I love Portugal (2)
The last couple of days have been very relaxing. The sun has come out, and so we've been to the beach, dipped in the pool, played some tennis, and generally taken it easy. Espinho, where we are staying, isn't the sort of place you'd think of as a holiday destination, but it's really nicely situated, on a long, sandy beach that runs north as far as Vila Nova (the town on the other bank of the Douro from Porto).
An added bonus is 15 km boardwalk running along the seafront through the dunes, which makes long beach walks and runs a lot easier, while preserving the natural habitats from too much human impact. Younger son has been busy hunting lizards, and was delighted, after many hours trying, to catch one at last. It was released an hour later, unharmed.
The great excitement was earlier this evening, when after spending an hour hunting for crabs, we found an adder near the hotel, which we were able to follow for a while (albeit at a couple of arm's lengths). He was thrilled, as was I: there's something about a genuine encounter with nature that a zoo experience just can't match, even though the species may be the same on both occasions.
All this talk of nature, and naturalness, leads me on to wine. We've been enjoying some wines that taste pretty natural, namely Vinho Verde, both Branco and Tinto. Quinta da Aveleda Branco 2006 is brilliantly fresh and fruity with real precision; Ponte da Barca Tinto 2006 has been my red companion over the last two nights, with vibrant, juicy fruit, a bit of spritz and high acidity - just 10% alcohol, too. It's really fresh and drinkable - not serious, but fun and delicious.
These wines taste natural, even though, for all I know, they may have been made industrially. The thing is, they are expressions of where they have come from. No one has tried to fake them, making them taste sweet and modern. They are not perfect wines, but they have character and they are affordable. I guess this is one of the reasons I like Portugal.