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And now, for something different: instead of a castle, how about an aquarium?

November 5, 2009

Portuguese wines from Redondo Winery tastingYesterday, we didn’t go to any castles. Sorry to disappoint you.

It’s not like we ran out of castles or antiquities to visit. Portugal is so full of cool castles it seems to me I could fill a whole vacation just roaming around them, climbing stairs, exploring, marveling, and eating in quaint cafes, mingling elbow to elbow with the people who live in them.

Nope, no castles yesterday.

And no, we didn’t visit one of the many Stonehenge like ancient ruins. Did you know the landscape of Portugal is littered with these monolithic statues erected 6 or so thousand years ago? I didn’t; one is pictured on the bottle behind the glass.

This I found out while tasting some of the wines from Redondo, a huge cooperative which sells several of the most popular and most consumed wines in Portugal–for obvious reasons–they offer the Portuguese version of Two Buck Chuck–except their wines aren’t chemicalized (made drinkable through the use of chemical additions and manipulations) and Redondo’s wines have a wonderful flavor for about the same price which is typical of Portuguese wines in general.

Redondo’s labels celebrates their Portuguese heritage in such a way that our visit there allowed my hosts to share even more of Portugal’s rich heritage and history with me–and which I look forward to sharing with you at a later time.sea monster in LisboaSM

So what did we do? Something equally amazing but different and completely unexpected to me. In the later afternoon, after our visit to Redondo and lunch along the road (even the Alejanto cuisine and espress offered there was excellent!), we checked into our Hotel Olissippo which is near the water in the Parque Nacional

The Parque Nacional was the home to the 1998 World Expo. Portugal took the opportunity of hosting the event to revitalize a contaminated dock area full of decrepit rundown warehouses and abandoned buildings. The area now is full of beautiful public art which celebrates Portugal’s traditions: tile, light, the sea, and exploration. It’s a pleasure and a joy to walk along the water’s edge, and many do: even on this cold fall night, people congregated on bikes and walking, and even a running club which acted like Hash House Harriers (I didn’t ask).

So while I can’t see the ocean from my room (sorry Ganesh!), we are so close that a pro baseball player could land a ball in it.

And, it turns out, an aquarium was constructed as part of the 1998 expo–the largest in the world at the time, although one in Japan is now larger.

Larger smarger–this aquarium, the second largest in the world, was certainly big enough for me and fabulous too. It’s not the size that really matters, but what you do with it you know.

The Oceanario de Lisboa has a HUGE central tank that you circle and then examples of four aquatic ecosystems: Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Antartic. Otters and then a few minutes later, penguins delighted us with their antics. Seabirds flew past our noses and then I walked a wooden boardwalk to find tropical birds hidden in the trees. In the middle, central tank, we were fascinated by a sunfish, at 2-3 tons as bigs as any fish I’d every seen, and fascinating to look at too. Bright tropical fish darted in other tanks. I tried out my new video camera (the results remain to be seen!) while Jo shot hundreds of images–turns out she loves fish and aquariums.

When the aquarium closed at 6pm, we strolled the boardwalk looking for someplace to eat. According to Delfim Costa, my host from Enoforum Wines, the best restaurants are downtown but traffic would be horrible for another 2-3 hours and we were all getting hungry. The area offers many international restaurants so we chose an Italian one for a change. I’ll just say that the highlight of the meal for me was the Portuguese olive oil and wine–and I desperately missed the Portuguese bread I’ve come to love!

For today, we intend to see several important cultural sights near Lisbon: Belem and Sintra for example. We leave so soon that I will bike path sign in Lisboamiss out on the amazing spread they offer each morning at the hotels here in this country. Lunch and the dinner of Portuguese cuisine and I will be packing and leaving–I’m even buying a new suitcase to put some of the wines I’m bringing back!

But back I’ve got to get, no matter how tempting it is to stay and attend the Wine Futures conference next week in Rioja Spain with luminaries of the field like Jancis Robinson and Tom Parker. I have a First Friday ArtRide and Bikers Ball to lead tomorrow night Nov. 6 back in California! And a small boy has a birthday coming up too.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 15, 2009 10:36 am

    Great blog… i love it

    thanks

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