We were really excited to get back to Portugal to see Emilia again, and it seemed like a fitting way to finish up our European tour – kind of coming full circle for us. We arrived in Porto and caught a little bus to Arcos de Valdevez and Manuel greeted us at the bus stop for a hair raising drive back to the Quinta (we’re pretty sure the car had no fuel as there was a lot of spluttering and stalling on the up hills).
The main idea of the trip back to Vale was to give Emilia a hand with the grape harvest. Normally this is a pretty big deal, and takes a full day with about 60 helpers. Sadly this year’s crop was terrible, about 1/10 of the normal yield. Emilia’s not sure exactly what went wrong, but for some reason the vines had a lot less grapes on them than usual, and lots of the grapes that were looking good earlier in the season dried up or rotted. The whole harvest was done in less than a day by about 10 people.
Emilia isn’t one to let these things get to her, so had plenty of other things for us to help with during the week. Two of her good friends Manuella and Branco (the fittest retiree in Portugal) from Porto were staying for the week to help her around the place, and we were put to work.
Despite Andrew not speaking any Portuguese and Branco not speaking a word of English they managed to get on really well during the week. They spent most of the time operating Emilia’s 100 year old still and distilling the old wine into brandy. They also spent lots of time outside fixing up things around the farm, and even castrating piglets (Andrew was concerned how fun Lisa found this – she was straight in there with the scalpel). One of Andrew’s favourite moments was when Branco was using sign language to tell him that Emilia had the pig artificially inseminated!
Lisa spent most of the week up in the factory helping Emilia and Manuella to make jams. They made Quince jelly, Marmelada (quince paste), apple and lemon jam and two types of pumpkin jam. It is quite a process, lots of jar cleaning and sterilizing, and then boiling the jam in the jars to seal them.
But it wasn’t all work. We also managed to get into watching the Portuguese football league. Branco is a keen football fan so we watched games with him whilst drinking 90c beers at the cafe a couple of nights. Emilia’s cooking was as good as ever, so we were again treated to some delicious Portuguese fare.
We also had to cook another meal for the group. This time we made spiced pumpkin soup, then roast lamb greek style with flat bread and salads, followed by walnut tart for dessert. Not quite typical kiwi, but the only meat Ben the “vegetarian” eats is lamb so options were a little limited.
Portugal was as beautiful as ever, and land prices are so cheap that Andrew has been doing some research on what it would take to buy property there. Apparently you can get a 5yr residency for buying property worth over 500,000 euro (a bit out of our league), or by having a business that employs 5 Portuguese staff (probably a bit out of our league too). He has been looking into small farmlets and they do seem pretty reasonable so maybe we will be expanding our property portfolio one of these days. Watch this space!
Time flew at Emilia’s as always. Before we knew it the week was over and it was time to head back to the UK. We got a lift with Manuella back to Porto on Sunday and she took us to see the suburbs near the sea where she and Emilia grew up, which was beautiful, then we spent the afternoon wandering around the old part of town. Porto is still one of our favourite cities to visit. It’s reasonably priced, beautiful and has great food.
What an amazing way to end our journey in Europe. We were feeling a little nostalgic as we climbed on yet another plane to head back to London.
The last couple of days in the northern hemisphere also flew. We managed to get in some sightseeing, and loved seeing the British museum with Yuri. We also had a last dinner out with Kate, Jo and Toby. We are really going to miss the range of things to do and delicious places to eat when we get back home.
So now the suitcases are packed to the limits and we are ready to head on to the Southern Hemisphere tour. Bring on Melbourne and Brisbane!