Our fabulous hotel in Coimbra was Quinta das Lagrimas. We arrived at the gate cause they don’t let any old riff riff in this joint (except maybe these two ladies who jumped into my photo)
And we were greeted at the door by Paulo who swiftly took out bags up the stairs.
The room was lovely with two of these little attic window…
And a pretty view, but also….. complimentary pastel de natas and port! Obrigada very much!
But the best part about this hotel would have to be the carpet….. it’s hard to describe, because you can’t actually see it (hehehe)
We dressed again in matching shoes – this time different colours and we were ready for the day…
We met our lovely guide, Fernando (I know, I only just stopped myself from asking…) and we were on our way back down the driveway.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get to spend more time here. In hindsight we could have had a day just wandering around the hotel’s botanic garden.
But we couldn’t hang around as we had more lovely towns to visit…. the first on our itinerary today was Obidos…
… famous for the the ‘ginjinha’ – a thimble of cherry liqueur served in a chocolate cup that you then eat! Perfect. You could have dark or white chocolate and at €1 each – you could have as many as you liked.
The main street is lined with little tourist shops and the village is swamped with tourists for 6 months of the year – the other 6 months there are only locals there… not sure what happens to the shops or their livelihood?
But in the 6 month tourist season – they make the most of it… filling most lane ways with cafes, people playing music and I’m not sure who or what this chap is doing – looks like a character from the Black Plague era, but why you’d want to take you photo with him – I’m not sure. I did ask Me Jenny if she’d like to have a go and she declined… and rightly so.
Next stop was the beach town of Nazare – famous for its huge waves – in fact in 2017 Brazilian surfer, Rodrigo Koxa caught one that was 80 foot tall. This image is probably familiar.
So, this is the beach where it all happened. It doesn’t look to swelly at the moment, but that’s because the big waves only turn up in the winter months…. although this looks like it could be smack bang in the middle of winter today – it was just a bit overcast.
There is a lookout that separates this big wave beach with the town beach on the other side and it also houses a how and why on the waves as well as a cave of surfboards used by surfers on this beach.
Here’s the other side of the lookout and the town beach – check out the rock formation on the left!
The one on the right is pretty scientific….. apparently there’s a bit canyon just off the coast that causes the massive waves… and then this big mythical wind god comes along in the winter months and blows.
Here you go surf nerds – see if you can name who surfed with which board. The one on the right has a violin attached – apparently the owner of this board wanted to combine his two passions.
There was a professional chap taking pics with this backdrop for you to then purchase, but Me Jenny gave me a firm ‘no’ before I’d even suggested it.
One last look down the Nazare town beach and then it was time for lunch.
Fernando booked us a table at his favourite restaurant in Nazare. He was very open about the fact that his friend owned it and that he could vouch for its excellence.
Rosa Dos Ventos – R. Gil Vicente 88, 2450-106 Nazaré – if you’re ever in town, do yourselves a big seafood favour!
We weren’t sure what we would order and then the very friendly staff, including Ramone, the owner, who was born in the town brought over a tray of whole fish for us to choose from… (How do the eyes look MLD?)
We chose the big eyed red snapper (not sure if that is the technical term) and it was going to be butterflied, grilled and served with potatoes.
He brought it over and then proceeded to dig out these muscles, explaining that because the fish is from the deep water, they build up extra muscles around gills – anyway, they were delicious, as was the rest of the fish…. I can also say that we ate none of the 11 potatoes it was served with.
To finish off we were given a complimentary liqueur in these tiny cups. Me Jenny didn’t like hers, so I had to drink 2! It was only polite.
Down to the beach to walk off lunch. Not sure what this chair/brolly combo was all about.
And…. that was the end of our tour with Fernando. We have another tour tomorrow out to the seaside town of Sintra, where Fernando happens to live, so he maybe our guide tomorrow – we hope so, he’s lovely.
Well if we thought yesterday was a ghost town – check this out! You couldn’t even see across to the other side of the river!
