog barking ( I say attacking) from the apartment.

So after my recovery ( *sigh* and a few pastries to ease to fear) This is my first ( ... and last) contribution to the blog after nagging from Kim.

We have settled well into the apartment. Lígia has been a great host, and the apartment is exactly as the website depicts ( was a little nervous after the teeny tiny bathroom in Lisbon) After my now religious early morning walks ( via the bakery), we all end up having a nap after 2nd breakfast (coffee and pastry) for a few hours, partly to keep warm in the 3 degrees and the other is to stave off any serious illness (Kim and Allanah that is, I am not sick *cough*) because I would hate to have to navigate through the maze that is Portugals medical system. To give you a little taste of what it is like, Beatriz had an accident 2 months ago, she was scanned and x-rayed and still not has been given any information as to what is wrong or what things she should or should not be doing with her injuries. So, um ... We are not sick!

After our little nana nap we head for the first time down to the water. We zig zag down from our apartment through the little lane ways accosted by waiters to go into their restaurant. We stop at a couple and read the menu, nothing jumping out except at this stage Allanah's stomach. It is almost 2.30 by this stage and she had a few bread rolls and some orange for breakfast so she is fading away to nothing and we are certainly reminded by her everytime we pass by a restaurant.

We continue to admire the view and head towards the bridge on the eastern side of Porto. We find ourselves towards the end of the hawkers selling their restaurants and decide on one that is set back off the main drag.

  • **WARNING! WARNING!****
  • ***The following events may cause some distress and is recommended to be viewed by a mature adult. Contains some mild foreign language

We are greeted by a young waiter who awkwardly hands us our menus as we sit down to lunch. This not only gives our feet a rest from the walking but also our ears as Allanah is so much closer to filling the rumble in her belly. I was so impressed by the fish we had the day before in Nazare that I am more than happy to eat again, so I order the fish and so does Allanah (because ... It has chips with it). And Kim orders with bachlau and chorizo to start.

Our entree arrives with quite a show. A flame covered chorizo that cooks in front of us - it is like a bus crash, I cant look away I am fascinated at how the fat bubbles and burns and the meat changes colour. I notice out of the corner of my eye that that waiter is back and is standing nervously with a bottle of lighter fluid watching the flame slowly go out leaning towards the platter.

I have a thousand thoughts that run through my mind and that one that is screaming at me is that Allanah is in the firing line if this little whipper snapper decides to squeeze the lighter fluid into the dish from where he is standing. I imagine flames everywhere, burnt meat and hours in a hospital in Porto with no answers and Allanah in pain ... He must have ESP (or something in the look on on my face .. I dont know) because he walks away and comes back empty handed to serve the now charcoal coloured chorizo.

Allanah and Kim tuck in, I take a bite and complain that it is cold in the middle to Kim scolds me and says that it is smoked meat not raw. So, I finish what I started and give away the rest of my chorizo. I am not impressed and can taste the lighter fluid slightly.

By this stage Allanah has only been mildy "commenting"on how hungry she is and considering we (Kim and I) both still have our arms I think she is handling this very well. Then the mains arrive and Allanah is frozen in time watching the waiter bring our dishes over. She spies the pile of fried potato (vegetable #1 in portugal) and starts to hyperventilate. The waiter has not placed the dish on the table yet and she id starting in on the chips. I watch my plate placed in front of me. And,
I don't know what to say.
There is some salad.
It looks fresh.
The chips I can see are hot.
They looked cooked.
I see the fish and am disappointed that it does not look like the fish that I had yesterday - I cant help but look.

I see Kim looking at my plate. His furrow deepens.

Kims Baclhau arrives and is placed in front of him.

He asks me if the fish is fresh, so I cut open my fish to find that the fish is cooked.
But find that these are frozen fillets. I tell him this and show him. "%}*^ this is a restaurant, bloody ^%}{* dont serve frozen food when you are on a river and ocean with fresh fish on your door step." Grumble, grumble grumble (which means that Kim is trying to not only compose himself but also formulate the right words in Portuguese to give the waiter the "feedback" they deserve)

We tell Allanah to stop eating and her face face says a thousand words. At this point she probably thinks that she will not be able to eat forever and her face shows it. We explain to her that this is not the right thing to serve in restaurant and that we will be complaining and leaving.

