Next stop Portugal. Our first order of business is to get willingly lost for hours by making random fearless turns throughout Lisbon's labyrinth of narrow streets.
One of the details that stood out the first time we wandered around Lisbon was the hand-placed black-and-white cobblestone. It's so foreign to someone who has worked in L.A. for close to 17 years. The time it must have taken boggles the mind. Compared to how much money, energy and time I've spent yelling, phoning, moaning to get a simple shower tiled, it seems close to impossible. (And in the Hollywood area, the 7-11 hot dogs, the "Casting Gavels," and the Hollywood sign some kid made in shop class are the oldest forms of architecture you'll see.)
If you're in Lisbon and looking for a good dinner, there's a great little restaurant up by the St. George castle that also doubles as a circus/acrobat school: Resto do Chapito. In the summer they have trapeze performances in the courtyard while you dine. Pretty darn cool.
Eventually, after several dozen stops involving espresso and pastries, Port, pastries, cheese and Port, espresso and Port, and a little more espresso, Port, pastries and cheese, we got around to visiting our favorite little Port shop and picked up a few gems and tasted some Port.
The next morning (read "post-crack of noon," aka "rock thirty"), once the sugar coma wore off, we took a train up to Porto to visit our favorite Port houses, Burmester and Quinta do Noval. If you haven't tried the Burmester 40-year tawny, do yourself a favor. Hands down the smoothest, most complex, lingering finish of any tawny we've tried, including the revered Quinta do Noval 40-year tawny.
Those who have not yet unlocked their inner Port lover are truly missing out. The trick is moderation--which becomes increasingly difficult the more you fall in love with this potent elixir. (Refer to the obsessive behavior detailed above.) The vintage colheitas are especially seductive--I believe the minimum time in wood for them is seven years. And, although they're expensive and usually difficult to locate, nothing beats a very, very, very old Vintage Port. Of course.
Goodness me. I believe all this drooling has caused my keyboard to short out.
For photos of the trip, check out the most current entries in the journal section of my winery/vineyard website (www.caduceus.org).