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Posts tagged ‘Port’

Compendium // Porto > Port tasting in the Vila Nova de Gaia

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot go to Porto without tasting the port. It would be like going to York without a trip to Betty’s, or indeed to Champagne without a glass of the bubbly stuff. So having crossed the Duoro river over the mighty Dom Luís Bridge, you will find yourself ideally located to wet your taste buds with the sweet and delectable nectar which has maybe made Porto the favourite haunt of the Olympian gods. For in the Vila Nova de Gaia, the quaint riverside zone bang opposite Porto’s Ribeira, you will find the air filled with the subtle perfume of oak barrels soaked with wine, as you wander past the headquarters of practically every of the most important Port manufacturers in the world.

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Walking away from the bustling quayside, where boats carrying barrels of port from the vineyards up the Duoro valley can still be seen (probably more for show, but still…), you will find yourself in narrow little streets filled with port showrooms and cellars. Look up, and the large illuminated lettering of each port house exhibits the most famous names in port: Graham’s, Ramos Pinto, Fonseca, Porto Cruz… they’re all there for the tasting. But being mildly patriotic, we decided to head to one of the most famous British-founded brands, and one which today still wears the seal of approval of the British royals: Taylor’s.

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Walking into Taylor’s was bit like visiting a colonial embassy. It felt very British, very sophisticated, but with all the hallmarks of a much hotter climate: plush gardens, a vine dappled courtyard with a tricking fountain, all traversed by peacocks walking haughtily around their dominion. Inside we were given a very handy self-toured audio guide which led us through a vast vault filled on all sides with barrel upon barrel of the famous fortified wine, and the heady scent of fermenting grapes. Past the barrels, a state of the art exhibition taught us more about port than we can ever have wished to know: I can now tell you the difference between a tawny and a late bottled vintage; why tawny’s are honey coloured and standard port red, and the traditions which accompany the human-trod grape harvesting process.

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All more interesting than it sounds, although the real treat came at the tasting, enjoyed in the heavenly surroundings of a perfectly tamed box-hedged garden alive with the scent of roses and accompanied by the solemn call of those same majestic peacocks. Served with chocolate truffles picked to perfectly balance the rich syrupy nectar served to use by a manicured waiter, we could quite easily have closed our eyes and followed those gods back to Olympus. Naturally we could not leave without buying a bottle of our favourite: the 20 year old tawny. And whenever it is opened the heady scent will remind me of that moment in Porto’s winey paradise – a treat not to be missed. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Moments: The Sea at Sunrise

As much as I love the autumn, one thing which I find somewhat depressing about the ongoing march of the year is the reduction in light. It seems that as each day of the year begins, there is a little less light available to assist in the difficult emergence from under the warmth of a snuggly duvet. Nevertheless, work does not wait for any man, and the need to start the day shrouded in a Wintery darkness will soon become a reality. However, every seasonal change brings with it its fair share of visual spectacles, and now that the light is fading, my customary morning walk now coincides with the precise moment when the sun rises above the silhouette of Palma de Mallorca’s impressive gothic cathedral.

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While Palma’s autumn sun rises make for quite a spectacle, it is the effect of the morning light on the water in the port which really entices me. Enveloped in a warm glow varying between a nectarine yellow and a peachy pink, the gentle movement of the water against the port’s forest of white yachts and sailing boats creates reflections and ripples which are a true vision to behold. Readers of The Daily Norm will know that I am no stranger to the charm of a good ripple – these watery movements have inspired many an artwork in my past repertoire. But in the current light of autumn, Palma’s ripples are surely at their colourful best, a fact well in evidence in this collection of photos.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Autumn returns to Palma

It’s incredible how quickly Summer has given way to autumn. One week ago I was still swimming in the sea. Even by moonlight it was warm enough to take a dip. This week things have changed. Clouds have broken into days of untouched blue, the sun graces us with its welcome smile for fewer hours, and everything seems to be taking on the calm melancholy which characterises the season.

But while in England I may have recorded the entry of the new season through walks in the  parks of London, kicking through crispy leaves to find the conkers that lie in wait beneath, here in Palma my autumn is decidedly more maritime. On these September mornings, as the sun rises that much later, I enjoy nothing more than walking in the ultimate in open spaces – the incredible marina of Palma, which in the morning can always be found basked in a tangible balm of tranquility.

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The photos I wanted to share today were all taken on a couple of walks I took last week, as I noted the first seasonal changes. Along the dockside, the only sign of the change is the quality of the light – altogether more caramelised in its amber warmth than the intensity of summer sunshine. But within the town, the turn of the season is especially notable in the metamorphosis of the leaves, painting the city a wonderful shade of toffee.

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Of course we are still in September, and the summer may not have had its last hurrah. But for the moment at least, the autumn of 2016 has made its first debut. And for all of the beauty it brings, I give it a warm welcome.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Mallorca Moments: Late afternoon along the Bay of Pollensa

It has to be one of the most sensational spots on the island of Mallorca if not in the Mediterranean: a perfectly tranquil walk along a seaside path; the almost completely still waters of a natural bay gently caressing the shore, and over its surface, pine trees which lean ever closer as though staring narcissistically into their reflection upon the sea.  This is the idyll which is the bay of Pollensa (or Pollença in Mallorquin); a naturally protected beautiful harbour on the Northern coast of Mallorca. It is a bay which benefits from the very best of geography’s creative magic: cerulean blue crystal clear water; a backdrop of mountains making the sea appear more like a lake; and a happily coinciding seaside walk which allows visitors to enjoy the tranquility of the spot directly next to the sensuously shore-lapping sea.

