After Barcelona there was Porto, Portugal. A modest city when compared to others but no less a wonderful place to visit. The city sits next to the Atlantic Ocean and the Douro River. Porto is famous for its fresh seafood and a special wine called Port. It is a city coming back to life with a vibrant personality and people beaming with pride in their accomplishments that have revitalized the place they call home.
Arriving in Porto by plane was much easier than figuring out how, where, and which train to take to our Airbnb on Av de Lapa. After a few wrong turns, the ticket kiosks were located and the train tickets purchased. Luckily for us, one of the best things about Porto is its great metro system. A weekly pass, including trains that run to the airport, cost 15 Euro. What a deal!
Hopping off the train, I checked my phone GPS and headed in the right direction (what did I do before cell phones, internet & GPS?). It was a short but interesting walk on cobblestones, dirt, and stairs to the apartment with two small carry-on size suitcases in tow. Cobblestones, dirt and stairs, oh my! Thankfully, the luggage rolled pretty well despite the unforgiving surface.
Susanna met me at the apartment which is a great part of the city.
What a perfect place to stay while in Porto. Walking distance from the tourist areas. yet far enough away to get a better sense of what it would be like to live here as a local. The metro bus ran right outside the front door. It was the perfect place for me and Robert. Of course, like many places in Europe, it had stairs. My advice whenever booking a place to stay: be sure to understand that if there is no elevator available, you will be climbing. After Barcelona our legs are now used to stair climbing, as I call it, and I am glad to be getting into better shape because of it.
The apartment faced the street and the windows opened up to a view of the beautiful church and cemetery across from it.
As it grew dark, we discovered that candles placed next to the graves were sparkling grave markers throughout the night.. Later, during our stay, we felt a visit to the cemetery was necessary. There is something about walking through old cemeteries that moves me. I love to read the names on the stones and wonder as I walk amongst the dead what they were like when alive and what stories they would tell. Not everyone would enjoy living across the street from a cemetery, even temporarily, but I love it. Although there were a few times, in the very early morning hours (3:00 am) that I woke to odd and loud noises that seemed to be coming from the direction of the graveyard. I thought maybe the residents of the graves where having a party of sorts. Kind of spooky but cool at the same time.
WALKING THE STEETS OF PORTO....
I have never walked as much as I have in Porto. Up hills, down hills, around hills. Repeat. But I LOVED it. Below are some of the sights from my walkabouts.
Walking up from the Historic Riveira Center to the Avenida Dos Aliados.
These are what the University students wear for uniforms. Very cool Harry Potter style. I didn't know this when I saw kids walking around town with them on. Thought maybe they were in a play or something.
It is almost impossible to grasp the magnitude of the cathedrals as you enter.
The ceilings are incredibly high & everything is very ornate & extravagant.
Most of the buildings are on narrow streets, with many having shops below, with residences above.
There are two sides of the Rio Douro....the Ribeira Historical Center on one side & the Port Wine Cellars on the other side. They are both trendy with many cafes and stores. I had a great afternoon aperitif at one of the cafes that line the winery side.
The pictures below are of the Ribeira Historical Center from different angles.
The pictures below are of the Port Wine Cellar area. The city was doing some huge street renovations on this side and I was able to capture the few workers responsible for hand laying the stones for the typical pavement here. They don't use levels to check their work as the process has been passed down through the generations. Most of the streets in the city center are this type of stonework (see picture on the right).
As I was walking along the promenade in the Port Center side of the river, I happened to notice a shopping bag on the sidewalk near a table where a group of women were sitting. Being it was in the path of anyone who walked by I tapped one of them on the shoulder and asked if it was her bag. Forty minutes later we finally said goodbye after laughing and sharing stories of where we lived and who Robert and I were. We exchanged contact information & I will be touching base with one of them while in the UK (her home). This is what traveling gives you…the chance to meet people from all walks of life and in all sorts of circumstances.
After a day of walking around Porto to discover the different neighborhoods or districts as they are called here, I felt it called for a cappuccino and scoop of 'lime with lima com meant e gengibre' (lime with mint and ginger). The sorbet was the perfect choice for the warm spring day.
The story of the seafood meal begins...
Where does one find good, fresh seafood in Porto?
Being a person of curiosity, as I am out and about I have little apprehension in approaching others when in need of information. Where others might shy away I will politely approach someone who could possibly give me an answer to my question(s). This is how I roll. I open conversations where others may not and my reward can be bountiful and life changing.
Having walked many of the areas in the city center several times, I knew their was a local store that sold a variety of quality items. One being sardines. I learned a lot about sardines from Nuno who was minding the store called 'A Favorita Do Bolhao'. He suggested I get out of the tourist area to taste the fresh seafood I was looking for. "Go to Matosinos", he said. "This is where you find the good seafood of Porto". Thank you Nuno. It was a great day by the seaside at your suggestion. Check out his cool shop here: https://www.facebook.com/favorita.bolhao
The following day Robert & I took the train out of the tourist area to the Matosinhos district. As we walked along the river it was amazing to see the huge cargo ships being towed and pushed toward the docks along the river.
Turning the corner toward the Atlantic Ocean I saw the areas where the fishermen bring their daily catch to be distributed to the local vendors and restaurants. This is where the great seafood meals are cooked (almost always over a hot bbq). Take your pick of what you want to eat & it is cooked at the moment just before it is delivered to your table.
These hold catch of the day. Select your fish & it is cooked. Great place for fresh seafood.
AND THEN THERE WAS MIGUEL....
Again I took to asking a total stranger who, sitting alone at a long table, had just been served a pretty good looking plate of fish. I asked what it was he was eating. Well, first I asked if he spoke English. 'But, of course', he said with a big smile. There began the afternoon of a fresh seafood meal and the making of a new friend. Migel just so happened to be 'tasting' some of what the restaurants serve for meals. You see, Migel happens to be an up-and-coming chef and wants to see the differences in his cooking and what the other resturants prepare. He looks to elevate what he cooks above what the others offer. We had some great conversations about spices and how he hoped to have his own restaurant soon and what his life was like as a young man in Porto. He learned to cook from his mother, who is a chef at one of the local restaurants in the area. It was a wonderful afternoon at the table. As our delicious afternoon meal came to an end, Miguel insisted on treating Robert and I to a local liquor. I liked it so much I bought a bottle to bring home!
Finally after a week in Porto, it was time to leave for our next adventure. We had a great time and will make it a point to return.
Here are a few (well more than a few) additional photos of my time in Portugal.
I hope you enjoy them and that they inspire you to choose travel as one of your goals in life.
Places and other things:
Bye, bye Portugal...