Sunday, June 19, 2016

Porto - Day 10

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The drive leaving the Douro Valley was as beautiful as it was on arrival, but it gradually faded.  We followed the Douro River for 3 hours, arriving in Porto about 11:30 am. Before we checked in, we took a panoramic bus tour (our own) of the surrounding area, including a stop at Ft. St. John, where the original port was located and from where we could see the Douro River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The water was very choppy and the day was cloudy and windy with intermittent rain.
We stopped briefly at our hotel, the Grand Hotel Porto, which is a wonderful old hotel situated on Rua Catarina, one of the main shopping streets.
So it was good that Robert had a special treat this afternoon.  Instead of going to a  modern art museum, Rick Steves' tours had substituted a food and wine tour. Hooray! What a great idea! Love food tours.
Our guide Andre was animated and energetic.  We started the tour in the city market (Bolhão), very near our hotel.
The market was built between 1916 and 1920 and was considered very progressive at that time. It is made of wrought iron and has enclosed covered stalls. Unfortunately, it now is only about a third full, and mostly with fish and meat vendors, fruit and vegetable booths and flowers. 
First Andre introduced us to some fish vendors, such as this woman cutting salmon
and raved about the taste and quality of the local sardines.
We also saw some barnacles up close. I just don't think I could eat them.
One of the stalls we visited in the market place is Wine House Bolhão. It is operated by a young couple who renovated his grandmother's flower shop.
They hope it becomes the new direction
for the aging facility. They treated us to a delicious white wine, some meats and cheeses and fresh cherries.
Next we went to Tascö, one of the trendiest new restaurants in town, where we had almost a full meal of deep fried cod croquettes, rice and vegetables, family style -- and of course, more wine.
Walking to our next stop, we picked up pastries from Padaria Ribeiro, which opened in 1878. We had a Portuguese croissant, almond tart and chocolate truffle. 
To end the tour, we had a wine tasting at Prova, led by a sommelier from the region.
Along our walk to the different venues, we passed by a wine store with this cat guarding the stash.
Then Andre took us to a scenic overlook where, behind me, you can see the area of the city along the Douro River.
As if this wasn't enough for one day, we then took a 50-minute boat ride on the Douro. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time, so not much in the way of photos. What we did see were the 6 bridges that span the river, but the one most used and closest to downtown is the arched Ponte Luis I, built by a protege of Gustave  Eiffel.
We also saw a closer vision of the old apartments along the waterfront
and the other side of the river known as Nova de Gaia.
Did I mention that it was windy!
Moored along the waterfront are the old fashioned rabelos, the special boats that were used to transport wine down River to Porto.
Around 5:30 we checked into our hotel. Dinner was on our own but no one was really interested. I decided to go to the train station to get my ticket to return to Lisbon. The station's walls are covered with tiles that tell the history of transportation up to the railroad.
Then on my way back, I walked through the Praça  da Batalha and saw the Santo Ildefonso Church with its blue and white tiles.
So many buildings in this city whose exteriors are covered in tiles.
By now it was getting late and, with a 2-night stay, I had laundry to catch up on as well as sleep. 

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