Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Any port in a... well, glass, thanks

So today we drove towards Lisbon, vainly searching en route for sheep with bells on for a typical photo which turned out to be not typical at all, alas: some sheep, no bells. The absurdity of NZ writers scouring the Portuguese countryside for sheep to photograph did not escape us. It was the bells that were the point of difference, and they were suddenly not in evidence, after being formerly ubiquitous. Blaaaast.

We are now in Cascais, seaside town to the gentry - well, moneyed - which is neat and pretty and well-supplied with Irish pubs and Maccas, but also a proper fishing port with a real fish market that's so genuine it's boring, with 21st century handset bidding machines and a big screen instead of cliched shouting of bids and waving of arms. The smell was authentically real, though.

There was a suspiciously sharp-edged sandcastle (I'm suspecting non-sand fixatives), a nice little antiques and collectibles market, a generic shopping mall and narrow lanes populated solely by Baby Boomers risking their collective hips on the slippery marble cobbles. A creep of a man ogled the girls on the beach below, studiously avoiding my censorious frown at him; and an older lady shooed the pigeons off a bronze statue of John Paul II before stroking his gown fondly and giving it a respectful kiss.

There was a massage at the spa of our fancy 5-star Villa Italia Hotel which I would like to say I enjoyed, but since I fell asleep during it, I can't say for sure; and a thankfully light and gourmet seafood degustation dinner at Hotel Miragem which was honestly delicious and enhanced by the company of marketing manager Christina, who's Estonian and agreed with me that Portuguese sounds like Russian. It's as much like Spanish as English is like German: a bit, not much. And then we ended the night with a 10 year-old tawny port and the even more exciting mention of the existence of what sounds a fabulous aperitif: white port and tonic. My new quest!

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