We packed our bags, had our brekky and waited out the front of our hotel for our tour guide. As we were sitting watching the vans pull in, pick up their passengers and drive away, Jenny noticed our bags being loaded into a car. I got up and asked the hotel chap, Bruno who said, very confidently I might add, “This is your driver.” So our bags were loaded and we hopped into the backseat. I introduced us by name and asked his name in return. He seemed confused as to why I would need to know his name and stammered “Luis?”. He didn’t seem very friendly or that keen to chat and when Me Jenny started up with the small talk about the weather, we realised that he didn’t speak any English. Something definitely wasn’t right, so I asked Luis to stop the car and I pulled out our tour confirmation to show him our destination, etc….. he said, “No, I go to airport.” I replied, “Not with us Luis, back to the hotel por favor.” We had to drive around the block and as we arrived there stood a sheepish Bruno along with our worried looking guide. I jokingly asked Mr Sheepish, “What are you doing sending us to the airport?” He replied, “The driver didn’t have a name for his passengers, only that it was two women. I thought it was you.” – Here tip No. 1 – maybe don’t assume and No. 2 – Double check that Luis, the non English speaking driver is in fact your English speaking guide BEFORE you get into the car!
All ended well my friends, so no need to panic.
Our actual guide was named Goncalo and he was very knowledgable about the Aviero & Coimbra areas where he was taking us today. He grew up around Aviero and went to the university in Coimbra – so hands on experience.
We arrived in Aviero which is is famed for being “The Venice of Portugal”. Now, we’ve had one guide who said when we told him we were going to “the Venice of Portugal”, “Oh come on!” and another guide who responded with “Oh Jesus Christ, Venice?” So, we were a little skeptical before arriving and we were semi right to be. It was a very pretty town, I’ll give it that, but Venice? I’m with Guides 1 & 2 on this one. However, Guide 3 happened to be the one we were currently with, and he was proud as punch to show us his town….
The other thing that Aviero is famous for is it’s salt farming… I don’t know, do you ‘farm’ salt? Even so, there is a big salt industry here.
Goncalo dropped us off in the middle of the town while he found a park and we popped into this church while we waited. It was lovely and old and lovely….. until we got to this 2015 monstrosity in pic 2! Apparently the old organ, which was an amazing gothic number high up on the wall, broke and instead of having it fixed, they replaced it with this one. In a new church, I might have been ok with it, but I just didn’t feel right about this mismatch of old and new. Lucky it has nothing to do with me and I’ll probably never step foot into this church again…. and it probably sounds awesome.
Then we took a wonder down into the historical old town….
We found another church – I can’t see us getting sick of churches at all…. This one was quite lovely and very fire safe as well. Instead of lighting a candle to say a prayer, you popped a coin into the machine and a fake candle lights up – win/win.
Each place we’ve been so far have claimed to have invented a particular delicacy – usually made by nuns who lived in town’s convent….. funny thing is though, they are all exactly the same. They make an egg yolk cream with yolks, cream and sugar and they used the egg whites to starch their white habits. Then they use flour and water to make the a mixture (not unlike the wafer you receive at mass) and fill a wafer parcel with the egg yolk cream. They are very sweet and although I’m happy to taste them – they are not my favourite.
Goncale stopped us out the front of this place – I thought it was a chemist at first… where he treated us to a taste of an ovos moles…
The one on the left is what we tasted….. but the one on the right looks delicious – only because it looks like custard, but it’s the egg cream. False advertising if you ask me.
Next stop was over the bridge where the Portuguese gondolas, called barcos moliceiros ferried passengers around the canals.
We chose not to go on the boat, but instead we stuck out heads into the central fish market which wasn’t huge, but neither is the town…
Below is the church of Saint Goncalinho – it was built in devotion of the Saint of fishermen and each year there is a festival in the honour of the Saint and people would stand on the top of the church and throw down traditional sweet biscuits and thousands of people would stand in the church courtyard and catch them. It sounds quite civilised. However, our guide had a different take on the tradition…. He said that people do indeed come in their thousands and stand in the church courtyard, but then come armed with umbrellas that they hold upside down both as a collection device and also to protect themselves as people do throw the sweet biscuits down, but the biccies are very hard and they are thrown with such force that head injuries have occurred. People get quite competitive and he even said that he once witnessed a father push his own son out of the way, not to save the child from a visit to A & E, but to claim the biscuit for himself. Sounds like fun.
