As a woman submerged in a cosmopolitan city that (mostly) fuses communities and multiple ethnic origins, the concept of a life without cultural diversity feels uninspired and barren. Demographic trends in the UK have come a long way since the 1970s, when my Mum tells me she would have to travel in excess of an hour before she came even close to finding a shop that sold the spices she needed to cook the staples she had grown up with.
Here in London, within just a one mile radius of my home, I can point you towards an Italian deli or a Polish supermarket and I can locate the pandan essence that I bought frantically in a Singapore supermarket, hoping to engage in some Asian-inspired baking without realising it was available minutes away from home in Greenwich.
The truth is, I live in such a multi-ethnic society that it is quite possible to travel the world, metaphorically, without ever owning a passport. I had sampled Parma ham long before I had heard of Italy’s Parma region. I had cravings for dulce de leche long before visiting Argentina and I came to know of Port wine decades earlier than I did Porto, a colourful city in Northern Portugal.
My earliest memory of seeing Port was at primary school, when I recall a my friends’ fathers receiving bottles for Christmas, beautifully encased in oblong wooden caskets.
I didn’t drink then (I was seven after all) though not much has changed even with the acquisition of years, which makes it all the more strange that Pumpkin and I decided to devote one of our precious two and a half days in Porto to head out on a wine tour of the Douro Valley. As the world’s first demarcated wine region, we were promised awe-inspiring views and a memorable day of Port tasting.
So would I recommend it, even to the teetotal among you? I categorically would, as I now believe the UNESCO World Heritage Douro Valley is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.