All of the port lodges have a museum and guided tour and we choose the first that we came to, which happened to be the Cálem port lodge that had a visit to the museum, a guided tour, port tasting, and all for only €3 each, which was exceptionally good value for money.
Under European Union guidelines, only the product from Portugal may be labelled as Port and it is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region. The wine produced is fortified with the addition of a Brandy in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The wine is then aged in barrels and stored in caves, or cellars, before being bottled. The wine received its name Port in the latter half of the seventeenth century from the city of Porto where the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe from the Leixões docks. The Douro valley where Port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756, making it the third oldest defined and protected wine region in the world after Tokaji in Hungary and Chianti in Italy.
Inside the lodge we could sense and smell the years of craftsmanship that have come to fruition in the ancient cellars where wooden barrels of Bordeaux Oak contained liquid treasure of up to one hundred thousand litres! Photographs on the wall displayed bucolic scenes of grape treading at harvest time, the perilous ride down the Douro and visits by VIPs including King Juan Carlos of Spain and Fidel Castro from Cuba.
This was all very interesting stuff but what we really wanted was to get to the tasting and we weren’t disappointed when at the end of the tour we were given two generous glasses of port in the hope that we might buy some more from the shop. We didn’t because we wouldn’t have been able to get it through airport security but we did consider going around for a second time.
Instead we crossed back over the bridge to the Ribiera district which used to be the commercial centre of Porto but is now an up market tourist centre with gaily coloured houses, quayside restaurants and the highest prices in the City. Actually they weren’t really so bad and we choose to sit at a table at the edge of the pavement and were surprised at how few people were taking this dining option in the warm midday sun. Soon more people joined us and it gradually got warmer and warmer and I had to take off layers of clothing just to stay comfortable and we enjoyed a nice tuna salad and a bottle of wine for a very reasonable price.
After lunch we walked along the quayside and wondered what was going on over the river on the other side where there appeared to be some sort of noisy festival and then we walked back into the city through shaded streets and made for the Torre Dos Clérigios, which is a church with the highest tower in Portugal at seventy-six metres high and two hundred and twenty-five steps. It had been a long time since we had climbed our last tower in Trogir in Croatia so we bought some tickets, went to the top and admired the expansive views over the City.
After that we decided that it was getting late so we made our way back to the metro station stopping briefly on the way for a drink at a pavement table before going back to Trindade to catch the tram.
During the day something had been puzzling me because all of the clocks seemed to be an hour behind and even here at the station the displays said four when our watches said five. I thought that this was strange so asked an official who confirmed that it was indeed four and smiled when I showed him my watch and suggested that it was five. It turns out that Portugal uses the same time as the United Kingdom and that we had been an hour ahead of ourselves for the last two days, this explained why it was still light at half past six last night, why they were surprised when we turned up for dinner an hour early, this was why the breakfast room was empty earlier today and also why it was so cold when we left the hotel this morning. This was a most disorientating experience and one thing is certain, I will never make a Time Lord!
Eventually the tram arrived and we got on board and found a seat. At one point along the route the train followed the route of a small road and on the trackside, behind a stone wall there were two women and one had just finished having a country wee and was pulling her pants up and showing off her ample backside to all of the passengers on the tram. I can imagine her friend was reassuring her that she would watch out for cars and was keeping an alert look out over the wall and down the road but both were completely oblivious to the tram full of people passing only a few metres away behind them and getting a full view of her exposed wobbly cheeks.
Our horological error gave us an unexpected extra hour and we were glad of that because it had been a busy two days and when we got back to the hotel this gave us time for a rest before going down to dinner in the hotel dining room. This is unusual for us as we usually prefer to dine in the streets but the hotel was some way out of town, it was cold and anyway it had a good menu and for a four star hotel the prices were very reasonable. We had a second excellent meal, my grilled hake was especially good, and as we dined we reflected on two excellent days.