The waiter is in the doorway and spots us not eating, hesitates and walks over.

Now at this point I look at Kim - to see what the waiter will be seeing when Kim talks to him in Portuguese.
I am scared, and I am not talking to him. He eyes are dark almost black and he sits up in his chair making him look 6ft tall sitting down (almost the same size as the waiter standing up!) and a VERY deep furrow. Uh oh ... Kim is super pissed. I want to run ...

Kim starts of quite calmly - I am impressed and think that maybe he is not as pissed he looks on the outside. I mean, what do I know only having lived with him for 15 years ...

He asks the waiter if the fish is fresh and the waiter responds in Portuguese. Kim replies to him in Portuguese and seems to be caught off guard. From Kim's hand gestures and some of the words that I can hear I know that he is asking why don't we have fresh fish and why are they serving the frozen fish, it is not what they advertised. He mentions they only fry and heat up, no real cooking. My stomach lurches at the thought of the chorizo. How old was it, will we be sick, should we have eaten it cooked in LIGHTER FLUID FLAME????????

The waiter walks away and comes comes back with a girl the same age as him. She explains that her English is better than the waiter and how can she help. Kim tells her about the frozen fish etc (he is getting more and more pissed) and they say that there is no fresh fish in the grotto ( area of where we were on the water). Kim tells her that we will not eat, and the waiter takes the plates away. Kim says he will not pay for the fish but ok for the drinks and chorizo.

We paid the €9 for the 3 softdrinks, 1 chroizo and STALE bread ( which we both kick ourselves now that we even paid for it at all being €3,50) and walk away pissed off.

Allanah and I head closer to the bridge with Kim trailing behind fuming and talking to himself in a language close to Portuglish (Portuguese and English) - probably going through the conversation over again in his head and trying to work out if he used the right words at thenright time and what else he could of said in Portuguese to let them know they were bloody idiots for selling frozen store bought fish to customers.

We decide that we need to walk off the stress of the lunch escapade (Kim definitely does-maybe a stroll to...... France?) and head over the bridge toward Villa Nova de Gaia on the opposite site of the river Allanah still hungry, Kim pissed and I just want to go to sleep (not sick *sneeze*)..............

I will wait for comments/feedback before I post Porto Day 2 part 2 (because I think Kim does a better job than me)

Posted by Kimerinallanah 00:21 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

First full day in oPorto

How did we get so lost?

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This one will just be a quick recap of the day. I will try to come back and colour in some things and add pictures later, we are having trouble getting photos to share between phone and iPad.

On Monday, Erin, as usual was up early and walking around to get supplies. She walked down to the river and took some great photos of dawn over the bridge. She swapped pleasantries with a waiter at a cafe on the waterfront using sign-language and when he suggested it was cold this morning, used the universally recognised "meh" in response.

After breakfast we got everything out of the car and headed out along the river to find the Europcar office. Once again we missed some turns but found our way (twice as we had to go and fill the tank before returning) without too much drama. We set off to walk back to the historical centre, stopping at a supermarket for some fruit and a cafe for coffee and pastry. We were thinking about this on the walk and for the price of 2 coffees, a chocolate milk and 3 pastries (which cost us 4.60 Euros) you would not even get 2 coffees in Australia. What is going on there?

Continuing the walk we recognised some of the turns we should have taken and landmarks we should have recognised from the night before. With a map, time and daylight it all seemed so simple. How could we have gotten so lost. We made it into town via the Palacio Cristal which used to be a sporting stadium but I think now is used for conferences and exhibitions and stuff. It is set in lovely parkland with almost cliff-top views over the river.

We continued our walk into the city centre and all of a sudden found ourselves at the restaurant at which we had dinner the night before. Huh??? Having thought we had the hang of things we were once again surprised to find we were completely wrong about the relative location of the apartment and the restaurant area. Not sure what's going on there but I am sure we now have it sorted.

