Arriving In Porto And Finding A Hotel
We took our second flight with Ryan Air, this one was 2 hours 20 min from Frankfurt to Porto. We flew over the Swiss Alps, it was beautiful as we flew over Spain and Portugal. Both countries were very lush and green. The Porto airport is brand new as well as the metro system that takes you into the town center.
Porto is a very picturesque and charming city that is situated along the Douro river. The old town is on one side and the newer section on the other. As you cross any one of the six bridges from one side to the other you will get a spectacular view. The tall and colouful buildings sit side by side along the river.
Porto is Portugal’s 2nd largest city with a population over 200,000. From the Porto airport we took the metro underground system. We came up into a beautiful area of the city. We could see two huge clock towers and old buildings with amazing architecture and sculptures.
The staff were really friendly. There was a gentlemen that worked the desk at night. We nicknamed him Quatro. He couldn’t speak English. When we would come back to the hotel and go to the desk to get our key, he would always say Quatro to let us know we were coming off the elevator onto the correct floor.
The hotels here are ancient. There are no doors on the elevator itself and no elevator shaft surrounding it, so you can see everything as you go up and down in it. Some of the elevators are actually made of wood.
This breakfast offered at this hotel was not very good. It consisted of some buns with jam and butter, an orange coloured liquid that tasted like floor cleaner, and tea which was an odd dark grey colour. The room was clean and cheery enough though and the location was very central to everything.
You Can’t Visit Porto With Out Tasting Some Port!
The famous port houses are not actually in the city of Porto. They are on the far side of the river across the Dom Luis bridge in an adjoining but seperate city of Vila Nova de Gaia.
We went to several port houses on our own and did some tastings. There are many prearranged tours available that can be paired with a meal or a visit to an actual vineyard.
Port wine is one of Jack’s favorite drinks. The oldest he had ever tried was ten years aged. That is still considered quite young for port wine. He paid a bit extra to try one that had been aged for twenty years. I had a sip of it too. What a difference, it was much smoother and had a caramel like finish to it.
Located in the center of the city is and old Barogue church with a 75 meter bell tower. The Clerigos tower and church were built between 1731 and 1763. The tower is a symbol of Porto and can be seen from various points of the city.
You don’t want to go up this tower if you suffer from vertigo. At 75 meters, it is the highest tower in Portugal. There are 225 steps to be climbed before reaching the top of the six floors.
The stairwell got really narrow as we approached the top. We were not expecting the bells in the tower to go off, they nearly gave us a heart attack. Once we were able to breath again we continued out to the viewing area. There are magnificent panoramic views over the city and Douro Valley to the Atlantic coast.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
We decided to get some exercise and go for a run along the river. It was beautiful and sunny when we left. We ended up getting stuck in the rain quite a way out of town. Then it started to downpour like mad. By the time we got back to our hotel we were soaked. The guy at the reception couldn’t believe how wet we were. He couldn’t help but laugh at us when the elevator door opened and revealed two drowned rats. It rained heavily off and on while we were here. We bought some huge umbrellas and continued to see the city anyways.
An Interesting And Charming City To Explore
Walking around the city we found it full of interesting old buildings. There were vendors with carts all over the city selling roasted chestnuts. The streets are cobble stoned adding to the charm of the city. It is a place of simple cafes and restaurants, a culture of home style cooking, not fancy dishes. We were eating at outdoor seating of a cafe one afternoon. It started to pour with rain. We had our large umbrellas with us so we just put them up and continued to eat our lunch. People were running everywhere from the streets trying to find somewhere for shelter. Even the dogs were looking for somewhere to get out of the rain.
We found the people to be very warm and friendly. They like to welcome you to their country. Portugal is a very laid back country with a relaxed pace of life.
Unfortunately this country is no longer the really cheap travel place it once was. Prices in some areas have doubled since the introduction of the Euro. It is still a bargain though when compared to many other countries in Europe. Like our hotel room for 35 Euros, there are not too many other countries in Europe you can find hotel accommodation that cheap.
Avenida dos Aliados
The Avenida dos Aliados is an important thoroughfare and definitely a little Parisian in its style and appearance. It is a sloping boulevard lined with grand buildings. Many of the buildings are hotels or main branches of the country’s banks. At the top of the avenue stands the Town Hall with it’s tall bell tower. The avenue’s central square is an important hub for local public transport. At the other end of the aveune is Praca da Lieberdade, a square adorned with a statue of King Pedro IV on a horse.
Rua Santa Catrina
The aveneu of Santa Catarina is the place for shopping. This is a lively street, most of it is pedestrian only. There are many cafes and designer boutiques as well as book, shoe, stationary and jewelery shops. The famous place to sit and have a drink or something to eat is called Majestic Cafe. A historical attraction in itself, it is the oldest cafe in Portugal.
Dom Luis Bridge
The Dom Luis I Bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, where the port houses are. It is one of the most photographed subjects in Porto. It has been carrying traffic and pedestrians between the two cities since it opened in 1886. The engineer was Teófilo Seyrig, who had previously worked in Porto with Gustav Eiffel, who designed the 1877 Maria Pia Bridge, a little further along the Douro and another impressive Porto sight.
Church of St. Ildefonso (Igreja Santa Ildefonso)
The Riverfront, A Great Place For A Walk Or Lunch At A Cafe
The vibrant riverfront promenade is well worth going to. It is one of Porto’s main attractions. It is where the city’s traditional boats once ferried port wine along the Douro river. It is fairly relaxed and not too touristy even though the area is often buzzing with visitors. The area around here is called the Ribeira district. It is full of many interesting winding streets.