Monday, September 21, 2009

Porto and Nazaré

Yesterday we sailed from Nazaré to Peniche—actually sailed for the first time since we arrived in Portugal. With advice from the Nazaré harbormaster on optimizing favorable current and a 15-knot breeze from the northwest, we were often sailing faster than 7 knots (speed over ground). Often, but not often enough to make it all the way to Oeiras near Lisbon. Later this week easterly winds are forecast out of Gibraltar, so there’s no rush for us to get to the corner where we’ll turn east, and we decided not to push it. We don’t have Internet on the boat here, so it gives me time to catch the blog up on our last two stops: Porto and Nazaré. I’ll add more photos when John has time to give me some.


Porto was great! We could easily have spent several more days there visiting museums and doing tourist things. It was slightly disappointing that the sail maker provided such fast turn-around on our sail repairs. His prices were so reasonable that we had him do some touch-up stitching on the jib in addition to patching the main sail. His name is Pires de Lima, but if you need him, all you need to do is ask at the marina office. They’ll even call him for you. He’s the only sail maker around, and everyone knows him. In fact, when we first docked, a nice man on a bicycle told us about him and gave us his phone number.

Appetizers and wine at the yacht club

The marina at Leixões is about a half hour bus ride from the center of Porto. The office told us where to catch the bus and which number to take (507). That was a good thing because the information at the bus stop was contradictory. It included two completely different routes for the same bus number: one route would take us to town and the other would take us somewhere north of there. The bus driver didn’t speak English, so we got on and took our chances. It’s all part of the adventure.

We were in luck, and the last stop on the bus was obviously close to the center of the city, so we walked down the hill until we saw double-decker tour buses. We learned in Brussels several years ago that a tour bus is a good way to get your bearings in a new city. The Yellow Bus that we selected offered 24- and 48-hour tickets that included three different tours and free rides on the public transportation system as well. That was perfect for us, and we bought the 48-hour ticket. A bonus is that we get a 25% discount on the same company’s tours in Lisbon.

After studying the map, we started with the tour that ended across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia where the port companies have their warehouses and tasting rooms. We like port, but didn’t actually know all that much about it. Andy Heger of the sailing yacht Spectacle was a big help with that. We met Spectacle in Panama, and the boat is now in Australia, but Andy and Melissa are Facebook friends, and when he saw where we were, he volunteered the names of the top port houses—in order. We started at the top of the list with Quinta do Noval, but their presence in Gaia in token. Their warehouse is in the Doura river valley with their vineyards. We tasted a few of their offerings and bought a bottle of 10-year-old tawny and went in search of the next name.

That was Fonseca, but we couldn’t find them, so we went to Taylor (Taylor Fladgate in the U.S.). It turns out that Taylor Fladgate owns Fonseca anyway. We had to walk up a very steep hill to get to Taylor Fladgate (just Taylor’s in Porto), but it was worth it. The lodge or cave, which is what the port warehouses are called, is surrounded by gardens and has a beautiful view of Porto across the river. They also offer a first-rate free tour including tastings, and we were in time for the last tour of the day. We learned a lot! At the end we took advantage of the chance to taste vintage port from a single quinta (the property where the grapes are grown). That’s something most lodges don’t offer, and we didn’t mind paying extra for it. It was worth it. We may never taste vintage port again, but now we at least know what we’re missing.

Single Quinta vintage ruby and 20-year tawny ports at Taylor’s

View of Porto from Taylor's balcony

Our second day started with a quest. We wanted Francesinha. John had asked the young man in the Taylor’s gift store what dish was typical of or unique to Porto. Francesinha was his answer, and we asked at the marina office where the best place was to get it. Café Classico was the answer. We’d seen the neighborhood where the café is on our tour the day before, so we walked there from the bus stop. It’s a good thing that we got our exercise because we definitely needed to burn some calories after that meal. What the heck is it, you wonder. Click the link on the first mention to see the Wikipedia answer.

John’s Francesinha

After that we hoofed it to the tour bus stop for the castle tour. It was really more of a fort tour, and it covered much of the same area as the historical tour the day before, but it also took us into the area near the marina. That was very helpful for finding public transportation alternatives to bus 507, and we were able to take a more scenic route out of town on the way home before transferring to bus 507.

Before we left town we needed to stock up on food and wine because the marina at Nazaré isn’t close to town, and the town is really small anyway. Also, it was an overnight passage, so we needed convenient things to eat. We had spotted a supermarket from bus 507, so we went to the stop to wait. After nearly an hour we gave up and headed back to the boat to get our map to a different supermarket within walking distance. On the way we met the friendly man on a bike from our arrival. He said we didn’t need the map, gave us directions, and even went part of the way with us. As we were hurrying to get to the store, John noticed the bicycle man waving to us from a car. He had gone home and gotten his car and was waiting to give us a ride to the store. It was so incredibly nice of him! He said he was waiting for his daughter to call him for a ride anyway and that he would wait while we did our shopping and then give us a ride back. We never did get his name, but we’ll never forget his kindness to us.


When we arrived at Nazaré the next morning, the harbormaster was there to take our lines and help us raft with a French boat. Mike, the harbormaster, explained that he wasn’t really working and took us up to the office to check in with the marina and customs. Then the immigration officer showed up to check our passports. He was the first uniformed immigration officer we’d seen since Alderney, and no one had stamped our passports since then either. When I mentioned this to him, he said we really should have our passports stamped and that he could do it, but the stamp was at his office. So he gave us a ride to his office in the tower overlooking the harbor. There he looked some stuff up on his computer and started rattling around at a cabinet. We didn’t know what that was about at first, but it turned out that the cabinet that stored the stamp was locked with a combination, and he couldn’t get it open. Embarrassed, he gave us a ride back to the boat and said he would come back later with our stamped passports. Well, he did return our passports but without the stamp. His colleagues couldn’t get the cabinet open either.

Jetty at Nazaré as seen from Sitio

We had only planned to spend one night at Nazaré, thinking that we would arrive early enough to check out the small town and then leave the next morning. On our passage, however, the pump for the head (toilet on a boat) broke down, so John needed to fix that before we left. It took several hours to complete that icky project, and by then it was pretty late, so we decided to stay a second night.

Nazaré is a pretty town with a great beach. It’s on two levels. Nazaré itself is at the foot of a cliff. At the top is Sitio da Nazaré, and a funicular connects the two. So we walked along the beach road in Nazaré, took the funicular to Sitio, admired the view and had a beer, and then walked through the narrow back streets of Nazaré to stay in the shade as much as possible on our way back to the boat. It was a very enjoyable way to spend the day, and we recommend it.

Fish drying on the beach at Nazaré

Plaza in front of the church at Sitio da Nazaré

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