We stopped for lunch at a little place around the corner, again loading up on meat and headed home for an afternoon nap. At around 5 pm Erin and I took a couple of glasses of the wine the host had left for us in the apartment and went to a miradouro (lookout) at the end of our street to sip the wine and look out over the river under lights. Great holiday moment, you know you get those times where it hits you that you are in another country on the other side of the world and it is so beautiful and you look back at all the things along the way that led you to this point.

Unfortunately it was freezing and my cold was playing havoc so the romantic moment didn't last long and we headed back to the apartment. We decided that dinner would be something small at home so we went looking for a supermarket. We bought cheese and jamon iberica along with some bread, sardine paste and other goodies and had a light meal in the apartment. Erin is really starting to feel the effects of the cold (flu) and whilst she refuses to be sick I think she could be in for a rough few days.

Posted by Kimerinallanah 03:22 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lisbon to oPorto

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Kim:
The last few days have been a struggle as I have been struck down with a cold. Erin was supposed to have done some blogging but it appears I am the official diarist for the trip. So what has happened?

On Saturday, 10 December, we decided we would head out to Sintra to check out some of the palaces and Dad and Beatriz would met us there for lunch. After struggling to find a train we realised there was a general strike and only the Metro system was running. So no Sintra services.

Dad ended up driving in to meet us at the old bull ring at Campo Pequeno and we went to the monastery at Mafra for a walk around. We arrived around 2pm so were running out of daylight but sat down for lunch of patinishcas de bacalhau (a codfish dish) and arroz de feijao (red bean rice). It was nice but as the patinishcas and some other bits and pieces were fried they didn't sit well with my cold and the onion in the rice upset Erin's new-found food intolerances. We probably weren't in the best frame of mind to be rating the meal.

Anyway, we went for a walk around the monastery and palace which is huge and a really good insight into the way the royals lived at that time. The opulence of the place (not to mention the number of deaths in construction) compared with the lives of the populace is sobering to say the least and the colocation of church and palace shows the influence the catholic church had over people and politics.

By the time the sun went down both Erin and I were feeling decidedly ill. Dad dropped us back at the Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon and we walked back to the Beira Gare to get Allanah a light dinner before going home. A bifana (pork steak sandwich) hit the spot and we got a taxi home.

On Sunday the cold had really hit but we were scheduled to pick up the hire car at 10am and drive to oPorto via Nazare. Erin went out again to get breakfast supplies and we got everything packed up. I don't really know the details but Erin said some guy and his dog were walking along and the dog attacked her. Luckily it didn't have any teeth so she is unharmed. I think we should get a petition going for Erin to at least blog about this experience, i think there is a gem of a story there.

I went down to the local square to get a taxi and bring it back for our bags. We then spent about 45 minutes getting to the car hire place because the taxi was stuck due to a fun-run or something through the middle of the city. Yet again it struck me that we take a lot of little things for granted in Australia like the authorities making it known when a major event will disrupt traffic. In Australia there probably would also have been signed detours and special lanes set aside for buses and taxis to keep flowing.

Eventually we got to the Europcar office and picked up the car, a very nice little Peugeot 308 and started the drive out of Lisbon. We were having one last lunch with Dad and Beatriz in Nazare before heading off on our own. Now I will say up front that Erin is generally a very good navigator and has a great sense of direction but I suspect (though she still won't admit) she was starting to feel the effects of the cold I have. Anyway, this time around she was just rubbish. We missed the major turnoff from the A1 to Porto onto the lesser A8 which takes a more coastal route. Once we realised we were on the wrong road she then sent us through little backwater towns and actually took us off a highway which woul have got us there. Being tired and cranky already this did not sit well but she put an extra effort in to concentrate until we got to the right place and met up with Dad and Beatriz just outside Sao Martinho do Porto where Beatriz does her riding lessons.

