Douro Valley

When you come to a fork in the road, it's not a road.

The trip from Porto to Peso do Régua inspired a few thoughts about driving in Portugal…like, don’t. The cities are no worse than any other laid out a thousand years before the questionably helpful invention of the horseless, and shitless, carriage. The highways are modern and the drivers keep fastidiously to the right except to pass. Tail lights flash turns and lane changes with the insistence of a broadway marquee’s border. So what is not to like?

Speed. The signs say 120 (kph = 75 mph) and no one is moving slower than 180, except for other horrified or cowardly tourists. On a divided highway, one just keeps to the right and hopes for the best. On a narrow, two-way, river bender, you cannot travel two kilometers without an angry local crawling up your ass, presuming their horn will push you along at the speed of sound. Mach my words. Take a train.

Sign-work is meant to make the visitor regret putting off that 18-month course on conversational Portuguese, which could easily come in handy if ever kidnapped in Brazil.

Ok, but the Douro Valley is mostly about wine and food. Not just port wine, though there is more of that than an English rugby team could possibly drink in a week, but top-notch pretentious reds and whites that could, unless we are careful, find their way onto San Francisco and Plaistow dining tables. We had three great meals. The third, at a small neighborhood bistro for a quarter the price of either of the others, was really good.

We took a trip up river one day to the town of Pinhåo, spelt with an a-hole. Ok, by “up river” I mean driving, not sailing. And we could have taken the train. So many options, for a place where few visit.

Watch out for puffing billy.
Why did the Germans cross the tracks?

This is how you get to the other platform. Makes sense, but I had never seen it. Probably works less well for high speed rail lines, so I would not invest in the rubber walks.

These images and their elaborate frames are all done in tile. They obviously last a long time. I found them elsewhere in the valley, depicting life and the industry that has put some prosperity into Douro.The men crushing grapes in their underwear is a favorite, recalls Lucy doing this and ending up having a fight with another stomper. Wines that deliver a taste from the feet rarely earn comments from the discerning palates of connoisseurs, like a little strong on the heel, but a fine arch and a light touch on the balls with just the hint of toe.

We enjoyed the Douro Valley, but three nights was more than the average tourist needs. The hotel turned out to be a spa, with lots of options for residents of Porto who want to get away and relax, but it was heavy on relax and light on wifi. 


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