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A seagull flying past the Port houses alongside the Douro River in Porto

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MENU is back! Now that we have returned to Cape Town, we thank you for your patience. We have a lot of stories to tell about Portugal and Spain which we will publish over the coming weeks, starting now and the first two episodes follow below

An ironic postscript to the drama of getting a Schengen visa from the Portuguese via the awful, inefficient VFS (Visa F-up Services): if you read our story about the hell they put us through, you will remember that we eventually got the Visa from the Portuguese Consulate with a couple of days to spare and it was only valid for 34 days. It expired on Tuesday, May 15th. We received an email from VFS, sent on May 8th, the day we left Portugal, telling us that the visa was ready for collection

So, having left on April 9th and returned on the 8th May, the day they sent their mail to us, John's visa, they said, was ready for collection with a week's validity left on it. Brilliant service!

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

We had a lot of fun, and a few misadventures. We enjoy sharing them with you and hope that a bit of the spirit of what we've seen and done will give pleasure to you!

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

Continuing our quest to see the world before time, money or our mobility run out, seeking new experiences, places, food and wine, this year it was to be Portugal and Spain. A new airline has made travel to this part of the world so much more inexpensive. TAAG is Angola Airlines; you can leave from Cape Town or Johannesburg and travel to Lisbon or Porto, with one stop (2 to 2.5 hours) to pick up passengers in Luanda. The planes are operated by Emirates. The incentive, if you choose your flights carefully as we did, is the cost. Our return fares were half those of our KLM trip to Amsterdam last year which cost R24 000. This was just over R12 000. Depart 17h20, arrive Porto 06h15. Porto and Luanda are on English time, so one hour ahead of SA

Two things we learnt never to trust on this holiday: The weather reports and Google Maps. All will become evident. Before we left Lynne checked the weather in Porto. Cape Town was 19°C to 21°C and 13°C at night. Porto was reportedly the same and it was Spring, so getting warmer, we surmised. So we packed accordingly, with one warm jacket each, rain coats and some vests and socks,

Day four in Portugal and time for our trip in the Douro region, where port (and other wine) is made. We had to book and pay for all our flights, transport, and accommodation before we could start the trip or the Portuguese would not give John his visa, VSF the visa agency told us, despite Lynne being an EU citizen. On the application form it says that family of EU citizens do not need all this. VFS said that this does not apply to Portugal. 

As we have detailed before, VFS told us right up to the time of our departure that John's passport was at the Portuguese Embassy in Johannesburg. Lynne found out that it was at the Consulate in Cape Town and we collected it there. VFS sent us a mail on the day we returned to say that the visa was ready for collection. It expired less than a week later. He was given a 34 day visa. The shortest ever before that was a year.

Food in Portugal is sometimes quite simple – think of fresh sardines on the fire, basted with oil and lemon. But often and with lots and lots of flavour. This is a dish we had as a starter at one of our first meals and it is worth giving you the recipe to try. Don’t be frightened by the large amount of garlic, slowly cooked in the oil, it will mellow and add lovely flavour to the dish

125 ml good extra virgin olive oil – 8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped – 500gm peeled prawns – ½ t red chilli flakes – salt and pepper – slices of lemon to serve – a dusting of fresh chopped parsley

Put the oil, garlic, chilli and seasoning into a shallow pan with a lid and cook on a medium heat until the garlic just begins to brown.  Add the prawns and spoon over the oil until the prawns have cooked. Serve with crusty rolls or bread to soak up all the juices, Add the parsley and lemon slices and serve

Note: we photographed the dish in a Porto restaurant where they had not been peeled. It is much less messy to have them served ready peeled

This lovely chardonnay was brought by friends who joined us for Sunday lunch. It would be the ideal wine to go with the prawns. Golden peaches, vanilla, citrus on the nose with a hint of wood

On the palate, this big wine is rich and full of sweet fruit, a rounded mouthful of ripe peaches, bananas and toasty wood and marmalade which lingers. It has a nice mineral edge on the end with more citrus

The currently available vintage is the 2016. It was not tasted for Platter 2018 but the The currently available vintage is the 2016. It was not tasted for Platter 2018 but the 2016 & 2017 editions gave it 4 stars

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 In MENU Next Edition

Wade Bales Wine and Whisky Showcase

Cabernet Franc open day at Avontuur

More stories about our journey through Portugal and Spain

Friday, 8th June Wine Concepts Pinot and Chardonnay tasting at the Vineyard Hotel  See here for details

Wednesday, 13th June: 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show public tasting at the CTICC  See here for details

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

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17th May 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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