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Night view of the Eiffel bridge over the Douro at Porto

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After three days in Seville, we are on our way to Jerez to sample the delights of sherry, taking a brief look at Cadiz before driving to Cordoba where we will spend a couple of days. We spent several days in Porto, bisected by a three day trip up the Douro. Near the end of our time in Porto, when we were royally hosted by Amorim Cork and had interesting visits to their production facilities, learning that cork is not only used to stopper wine bottles, we had a big setback. While we were out to dinner with our hosts, our car, which was parked in the street in the middle of all the famous Port houses, a front quarterlight of our rented car was smashed and the thieves gained access to the car's boot. They left some jackets which were in the boot, but they took John's camera bag with his best Nikon equipment. Fortunately, he had brought the body of Lynne's little Nikon D40 and it was in his suitcase, but without a lens. A used lens was acquired from Cash Converters to keep the show on the road, but he is also using his cell phone. He priced the Nikon 18-300 zoom lens which was in the bag and it would cost €900, at 15 to the Rand! 

After a hectic drive from Lisbon in torrential rain, we have had a lovely visit to the José de Sousa winery (part of the JM Fonseca stable) in Reguengos de Monsarraz, our last activity in Portugal before arriving in Seville, where we were just in time to catch the end of the annual Fiesta. 

We have been trying to catch up with editing photographs but we are constantly publishing pictures in Instagram and Facebook. Please have a look at 

https://www.instagram.com/fordjohnduncan/

https://www.facebook.com/MAININGMENU/ 

and https://www.facebook.com/lynne.jarcheford

We will, of course publish the story of our journey over a few weeks after we return, but we'd love it if you were to keep up with a bit of the story while we go!

All we require now is to receive John's Visa, the process of acquiring which is being very frustrating. Travel in Europe for South Africans is becoming very complicated; the amount of information you have to produce for the visa is staggering, they insisted on all accommodation, flights etc. being booked and paid for beforehand and documented with both our names on all the accommodation bookings; this despite an invitation to visit from Amorim Cork. Lynne spent days on line researching and booking and paying for all the accommodation. The days of just getting there and exploring are GONE. They have no idea how much money they are losing in restricting tourists this way. And WHY? We don't want to live there, just visit as we have done to many countries over the years. Insurance, medical insurance, receipts, tickets, bank statements, Passports, ID's, municipal bills and even pension statements were demanded and some rejected because they were "not quite correct", so they had to be replaced. Bureaucracy gone mad. And you don't deal direct with the Embassy any more, you have to pay an Agency to do it all. We suspect they get paid for the number of visits the visa seeker makes, so they keep sending you away for more Bumph. It used to be that if your spouse was a citizen of the EU, as Lynne is, none of this was required. Not anymore. Lynne wonders whether the same will apply to people with British passports when Brexit is complete. And it appears that no one at the Portuguese Consulate has any concept of the urgency when one is waiting for a visa and, indeed, one’s passport with only a few days until we are due to fly.

However, we are really looking forward to the trip, flying on TAAG Angolan airline to Porto from Cape Town with a brief stop in Luanda to pick up more passengers. They have very good fares. We booked with TravelStart who have great specials on lots of flights. Our house sitters are ready to spoil the cats

Click on the links below to see what we've done this week….

In this Week's MENU

We will be adding a story to this week’s MENU at the weekend. On Friday, we will go to the relaunch of the Druk My Niet wine estate in Paarl. The historic house was totally destroyed in a disastrous fire while we were in Norway last year. It has been rebuilt and we are looking forward to seeing the result of a lot of hard work. We will put links to the story on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, but please check this website as well, where you will find the introduction to the story

      Portuguese Visa Postscript: Thank Heavens for a persistent wife! While John was fruitlessly struggling with VFS (Visa ?Facilitation? ?Services?), Lynne phoned the Portuguese Consulate. Sounds like an obvious thing to do, but all enquiries are directed to VFS. Phone calls, emails, web enquiries and, eventually, another visit to VFS in Strand Street all came up with the information that his passport was with the Portuguese Embassy in Johannesburg awaiting action. No information about progress or timescale. This was Thursday, we fly on Monday. Lynne’s call to the Portuguese Consulate brought the information that the passport had never been sent to Johannesburg. It was at the Consulate in Cape Town and the visa was ready for collection from a lady named Sandra. It was collected from her at 8am this morning, Friday, 6th April. Thank you Lynne, thank you Sandra. And, wow! The French gave me a visa for 3 years. The Dutch gave me a visa for 1 year. The Portuguese gave me a visa for 34 days. I can't wait to see the next one... the law of diminishing returns?

