Super Bock - Super Time
Triskele Sword in Portugal

by Ron Day

Super Bock is the local beer. It's the pale, cold lagery type, but very welcome when the average temperature is hovering around 30°C [90°F]. Triskele flew into Porto to find that the country was on fire and Carla had organised an incredibly packed 10 days of travelling and dancing. Porto is like Whitby, only much bigger, perched on two steep river banks, with the fascinating older parts down by the river, and our hotel a mile and a half... up a hill! Come to think of it, most of it was up! Like so many European cities, Porto comes to life in a big way at bedtime. The restaurants and bars are packed at 11 o'clock and the party is just getting going. Dinner on our first evening taught us our first lesson. The menu offered ‘portions’ and ‘half-portions.’ Now we hadn't eaten much since breakfast at 5am so we waded into the ‘portions’ only to discover that they were intended for two people... and the half portions (for one) were still ENORMOUS. We were well and truly bloated – and remember it's all up hill back to the digs.

Day two saw an early start for the cruise on the river Douro. The Douro is a major river, historically providing the route from the vinyards inland to the sea and today its waters are also harnessed to provide hydroelectric power. We took the train to Régua, about 100km [60 miles], before embarking on the very well appointed cruiser with another 200 people. It was hot... very hot. By early afternoon the temperature was over 40°C [104°F] and we were committed to dance. We waited until 4 o'clock, but it seemed even hotter by then and the bar was fast running out of drinks. We did our dances, but the whole group was dripping with perspiration and took about 20 minutes to recover. After that we danced in the evenings!

The next couple of days were spent in and around Porto enjoying the city, visiting the local beach and generally terrifying Carla's family, who by now wondered what their daughter had got mixed up with in Sheffield (they thought she was studying), and of course dancing.

Day four saw us travelling north-east into the mountains. visiting a country estate and winery on the way to Amarante, a beautiful resort on the banks of a river with splendid views and a very traditional hotel. On our second night we dined and danced in a restaurant overlooking the river then adjourned to the main square and what was obviously the most popular bar. It proved to be a magical evening with another dance, and then singing and playing in the square until 2am.

From Amarante we travelled south, passing Porto to spend three days in Aveiro – the Portuguese Venice. A coastal resort with canals, elaborately decorated gondolas, an excellent beach and tiles, lots of tiles! On the way to Aveiro, we visited the Casa de Mateus – the family home of the Mateus family and home to the well-known Mateus Rosé wine. A splendid house with lovely gardens. One of the staples of Portuguese food is salt cod – ‘bacalhau’ – which may sound a little basic, but is served in an endless variety of sauces, disguises and ‘house special’ variations that you never tire of it, especially if you like good fish! Aveiro's restaurants excelled themselves... we rarely got to the puddings! The tiles? Many Portuguese houses are completely clad with ceramic tiles, of varying traditional patterns, both colourful and durable. Reputedly, Aveiro has the finest examples in Portugal and it's good to see modern buildings maintaining the tradition.

From Aveiro we returned to Porto for a final day of shopping, eating and drinking, including a visit to one of the Port wine caves, Sandeman's, where the barrels of Port are stored to mature before shipping. We ended the day in a very up-market bar listening to Fado, a very distinctive and plaintive Portugese style blues which nods to Country Music somewhere along the evolutionary line. The dances we took were our own Triskele No. 1 and a very traditional Newbiggin. Our party included Stuart Bater, a stalwart Handsworth man who had been released on parole for this trip. Stuart kindly added some solo Cotswold jigs to the mix though if the locals were baffled by rapper, God knows what they made of the hankies. We danced every evening in some bar or other – lots of tiled floors, not many wooden ones – and were well-received by landlords and audiences alike. Carla and Rui worked their socks off to make it a memorable trip and we owe a great debt of gratitude to their respective parents who did much of the ground work before we arrived.

Surprisingly, Carla is still talking to us, and dancing. I think we can look forward eventually to a Portuguese entry at DERT!

English dance team survives Portuguese hospitality

The host's perspective, by Carla Ribeiro

This could have been the intriguing headline on BBC news at 9 o'clock. There were two completely mad, but skillful drivers, two white minibuses without air conditioning, 40 degree heat and two laid-back ‘Portuguese mates’ who were always late and behaving just like fish in water (much worse than when they are in Sheffield!). Actually, it has been proved by a study carried out at Cambridge University that 95% of the Portuguese population suffers from a chronic pathology, known as ‘timetable allergy.’ Always trying to make time to do something else between the two most important moments of the day – lunch and dinner – we even managed to pack in some climbing and a refreshing dip in a river. A pattern was starting to emerge, one in which a cultural nationalism had a definite role! The Portuguese concept of hospitality had to be learned by this extremely loud and thirsty group of strangers! (in a few days they were begging for a light sandwich or salad...) Drowned in huge portions of meat and fish with potatoes + rice + salad/vegetables + wine + etc + etc + etc; they were forced to absorb some of the local customs! There was no escape! Yes, the main action was definitely at the table... well done, Triskele, we were proud to see those dishes wiped... and bottles empty, of course!!

They danced anywhere they could find a space. When I say space I literally mean a chair for Barry to play the melodeon + a standing space next to it for Linda to enchant us with the fiddle and a two metre square for the dance. From typical veranda restaurants by the river to the local bars (in between Metallica tracks) on through artificial grass carpets on the deck of a Douro river cruise boat to a wooden floor in a Gaia docks café, it was an unusual experience for bemused Portuguese drinkers and diners. The performances attracted a typically enthusiastic response from our audiences (apart from my neighbours when Triskele plus Stuart and his Morris Jig kindly decided to perform for my parents... on their tiled balcony... on the 3rd floor... and at 1am! (as I said, the dancing was anywhere we could find space!)

How they managed it all, I don't know... ask a survivor!