Saturday, 11 October 2014


Our last port of call before arriving at our final destination of Las Palmas, Canary Islands, is Porto, Portugal, which we reached today. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, next to Lisbon, but the centre had a small-town feel about it. To reach Porto, we had to sail across the often ferocious Bay of Biscay, but on our crossing, seas were relatively calm.

The air in Porto when we arrived this morning was delightfully mild. We are after all at 41° north. The weather remained fine all day as many of us went on a city tour, river cruise and port wine tasting (more on this below). Yes, Port wine got its name from Porto, which in Portuguese simply means “port” in English.  The port in Porto is small so the Fram docked at Leixões a little to the north.

Porto itself is a sprawling city with a very “Latin” feel. Despite being an early member of the EU, Portugal seems to have retained its very special culture, with strong connections to fish and the sea.

Wonderful salted sardines being grilled on the street
The bustling Porto train station. Note the beautiful
tiled walls

Cruise along the River Douro
Port is a wine loved the world over. It is classed as a fortified wine because of its high alcohol content. It is made only in the Douro Valley area of Portugal. To make it they start the wine fermenting but stop the fermentation early by adding 70% wine alcohol, which kills the yeast and fortifies the wine up to about 20% alcohol. By doing this some of the grape sugars have not been converted to alcohol, which gives the wine it’s natural sweetness. The conditions along the Douro River in Porto itself are perfect for cellaring or maturing the wine, and we had a chance to visit a few of the old cellars in the city. The smell alone when entering the cellars is intoxicating!

We left Porto in the late afternoon and headed south along the west coast of Portugal and for the Canary Islands. We will take on a lot of passengers there, and then continue south and west across the Atlantic, finally arriving at Buenos Aires, Argentina, to start our Antarctic season on 1 November. Follow along on this blog to find out what adventures the Fram and her passengers will experience over the next three weeks.