Gordon: Our reliable friend Pocket Earth found an excellent route for us today. It has a feature that allows a route to be developed with minimal change in elevation, which is a real boon for cyclists. The route suggested for today’s ride into Porto was 15 km longer than the most direct route, but it took us through the flat area along the coast. Not only was the ride a pretty pastiche of small towns, dunes, and pine and eucalyptus forests but more than 40 km of it was on a cycle path. The coastal area is clearly a playground for the urban middle class, and we saw hundreds of cyclists, runners, and walkers.
The end of our ride brought us past the popular, 15 km long, Gaia beach. After we turned the corner to head up the Douro, we continued to follow a waterfront cycle path and road right into the historic centre of Porto. From the water’s edge it is a stunning sight, with the old city rising steeply on either side of the river.
After checking into our beautiful room at the Poet’s Inn we went in search of our daily highlight: the prato do dia (menu of the day). The vocabulary for food is specialized, but our knowledge is slowly growing. We ordered a bacalhão, arroz do pato (rice with duck) and, to up the calorie count, a single order of “papas” with something, which we assumed was some sort of plate of fries. A few moments later the waiter slammed down a bowl of dark and granular mush in front of me. It was dusted with cumin and tasted delicious, rather like a finely ground chilli. We assumed it was a variation on rice with duck. It was only when the waiter brought another dish that was clearly rice with duck that we realized that the first dish was the “papas”. On our departure the chef asked if we had enjoyed the papas, clearly impressed that we had ordered it. He said it was a mixture of blood, chicken, flour and spices. We have added it to our dining vocabulary, as I hope we have an opportunity to enjoy it again.