Day Two: Birthday Trip in Post (or Still) Pandemic Time. Two very different adventure.

I left London and arrived perfectly on time to Lisbon: no surprises here. The surprise was at the checkpoint at airport by entering into European Union (UK is not part of it anymore). The immigration officer – a nice young lady – took my passport and asked about purpose of visit. I answered: visiting friends and touring Portugal. She was astonished: “In such times? With all these social restrictions requirements and measures?” I calmly replied that I consulted with Portuguese embassy in Washington DC and was assured that it is fully Ok to visit Portugal and that there are no restrictions on traveling, etc. Further, I had an email from the Portuguese embassy confirming this in writing. The immigration officer took my iPad (with email) and began calling. I do not understand Portuguese but it looked like she was transferred several times to higher-and-higher bureaucratic levels before someone finally made a decision: I was admitted into the country. Yet, the immigration officer made a big face and said that they will communicate with their embassy in Washington and ask them to “change the message.” Ironically, while I was admitted into Portugal, there were a few other foreigners from the same plane (including one American) who were stopped and not permitted to enter the country. At least, not in time when I left from airport.

I picked up the car: it will be a long drive today: nearly 500 km (340 miles). My final destination is Ponte de Lima, the oldest chartered town in Portugal (yes!), situated on North of the country, close to borders with Spain. I have some friends who live there. The straight drive would take about five hours, but I also had one important stop to make along the way. The first destination was the city of Lamego and there were two reasons for this visit. First, an astonishingly beautiful Cathedral. Called Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, it attracts pilgrims looking for healing from all around the world. My next important destination are Caves De Raposeira – the winery which produces by far the best sparkling wines in Portugal (4-6 years secondary fermentation).

Yes. I tasted all of them and they all were very good. I ended up buying eight bottles of Gran Reserva Brut 2015. Still have to go 170 km…

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