A Travellerspoint blog

Je me souvenir

(No, that isn't a typo)

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Avi here. Sept 27.

Avril and I nearly had our first fight today. And alcohol was involved.

One of the things about travel is the constant quest for souvenirs. Or, even if you are not questing for souvenirs, the fact that they are continually being proffered to you. My mind goes back to Morocco and the roads not taken (or the souvenirs not purchased). I still miss the beautiful perforated lampshade in Marrakech that I should have bought and didn't. And I'll never forget the magnificent sugar hammers (look at some of these) that somehow did not come back to Vancouver with me from Meknes. Mind you, I was up on the roof of a leather factory to study leather dyeing in Fez, determined that, of course, I was not about to buy any of the leather products – yet ended up, to my own amazement and thanks to an aggressive salesman, with a fine suede shirt. (I subsequently discovered, when I got back to Vancouver, that the price of laundering fine suede shirts is almost equal to the original cost of the item. So I don't wear it much.)

We have certainly done a share of souvenir hunting in Portugal. Avril bought some really cute socks with typical Portuguese tile patterns on them and one with Fado guitars on them. But we've also been spending time looking at ceramics. One reason is to find those cute Portuguese olive dishes – the kind that have a secondary compartment for the discarded pits. However, finding just the right one, with the proper depth and not too kitschy a design, has proven to be a challenge. A further challenge has been the quest for a nice pair of Portuguese ceramic salt and pepper shakers. Perhaps this has been made slightly harder by Avril's goal of finding a pair of Mary and Joseph shakers with little holes in their heads. Sadly, we haven't seen any of those. Which is not to say that we haven't seen a bunch of ceramic Marys. Those certainly abound. Josephs, on the other hand, are curiously hard to find – a fact that I find to be a total slap in the face of adoptive parents everywhere.

Anyway, here we are in the beautiful Douro Valley in the north. This is the source of all of the fine ports (white, ruby, or tawny) that you have sipped over the years. Part of our agenda today, happily arranged for us by the owner of our Airbnb, was a visit to Quinta Seara d'Ordens, one of the local quintas – a large family farm with acres of vineyard and a huge ageing room filled with wonderful oak casks. The tour guide was actually rather surprised that most of my questions concerned the oak casks rather than their contents. But that's because I am intrigued by the survival of the ancient art of cooperage, am curious about the ecological impact of cutting down massive amounts of oak trees, and really like Scotch whiskeys that have been aged in port casks! Having toured some distilleries in Scotland I feel I'm completing a journey.

But nobody in the large group being shepherded around the quinta came to see casks – we were here to drink port!

So we were led to a room with a long table, set with small (for whites) and large (for reds) wine glasses. First came the small pourings of white and red table wines. Competent, not exciting. Then the tastings of the three ports, each with a brief overview of how it was aged and what it paired well with. They were all quite good – sweet, complex, good "nose", yadda yadda. But I think we were paying as much for the verbiage as for the beverage. Each pouring was maybe half an ounce. The tour was €20 per person. Not counting the short swills of table wine (and the longer intake of oak cask visuals), that means we were ordering a "flight" of three undersized drinks for $30 Canadian. You can bet this isn't where the locals were going for their drinks. But, as we all know, pricey tastings aren't why the wineries and distilleries do this stuff. Can you say "exit through the gift shop"? I knew you could.

And here's where the problem began. Avril was very taken by the experience and the memories of the quinta. I, on the other hand, was very aware of the journey that was ahead of us. In other words, she wanted to buy a bottle of 10-year tawny port and I did not. Now a bottle of 10-year tawny at Quinta Seara d'Ordens sells for €27, which is about $42 Canadian – exactly the same price as a 10-year tawny at the BC liquor stores. Mind you, that's a 10-year tawny from Taylor Fladgate, a good but generic brand of port, whereas this 10-year tawny was, after all, Quinta Seara d'Ordens. "It's not really the content – it's the memories," said Avril. "We'll look at that bottle and we'll remember being here." "No," said I. "I'll look at that bottle and I'll remember that we shlepped it through three more hotels in Portugal, five more hotels in Corsica, and two different hotels in Paris, as well as loading and offloading it through four sets of checked luggage between Porto and Vancouver."

We stared at each other coldly. Alcohol can do that to a relationship.

We're friends again. And Avril now has a story about the souvenir bottle she never got. (Oh, did I tell you she bought a bottle of select hand-picked ginja [cherry liquor] in Óbidos?) As for me, if Taylor Fladgate starts importing sugar hammers, I think I'll get one.

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Posted by AvrilAbroad 17:56 Archived in Portugal Tagged port souvenirs ceramics douro_valley wine_tastings

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God, you're such a good writer Avi. I burst out in laughter - loudest at your recitation of the various ports you'd need to negotiate with the port in tow.

by Carole Christopher

He IS good! ... A little too good, maybe! I've got my work cut out for me to keep up with him - in both quantity and quality! 😜

by Avril

Avi, I am just sooo in love with you and you make me DIE laughing...between the two of you, your adventures (and your double-superb writing about them) MUST be documented!!! I've had such a good laugh today!

by Michelle Boos

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