20 Aug 2015
Lisbon is a beautiful old-world charming city.
Previously we have done “important: sightseeing. Today we just enjoyed.
19 Aug 2015
This city (Porto in Portuguese) is full of charm and beauty, and, not surprisingly, is the home to port wine.
Last time we visited, we learned about port. It is generally sweet, red and consumed as a dessert wine; good with cheese and nuts.
Different than normal wines, it is fortified by adding a wine spirit, which stops fermentation. The fortification leaves residual sugar and boosts the alcohol content to about 20% (about 40% higher than typical table wines).
Today we spent most of the day just enjoying this beautiful city.
We rode old-fashioned trams.
We viewed their interesting architecture.
We walked the walk. And we ate of course.
17 Aug 2015
This summer we are two days in Bilbao. It is in the center of the Basque region of Northern Spain, home to centuries of nationalistic political unrest.
Economically Bilbao was in the pits and in 1991 it needed to reinvent itself. Even for cities, it is all about marketing. They hit a home run.
The Basque government contracted with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to use their name, some traveling exhibitions and for them to operate a museum in exchange for Bilbao investing $100MM for construction, $50MM for acquisitions, a $20MM fee to Guggenheim and $12MM annually for operations.
It has been a huge success. They were made whole in just three years when almost 4 million tourists visited the museum, generating $700MM in economic activity and over $150MM in taxes.
The building was designed, as you can guess, by Frank Gehry. Consistently it has been named as one of the most important buildings of the last several decades.
Today we went out to Spain’s premier wine region, La Rioja. When we are not drinking cabs, we often drink these wines as they are similar and usually a real bargain.
We stopped at the typical 13th century village of Laguardia in the heart of the region. Here the winters are wet and the summers hot, making for great wines. Historically this village had an entire underground level for defensive reasons.
For a couple hundred years those cellars have been used for making and storing wines. Their constant cool temperature and relatively high humidity make for great aging.
And the grapes are right outside.
We then visited the 150-year-old Eguren Ugarte family winery where Allyn posed with the current patriarch.
15 Aug 2015
Not unlike other European areas, Jews have lived in the Bordeaux region for many centuries with times ranging from bad to terrible. It seems to be on the high end of the scale now, better than in much of France.
Centuries ago French kings expelled them and then British kings allowed them to stay in exchange for extortion payments.
In the 1490s when the Jews were expelled from Portugal and Spain many families moved to Bordeaux and lived as Catholics for 300 years being baptized, married, and buried as such, but maintaining their religion within their homes.
Unfortunately, as usual, most of the Jewish population perished during WW II.
A sad unique circumstance is that the synagogue was used as a Jewish prison during that period.
This blog from 2013 show some of the pretty Bordeaux.
And this photo was last night walking home.
12 Aug 2015
St. Malo has been around for centuries as it is perfectly situated for pirates, in the English Channel with the world’s most extreme tides. The city is walled and the French kings allowed asylum to all kinds of ruthless people in exchange for his piece, of course.
Unfortunately I didn’t bring in my camera because I was just tooting around for a bit, but the above scene cried out for a photo, so I did the best I could with my iPad.
I purposely did not Photoshop it because the perspective already seems fake, which to me is the attraction. You can really get a perspective of the big, beautiful Crystal Serenity in the background. Those real 15 – 30’ boats on shore at low tide look like toys.
St. Malo is another charming seaside tourist town with a few good sights and many good places to eat.