We were running late by this time so we had just a quick tour of the facilities and then went for lunch. We went to a little restaurant on the marina which I had never been to before. I still wasn't feeling great but the seafood was sooooo good. Dad, Beatriz and I had percebos (barnacles) for starters. You could tell these were fresh because the sea water squirted everywhere when you tried to open them. For mains we just had a very simple grilled fish but the freshness made the difference. Erin generally doesn't eat much but she just kept going back for more here. The first time I have ever seen her go for 4ths. I should say that we only had 4 fish between the 5 people so it wasn't like She ate a huge amount.

After lunch we said our goodbyes, Dad gave us a "pao de lo" which is very typical and famous Portuguese cake which we have since found out Erin and Allanah don't like, lucky me. We drove to oPorto, arriving just on sunset and proceeded to get lost again. I stopped to take a look at the map myself and ended up asking an old gentleman for some directions. His response (in loose translation) was that it is very difficult explain but if we didn't mind he would get in the car and show us. He said if he stayed at home he would just be watching TV so he might as well get out for a walk. Well thankfully he did because we now recognise some of the places we went past and we realise our starting point was absolutely nowhere near where we thought it was and we probably would have driven around all night. Once we arrived at the apartment he just jumped out of the car and took off, not allowing us to properly thank him.

Now while the Lisbon apartment met our needs and the view was lovely, it is fair to say this oPorto apartment has blown us away. For essentially the same price as Lisbon we are in a great location, in the historical centre just down from the world heritage listed "Clerigos" church, between the main restaurants area and the river. The apartment is quite narrow but it has 3 bedrooms (2 single beds at the front, queen in main bedroom and another single in a third bedroom) large lounge/dining and a long, narrow kitchen with a spacious bathroom at the back. The host has been just lovely and we couldn't be happier. I would absolutely recommend this place to anyone thinking of staying in Porto.

Arriving on a Sunday night there was not a lot open but we wanted to go for a walk to try to get our bearings. Once again we were disoriented and ended up heading up in the wrong direction before accidentally finding the restaurant area and a nice little Churrasceira which happens to be about 5 minutes walk from the apartment. We asked for a mixed Espatada to share and were surprised when the waiter said that was perfect as it was very big. The guys on the table next to us arrived shortly before us and when their meal arrived we were a little shocked. They had asked for the sirloin steak grill and it arrived on a silver platter absolutely chock full of inch-thick steak. I think the guys were German and they bravely battled through it but we were nervous. In the end the mixed grill was just the right size with pork, chorizo, 1/2 chicken, beef, a plate of rice and a plate of chips. With drinks this cost just under 24 Euros.

The temperature must have dropped about 5 degrees while we were eating because it was absolutely freezing when we came out. Thankfully we crossed the road and recognised the square that Clerigos is in and knew we didn't have far to walk.

Posted by Kimerinallanah 02:46 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Shopping and fado in Lisbon

Someone forgot to tell the Portuguese they are in a financial crisis

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Kim:
Our second day in Lisbon started reasonably early given the circumstances. Whilst I wrote a blog entry (I can feel the inner frustrated writer emerging) erin walked down to the local shops for some supplies. First and foremost on the list was toilet paper which the apartment rental managers must have thought we could do without.

Erin organised a Hobbit-style first breakfast of crispy bread rolls with toppings of sardine paste and cheese. I can hear some of you rolling your eyes at the sardine paste here but this (and tuna paste) are pretty much universal as couvertures (table starters) in Portuguese city restaurants (rural ones lean more towards just cheese and / or olives). They are a firm favourite of ours and one we found we were able to buy at Casa Iberica, a shop in Fitzroy selling Spanish and Portuguese groceries. Nonetheless we rarely get it so was a nice way to start. Erin also managed to get some beautiful mandarins and cherries, much nicer than I have had in Australia the last few seasons. I'm not sure where these came from but they were very good.
We ate them in the front room of the apartment with the view behind. Cost of breakfast#1' 3 Euros.

