Posted: 3/3/2009
Title: PASS THE PORT

Blog:                                                                                                                         

     Port wine is the foundation of Porto's economic success. When France was at war with England, the English could not get their supply of wine and so they turned to their oldest ally, Portugal.

    The wine was 'fortified' for the journey, being mixed with brandy and aged in barrels, and the sweet and smooth result was an instant success. Down on the quay side of Porto are restaurants and bars facing across the Douro River and the ´houses´ and cellars of Sandeman, Taylor, Cockburn, Graham, Croft and other producers, and you can walk across one of the six bridges to the other side for a tour, a taste, and a purchase. There are many old traditions about the drinking of port wine in England. There is the Hoggett Decanter, with a round bottom, so a drinker can't put it down and 'hog' it. Also a decantered bottle should be finished and drinkers not get up from the table until it's empty

    I was supposed to go north 40 km to Braga on Sunday for the MINHO DERBY between Braga and Vitoria de Guimaraes, 20km away, but it was moved to Monday evening, about the time I was due to fly back to UK, and I went to CD Trofense instead.

     So, I had most of Monday to visit some stadiums to add to my ´collection´. First a short Metro ride in Porto to Estadio de Besso, the home of Boavista. It was built in 1973 but remodelled in time for EURO 2004. Outside are a series of dedications in the pavement to past successes, including one that I photographed to the recent national championship of the womens's team, Portugal's best. Also there is a huge panther, the mascot, outside the club shop and bar. www.boavistafc.pt

    Inside I was shown around the 30,000 seat stadium. The club wears their unique black and white checkerboard jersey. In 2008 they were relegated after being mixed up in the Apilo Dourado corruption scandal involving the bribing of referees.

    North to Braga on the train takes one hour due to about 30 stops. From the station I take a taxi 2 km to AXA Stadium, nicknamed THE QUARRY. It's built into the cliffs and my taxi driver was allowed to drive into the mountain, which was like a scene from one of those James Bond movies. The EURO 2004 stadium is an extraordinary site, as many of you will remember from the televised action in 2004. The team is nicknamed 'Os Arcebispos', The Archbishops, or 'Arsenalistos', since a previous coach, Jozef Szabo, visited London and Highbury back in 1920 and changed the colours from green and white to Arsenal's distinctive red jerseys and white sleeves. www.scbraga.pt

    In the 2007 UEFA CUP they played Hammerby, Bolton Wanderers, Bayern Munchen, Aris, Red Star Belgrade and lost eventually to Bremen.  After my photo opportunity inside The Axa the taxi took me to the bus station, where luckily the local bus to Guimareas was about to depart up a winding highway, 20 km into the mountains. Vitoria de Guimaraes play at another EURO 2004 stadium, Estadio D. Afonso Henriques, 30,000 seats, in a park like setting on the edge of town. They were in the top division for 20 years until relegation for one season in 2006/07. www.vitoriasc.pt

    The Minho rivalry with Braga is a big deal. Their fans 'The White Angels',  Somos Unicos -We are Unique.  The city is the birthplace of Portuguese nationality where the first king, Alfonso I was born in 1109.  The Minho Derbies are called The Duels, with packed stadiums. I found out later that Braga won 1-0 with an 8th minute goal from Paulo Rosales.

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