Sunday, October 22, 2006

Arrival in Salamanca

We rocked up to Salamanca and got stuck on these one way streets which seemed to usher us round in circles. Cars were bumper to bumper driving round looking for parks and so were we.

Quick note to self: Avoid driving round Spainish towns when they are in the middle of a festival.

We finally got over the whole driving and traffic thing and parked the car just out of the city centre, got out and walked. Wise move. The city centre wasn't that big anyway and it was quite easy to get from one side to the other, further out and it just becomes horrible suburbia like any other city.

The city seemed to be build around this huge square plaza, quite awesome, this huge square which is surrounded by this 4-5 story building. We got a table and had a coke and looked at the local accomodation book. The coke was at tourist prices and it cost like $5 - $7 AUD or something crazy like that... No tip for you!

Another thing to note to self about going to a town where there is a festival on... book the accomodation in advance!!! We started calling everyone in the book and the story was the same, all booked out, and they were saying that everyone else in town was booked out too! As we were resigning to the fact that we might have to drive on to Madrid we luckily managed to call some a place that had a 3 bed room which was booked but the ppl hadn't arrived yet. We were told if we got there before they did, the room was ours... We took off and made it there, feeling slightly guilty for taking someones room and totally relieved that we had found a place to stay.

Bye bye Portugal, Hello Spain

A decision was made that we had done our dash in Portugal and Spain was beckoning. So we got out the map and planned our journey over the border. We decided on a place called Salamanca, we had been given a reccomendation from some Kiwi tourists we met in Obidos, they said there was some festival going on. According to the map it looked like it would take 7 - 9 hours to get there, so we decided to leave at 6 the next morning so we could get there and have some time to find accomodation.

Well we did leave early, early the next morning and due to a slight map reading error it only took us about 4 or so hours. We had been using the wrong distance thingy and had over estimated the distance, could have been worse.

The drive was nice, mainly big open freeways. There was no one on the border to check passports or stamp our leaving pass, so I guess they thing I'm still there.

The land in Spain seemed dryer and flatter.


Portugal, Oporto, Port... It makes sense that Port comes from Oporto in Portugal.

Along time ago in a country on the opposite side of the world from Oceania, the Prime Minister of Portugal did what hadn't been done anywhere else at that time. He regionalised the country and stated that only certain areas could grow certain grapes and only produce certain types of wines. In Portugal wines are classified by region rather than the shiraz, merlot etc that I was used to in NZ and OZ.

The area's surrounding the Douro were slated as Port producing region. Due to the fact that the ground was made up of solid rock, which would get heat from the sun during the day and then keep the roots of the vines warm at night, thus creating a stable temperature, which was ideal for port grape producing vines.

I'm doing this all from over month old memories so there might be some sligh in accuracies.

The Port process starts the same as wine, but after 3-4 days into the fermentation process, brandy/cognac is introduced to stop the fermentation.

This is where the memories are starting to get flakey, I'll have to come back and fix this up one day...

But there are two differnt types of maturation, one happens to the port when it is stored in wodden casks and the happens whilst in the bottle. There are two names for this...

Special reserve Port is matured in casks, and is only given that name when apporved by some Port board. The ports that aren't given that title are then used to create blends.

We went to the south bank of the Douro and visited several of the caves, did their tour and tasted free port... Offley Forrester is only label (I want to say vineyard) which is locally owned, although originally (like most) started off by the British.

I deffinitely had a greater appreciation for port after doing a couple of tours... and tastings :)

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I've got some time on my hands so I thought I'd better catch on my blog, as the memories are getting hazier... It's nearly been a month since I got back from Europe! Time travels way to fast!

Well once we had our accomodation sorted we go information from the check in chick on where to go in Oporto and what to see.

Oporto is situated at the end of the Douro river, which starts in Spain and heads west through Portugal and ends at the Atlantic. Oporto is actually quite a bit above sea level and has massive bridges which span the river. The Port caves are located on the southern bank of the river, the name is very misleading as there are no actual 'caves', they are warehouses where the Port is stored to mature. You can imagine how crazy we must have appeared to the locals trying to find 'caves'. Along the Northern and city back of the river are located restaurants, cafe's etc.

Armed with this info we jumped into the car and headed out to explore Oporto. What we didn't think about was the time, it was around 5pm and as with any city, it was the beginning of peak hour traffic... We spent the first 45 minutes driving around the city centre trying to get out, but through bad luck or expert navigation we kept getting caught in one way streets which ushered us back to the same spot.

Finally we made it out of the city and after another 45 minutes of being lost in the suburbs we called it quits and decided to return to the hotel, get changed and go out. No sooner had we decided that when we pulled up to the mouth of the Douro river, our intended destination. Fate ha?

We drove around the side of the river looking for somewhere to eat or have a coffee... It was fairly uneventful, except for me accidentally driving 1km the wrong way down a one way street... I was beginning to think there were no road rules so this kind of behaviour was acceptable... It's amazing how I can talk myself into believing some things :) The liesurely drive by the river ended in a horrendus traffic jam. Not wanting to wait we back tracked looking for somewhere to have coffee, drinks etc. Drinks were low on the list as we/I were still suffering from a hang over fromthe previous night.

Wayne spotted this interesting pier looking area, which looked like it has some cafes, so we headed over to check it out.

We got there and tried to find some where that was open, Wayne dissappeared into this one unassuming place, then popped his head out and said 'You are going to love this place, not quite sure it's my cup of tea though...

I was intrigued.


This would have to be one of the coolest, funkyest bar's I've ever been into.

The bar was designed by 3 Architechs and each room/level is themed differently. During the day it also doubles as a bar with a designey clothing and arts shops/boutiques operating out of various rooms.

Check out the link to see photos, my description would go for pages and still not do the place justice!

The place looked like it would draw a beautiful crown.

We met Hugo who was working the bar and the manager on duty. He turned out to be one of the nicest people we met in Portugal. After a couple of drinks we went to this fish and chip like shop just round the corner and had dinner with Hugo and some of the bar staff which were about to start the night shift. On Hugo's reccomendation we tried some of the traditional local food... There was this sausage which was made up of 3 meats! Chicken, beef and maybe fish... We also had chicken gibblets which were tender and tasty (I liked them!) and a fish dish.

After dinner we went back to Bazaar as Hugo had invited us down for a drink. The place started filling up... I was right it draw a beautiful crowd, I'd say 75% well dressed gay boys with 20% beautiful girls and 5% straight males.

I loved it!

When we left, much later than anticipated that night, we found a road that took us from the river straight to where we were staying... all that driving around and we had missed the most direct route... Oh, well we now know another city :)