The last of my trilogy in the Tale of Three Dishes of elusive foods from my travels is different from the rest. The other dishes are delicacies I have been unable to replicate. No amount of research and effort has allowed me the pleasure of recreating or enjoying them again. All I have is an increasingly distant memory of the taste and pleasure I received by eating them. This is an unfortunate tale of an edible experience I’ll never know.
Last year we had a family trip planned in the spring to finally see the Grand Canyon. It’s one of the wonders of the world that I’ve never been able to experience first hand, and it was finally time to be able to take in the beauty. The trip was still in the planning stages when Owen was informed that he was required to go to Porto, Portugal during the very same week of our projected vacation. Alas, my canyon experience would have to wait… looks like we’re all going to Portugal!
As anyone traveling with children knows, it gets increasingly difficult with the more children you have, especially when they are young. I wasn’t willing to spend the money on the first class flight that Owen’s company was sending him on for myself and three children, so I began to research more affordable options. Our arrival time would be similar if I just planned to leave a little earlier, and it was actually more economical to book a hotel room in Frankfort to accommodate a long layover on our flight home. However, I started to get concerned about traveling alone with the kids. What if I had to go to the bathroom and the stroller holding the two babies didn’t fit? I didn’t want to leave Isaiah alone to watch them in an airport. Owen had to work many of the days we were there… The only thing to do was bring “Nanny” Tara. Believe it or not it was still a substantial cost savings over flying with Owen, and the peace of mind was priceless.
Owen was able to meet us at the airport and we (luggage and all) were able to fit into a large taxi to drive us to our hotel. Gone are the days when we could get away with sleeping in the corporate hotel room, now we have to add on a suite. Fortunately the hotel was modern, beautiful and accommodating! There was plenty to do there, a swimming pool and restaurant; which is comforting to know when planning a trip with kids since you can’t always project what’s going to happen. But more impressively was that there was so much to do within walking distance, because we could always stay-in at home and we were here to see the city of Porto!
It was also good to know that taxies were relatively inexpensive and could accommodate three children and two adults because shortly before I left for our trip I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child, and didn’t feel like walking! (Although I still did plenty of sight-seeing by foot.) The city was beautiful and had the best of what all European vacations had to offer in my opinion. There were sandy beaches and cafes full of pastries and good coffee; there was rich history and beautiful architecture; and there were plenty of parks and attractions (such as an aquarium and museums) to do with the kids.
Almost everywhere we went offered a menu in English, which was very appreciated since I don’t speak any Portuguese. It is also one of my joys in life to try new cuisine. Sadly, however, my current condition, being with child, prevented me from being my usual adventurous self (it also prevented me from touring the wineries and enjoying the famous Port wine). Overall I was having quite a bit of food aversion so I tried to stick with dishes I knew. When I saw “Francesinha” on the menu of almost every Portuguese restaurant I was truly curious and my not-pregnant self would have tried it in a heartbeat. But it translated on all of the menus as “special sauce,” which was so (almost comically) non-discript that I couldn’t force my queasy stomach to do it. I did inquire further about the sauce on more than one occasion which was also funny because apparently many of the “special sauces” are a house secret, which only fueled the mystery. And when finally one of the descriptive words included liquor, well that was it. I didn’t think my sensitivity could handle it. So alas, I have regretted the not trying of the special sauce ever since, and unfortunately the Francesinha eludes me, and in truth I may never know what I have missed.