We set off on the last weekend of July for our much-awaited road trip. What I did not take into account when planning our trial run for our retirement-dream-scheme is the fact that the last weekend of July leads to the first week of August. (duuh!) And this year, it was not only Black Saturday, it was Black Friday and Sunday as well. Yes, that dreaded Black Saturday when nearly all of France goes on the road heading for the sea, the mountains, neighboring countries …
So, there we were – a pair of senior citizens driving along the major highways crossing France and Spain bumper to bumper with cars laden with kids, pulling caravans, trailer, bikes and other worldly goods. The heat, the traffic, the disappointment nearly turned our idyllic plans into mush.
It took more than our insulated Nespresso coffee mugs, old Filipino love songs and Sting’s greatest hits to keep the enthusiasm going. It meant gathering 45 years of memories to fill up the hours of travel ennui.
But the best part of traveling is getting to where you are going.
Today, as we settle into the routine of our daily lives, the outstanding memories
are not the hours spent in the car.
In my mind’s photograph album, I see us with an old friend in Pontevedra
wandering through the ancient cobble-stoned alleys sampling the local flavors and colors.
I remember the exhaustion as we climbed up and down the hills of Porto trying to find
a must-eat-in restaurant only to find it had moved to yet another part of town and
then stumbling into a cozy, neighborhood restaurante de peixe serving a delicious
catch of the day! I can still recall the excitement of rediscovering Salamanca with Louis.
And, on the last day of our road trip, silently sipping a glass of Bordeaux whilst
watching the sun set over endless hills of grape-bearing vines.
When friends ask me : how was your holiday? My initial reaction is always a bit of a pause and then … tiring. And so it was.
Do we have any regrets? No.
Would we do it differently next time? Yes!
Have we learned any thing from our 5,500 km-in-11-days road trip?
Surely, something we have always known but seem to forget : take the time … even for dress rehearsals. Who knows if you will go that way again? Sometimes there are no second chances, only once-in-a lifetimes.
A visit to any country or any where else for that matter, is never complete without a memorable meal. This time, it was a dish which we saw in practically every menu in Porto - in fast food restaurants as well as the fine dining variety.
It is called Francesinha and as always, I tried to recreate it as soon as we got home. This is my version.
To make the sandwich :
· 2 slices of white bread
· 1 slice of ham
· 3 slices of cheese
· 1 slice of mortadella or grilled chicken sausage
· 1 slice of leftover beef steak or pork chop(even some of the meatloaf from the night before! Use whatever you find in the fridge and see which combination you like best
To make the sauce : This is good for more than 1 sandwich
· 2 tbsp. butter
· 1 garlic, chopped
· 1 onion, chopped and 2 tbsp tomato paste
· 1/4 cup port or brandy
· 1 tbsp cornstarch diluted in ¼ cup milk
· ¼ tsp. chili powder or more according to taste
· salt (if needed)
Putting it together :
First prepare the sauce
Saute the garlic and the onions. Add the tomato paste. Mix well. Pour in the brandy or port. Allow the liquid to evaporate. Then pour in the bouillon or chicken soup. Let it cook for a few minutes. Season with chili powder or with more salt according to your taste. Thicken with the cornstarch diluted in milk.
The sauce can be made in advance and kept for a couple of days in the fridge.
Make the Sandwich
Put a slice of bread on a plate ( a wide soup bowl is best).
Layer the various meat slices on it.
Place the other piece of bread on top.
Cover the sandwich with the cheese slices making sure that there is not much bread showing.
For a more melted-cheese effect, you can put the sandwich under the grill till it is golden brown.
And then pour the warmed up sauce over it just before serving.
Or - you can also simply pour the piping hot sauce over the sandwich. The heat will melt the cheese and envelop it just as you see in the picture above.
Serve with a fresh mixed green salad. This sandwich is a meal!