There’s a port to starboard

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.

This is the view from our balcony…. not bad, not bad at all!

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.

Categories: Porto, Portugal, Travel


  1. Well, this is most fortuitous Shell and Jen, as Lewis and I are planning a trip to Spain and Portugal next year. I will follow your adventures closely! Have fun! Nx


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