Night Magic in Porto

Yesterday went to a friend’s housewarming at a flat in Rua Formosa in central Porto.  Top floor, windows open, the Câmera and the Torre dos Clerigos punctuating the twilight skyline.  Within, a half dozen people and a spread of food and drink, all incredibly diverse and enjoyable.

The people:  a German-Swiss woman who visits Porto regularly, her Portuguese neighbour in the block of flats, a Polish woman whose family have business interests in Portugal, my Spanish friend Fernando, a US Air Force captain whose family emigrated to the States from the Azores when he was teenager, and the Portuguese man who runs the language school which has brought us all together.

The food: a Spanish cured and smoked pork loin, incredibly rich, hot and smokey, several Portuguese cheeses including Queijo de Serra da Estrela (the really gooey rich sheep’s milk one you have to spoon out of the rind), fresh cherries, red grapes the size of small plums, and the neighbour made two of her specialties, breaded and fried pork patties and a wonderful cake made of requeijão, a half dozen eggs and a bit of flour and lemon.

To drink:  a Tio Pepe extra extra dry Palomino fino sherry, lovely nose of flor and smokiness and the palate fulfilled that promise, a couple different bottles of cheap and cheerful French champagne (still drinking through my wages from the IWC last year), and a bottle of Graham’s 10 year old tawny – particularly nice with that cake.

I left a little early, about 10:00 pm I wandered down to the metro stop at Aliados, the central avenue and plaza of the city.  There is a book fair going on, so there were dozens of stalls set up by various publishers selling all kinds of books, and magically, I heard the sounds of a Portuguese guitar.

There was a fadista performing, accompanied by two guitarists.  Fado is the uniquely Portuguese music, very lovely, often melancholy, occasionally playful.  The girl singing was very young and had a sweet face.  Her voice was disconcertingly mature and lush.

Even if I had had a camera, it could not convey the magic of the moment – the central plaza of Aliados lit up, people sauntering, turning over books at the stalls, or seated on a few chairs or the rails of the fountain, the deep blue night sky and the white seagulls wheeling overhead, and this amazing velvety voice and the guitars filling all the space in between.