      This poses the question: Why do they use VFS, an organisation which does everything it can to obstruct efforts by potential visitors to obtain a visitor’s visa? Friends who have acquired Schengen visas for other countries tell us of similar experiences. We had similar problems getting a Schengen visa last year from the Netherlands and a close friend who works for Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands Government – and wrote a supporting letter for our application – found the whole process quite strange. It seems that VFS is based in India and works all over the world. They make dealings so difficult that one wonders if the Guptas are involved


      Click any of the headings, photographs or green buttons below to look at a complete story. When you reach the end of a story, click on RETURN TO MENU to come back to MENU

      We have been producing MENU for many years, in which we have written about many interesting things. You can find them all in the Blog Archive in the right hand column of our blog page and in the Previous MENUs page on our websiteEntering a word in the “Search this Blog” window on the blog site should bring up everything we have ever written which relates

      This is a restaurant we pass at least twice a week on our shopping trips to Checkers. There were some negative comments recently on the Restaurants Good, Bad and Ugly site on Facebook about it lacking in atmosphere. Lots of our friends go there so we decided it was time to try it. We have always loved their almond croissants, so rich that one is enough for two people;

      is another place we have been dying to try out in Sea Point. It's on Regent Road, diagonally opposite Checkers. A friend made a reservation a few months ago, but when we got there they knew nothing about it so we left and went somewhere else. This time we went for lunch on a quiet weekday. We love Asian food, and Three Wise Monkeys specialises in Ramen, Sushi and Poke bowls. A Poke Bowl has recently become quite trendy; they describe it as deconstructed sushi. It is a bowl with a sushi rice or spinach base topped with Tuna, Salmon, avocado, edamame beans, mixed vegetables, season fruit, sesame seeds, nori seaweed, firecracker/Japanese mayo/soya and sesame house dressing.

      The historic wine estate was hit by a devastating bush fire last year. It destroyed the historic farmhouse which was built in about 1700. The owners, Georg and Dorothee Kirchner and Jens-Peter Stein, had lovingly restored it over 6 years. They also lost guest cottages, their wine tank cellar and other outbuildings and all their possessions. They have now rebuilt and we were invited to visit this week with other media to see the new buildings, taste some wines old and new and have lunch with the owners

      .

      This is an easy canapé recipe. Lynne made this for our wine club meeting. No cooking required, unless you are going to make your own pancakes. You need about 20 small pancakes - luckily Woolworths sells them in a box, interleaved if you are really pushed for time, as she was. But of course you could make them yourself. If you do, you already have the recipe. Please use real cream cheese, with a high butterfat content, the 'creamed' cottage cheese will not work. 

      500 g cream cheese - 50g cream - 1 tin of tuna in water, drained (but keep the liquid aside) - the finely grated rind of one lemon- 1 teaspoon lemon juice - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper - 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped lemon verbena - 100g rosa baby tomatoes - 2 Tablespoons of chopped black olives - salt to taste - 20 small crêpe pancakes

      Blend the cream cheese, cream and tuna together with the lemon rind, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. You may need to add a little more cream or some of the liquid from the tuna if the mix is too stiff. You need a spreading consistency, the cream must not be runny. Finely chop the tomatoes, salt them and put into a strainer to get rid of some of the juice. Pat them with kitchen roll to dry them out a little more. Add them and the chopped olives to the cream. Taste and season to your taste, adding more lemon, salt or cayenne. Take the pancakes and put a good heaped dessertspoonful in the centre of each, spread it out and roll up neatly. To serve, cut them down the middle so that they are easier to eat. Sprinkle with fresh basil

