Saturday, December 12, 2009

friday, portugal: day one

deb and i left for porto (oporto in portugese), the second largest city in portugal on the northern coast, today! with a combination of walking, tram, train, taxi, flight, metro and bus we made it into the city (8 hours later). it was maybe 5-10 degrees warmer than le mans, but we caught the city on a nasty weather weekend of no sun and tons of rain. deb, who was in charge of our couchsurfing situation, wound up without the name, phone number and address of our host, which played out interestingly. thankfully, God allowed us to meet a rather nice mom and daughter who spoke english and helped us find a place for us to get online to get the info, then drove us to his home. we actually stayed in villa nova de gaia, which is oporto's sister city separated by the river.

there we met albert, a 50's something portugese gentleman. among other more steady jobs (and testing virtual reality video games), he used to work in the pits with racecars, eventually became a driver himself, and even drove in the le mans 24 hour race! he lives by himself, and his wife is an international law attorney in brazil. with cheesy jokes and dramatically bushy eyebrows, he welcomed us into his moroccan themed living room where we would stay for the weekend. famished from the day of traveling, we visited his favorite neighborhood cafe and tasted some magnificent portugese desserts and espresso. we rested a bit back at his place, and discovered with amusement a romanian dance show on tv.

hopping on the bus back to oporto, we met up with a group of other couchsurfers for dinner organized by fernando. fernando is also an older single guy, with the biggest hospitable heart you can imagine, and in less than two years has hosted more than 470 couchsurfers; tonight, 5 and the next night 4 different ones. it was a cool idea- about a dozen french, americans and portugese all linked only by couchsurfing ordered a sumptious neverending meal with several courses and drinks, and everyone pitched in 10 euros. i tasted minced crab meat in a creme sauce served cold, cod and another local fish before we left for a small closed cafe for dessert. we had several yummy, mini custard tarts, made with egg yolks from the portugese tradition of using the egg whites to bleach nun's habits. then we visited two different bars, the second of which we began a dance party that took over the entire place, to classic american 50's and 60's songs (ya beach boys!)

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