Portugal Part II
08.01.2013 - 11.01.2013 10 °C
We caught the 3 hour train from Lisbon to Porto. The view of the river from the train on the way in was stunning! We had a bit of difficulty finding our hostel, took us a while as the gps on the phone seemed to have the wrong location. After checking in, we strolled the streets of Porto hunting for some lunch (at about 4pm). Most restaurants had finished lunch service so we decided to try the local Porto dish Francesinha, which means "Little Frenchie" in Portuguese. It is basically a toasted sandwich filled with layers of sausage, ham, steak topped with cheese & drowned with a bbq/tomato sauce, surrounded by french fries. Yes.. definitely a heart attack on a plate!! We shared one between us and that was plenty, though it would be an awesome "snack" before or after a big night out. After lunch we walked around town passing lots of really small bars with 1 or 2 old blokes having a beer inside. It was a really odd bar setup, no sign out the front 1 beer tap and a couple of bottles of wine with a mini bar. At first we weren't sure if they were bars of people's lounge rooms! Porto is quite a hilly town, as you can see from the photos, so we just chilled in the hostel after.
We started the day with a free walking tour around town starting at the main square in the centre of town:
Town hall in the background
A lot of the buildings around town are tiled as shown on this church: apparent it was a cheap way of insulating the place.
J.K Rowlings was apparently living in Portugal when she got her inspiration to write the 1st novel of Harry Potter. And it is this bookstore (with a cafe upstairs), in which she got her inspiration from. The staircase looks like something you would imagine in Hogwarts. We weren't allowed to take photos of the staircase on the inside of the bookstore.. so we sneakily took it from the outside . The book shop is definitely something worth checking out. It seemed like we were flying on different parts of the staircase.
The Clerigos Church & tower: you can climb the tower for a view of the city, but we didn't manage to get up there.. too lazy
Awesome decorated tiled wall inside the Sao Bento train station (which was a monastery till the early 1900s):
In the afternoon, we headed across the river to Gaia to visit a couple of the port cellars (also known as the caves) that were originally used to store port before it was shipped to England. Apparently you can tell how old the wineries are from their location. The higher they are - the older it is. As the river used to flood quite often back in the day (before EU river control policies).
On the left of the Duoro river is Gaia; And on the right is Porto (Really odd having different cities on opposite sided of the river!)
A view of Gaia from Porto:
The view of Porto from Gaia: Those boats were originally used to transport the barrels of port from the Duoro valley to Gaia to be matured in the so called caves.
We started our port tastings at Taylor right on the top of the hill- for Euro3 we had a tour around the place and 3 port tastings each- pretty good value We had the White port (average), the Late bottled vintage (great) and the 10yo Tawny (which was also pretty good):
We followed it up with another port tasting at Ferreira (a local Portuguese brand- as you can see in the photo above, most of the wineries have english names- ie. Taylors, Offley, Calem, Sanderman): Unfortunately their port wasn't very good.
The Maria Pia bridge that connects Porto & Gaia which was designed in part by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame) which explains some of the similarities:
We took the tram to the beach today. Not much of a swimming beach from what we could see. It was nice to sit inside a cafe and watch rough seas over a bite to eat and a glass of wine.
Today is our 'M&B day apart' day- about time, as we were getting very snappy & grumpy at each other.
Blake went off and did some retail therapy while i enjoyed my yummy egg tart at a cafe. (Paulyn: this ones were slightly better than the ones in Belem)
In the evening, as it was our last day, we decided to visit Gaia again for more port tasting. This time we were feeling a bit lazy so we took the cable car down to Gaia- the view was really pretty though
Calem port tasting/tour: We found a 1983 vintage port- it was reasonably priced and since we couldn't afford the 1985 (my year) vintage port from Taylors, we couldn't resist but to buy this one. We will open it on Blake's 30th birthday this year- I hope everyone's ready for some port. We have about 2 days to finish it or it'll go bad!!
That's it for Portugal. Off to Spain next- as Blake keeps telling everyone on our travels- Spain's his favourite country in the world, even though he hasn't been there. So, expectations are high .