We wandered around for bit more taking in the architectural charm.
a little bit of old and new…. one is look a little more conspicuous than the other!
when you haven’t got another place to hang out your washing – (can you see the clothes horse on the balcony?)
a typical street/canal scape in Aviero
Another thing that this little gem of a town has is 28 Art Nouveau houses…. this being Number 1.
The fog finally lifted and the sun shone through on these two happy faces….
Then it was off to the beach….
Well, Gonzalo said ‘beach’….. instead we were treated to these gorgeous ‘beach’ houses which were situated along a strip of land with the river to their front and the ocean behind. These houses were really lovely. Some were being renovated and some were little cafes. Some are lived in full time and some people use them as their holiday beach house. I asked Goncalo if we were going to see the actual beach which would have meant a turn to the right, to which he said, “Yes, of course” and we turned left…. #lostintranslation and onto Coimbra we went.
Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital before Lisbon, is home to a preserved medieval old town and the historic University of Coimbra. It was built on the grounds of a former palace, and the university is famous for its baroque library, and its 18th century bell tower.
Here’s Me Jenny thing to figure out what subject she might like to study here….
Because it was the first week of university the students were wearing their full garb, including robes and initiating welcoming the newbies into their facilities. I love that they wear robes and not just to graduation. I say I love them, but I wouldn’t have like to wear them when I was at uni, but I like the history and tradition of them and also I love that they have a link with Harry Potter…. look, I won’t apologise for banging on about HP, but I think you’ll be safe once we’re out of Portugal – a few more days to go.
Our guide, Goncale was once a student himself here in Coimbra (pronounced Queem-bra) and he told us that when you are given a robe you are not allowed to wash it. You are allowed to hang it out on your balcony to be washed by the rain and dried by the wind, but that’s it! He didn’t know why and for the 3 years he attended, he never asked. Why would you – just one less thing to wash!
The university, as I mentioned, used to be a palace owned by Prince John and is now one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world – definitely the oldest uni in Portugal being founded by King Dinis in 1290! The uni itself moved around a bit – it was in Lisbon for a while, then in 1537 King John III (this bloke below) gave his Coimbra palace to the university and said, “stop moving it around – this is where it will be staying.” To be fair, King John looks a little like Henry VIII.
Our tour started in the chapel which is about a billion years old…..
Then we went inside the uni itself and up to the rooftop for a spectacular view…
Our final and most favourite part of the university was the library – Biblioteca Joanina. There are timed visits to the library with only a 10 minute allotment for each group.
You’re also not allowed to take any photos inside…. so these ones are from the Wikipedia page…
The library has a number of priceless books, one even dating back 600+ years. It is one of two libraries in the world whose books are protected from insects by a colony of bats within the library. During the night, the bats eat the insects. Each night, workers cover the beautiful antique tables and other furniture with sheets of leather and in the morning the library is cleaned of the bat poop.
These were the parts we were allowed to take pics…
Just outside of the library is yet another reference to HP – the Minerva Staircase…. I mean, it’s everywhere!
So after much thought Me Jenny decided that she would study the English language here and I thought I might give medicine or law a crack, after all I’m almost fluent in Portuguese now…
As it turns out they were giving degrees away…. These cardboard cutouts don’t look tacky at all in this beautiful historic palace of a university. Also, I realise that Me Jenny’s face in the hole of the cutout person skills need work – we’ve had a conversation about it.
Yesterday marked the last day of summer holidays for the Portoians – back to school, back to uni and back to work. So when we woke this morning and pulled back the curtains, we were met with a ghost town.
There are still tourists however… and we are two of them.
Today we had nothing planned, so decided to just wander to a few spots that we’d read about, hoping that they would be a little less crowded with the end of the holidays.
We wandered up the shopping street… this lovely bike was outside a craft shop… bless.
We made our way up to the Majestic Cafe – this spot has been here since 1925. It’s had its ups and downs, if you’re interested you can read about this history here. We thought it would be a lovely spot for a mid morning coffee, but so did about 6,000 other people….
It’s also said that this is the cafe JK Rowling used to come and scribble notes on napkins when an idea came to her.
