So the grapes are grown there, they are picked in September and processed (one cellar claimed they preferred the traditional foot-stomping method because it doesn't crush the seeds along with the fruit; the other said they only use stomping for sentimental reasons. Who am I to say? Except if I were more investigative, it might have been the perfect opportunity to find out for myself, since they had JUST finished picking at the beginning of this month). After crushing, they are only fermented a day to a few days, and then they are housed for a year or two before they are trucked down to Porto to the appropriate producers where the wine spends many years aging in oak barrels or 40,000-liter (!) vats. They call the cellars "caves" which is sort of accurate, though they appeared to be actually damp, dark, stone warehouses. Built into the side of hills. Oh, and I did see a bat in the one. (So OK, caves.)
Anyway, the caves were earlier in the week. Back to the tourist boat from yesterday.
We started in thick fog, with six or so other participants in the tourist company we were using, and a 75-member party of Portuguese taking the same boat, some who knew each other, many of them boisterous. Dan suspects it was a wedding party, but I didn't see any hallmarks of wedding, only large-group tour. Anyhow, they sang along with some of the traditional songs piped over the speakers, and were very jolly. I would have enjoyed having a bit of the language, but the few times I said something in English to someone, they tended to give a friendly smile and reply in Portuguese.
We chatted with a British couple, but mostly each did the social introvert thing and sat quietly looking at the world. From the top deck, watching the coastline speed along at close to 20kph was fun. There were a few very pretty towns and vineyards we passed. For me another high point was passing through two locks, one raising the boat over 35 meters, which turns out to be the highest lock in Europe.
From the arrival at Regula town at around 5pm, we spent 45 minutes in a regional wine museum, which was interesting enough for the local growing history; and had a port sample, and then walked with our tour agent to the train station for the two-hour trip back to Porto. There wasn't really a plan for dinner. The train station had a cafeteria, where dan got a ham sandwich (contents: a bun; a few slices of ham). The tour agent (OK, technically "guide" since she did tell us to follow her; just not really why or where to) bought us tickets and made sure we knew what to do when we got off the train.
The train had the grungiest smelliest seats of any train I've been on. Here's a thought- if your paper head-rests are YELLOW you should probably change them! Oy.
But we made it home, and today had a morning to wander around a bit and then head to the airport. The good: dan discovered a food-market near the old stock-market building, and we then discovered a restaurant above the market that was really tasty, and the scenery was nice too. A pleasant finish to the trip. And then we caught a cab to the airport.
The bad: our flight is delayed three hours, which means we arrive at 9:30pm, aka 2:30am body-time. But there are worse airports to be stuck in, for certain- I've found a quiet corner to write this and and I'll use 30 minutes of free boingo wifi to post this and catch up on mail.
Samples of port tried: 14. Ones that I liked: about 2/3. Ones that I *really* liked: 3 or 4, including a 20-year-old tawny from Taylor, and a 10-year-old white port that we're bringing home with us. Ways I don't like port: as port-and-tonic, and part of sangria.
We are both feeling rather travel-worn, and looking forward to our own bed and seeing Rover in the morning. But I'm glad I came on this trip, even if one visit to Portugal turns out to be the right number. And hey, my brain may end up merging the Porto transit system and rabbit-warren buildings into my standard "lost in the New York City transit-system" dreams...
See you on the flip-side!