Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Surprises in Portugal - Making Friends and Memories in Alcochete

Mark and Miguel walking through Alcochete
Surprises always happen when I travel.  Sometimes they are unpleasant surprises like missing plane connections or breaking an ankle in Thailand.  Sometimes they are wonderful surprises.  It can  be a toss up.   We traveled to Portugal in June 2015 and each day it seemed we had one good surprise after other.  I was almost afraid to mention them to anyone before the trip was completed for fear of jinxing the experience.  The trip to Portugal was one of the most pleasant in my memory from the ease of getting through security at the airport in Philadelphia right up until the ice cream service on the plane on our return flight home.

Mark and I visited Portugal for the first time in 2009.  We did not really know what to expect.  Portugal had never been on our radar as a location we had to see.  We went to Portugal to attend a meeting of the travel group we belong to called Virtual Tourist.  We went to spend a weekend partying with friends.  And in the end we also found a destination that really spoke to us and made us want to return. We did meet two people, Miguel and Gloria,  who became very good friends to us.  We kept in contact with them through Virtual Tourist and Facebook for the next six years always talking about returning and seeing them again.

When we returned to Lisbon, Miguel wanted us to visit the town here he lived named Alcochete.  The town is located across the river from Lisbon and is a bit isolated from the hustle of the capitol city.  We met Miguel after he finished work on Friday evening and he drove us to Alcochete.  We took time for a couple of beers and watched the sunset over the river from a small tavern on the waterfront.  Then we took some time to stroll slowly back through the town to see the church, the city hall and the side streets.  And as for all travelers it allowed us time to take many photos.

Igreja Matriz de São João Baptista. Church of St. John The Baptist - Alcochete

Miguel told he that he had had planned dinner for us at a restaurant managed by his friend Daniel.  He also told us he had ordered dinner for us that was prepared by Dona Conceição,  Daniel's mother.  As we walked through the town to the restaurant Miguel pointed out a sign to us that said Alcochete was celebrating it's 500th anniversary this month so we were there during a very special time.

We arrived at the restaurant and met Daniel who was very friendly and very glad to have us as his guests.  The meal was, in my opinion, the best we were served our entire stay in Portugal and we had a lot of very good meals.  Daniel told us there was a very special vintage of wine prepared specifically for the 500th anniversary.  The wine was not available to the public yet but he a bottle reserved for us.  

He told us this was the very first bottle to be opened so we would be the very people to taste this special vintage.  What a wonderful surprise for us.  The wine was very good.  The meal was excellent.  We finished the bottle of white wine and prepared for a dessert made by Daniel's mother when Daniel mentioned he also had one bottle of the red vintage if we wanted to try it also.   How do you turn down an an offer to be the first persons to not only taste the white but also the red wine made for this celebration?  To me this was one of nicest experiences I have encountered in all my many years of traveling.  So here is a toast to Daniel and his parents and their wonderful restaurant Don Peixe in Alcochete.

Larry, Mark, and Miguel toasting friendship and Daniel and his family

We had many surprises in Portugal.  All of them were good surprises.  But non surpassed this moment drinking the special vintage with our friend Miguel and our host Daniel.

Thank you Daniel for a very special evening

I will be writing about the food we ate in Portugal in another blog where I will give detail to the meal prepared for us at Don Peixe.  

Restaurant Don Peixe
I will be writing another blog about all of the food we ate in Portugal with special mention of the meal prepared for us at Don Peixe.


  1. Glad you and Mark had a lovely time! Hug to you both!