The Majestic is on one of the main shopping streets in Porto… there were none that interested us much, except this one….
There is a lot of construction and renovation going on in the historic part of the Porto, so there are cranes and derelict buildings, fenced off streets and a lot of noise….
… but if it means getting back to it’s former glory – then do what you have to Porto…
This is not something you see every day in a cafe….
Our meandering around the streets took us to our next stop – the Livraria Lello – the Lello Bookshop. It is one of the oldest bookshops in Portugal and frequently voted as one of the most beautiful in the world. It is also said that JK Rowling used to visit here when she lived in Porto and was perhaps the inspiration for her writing.
These are not my photos below – they’re from the wikipedia website for Lello… there was no way for me to take such photos….
As this is as close to the inside as we got… that line when all the way down the street!
Around the area you can also see where JK might have got some of her ideas… This fountain of winged lions, Fonte dos Leões (Fountain of the Lions) or griffins sits across the road from the Lello bookshop and outside the university protecting the students – just like in Harry Potter – Griffyndor.
There’s another Portuguese link with HP and JK – in a small university town south of Porto called Coimbra there is a tradition where students where black robes just like wizards and another big one – the house of Slytherin in HP is the one that houses the evil doers belong to, so it’s not surprising that she named it after one of Portugal’s most notorious rulers dictators, António de Oliveira Salazar (Salazar Slytherin)
For more interesting HP/Porto facts/coincidences – click here
After all this walking and looking, a sit down was needed. Dois pingo e dois cerveja por favor – otherwise known as a coffee and beer chaser.
The public transport is fab in Porto – there are the big double decker tourist buses, trams, tuk-tuks, the metro system, a funicular and a cable car – they’ve got it all!
So while we were sitting – this happened and I’m not sure how to feel about it. The ‘person’ on the left is a dummy attached to his shoes. From behind it looks like a real person and they look like they’re dancing really well together, then her head flicks around….
There is one thing I’d like to know about this building below…. what happens in the little window in just under the roof?
On our way back down the hill to our hotel we came across this sardine shop…
I loved the packaging and they offered tastings – it was set up like an old fashioned lolly shop. They had a tin for each year from 1916 – 2019 with fun facts of celebrities born in your year.
I share my year, 1971 with Tupac Shakur and Lance Armstrong – so that’s good to know…. and Me Jerry – 1947 shares her year with David Bowie, Johan Cruyff (a Dutch soccer player) and Elton John.
There were all different flavours and types of fish and you could even buy the ultimate – gold bullion sardines! You’d have to really love sardines.
Then right next door was this place that sold cod fish balls…
Which they served on these lovely little plates with a glass of white port… ingenious! I’ll be taking that to my next stand up party.
Here’s the last reference to HP – the myth is that this tower was the inspiration for the tower in which (spoiler alert) Prof Dumbledore meets his end – who knows if that’s true or not – probably only Ms Rowling.
We head off tomorrow, so today was our last day in Porto – don’t worry, a fridge magnet has been purchased.
Our favourite Porto things:
Me Jenny: “I do like the old buildings, as you know, the history and whatnot; I enjoyed watching the boats on the river, the tour to the Douro Valley and we’ve acquired a little taste for port that we didn’t know we had.”
Me: I loved the Douro Valley – the scenery was stunning; I loved our hotel on the river, watching the boats go past – I didn’t love the jet skis though; the old buildings, the cobblestones, the history and the port – so pretty much everything! Oh and our tour guides – they were fabulous.
I would say ‘Adios Porto’, but we’ve been told that it is too final, so for now we will say ‘Até logo’.
What a massive day! We got up at the absolute crack this morning as we had a tour guide picking us up at 8am (or so Jenny had read).
Brekky didn’t start until 7.30, so we had to be at the door ready to grab our plate so we weren’t late. However, when I double checked the paperwork, I read that – yes 8am was written in the body of the tour description, but 9am was the actual time of the pickup. Confused, I did think that Lyn, our fabulous travel Agent, if given the choice and knowing I’m not a morning person, probably wouldn’t have booked an 8am start, so we just hoped it was the later time and got on with brekky. Because the coffee in the restaurant is undrinkable, we popped back to our room to have a quick espresso as we thought we had plenty of time…
and then slowly made our way to reception to wait out the front of the hotel and watch the world go by until our pick up at 9…… but as we got to the front door, a man was looking around and approached us – “you’re not the Browns by chance are you?” “Why, yes we are….. what time were we meant to meet you?” “8.30 – I just got here.” Well, that was clearly meant to be!
