The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
The Road to Porto

We arrived in Porto around 11am along with the two bags we re-checked in Paris. Alas, our stray third bag is still MIA ... but I bet you already figured that out. So we filed the claim, hoped for the best and went off to collect our rental car. What else can you do?

Since the lost bag has been the story of the trip so far, I suppose I should add some background information. Margene is having worsening mobility issues, to the point where she can't walk very far or very fast. So this is our first trip where we needed to arrange wheelchairs for her in all the airports along the way. That, in turn, called for checking all our bags so we I would be less encumbered as we moved around the airports and worked our way on and off of airplanes.

In the past we prided ourselves at the ability to be self-contained; to carry everything we needed with us on the plane and not have to worry about lost luggage. Now that's only a memory but some old habits die hard. So, while at some level I know not to include medications in checked baggage, the meds were there because I wasn't used to making space for them in my backpack. I can see that any further joint travel will require some serious redundancy in packing. We'll still need to check bags, but who knows which one (or two) might not show up at the other end?

I suspect we will also revert to a previous travel pattern of pushing on to the final destination and spending our first night in an airport hotel. At least that would keep us closer to the source should a bag go missing and be put on a later flight. Losing a bag for this long is a first.

I got a great deal on the rental car -- about US$10 a day -- but since my GPS unit was in the lost bag (of course) I had to upgrade to a car with built-in GPS that added about a 50%. It's amazing how dependent we get on technology. Not all that long ago, we had to navigate with a massive Michelin map spread out in the front seat. Now I can't imagine how we ever could have found our way to the apartment through the maze of streets in Porto without GPS assistance.

But find it we did ... in the dark ... after driving three hours north up the motorway from Lisbon ... in the rain! Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we got to Porto and there was a parking spot immediately across the street from the apartment. At least something was still working right!

Our home away from home for the next seven days.

Dinner was fast and casual at Restaurante Casa Balsas, a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood eatery next to the convenience store. Out of curiosity I went for the Francesinha sandwich, a Portuguese staple. The now famous Francesinha is said to have been invented in Porto by a returned emigrant from France who tried to adapt the croque-monsieur to Portuguese tastes. Apparently there's no standard recipe for the sandwich which is typically from three slices of white bread layered with ham, Portuguese sausage, and steak but there are many adaptations using different types of ham, sausages and roasted meats. Once constructed, the triple-deck sandwich is covered with four or five slices of cheese that melt around the sandwich when the hot beer and tomato-based sauce is poured over it. Certainly a clever way to get all your calories for the day in a single dish!

Margene opted for their take on a ham and cheese omelette. The French have always been the gold standard when it comes to omelettes and while their reputation has nothing to fear from Casa Balsas, their omelette did meet a current need. Add a bottle of water and two beers to the tab and we were out for less than 16 euros (about US$18.50)!

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