On To Porto

Another train ride took us north up the coast to Porto, a city best known for the wine bearing its name. It’s a thriving area with an extensive light rail system (if only San Francisco had one system that covered the whole city…) It also is a city that still has the country in it, urban development hasn’t taken over everything. Just wandering from our apartment to the water (Porto is on a river), we found a path down a hill into a bucolic country scene between large commercial buildings.


There were cobblestone paths, stone walls, and centuries-old houses that lent a feeling of antiquity to the walk. Here in the states, it’s unimaginable that any neighborhood like this would be preserved when massive office buildings or apartment complexes could be built.


This wasn’t some area preserved for visitors, it was a neighborhood unto itself, with residents, laundry hanging, and probably some chickens wandering beyond the wall. Interest from residents of the houses indicated that there probably aren’t many travelers walking in the neighborhood.


Portuguese People Are Friendly

Mediterranean culture leans towards social interaction in the real world. While most people look at their phone screens regularly, they love to talk. It’s easy to meet people and, with English as the second language in Portugal, easy to talk with the people you meet. In a park behind a museum, close to a college, I met some people on a path and photographed one of them before wandering into the museum.

Woman in Park

Portugal had colonies in Africa and had no issues with intermarriage. As a result, there are quite a few mixed race people everywhere you go. A young man in a newsstand spent some time chatting with me. The country is noticeably free of racism and people that we talked with were shocked at some of what is going on now in the US.

Man in Lisbon

It’s The Food!

The food in Portugal and Spain is spectacular. The freshness is just not possible in the US with the way exurban areas have lost their farms and been converted to suburbs. And the American methods of fishing, ranching, and farming further separate the food from its roots. In a country like Portugal, seafood tastes like it came from the ocean. It is often served simply, without strong sauces, because the inherent flavors are preserved. The seafood section in the largest supermarket in Lisbon would be embarrassed to offer pre-cut fillets except from the largest tuna and salmon.

Lisbon seafood

Tapas are served everywhere. One supermarket we visited had separate stations where fresh tapas were prepared: one for smoked seafood, one for cheese, and one for sausage. Wine was served along with the tapas, even before noon; drinking alcohol before lunch (in moderation) is common.

Tapas in Lisbon

And then there’s “ham.” Americans tend to think of dry cured pig leg as prosciutto, but it’s made in Portugal and Spain also. In Portugal, it’s called presunto, in Spain, jamon (pronounced ham-ohn). It’s freshly sliced from the leg in restaurants and bars and people buy whole legs to take home where they slice it themselves.

Presunto in Lisbon