Our guide was Tiago. A lovely chap, very knowledgable, very friendly and a great sense of humour – I mean he got all the jokes. He was driving us out to the Douro Valley – the absolute pride and joy of northern Portugal.
Our first stop was the village of Amarante – This town enjoys a small degree of fame for being the home town of Saint Goncalo, Portugal’s Saint Valentine. He is the target for lonely hearts who make pilgrimages in the hope of finding true love. You are meant to pull this bloke’s rope to help you find a husband and why they make the ‘fertility’ biccies….
Um…… you can rest assured that no biccies were purchased and no rope was pulled!
And this is the church in which Goncalo sits. There is a bridge outside that has been important over the centuries as it is one of the only river crossings in this part of the valley. In fact Napoleon once fought there – right on that bridge. I love knowing that we’re standing right where people in history have stood. I say ‘stood’, but he was probably on a horse, so he could see what was happening.
Inside the church there is this amazing organ made from wood (and pipes) and somehow stuck high on the wall. Did they have super glue back in those days?
This little car drove over the bridge just as we were standing there – how perfect!
We had about half an hour of free time here, so Tiago suggested that we head over the bridge and down a lovely little street filled with pastry shops. #shrugsshoulders Ok, if we have to!
Besides the penis shaped biccies the village is famous for its patties and eggy custards – we went for the ‘Nun’s Belly’ – an eggyolk and almond treat covered in sugar. Well, we shared one, cause they were a bit sickly, if I’m honest.
It was also suggested that we try the dry meats of this shop, but when we got there the tiny space was jam packed full of men and hanging hams. It was decided that we’d eaten enough jamon to sink a Douro cruise ship, so we just gazed from the outside like kids who have been told they’re not allowed in the lolly shop…. if there had been glass on those windows, our faces would have been pushed up against it.
View down the river. This yellow building used to be somebody’s home, but now it’s a hotel with a Michelin star restaurant.
Our next stop was into the valley, through the vineyards and up to the most beautiful panoramic view spot…
The land is covered in either terraced vines, olive trees, or other crops – not an inch of land is wasted.
Check out the size of the bees up here!
We were then treated to a typical Portuguese lunch of vegetable soup and ‘slices of pig meat’, finishing, as you do, with pastèies nata.
Then down the mountain we went for a boat ride along the Douro…
Things look different from the water…
Then we were taken to Croft’s for a little tour and port tasting…
Valliam showed us how they crush the grapes – a large percentage still with their feet…
We wandered briefly up into the vines – only the ones closest to the lodge though and were able to taste a couple of grapes.
Planting olive trees near vines has been done for 1000s of years – it’s all to do with where they grow and when they ripen… it’s fascinating, but I won’t bore you here – that’s easy stuff to google (MLD, you’re welcome!)
Inside the lodge there was a display of olden day vineyard stuff…. this straw garment was what the grape pickers used to wear to keep the sun and rain off them while they picked the grapes – sure, some would say its a little over the top and possible impractical. The basket is what they would pop the grapes in and the green vat is where they would ferment….. Nobody can say they don’t learn anything here in The Shell Collection!
After a LONG day and a lot of listening – Tiago was full of funny, fascinating stories, but even he was tired of his own voice by now, so he shared with us some of his favourite Portuguese music. Now I know what you’re all thinking – ‘but Shell, you and Jen loathe the folkloric’ and you’d be correct, but this was really lovely and the fact that Tiago was so passionate about it, he was able to give background information on the singers and musicians that made it sound even better. We even had our first listen to Fado – traditional Portuguese music – but that will be for another blog post entirely.
Tiago dropped us off near our hotel, but he couldn’t get close because the road was blocked off with this… It was a video, but I can’t seem to upload it – they were playing a lovely song as they followed some people who were following some men in religious robes carrying a gold tarp type tent with sticks – it was lovely.
