Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 560 : Adventures in Language Gaps

Arrival in Porto, Portugal circa 8 in the morning. Grabbed a coffee, cheapest large European coffee I have had in recent memory clocking in at one whole euro. After a brief wait for friends at the airport, we all traveled to downtown Porto on the metro. Getting off the train, Portugal's second city walked a fine line between feeling abandoned and run down. After dropping our bags off in our vacation rental apartment in the old town which since 1996 has been a UNESCO world heritage site, a run along the Duoro River revealed the magical majestic beauty this city has to offer with six awe-inspiring bridges traversing the river designed by Gustave Eiffel. After a shower it was time to all explore....

Lunch first, we walked down to a row of cafes situated on the river, very much European beach town-ish. We all split a Portuguese mixed cow, goat & sheep milk cheese shaped like a crottin de chavignol, this was a milk semi-firm cheese, delish with the homemade olive paste accompanying it. I had a Portuguese gazpacho -- no pureed tomatoes here, a simple clear onion and herb broth with slivers of fresh tomatoes and onions, definitely different but very refreshing! After lunch we decided it was time to provision our apartment with food for the next few days, let's find the authentic local market! After a feeble attempt at communicating with the waiter whose grasp of the English language was lacking almost as much as all of our lack of the Portuguese language, we were referred to "El Corte Ingles," definitely not what we were looking for.... A little while longer, we got directed to the stall market for locals...

So we walked up and down the hills of Porto to reach the market and discovered a half open market teeming with gorgeous produce, less than a third of the price of the same produce in France! Most fun was our attempts to communicate with the sweet older Portuguese people selling all of the goods, tremendously helpful and warm but not a word of English -- we all employed the universal language of pointing and counting on our fingers. How nice to find a place so untouched by English speaking tourists. We procured enough veggies, fruits, bread, nuts, olives, wine, port, cheese and more for meals for three days for three people for under 50 euros, quite good for a Western European country if you ask me.

Most of the cheeses that we purchased were mild mixed milk cheeses, nothing I've ever heard of or that is exported to the US. My favorite that we tried during our aperitifs tonight was called Regional, a mixed milk cow and goat cheese, semi firm with a bright citrusy grassy-ness and a full roundness of flavor.

Dinner has yet to come, but stayed tuned! A great first day exploring, too bad we didn't have a tape recorder and a video camera, today's interactions would have been excellent YouTube material..

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