As I predicted in my last post, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Since I finished the book and announced the launch event in New York, I’ve visited Portugal, Ireland and Spain – and have just landed in the UK for a week with my brother. I will write more about Portugal’s Douro Valley – which was stunning – and about the origins of port. But for the moment, I wanted to share some quick photos from my week in the country.
I only joined Instagram in May, after Kirsten Alana foisted her old iPhone 3GS upon me. Before that, I was still using an old Blackberry smartphone. I still use the Blackberry for email, since I was grandfathered into a flat-rate unlimited worldwide email plan that has come in handy more times than I can count. (I’m also shocked that the Blackberry is still working. It has been peed on by a goat in Mongolia, teargassed in Thailand and covered in sand in the Sahara in Morocco. I’ve also dropped it more times than I can count.) Kirsten gave me an Instagram crash course and set me loose with what isn’t a great camera, but remains a wonderful tool to share my travels in a fresh way. I’ve been using Instagram throughout the fall and summer in North America, but sharing on-the-go photos is always more fun from far-flung places. It doesn’t compare to my wonderful Olympus EP-3 camera, which I usually use with a 20mm Panasonic pancake lens, but tended to stick to the kit lens (14mm-42mm) for this trip given the landscapes. But the newer iPhones certainly come much closer. I’m debating upgrading to a newer iPhone given that the 5 has come out, if only because it’s become the camera that replaces a camera.
Portugal! A country with a very interesting history, declared independent by a young king who defied (and then fought) his mother to wrestle control of his lands away from the Kingdom of León in 1139. From the ashes of these first battles, the country rose to prominence in trade and colonization in the 15th century, and then unspooled once Napoleon marched through Spain to invade Portugal in 1807. In between, a massive earthquake struck Lisbon in 1755, and the thriving city was razed to the ground.
Of course these photos – or my minuscule time in the country – do not do its history or its biodiversity justice. I did not realize how varied the climates were within Portugal but there was a significant temperature change even from Porto into the Northern Douro Valley. The country grows a significant amount of cork trees and oak, as well as delicious eucalyptus (one of my favourites). The steep slopes of the Douro River have created a microclimate perfect for growing olives, almonds and – of course – grapes.
We spent many hours driving the dizzying narrow roads that trace the river’s edge, our mini-bus chugging around hairpin turns as we climbed up to the quintas (farms or estates) built at the top of the Douro’s slopes.
To start: the mini photos that made me smile.
And the rest:
And, a happy moment to end the TBU conference, winning the Destinology Travel Bloggy award for best food blog, and just before the launch of the food book too!
More photos to come (taken with the EP-3) but this was a short taste (ha, ha, I make myself laugh) of the wine and port-filled week in Portugal.