So this is where we sat – drank sangria and ate clams!
Also…. isn’t this the best idea when you only have a small space?
Last night we headed out to find somewhere for dinner. Neither of us were very hungry so thought we’d just get a bit of cheese and bread to go with our bottle of wine.
There is always a lot going on along the waterfront, and tonight we felt like something a little less……. conga line! I don’t actually know what is going on here?
Me Jenny took off ahead down this little street and we found a restaurant offering exactly what we wanted… cheese √ bread √ olives √
And what goes best with wine and cheese? That’s right, jamon! We’ll have an entire plate of it por favor.
A lovely French Canadian couple sat next to us and ordered a mixed fromage è jamon plate for their entree, and the waiter had to come out and tell them that the jamon was ‘finished’ (’cause the people next to you just ate it all!) and they must choose something else. Oops!
We started the day off right with a couple of Portuguese tarts….. and yes, that’s right, they’re just called ‘tarts’ here. Actually, they’re called natas here, but that ruins the joke.
Today we decided to jump on the big red bus and get a look at a bit more of the town and some of the coast. We got to stand and admire this lovely old (derelict) building….. sure, she might be old and unliveable, but she’s still pretty with her tiles on.
Here’s Me Jenny waiting for the bus to arrive…
We mistakenly got on at the last stop of the circular bus route which turned out to be a great mistake decision because there were seats a plenty – we took the front seats at the top.
We went up a lot of the streets that Andre had taken us on, but there’s a different view from the top of the bus. The building at the bottom with the blue PORTO sign out the front…. people were lined up to have their photo taken while climbing on the sign. People are amazing!
Then we pulled up at the number 1 stop on the bus route and because there were so many buses, there was no room for us and we had to go around the block 3 times until there was space to park…. then 1 million people tried to board our bus… so we waited the full 14 hours it took for them to get on and validate their tickets, etc…. then we were off….
Back passed the Sè – The Cathedral with the ice cream pod outside – how cute is that? They are all over the city for all your immediate ice cream needs.
The popular shopping street with your high street brands
An ugly high-rise apartment block made semi pretty with tiles.
A pretty tiled church
The Clergyman’s Tower
Another ugly apartment tower made of brick…… or is it? Spot the clue.
The special monument of a Portuguese lion crushing a French eagle
Special apartment tower – we wondered how it got approval for 7 floors?
On the way to the coast, the ride got a little depressing if I’m honest, although it did give us a look at what life looks like outside of the tourist centre.
Then – we finally hit the coast. I’m not going to mention the beaches, because when you come from where we do – it’s never going to be as good. However, with me saying that I’m not going to mention them and then insinuating that our beaches at home are miles better – that’s me saying something about Porto’s beaches. Let’s just say they weren’t my cup of tea, but there were plenty of people down there enjoying the sand and water.
This is the mouth of the River Douro. The water moves pretty fast here and there were a few boats there taking advantage of some unsuspecting fish thinking they were getting the fast track to the Atlantic. Would you describe all fish as unsuspecting? I mean, it doesn’t appear to be in their nature to suspect that they might be somebody’s lunch very shortly.
We followed the river all the way back to our starting point and by this time, the heat really had us sticking to our seats, so we were ready to get off.
We found a lovely little spot right on the river and beers were immediately ordered.
Ahhhhhh, that’s just what we needed – and probably water, but beer is cheaper!
As we were sitting there, we noticed that the chef was standing in this doorway, on the steps cooking seafood on the grill.
We ordered grilled sardines and 2 more beers and Me Jenny was as happy as Larry – she loves a good sardine, and a good beer – so win/win!
We sat, ate and drank as we watched the world go by….. and if you were wondering if the water police ever caught up with those jet ski-ers…..
… the answer is yes. Although when they’d finished their conversation the jet ski roared off in an almost vertical position…. perhaps they were just mates and were organising getting together next weekend? #shouldershrug
We got up before the sun this morning, what with going to bed in the early hours of the evening last night, but it was lovely as we got to watch the sun come up behind the bridges. Porto has 6 bridges, just for a little FYI.
