So much to see, so little time!

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Flag of Portugal  , Porto,
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

After a very warm night's sleep - there is no ac in our room - we went up for breakfast in the dining room of the castle.  It is still very much a castle and has exquisite wood carvings on the walls and ceiling.  This definitely a good place to stay during your visit to Porto.  It has been recommended by several international travel organizations such as Frommers, Michelin to name a couple.
 
Since Porto has so much to see and do and we only have one day, we purchased tickets for the CitySightseeing Hop-on Hop-off bus.  The metro station is quite close to the hotel and after 4 stops, we exited at the Sao Bento train station and walked a couple blocks to the bus stop which arrived right then.  What a deal, we were on the first bus of the day.  We decided to go to the top deck away from the front row so we could benefit from the breeze created by the movement of the bus.  That was a great decision.  Great view, cool breeze, all is well.

The tour without getting off takes a little under 2 hours and covers all the main areas of interest in the city including the beaches on the outskirts.  After completing the tour, we stayed on the bus for a few stops and hoped off in an area rich with World Heritage buildings.  Our first visit was that of the Igreja do Carmo which looks like two churches built together in totally different styles.  On one side, the wall is covered in blue and white ceramic tiles.  So many of the religious buildings as well as others are covered, at least in big part, with these ceramic tiles most often depicting scenes of daily or religious life.

We crossed the park located in front of Igreja do Carmo and headed to the Torre e Igreja dos Clericos.  The tower is the tallest in Portugal at 76 metres and is a masterpiece of the portuguese architect Nasoni who also designed the Palacio de Mateus which we saw yesterday.  Although the church is an eight-sided building from the exterior, it is an elliptic shape on the inside in traditional baroque style.  A Tower overlooking the city - of course I had to climb it!  Mom decided to stay behind and wait for me due to the heat (yes, it was already extremely warm).  After climbing the 225 steps, I made it to the top and the view was well worth the efforts.

We walked down the hill towards the main square and city hall where we opted for a lunch break.  For the first time on this trip, we broke down and headed for McDonalds.  This one was the most elaborate and luxurious of any we have visited.  It was the "Imperial McDonalds".  I was looking forward to some good air conditioning for a bit but I was wrong.  It was SO HOT in there that it took an entire drink and ice cream to cool me down!!!

We hoped back on the bus for one stop (we did not want to climb the hill) direction the Cathedral of Porto.  For those of you planning a trip to Portugal, please note that the Churches close for lunch!!!!  The cathedral closes from 12:30 to 14:30 every day.  We had to wait in the heat for almost an hour but luckily we found a small seating area next to a mobile air conditioning unit in a tourist office.  The wait was well rewarded by the visit of the cathedral.

The "Se" as the cathedral is called in portuguese dates back to the 12th century with multiple modifications/additions thru the years.  It is simple in structure with several naves and a wonderful cloister decorated with tiles.  The entrance fee (3 euros) is well worth it and it should not be missed.  In addition to the cloister, there are several small chapels, the treasury, and the sacristy.  All are very nice and worth your time.

That concluded our visit of Porto since the heat was really unbearable and according to the news in the "danger zone" so we headed back to the hotel.  Although we do not have ac, we are at least in the shade and away from the sun.

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