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Final thoughts on Portugal

Good-bye Portugal

sunny 26 °C

July 31, 2019 Day 19 - Final thoughts on Portugal

The geography of Portugal is spectacular. We started out in Porto, the 2nd largest city in the country which is located at the mouth of a river that leads into the Duoro Valley. Vineyards everywhere, including terracing the sides of hills where goats would fear to tread. At one time this was a very poor country where people did not waste what they could use and that especially included the land.

We then drove down the center of the country and into Lisbon. Along the way we watched the land change from rugged to flatter where a wide variety of produce is grown and animals were seen out grazing. Lisbon is a big, active, alive, vibrant, attractive old world city with occasional new large commercial architecturally relevant buildings sprouting up. The sites amazing.

What more can we say about Madeira? We thought the roads of the Duoro Valley were steep and windy but they were not in the same league as what we drove on the island. This place is physically striking from heavily treed forests to aired dry peninsulas jutting out into the deep blue ocean, to towering peaks and plunging valleys with outrageous views, and don’t forget some of the finest botanical gardens anywhere. This island has it all. The locals pronounce the island’s name Madada.

All of the local people we had meet have been warm, accommodating and helpful. We had two extremely helpful cab drivers. The one in Porto stuck around using his phone to contact the owner of the apartment Sasha had rented (she had not yet arrived) to make sure that we got in the door. The one in Lisbon stopped so Fred could get of the cab and take a few photos. Tipping is not expected in Portugal. Dave’s relatives on the island have all been happy to see him and many remember his last visit back in 2002.

The food/drink in Portugal has been a real nice surprise. Poncha is a traditional alcoholic drink from Madeira, made with aguardente de cana (distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), honey, sugar, orange/lemon juice and with different fruit juices according to the version of poncha, but traditionally lemon juice is used. It is said in Madeira that poncha cures the common cold and who knows what else. While this drink tastes quite sweet and juice-like, beware, as it is quite strong.

Espededa (dusted) is meat on a Bay Laurel stick cooked over an open coal fire. The spices are sprinkled/dusted over it before putting in on the fire. Pastel da nata is an egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon and very tasty. Forget hamburgers, the typical Portuguese meat sandwich have national ingredients and flavours. Prego and bifana are beef or pork sandwiches that can be served in bread (with mustard or hot sauce) or in a platte bread (with fries, rice and fried egg).

Lapas are limpets/clams that adhere to the rocks on the sea coast. They are much appreciated in the fishing zones of the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores. They are usually cooked in the shell on a grill, seasoned with chili paste, garlic and butter then served hot.

The Duoro Valley is famous for its fortified port but has also gained a reputation for the high quality of its table wines. The region has Portugal's highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada. Craft beer has arrived in Portugal but surprisingly, the everyday brew is very drinkable especially on a hot afternoon.

Wherever we traveled, either urban or rural, we saw lots of families together doing a wide variety of activities with adults, teenagers and youngsters. The social structure of Portugal revolves around the extended family. A number of years ago Portugal legalized all street drugs which allowed them to deal with addition as a medical not criminal problem.

People, especially women in the large cities, in Portugal have an elegant casual European style that is very attractive. Women tend to dress up more than North Americans but with a grace and panache that is smart and sophisticated. We did not see a lot of hippy, punker, or tattooed young people. (Are we getting old or what?)

For a number of years, immigrants from Portugal where considered (by some) to be lower on the socio-economic scale then other recent arrivals from a number of other European countries. Most new Portuguese immigrants worked extremely hard and over time became successful in a variety of ways while maintaining a strong connection to their home country. This is just one of the reasons why on Madeira there are still a number of both homes and properties owned by families who no longer live on the island. Some of these places have not been lived in for years but the owners/relatives are reluctant to sell because they see this as losing their connecting to the island.

It is obvious that Madeira’s economy is today, almost totally based on tourism which is very different than relying on fishing. This has meant significant social changes for the island. To a lesser degree, this is also true for the rest of the country. Portugal is part of the EU and has invested significant capital in infrastructure projects. The roads we were on (with some minor exceptions) were well built and maintained. On Madeira there are over 150 tunnels, numerous very tall overpasses and bridges. What we discovered on the internet pertaining to the economy: “Portugal’s economy contracted in 2009 and fell into recession from 2011 to 2013, as the government implemented spending cuts and tax increases to comply with conditions of an EU-IMF financial rescue package, signed in May 2011. Portugal successfully exited its EU-IMF program in May 2014, and its economic recovery gained traction in 2015 because of strong exports and a rebound in private consumption. GDP growth accelerated in 2016, and probably reached 2.5 % in 2017. Unemployment remained high, at 9.7% in 2017, but has improved steadily since peaking at 18% in 2013.”

We are in Lisbon are just about ready to head to the airport to fly to Toronto to visit with granddaughter Eva for a few days prior to returning to Victoria. We are in a very posh hotel, the Corinthia https://www.corinthia.com/en/hotels/lisbon . We normally don't stay in places this upscale but Sasha/family wanted to treat themselves for the last couple of days still in Portugal. We got in late last night from Madeira and had dinner in one of the hotels restaurants. Fred had ordered the special scallops, when his dinner arrived there were only 3 scallops (!!!) on the plate with some type of special drizzle on top. Not at all what he had expected.....they do have a really nice gym and pool which we used this morning.

In conclusion, we have really enjoyed our stay in Portugal and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in traveling. Obrigado por seguir a aventura em Portugal.


Posted by fredgailmiller 02:59 Archived in Portugal

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