We've been back in Texas a week now. Our bags are put away and our bodies have re-adjusted from Western European Summer Time to Central Daylight Time, but I'm still thinking about Portugal. In lieu of listing things to do and places to see, I'll pass along some random observations.
For someone like me who loves to ride trains and buses, Northern Portugal is a dream. Porto has a modern, efficient system of buses, trams, and subway. The metro system connects with the suburban commuter trains that go as far out as Braga and Guimarães, and those in turn connect with the larger national train network. Getting from place to place was a genuine pleasure.
Traditional Portuguese cuisine has 1000 recipes. You can get beef, veal, pork, chicken, fish, sausage, and octopus. The other 993 recipes are different ways of preparing bacalhau, salted cod. It's everywhere, and it's good. In the supermarket, you can find the meat/fish counter by the smell and sight of a big stack of stiff, dried salted cod.
PUXE on an entry door does not mean 'push,' it means 'pull.' Push is EMPURRE.
Pastry shops are to Portugal what shoe stores are to Italy: there's at least two in every block. There are hundreds of different kinds of sweets, and I'm hoping to try them all before I die. So far, my favorites are pastel de nata (little tart made from filo dough with an egg custard filling), bolo de berlim (puffy doughnut thingie partially sliced open to contain a cream filling and dusted with sugar and cinnamon), and bolo de arroz (small rice flour muffin perfect to accompany morning coffee).
Portugal has the cleanest restrooms I've ever seen: in small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, train stations, museums, even the public restrooms in city squares. The cities are clean, too, with minimal litter and recycling bins everywhere.
Not only are the Portuguese clean, they're very nice. We were always able to find someone to explain away our confusion or point us in the right direction.
Over the years, I've looked at hundreds of photos of the picturesque terraced vineyards that produce Port wine but nothing prepared me for seeing them in person. Mile after mile of rocky, narrow shelves zigzagging up the steep hillsides on both sides of the winding river, each barely wide enough for one or two rows of vines. I took many photos but none could fully capture the awe and beauty of the Alto Douro.
I like firm mattresses but Portugal has the hardest beds I've ever slept on. Most places use only box springs with no mattress on top.
Yes, of course, we will go back. There's still much to do, much to see, and much to eat and drink.
Portugal is a wonderfully photogenic place. Terri and I took hundreds of snaps, and I've posted my favorite ones here:a slideshow version.