My Unforgettable Travel To Porto
One of the things I wanted to accomplish with my wife was to be able to travel to the Iberian Peninsula, specifically in the city of Porto, Portugal. My wife Sophia and I share the same philosophy; travelling should be fun, easy and enjoyed at our own pace. We were able to achieve this when we went to Porto, the second major city in Portugal. The other significant reason for us being there was to attend a wine connoisseur festival in Porto. I needed rich content on my website to sustain the interest of the readers of my blog; it is why every part of our five day trip to Porto was well documented with high resolution images and videos. It was a really fulfilling adventure to visit a country famous for its wines and beautiful people.
After a sixteen hour British Airways Iberia flight from JFK Airport we arrived safely at the Francisco SA Carneiro Airport in Porto. The adventure began when we took advantage of the built in the Metrorail system inside the airport to get to the city center. It was very convenient that the airport and the city were easily accessible thru a modern Metrorail train network. Within ten minutes we were dragging our trolleys and checking in to our hotel. After securing our things and wearing our comfortable walking shoes we began our sightseeing adventure of Porto. My wife diligently prepared our itinerary on her own efforts, I love that about her. We dare not miss the opportunity of checking the beautiful bridge named Ponte D. Luis I. It is a famous landmark bridge that connects the city of Porto and Gaia. The view of Porto from the steel bridge was such a wonder! We tried the funicular service and it was so much fun seeing all the views of the city from the top of the century old bridge while on board a cable ride. The views of the Douro River at the top deck of this high bridge were more excellent. The banks of the river were lined with good restaurants and wine shops.
After a thrilling cable ride we passed by the Porto Wine Cellar where we got free Porto wines. At night the bridge looked more brilliant when it was all lighted up. Before going back to our hotel we enjoyed a stroll and some shopping at the Zona Ribeirinha, this busy wharf also features quaint eateries and souvenir shops. I bought souvenir mugs and shirts to bring back home to our kids.
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The next day we started early by checking out the one hour boat ride tour of the River Douro. From the river the bridges looked more magnificent. We were given a glass of free wine the minute we boarded the boat. The views all around the river were more impressive during the day. The tour guides inject funny anecdotes and historical information as we cruise along the peaceful river. We saw neatly lined colorful houses, narrow alleyways and little park squares from our boat. The boat tour has stop over at a local wine cellar and an oak barrel warehouse. Inside the warehouse I watched and video how a cooper (barrel maker) cut staves (oak tree barks) for the big wooden barrels used to store port wine. Port wine is dark and sweet and much stronger than ordinary wine. It is usually drunk after dinner; it is one of Portugal’s best known exports. Outside the warehouse I watched women farmers cutting cork, a thick lightweight bark taken from cut oak trees. I saw how they meticulously process the dried cork and made into bottle wine stoppers, floats, notice boards, and floor tiles. Portugal is one of the world’s major producers of cork. The boat tour succeeds in giving the impression that the bridge, the river, interesting vineyards and warehouses are the ultimate lifeline of the city. The docked old boats that load the aged oak barrels of port wine were equally fascinating! We had a good sampling of Portuguese cuisine when we tried out one of the restaurants facing this gorgeous river.
Our third day in Porto was spent with a visit to the Sao Francisco Church (Igreja de S Francisco). This century old church has interesting baroque style architecture on its façade. From the outside it looks like a typical old church but once we got inside it we were amazed to see so much use of gold on the main altar and intricate gilded wood carvings on its interiors. It is a beautiful church with an old crypt and museum. All the decorations inside this magnificent church are completely covered in gold. After here we toured the Rail Station Sao Bento. It is not just a rail station but the walls are filled with murals and glazed blue tiles depicting the history of Portugal and its people. Even the entrance halls looked so grand! The main hall is decorated with huge tiles showing the development of Portugal transport system from the earlier times. How much I wished our train stations back home were creatively designed like this. The station is centrally located next to its eponymous Metrorail station. Unfortunately, the roof at the platforms is not in good condition as its great halls. The old train station radiates a very unique “old charm” and is definitely worth a visit to look into the interesting history of Porto.
The next day we visited the Palacio da Bolsa, the central hall of this museum under the famous clock tower was beautiful. The neo-classical palace also serves as the venue for the wine tasting event we attended. The tour of the rooms was very informative and entertaining. The Arab Room was stupendous and perfectly presented in its early Ottoman setting. Another interesting section was the room showing the videos and maps of the vineyards all over Portugal. We truly enjoyed the event and the tour of this marvelous museum. We got to take home loads of freebies and tasted a good variety of Portuguese wine. After the half day event we toured the nearby Livraria Lello, an old bookstore that may look unimpressive outside but inside offers a picturesque variety of interior wonders. The collection of old books was neatly scattered all over its wooden bookshelves. It highlights a wooden staircase in the center of the room, and a stained glass ceiling that projects natural light giving a magical atmosphere within the library. It offers a good combination of art and originality. Such is the magic that surrounds this library that has been used as a setting to shoot some scenes for the famous Harry Potter films. Unfortunately, picture taking inside the library is not allowed. An Art Nouveau library that houses a nice selection of book titles and a nice ambience, it was all worth a visit!
Our last day in Porto was spent watching a Porto vs. Spain football match at the Estadio do Dragao, the imposing covered stadium with wide seating capacity. The state of the art and modern stadium is easily accessible thru the Metrorail system. The stadium is also a host for other sports, national events, and many musical concerts. After the games we strolled and shopped at the Shopping center across the stadium. The rest of the afternoon was spent with a visit to the Clerigos Tower (Torre dos Clerigos). It is the highest tower in Portugal with over 200 steep spiral staircases. But once we reached the top everything was worth the effort, the panoramic 360 degree view of Porto was fantastic! From this point I took great shots of the city, the river, and the valley. The breeze from up there was also wonderful. The climb was a bit steep but the views on top were splendid. It was a perfect point to appreciate the beauty of Porto. The tower cannot be missed as it can be seen from every corner of the city.
Porto was a memorable tour for us. We enjoyed the views, the wines, and the smiles of its charming people. It is definitely worth coming back for.
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