      This has been one of the finest expressions of Constantia Sauvignon since the varietal first appeared in South Africa. The 2017 has a pale straw colour, an elegant nose with all the expected aromas of Constantia Sauvignon Blanc: fig, quince, gooseberry, elderflower and a little green pepper

      It is crisp, long and delicious, a food and quaffing wine. Fig and gooseberry flavours dominate the long finish, with a hint of green pepper at the end. Tasted nearly a year after it was picked, the early acidity has tempered, but it retains enough crispness to be a great match with a creamy dish. In the USA, where they cannot pronounce Buitenverwachting, it is marketed as Bayten and it sells very well at $19 a bottle. R100 from the farm in Constantia

      Take a break, round up the family and head out to the country to join the Pentz family in the gardens at Groote Post for their Country Market on Sunday 29th April between 10h00 and 15h00. This will be the last Market of the season. The Country Markets will reopen after winter on the last Sunday in August.The terrace in front of Hilda’s Kitchen and adjacent to the Cellar will be brimming with market stalls showcasing delicious and beautiful country offerings including artisan foods, arts and crafts, home ware, clothing, décor and gifts. Local is always lekker at Groote Post with a divine selection of Darling gourmet produce including burgers, breads, cheese, cured meats, olive oils, preserves and of course, the popular Darling Brew. All Groote Post’s well-loved wines will be available for tasting and purchase by the glass, bottle or case.

      The Groote Post Country Markets will reopen after winter on 26th August, the last Sunday of the month. The next Country Run will take place on Sunday, 28th October. Entries are already open for this event. www.entryninja.com/events/event/27481

      For further information on the Groote Post Country Market: Contact:  Eldré Strydom: 022 451 2202 or eldre@iloveyzer.co.za

      Facebook:  www.facebook.com/GrootePostCountryMarket

      Website:  www.grootepostcountrymarket.co.za · Twitter: @GPCountryMarket

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       In MENU Next Edition

      Stories about our journey through Portugal and Spain

      We keep talking about rain and the scarcity of water in our blessed, beautiful province. We are now at a crisis point. This week, the City Council published an interactive map on the web, from which one can look at one's own neighbourhood and see which houses are being careful and which are not or are just using water as if there were no crisis. We have neighbours who still have lovely green lawns and they show up on the map as problem users. Please be careful. We caught a neighbour hosing down her steps; water running down the pavement past our house like a river. She didn't see the problem, said that the restrictions will only be effective next month....

      It is not difficult, just be aware of what you do with water and look after this precious resource. Don't leave the shower running while you soap, use grey water to flush, don't run the dishwasher until it is full..... We're in crisis. Think about it! Your garden will, like ours, become a desert. Sad, but necessary and a minor sacrifice in comparison to queueing at a hose for your daily 25 litre allowance.

      At the end of 2016, we had received 580mm for the the year to date. In 2017, 492mm. The annual average at our home in Sea Point at the end of November in previous years was 667mm. "Day Zero" is creeping closer.

      So don't think that it's OK, we might have some rain next week. This is close to Kalahari desert level. We need to try harder. It is no use hoping that rain will come. If it does, it will be a blessing, but the forecast does not encourage optimism

      ...

      5th April 2018

      We are planning to use wine barrel staves as the covering of a pergola. If any of our wine maker readers have old barrels which have outlived their original purpose, we’d love to have them. Please let us know

      We receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to learn more about wineCathy Marston and The Cape Wine Academy both run wine education courses, some very serious and others more geared to fun. You can see details of Cathy’s WSET and other courses here and here and the CWA courses here. Karen Glanfield has taken over the UnWined wine appreciation courses from Cathy. See the details here

      The Hurst Campusan accredited school for people who want to become professional chefs, has a variety of courses. See the details here

      In addition to his Sense of Taste Culinary Arts School, Chef Peter Ayub runs a four module course for keen home cooks at his Maitland complex. Details here

      We write about our experiences in MENU, not only to entertain you, but to encourage you to visit the places and events that we do. We know you will enjoy them and we try to make each write up as graphic as we can, so you get a good picture of what is on offer at each place, restaurant, wine farm, festival we visit. 

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