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These photos were taken one tranquil afternoon, when the sun broke free of the clouds up ahead as it began its gentle plummet to the horizon and beyond. The still conditions and the golden light were just perfect for photography, and the result is a set of photos befitting the utmost beauty of the place.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: Valldemossa and its port

Mallorca has been, and continues to be, the home of many notable persons, and chief amongst them were Fédéric Chopin and his lover, the pioneering French writer George Sands, who, in her account of their 1839 stay described the natural beauty which pervades Mallorca. That is no more so than in the stunning hilltop village where Chopin and Sands made their home, Valldemossa, a picture-perfect rural retreat which is every bit the archetypal Mallorcan village, with its stone-built houses, green wooden window shutters, and small shop-lined cobbled streets.

The hilltop village of Valldemossa

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It was to this bucolic idyll that we recently ventured, taking with us our friend visiting from London in order to share with her this most perfect example of a Mallorcan pueblo. Valldemossa is not huge – indeed it comprises of a main shopping street with a few narrow side streets each plied with their fair share of pretty cafes and shops selling local produce. But its best selling point is the grand turquoise-tile-topped Real Cartuja monastery which was itself home to Chopin and Sands. Towering above both the town and the stunning mountain valley which gives the village its name, the monastery is a place of utmost solitude and tranquility, not least on its breathtaking garden terraces, which tickle each of the senses with their bounty of flowers, perfumes and unbeatable vistas, all accompanied by the gently bonging of sheep bells in the distance.

The Real Cartuja monastery and its surroundings

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But Valldemossa does not stand alone, and rather benefits from its own little fishing village; an even more idyllic spot which, while appearing to be close to the upper village on the map, is in fact down a perilous zig zag of hair-pin bends which are enough to put the fear of god into the most experienced of drivers, let alone me. But the views which greet the visitor upon their descent are well worth the effort, for the little port of Valldemossa is surely one of the most beautiful I have seen on the island.

The port of Valldemossa

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In the port itself, a handful of unostentatious fishermen’s cottages make up a tiny settlement which is situated amongst some of the most stunning mountain scenery imaginable. For surrounding the port are steep rocky mountain cliffs plunging directly into the crystal clear seas, while on the odd beaches formed from falling stones, one can find rocks of hugely varying colours, from the most peachy pink to a deep golden ochre.

A rainbow panoply of rocks

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Between these two sites, both the port and village of Valldemossa, there could be no doubting the reasons as to why George Sand had been so inspired to describe the natural beauty of Mallorca, nor the impetus for other visitors, both renowned or otherwise, to make the island their home. But while many of Mallorca’s most beautiful spots have been ravaged by tourism and modernity, both parts of Valldemossa retain a local authentic charm which cannot help but present Mallorca at its very charming best.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca Moments: A January Sunday on the Port d’Andratx

Before you look onwards to the photos below, I want you to remember (as you purview the crystal clear blue waters, accompanying blue skies and verdant plant life) that this is January. Yes January. And while for the Malloquins, this sunny January Sunday may be expected, to we two Londoners, this is just incredible. 18 degrees, and a sunny stroll on a beach along the Mediterranean sea. If this is January, then what are we to expect from July?

But weather asides, the topic of my latest Mallorca Moment is a place surely worthy of further exploration. For the Port d’Andratx (or Puerto Andratx) on the South Western coast of Mallorca is a gem of the island, whether in Summer or mid-winter. Benefiting from a naturally curved harbour, almost closed to the forces of the Mediterranean sea, Andratx is a true seaside haven, where fishing boats reside naturally alongside pastel-painted houses and hotels, while next to a cobbled harbour edge, cafés provide the perfect sunny sanctuary for visitors to enjoy the stunning views: of clear blue skies, hillsides clustered with houses, and a direct vista onto the Med.

Reflections on Port d’Andratx

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And this is exactly what we did this Sunday past, as we started to explore outside of our home of Palma with the aid of a trusty hire car and something of a will of iron in getting behind a wheel, on the other side of the road, after several years passed without a single day’s driving practice. But as they say – it’s like getting back on a bicycle; the driving skills returned to me, and we whisked off through a picture-perfect mountain road to this inimitable little port.

After a tipple of the necessarily non-alcoholic kind (such are the downsides of driving), our explorations took us to the port’s stunning coastline, where craggy rocks jut out to sea like mysterious figures from a surreal landscape by Dali. There as the winter sun steadily strained over the rocky outposts, long shadows created some stunning photographic effects, and made for an extremely sultry soujourn to while away the early afternoon.

The stunning craggy coastline

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But heading back towards the car, we found another wonder of nature away from the coast, where a small river met the port. Here, with rushes and long grasses growing naturally in marshy land alongside the small little stream, we felt as though we were in a rural idyll rather than metres away from a bustling port. My photographs taken here have to be amongst my favourite of the day.

Rushes and grasses by a stream

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But you know it’s winter when the sun descends early, and as the pearly round fireball started to make its rosy descent into the horizon, we headed back to Palma, to a garden centre to start a nature reserve of our own. Now, in my office amongst plants freshly installed, I await the onset of Spring, and yet more Mallorca moments in the sunshine.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.