For New Year we headed north to the second-biggest city in Portugal – the romantic city of Porto. It’s a beautiful medieval city and also the birthplace of Port wine. The Douro river runs through the city and beautiful traditional boats, barcos rabelos, are still used to ferry the Port wine down stream. These boats line the riverside beneath the Dom Luís I bridge and you can see the boats filled with the large barrels holding the Port wine. The Douro region of Portugal is where some of the world’s best wine’s are produced. There is evidence of wine making in this region which dates back to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. A great place to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of a new one!
Unfortunately we only got to spend 2 nights here but managed to see a little bit of the city. We stayed in a gorgeous boutique pensão in the centre of the city. When we weren’t out eating and drinking we walked the city centre admiring the mix of old – lots of beautiful old buildings, Portuguese tiles, old doors and street art.
New Years eve was spent with Filipa and friends indulging in a degustation meal beginning around 9pm and finishing around 2am. At midnight, everyone paused from the eating to drink champagne and watch the fireworks visible out the window from our table. Traditionally at midnight the Portuguese eat 12 sultanas, typically called desejos or ‘wishes’, one for each month of the new year, with the chime of the clock. Much more civilised than resolutions! The Portuguese also believe you have to wear blue underpants on New Years eve to bring good luck – they can’t be old daggy ones, they have to be new! After our degustation, we walked a short distance to our friend’s bar which she opened just for us where shots of Pampero rum were downed accompanied by lime segments coated with brown sugar on one side and coffee on the other…..delicious and guaranteed to keep your eyes open a few more hours.
The hangover wasn’t too bad the following day so we drove to the gorgeous town of Aveiro, sometimes known as the ‘Venice of Portugal’ due to the arched bridges over the network of canals and the moliceiro boats. What makes these boats unique are the colourful paintings on their helm, usually religious in nature or humorous and dirty….go figure?
Aveiro is a gorgeous little town. It’s also home to a typical Portuguese dessert called Ovos Moles which is basically an egg-yolk pudding which I can’t say I like…..too eggy for my taste….but the town has other delights such as the beautiful calçada, tiles and sculptures.
After all this, our appetite had returned and we drove out to the coast to Costa Nova for a late lunch. At first you think you’ve driven on to the set of a Disney film or something as all the houses are all vertical or horizontal candy-striped. These houses were originally the old fisherman’s shacks. In front of the candy-striped houses are large sand dunes. Costa Nova sits on a large spit of land and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It got separated in a massive storm in the 16th century.
Lunch was a delicious splurge of seafood rice with the freshest sweetest prawns I have ever tasted! Feeling better already….is it beer o’clock yet? A good start to 2012.
Happy New Year everyone!