Friday, August 26, 2016

Europe 2016: Trip Notes # 4 

Our Porto hotel's location is absolutely perfect for people watching. Although fairly active during the day, it is the late afternoon through late evening when this place truly comes alive. 

Bachelor-ette Festivities

It is not just the eating and drinking. It is also watching boats go up and down the river. It's watching street entertainers and looking at what the night market vendors have to offer. 

Portuguese Love Song

Restaurants Getting Late Delivery Of Potatoes
(Typical Local Meals: Fish, Octopus or Meat and Potatoes)

Iberico Ham: A Local Specialty

While walking around, we ran into the young man who helped with the luggage when we first arrived.

It turns out that he was very lucky and was able to get a "bellman's" job at a soon to be 5-star hotel. While living at home, he earns a slightly above minimum wage of 575 Euros each month + > 2000 undeclared Euros in tips. He plans to make hotel management his career.

The young man gave us some tips on nearby restaurants. We were lucky to get into a place that specialized in Portuguese tapas. This was a "WOW!" experience. "Carmen," the restaurant owner (nice lady) spent quite a bit of time talking to us. Her restaurant can handle about 24 guests/evening. (It's a hole-in-the-wall place that offers the most delicious tapas with presentations prepared in the most unique ways. 

Iberico Ham, Melted Cheese And Cooked Fruit

Melon, Cheese and Crisp Bacon Bits

Warm Asparagus and Cheese Over Toast

 More Local Cheese? Why not...

To Health And Happiness!

With the meal finished and with a sweet and sour pomegranate gelato desert from a place a few steps away from the tapa restaurant, what could be better!?!?! 
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With plenty of sustenance from a full breakfast and surprisingly easy to find our car in the parking structure, it was now time to try (again) the two malfunctioning GPS' that we brought from home as well as our i-Phone's (Google maps) as our back-ups.

Amazing! The GPS which was not working yesterday was a happy camper today. The other GPS (which worked reasonably yesterday) never acknowledged our existence!

Nevertheless, we arrived per schedule to our first destination (Guimaraes) - famous for its10th-11th century castle which was used to fortify the area, begin the nationhood of Portugal and to start the process of eliminating the Moors.

 Lucky Us - Very Few Visitors

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Many of us or even all of us have tasted Mateus wine at some time in our life. Our second stop was the "Casa de Mateus located near Vila Real - a sleepy town in the rural country-side. 

Remember The Bottle?

This place has a multi-century family history - a mansion filled with old and very valuable items, a small, ornate family chapel and pretty gardens. Not knowing what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised. We even were lucky enough to end up with an English-speaking guide.

A Unique Place Far From Urban Areas

Besides a library filled with "thousands of books," there were old prints along with the original copper plates, We've seen prints before; but, to go along with the copper plates? Amazing! (Photos not allowed!). Ming Dynasty (1600's) place settings, religious icons and priest's ornate (1700-1800's) vestments were also displayed.

 Actual Key That Opens Mansion Doors

Old Tech Vs. New Tech (Car Key)

Mansion Courtyard - Stables And Wine Pressing Area On Left Side

  Pretty Gardens, Pretty Lady

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Well ahead of today's schedule, we were looking forward to our next resting stop where we could simply kick back with a glass of local wine and not doing too much the rest of the day other than, responding to a few emails, go for a swim in the hotel pool and working on the next blog chapter. In fact, Jerry had an idea that he thought could be incorporated into a short story. We were happy with the day - until, getting ready to turn onto a small street and (only) going about 3 MPH, we had a major blowout with a rear tire!

Riding on the rim, we were able to maneuver the car up a hill and park it next to a curb that was somewhat out of the way of the town's few vehicles coming and going. We were stumped. What would we do? What could we do? There is no "AAA." No one was around. It was Sunday. Most of the stores were closed.

A young couple happened to come along. "Mark's" English was quite good and "Rachel's" command of our language was "passable." 

This couple:
·       called Europcar for us
·       got a tow truck (about 30 miles from this town) to come to the rescue
·       discovered that the car did not come with a spare tire.  (The car did not come with "Run Flat" tires.)

Confirmed - No spare!

(Notice The "Crowds" In This Town!?!?!)

The couple also:

·       worked with the truck driver (truck driver's English was so-so) to determine the process (with Europcar) as to whether or not we had to be towed back to the Porto Airport (to exchange cars) - we were about three hours away from the Porto airport.

    translated what the  truck driver concluded - that there were (also) some electrical / computer issues with the car

        drove with us to a COSCO / Pep-Boys type place

·       helped us buy two new tires (the bad tire could not be fixed and there had to be matching tires. Rip off!)

Not A Good Situation!

·       determine (from Europcar) who and how the new tires purchase would be resolved in terms of payment, (We had to buy the tires with an attempt to be reimbursed at a later time

·   and stayed with us while the tires were changed

·    and escorted us to our hotel so we wouldn't get lost!

This entire process took several hours. Besides giving the couple a PMI Frisbee, we slipped Mark some money so that he could buy his girl friend a nice dinner. They were taken back. They were embarrassed. They told us that they were not helping us for the money. We understood. However, we wanted to help them since they were both unemployed, couldn't find a job in this small town and they were both in a "lost" situation with the economy being as bad for them as it has been.

We said our good-bys - hugs and kisses.

We were in our hotel, getting unpacked and working on this blog when our hotel room phone rang. It was Mark. He felt very awkward with our "little gift" and wanted to share it, by the four of us going to dinner. We politely declined. We were very tired. It was a frustrating and emotional day. We wanted to get to bed early since tomorrow would be a long day of driving to Salamanca, Spain.

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