Pottering around (damp) Porto
Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
94Trip End Feb 04, 2012
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When we arrived in Porto is was warm, but wet. And unfortunately its stayed wet, on and off, most of the time we've been here. Our apartment is up the hill a short stroll from the UNESCO listed river frontage with its famous bridge. The landscape of the town slopes sharply down to the waterfront. It's very easy to walk to the river but the walk back is rather steep. I've been doing Zumba classes in London to get fit for Inca trail and was pleasantly surprised when walking up the hills didn't hurt as much as I thought they would!
Porto is named as it sounds after Port, for which its was famous in its heyday
The caves are a short stroll away over the bridge and are an extremely pleasant way to while away the afternoon. We started off with Calem, one of the more well known caves. Admission price includes an informative guided tour. The tour covers how port is made and all the different types, of which there are many more than the standard tawny which most people are familiar with. Its fascinating, but most of it goes over my head in a flurry of information overload and I find myself wishing for a summary sheet at the end. The port caves are dark and warm, with a sort of aged, piney sent from the barrels. The larger barrels are used for the younger ports while the smaller ones are used for the more mature (and pricey) vintages. Port is a fortified wine with a high alcohol and high sugar content. Fermentation of the wine is stopped early by the addition of strong spirit alcohol, retaining the sugar and boosting the booze content. The high alcohol content helped the port keep on its long voyages when it was shipped to Brazil during Portugal's colonial times.
At the end of the tour we try a white port and a tawny port. I spent part of the tour quietly giggling to myself over the pronunciation of tawny. For some reason over here it sounds like it's pronounced 'townie'. 'Townie' port quickly evolved into 'hoodie' port, by which it is known for the rest of the trip between the three of us :D
The other caves are similar and by the end of the third tour the next day I'm starting to understand more about port
Porto's other attraction are the river cruises that take you leisurely up and down the river. We pick our timing and manage a cruse during a break in the weather, watching the colourfull houses go by.
Another day we try walking from the town along the river to the Atlantic ocean. The area is promoted on the travel websites as a lively area with river front cafes and seafood restaurants on the beach. The walk is long, but mostly beautiful and the footpath follows the river the whole way. There are sections with palm trees and Victorian like terrace houses that remind me so much of parts of the fore shore in Melbourne I could swear I'm walking along the beach front back home. The weather however is not on our side, and the persistent drizzle turns into rain, which turns into a a torrential down poor. We take shelter in a cafe and wait for the rain to clear then persist on.
Maybe we were just there on an off day but the frontage is no where near the 'lively atmosphere' we were expecting. The three of us were hanging out for a fresh seafood lunch, but all we can find is overpriced cafe type places and upmarket shops. After to much time getting increasingly wetter and hungrier we eventually give up and take shelter in a french cafe of all things
Later than night we make up for our lack seafood at a local restaurant near the apartment just back from the riverfront. Linda and I share a dish of Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá a traditional dish of the region made with cod, potatoes and onions, while Clare enjoys some wonder full fresh grilled sardines. The restaurant is tiny, only a few tables wide and you almost feel like you can reach out and touch either wall with your arms outstretched. There's a nice mix of locals and tourists as we feel like we're not just eating in yet another tourist trap. Dinner is delicious and cheap to boot. We stroll home to the apparent, stuffed to the gills so to speak to admire the night sky from the tiny balcony in our apartment.
The rest of our time in Porto is spent strolling around when the sun shines, eating ice-cream before dinner (we are on holiday after-all) and sitting by the riverfront, watching the world go by.
In a few days I'll be back in London to spend some time with my boyfriend before heading off the next leg of my trip.