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We spent a little time looking into the rental car situation as we realised driving across borders was going to be an issue as the cost to leave a car in a country other than the one you hired it in his hideously expensive. This has meant a slightly shuffling of our Southern France trip to allow a return to oPorto and flight to Paris rather than driving all the way up. This was all confirmed at the Europcar later in the afternoon but we did chew up quite a bit of time and anxiety on this issue in the morning. Coffee was definitely required at this stage.

After showers in the extremely small bathroom, I am only just exaggerating to say I could barely get through the door of both the bathroom and the shower stall, we got dressed up for what would hopefully be a sunny day in Lisbon. Erin and Allanah looking very fashionable and me a lot more like a slovenly tourist. We decided to walk down to the main Praca to get our bearings and judge whether walking home would be an option...the answer is no. We headed down a huge set of stairs just by the apartment and the legs were a little jellyish after this exertion.

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Second breakfast was to consist of coffee and pastries and we had seen a pastelaria in the Rossio with a big range so we decided to head straight there rather than staying local.

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I ordered 2 coffees. A reasonable approximation of a strong flat white (which is what Erin and I drink) is called a meia-de-leite. We generally drink these here although sometimes have a picolo latte which here in lisbon is called a garrote and in the North around oPorto is called a pingo. This is essentially a shot of espresso with a shot of milk. A milky coffee would be ordered as a galao. Allanah likes to drink a chocolate milk which you order by brand name "Ucal".

We started with some generic pastries including the pasteis de natas, just to hammer home how different the pasteis de belem are. The pasteis de natas are the Portuguese custard tarts which you would get in cafes around Australia. We also got one of Allanah's favourites called a bola de berlim or just a bola. This is essentially a cream filled donut but the filling is a special creme patisserie which is similar, yet different to the French. I also got a weird flat one which the waiter said was made from pumpkin but tasted of citrus.

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After second breakfast we thought we should head out to Europcar to confirm our rental before meeting Dad and Beatriz for lunch. School in Portugal runs from 8:30am to 1:30pm Mondays and Fridays and 8:30am to 5:00pm Tuesday to Thursday. Very civilised schedule if you ask me. Europcar is out near the roundabout and monument "Marques de Pombal", just 2 metro stops from the Rossio so wasn't a long diversion and gave me peace of mind that we could actually get ourselves to our bookings in France.

Back in the Rossio we did a quick shop and bought a dress for Allanah and then went for lunch at Restaurant Nicola on the Rossio. We had straters of ameijoas a "bulhao pato" (pippies in a sauce of garlic, garlic, olive oil, coriander and garlic). Actually the garlic was not at all overpowering although it was very heavily featured with large strips looking more like shredded cabbage than garlic slices.

We then got the specialty of the house but was disappointed by this sirloin steak in Nicola sauce. I wouldn't bother again. It was nice sitting outside on the praca with the sun shining, some green wine and street performers. Allanah had a beautiful chocolate mousse here.

We had decided to go out to Belem to the monastery (and more pasteis) but the girls managed to convince us that they had to buy each other christmas presents and we went (thankfully mostly window shopping) shopping through the high end shops of central Lisbon. My Scottish blood was on high alert but we got out mostly unscathed. We had a walk around some very nice areas in the Bairro alto and back down to the car at sunset to try to find somewhere to see fado.

After Dad made some calls we ended up heading out to a place in the west of the city called Sr Vinho instead of the Alfama. The Fado was good, the food good but not for the price. I understand they charge more to cover the performers but this pretended to be high-end which is not what I expected fado to be and whilst I enjoyed it I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend it to others. The place was full though so what do I know? Given how full this place and the high end shops were I think someone forgot to tell the Portuguese they are in a financial crisis. I guess it is more a income differential issue with the poor being very poor and the rich, not so much.

It was around 10:30pm when we left fado and Allanah was almost in tears she was sooooooo tired ( and I suspect more than a little bored by the fado). Dad was struggling with traffic and directions again so we got a taxi to the apartment which was quicker and cost just 5 Euros so well worth the price.

Posted by Kimerinallanah 00:55 Archived in Portugal Tagged breakfast stairs fado pastry Comments (0)

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