Brekky was had downstairs and as lovely as the buffet was, we did think that it was a little light on for selection. It wasn’t until after we were walking out the door that we realised we’d missed a whole section of food choices! We couldn’t have eaten anymore, but couldn’t help but feel a little gipped. There’s always tomorrow.
So we took ourselves and our matching walking sandals to the front of reception to wait for our tour guide… Once upon a time I would have been embarrassed to walk around in the same shows as Me Mum, but how happy am I that other people’s opinions of our Bobbsy twin footwear choice don’t bother me – in fact, I feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t already jumped on this Teva footwear journey with us – they’re super comfy!
Andre was our guide – the most polite guide/driver I’ve met. He rolled down his window on several occasions to apologise and thank pedestrians for getting off the road so he didn’t hit them. He gently tooted his horn to make somebody aware he was behind them and he turned to us and said “I apologise for my aggressiveness.” Andre was very knowledgeable and threw dates and facts around like he was reciting his favourite song.
Andre was going to show us a few of the obvious sights – the cathedral, the train station and a port cave cellar – complete with tasting.
First stop was The Cathedral. It sits high on the hill, as with most cathedrals and is as you’d expect inside – ornate and gold.
Next door is the cloisters and chapels attached to the side of the Cathedral and where I noticed one by one hikers turning up and heading inside with their backpacks – they were Camino hikers making their way north on the Portuguese way to Santiago de Compostela and they were getting their pilgrim passport stamped. The chap in the orange shirt was giving them directions for a small donation. Not a bad service if you’ve just walked from Lisbon and then up this steep hill… being saved some more unnecessary steps is worth a small coin.
And here’s the cloisters….. how lovely.
Each of these tiles was hand painted and then put together like a jigsaw puzzle….. I can’t help but think that they may have got their boxes of face pieces a little mixed up for this one.
This is the chapel of St Vincent. It’s made of jacaranda wood and gold leaf from Brasil. Our guide said sheepishly, “When I say it’s from there, I mean we… um, we took it.”
Within the UNESCO historical city centre all the buildings must stay in their original form – even if they just keep the facade and redo the inside. But this one had us calling the architect police.
The Sao Bento train station – what a beauty! All the panels are tiled – again each tile is handprinted and then put together. These three chaps below were the engineer, the architect and the painter. The painter wanted to add their images somewhere in the tiled scenes for prosperity, but the other two said no……
….. so he did this – check out the two ladies sitting down.
and he gave himself a lovely self portrait in the form of a young minstrel.
As well as being a work of art it is also a working train station – so it was packed for both reasons.
This one is the church of St Anthony.
Next Andre took us over the bridge to Gaia on the south side of the Douro and where all the port caves are. The roads here are like they’ve been built as an afterthought and when you’re dealing with a city that is as old as this one – they really were an afterthought. This is a sharp corner where Andre had to do a 3 point turn to get around, giving me time to snap this lovely piece of street art.
This is the view from Gaia back to Porto.
We were headed over that side for a bit of a look a bit of port tasting at Cockburn’s. They grow all the grapes for their port out in the Douro Valley and only do the barreling and bottling here in Gaia.
I’ve never been a huge port fan, because I’m not an 80 year old lady, but after our tasting today, I hope that to be turned around…. – not me turning into an 80 year old lady – I mean the other bit about being a fan.
I love that these companies hold onto the old traditions and ways of doing things rather than just bulldoze everything and go modern. This company has their own team of ‘coopers’ who maintain the barrels. To do that, they have to take them apart plank by plank, restore the wood and then put them all back together again.
Now we’re full bottles on port making – let’s get tasting!
Just for a tease, Richardo walked us backwards through the owner’s personal vintage cellar showing its dust covered bottles that we would not be tasting today. The oldest bottle they had in their collection was from 1868 which is apparently worth more than all the tea in China….. but were not here for tea!
We’re here for port!
Now, this is the measure of a good tour guide. I saw this stand and asked Me Jenny to pose – her answer – “No, I’m not doing that anymore.” 😦 So I asked Andre if he would like to oblige……. Well done Andre.
The verdict? We quite liked one of the ports and so purchased a small bottle to drink as a nightcap overlooking the Douro at night. However we got home so tired from the day and I suspect still a bit of jet lag that the bottle sat unopened.