Friday, December 18, 2009

saturday, day 2: portugal

After waking up on Albert’s sleeper-sofa, we went to the neighborhood café again and ate some delicious pastries before heading to my first wine cave tour! Of the 30 or so choices of brands, we went to the Croft house of Porto wine. I got to see where the wine was stored, watch replicas of the carrier ships bob on the side of the river, and taste two types and colors of wine. It tasted really strong, and I learned it was because after the grapes have been foot-smashed for 3 days during harvest season grape brandy is added; so it’s a liquor- wine. Albert, a man who loves to talk and loves his city, had alllllll sorts of stories to share, and felt inclined to present them at all times, even giving his own version of the wine tour while the guide was talking.

This continued as we wandered around the old part of the town, crossing a famous bridge across the river, where I learned that “Boas Festas” means happy holidays in Portuguese! He led us to my first Baroque cathedral, and it was artistically beautiful but spiritually atrocious; it was like it was dripped in nasty. This was followed by a tour in the most beautiful bookstore I have ever seen in my life. It’s fairly small, but the gorgeous interior, dark and rich colors, new and ancient books from floor to ceiling, and an epic staircase made it rather enjoyable. Deb and I decided we would rent it out and throw a huge 20’s- themed ball.
We bid adieu to Albert, took a deep breath of silence and continued on our merry way. For as long as we could stand the steady rain, strong wind and ominous clouds we wandered the town, snapping shots of monuments, cathedrals, tile-adorned buildings, small gardens and the swankiest McDonald’s you will ever find (chandeliers, people!). Exhausted and soaked, because my umbrella officially went to a better place, we retreated to Albert’s for a nap before our monumental night out.

Another CS dinner, this time a bit cheaper and at a closed-for-the-night small bar and grill. Deb and I were ushered to the back room downstairs, where a group of Portuguese men were huddled over a smoky bbq pit for round one of endless meat buffet. We sat down at a table for two, covered with a piece of butcher paper, and they brought various unidentifiably scrumptious meat about 7 times. Copying Fernando, I tried red wine and orange soda- what an oddly great combo! We sat around with a group of new CSer’s from Belgium and Portugal until the younguns left to paint the town.

We hit up a bar called Peter’s, on the river, celebrating its first year anniversary with music and cake. It’s a huge CS hub, so we spent a couple hours talking and hanging out with people from all over. I met a lovely Irish girl who had the exact same hat as me, a guy a couple years older than me with two engineering degrees and his own company wearing a yellow hoodie and old jeans (Francisco), and an attractive, cocky classical music composer. These three, along with a half dozen others and our original CS crew, found a karaoke joint! We stayed there for several hours, dancing to Brazilian and Portuguese music in-between crooning “Summer Nights” and “I Love Rock & Roll.” I tried the beer of the country, Super Bock, with some cherry grenadine, and we stayed until it closed.

Not deterred after hearing of all night clubs, we sought out our next place. The first was expensive and I almost had an asthma attack from smoke, so we left and went to the only place our native amigos knew that was still open: my first gay bar. It was everything I thought it would be, from the trendy and more put together men than me, to the electronic music and green strobe light, to the occasional leather clad dancer in fishnets dancing above us. After trying my first gin and tonic, we called it quits and made it to bed at 8am. Great day!

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