Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Iberian Adventures: Porto

Saturday, July 5 [Tina's birthday!]
Very early in the morning, when it was still dark, Dan woke us up on the overnight train from Basque Country. He went to find the conductor, who was asleep....hmm...but we gathered up our luggage and were at the ready. I saw other travelers at the door, and then the conductor came around to wake us. We disembarked at Coimbra, very tired and confused. We thought the train was late, and we had missed the connecting train to Porto, but it turned out Portugal was one hour ahead! So we had awoken earlier than necessary.

I slept on the train to Porto, while Dan looked out the windows at the sea views and saw storks, or so he says. Then we took a taxi to our B&B, where the wonderful host João greeted us and described sights and recommendations on the map despite the early hour. We wandered off in search of breakfast, and tried our first Portuguese pastel de nata, very different from egg custard tarts at dim sum and Golden Gate Bakery. I loved all the tiled buildings, and Dan said we should buy one. [He says this often.]


Dan and an old car

Green tiles

The exterior tile work was lovely, but inside the train station (not the one we arrived at) was spectacular. We went inside some churches, and walked through the shopping area.


Dan at the train station

The kiddos

Tiled sidewalk

We went inside Igreja dos Clérigos and climbed the steps up the tower to see the panoramic views of Porto and the Douro River. We saw a market from the tower, and walked over to see a busy bird market. So many birds! And bird accoutrements. And bulk bird food. Then we had lunch at a restaurant nearby. Lots of grilled meat.

Duoro river



Despite feeling slightly delirious from sleepiness, we walked to Cordoaria Garden, where João recommending seeing the interesting deformed trees. They lined a pretty shaded path. Dan and I attempted to ride a teeter totter at the park.

Pretty deformed trees

Teeter totter 

Johnny led us to a staircase to see another view of the Douro River, and then it was time for a nap! The rooms were ready! I loved the view of the river from our room and wished we were staying longer than just a night. [Also, Dan asked the receptionist if there were beagles in Porto, and she said they are not often seen, but there are breeders in the area.]

Bridge over Duoro River


View from our room

After our naps, we took a taxi to Gaia, where our host Carmen had reserved a port lodge tour. We learned about the history of port and how it is made. There were many, many barrels of port. Also many bottles behind bars. Then we got to taste! Dan and I bought a ruby port and two tawnys (not the 1952 magnum).

Barrels of port 

Port from my birth year

A very large bottle of port

The terrace at Graham's

We walked along the waterfront in Gaia, admired the views across the river, and did some shopping, then crossed the bridge back to Porto, stopping to see a Beatles cover band playing. Odd.


Boats on Duoro

Beatles cover band

Johnny had made a dinner reservation for Tina's birthday, and as we were getting ready, João brought us bubbly to toast her birthday! So nice. Then we took a cab to O Paparico, where we enjoyed a tasty meal. Then it was bedtime. What a busy day!

Toasting Tina's birthday


Dinner at O Paparico

Monday, July 6
Breakfast was a work of art, with an impressive sculpture of delicious tropical fruits. [Sadly I forgot my camera.] We packed up, left our luggage, and went to explore. First stop: Igreja de São Francisco, which has a crazy ornate Gothic interior. [No photography allowed.] Then we walked to Livraria Lello, where we stood in line to enter the tiny bookshop that apparently inspired JK Rowling, according to Johnny and Tina. I enjoyed the stained glass ceiling and modernisme details; there was also a charming book train with tracks on the ground floor. I tried another pastel de nata, which was better than the first.

Serious men and a streetcar

Livraria Lello

Pastel de nata

We walked through the market and had lunch at Café Majestic. On the walk back to the B&B, Dan spotted a beagle! We followed it, and attempted to converse with the owner, who was on holiday from France. A French beagle in Portugal!

Beans at the market

Lunch at Café Majestic 

Our time in Porto was too short! We all wished we were staying longer. But it was time to pick up the rental car, and Dan drove us toward Lisbon. We stopped in Fátima, where apparitions of Mary visited three local children in 1917. The esplanade where the pilgrims gather is huge. Bigger than St. Peter's in the Vatican! There was construction on the basilica, so we could not go inside. But we saw the outdoor Chapel of Apparitions, and lit candles in prayer. There were also wax figures of children, different kinds of organs, and other body parts for sale. Dan got a wooden sculpture of Mary and the three children for his mother. Then we were continued on to Lisbon!


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