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Published: July 13th 2019
Hello everyone, I’m back at writing but still struggling to keep the blog up-to-date because I’m almost 2 years behind!
After my visit to the United Kingdom (July 2017), I took a 2.5 hour flight from Manchester to Porto
, northern Portugal. Also known as “Oporto” in English, the second city in Portugal has about 300.000 inhabitants and lies on the banks of the Douro River. This was my first visit to Portugal and the 72nd
country/territory I ever laid foot on. Almost all travellers I’ve met whom have been to Portugal, including friends, had good things to say about the country. Therefore I visited with certain expectations and in the end I was not disappointed! From the plane, arriving into Porto, I had a good view over the coastline and the beaches to the west and northwest of the city. They looked beautiful but I did not visit any beaches there. When coming from a place like Curaçao, you wouldn’t get excited about these beaches but I must admit that they looked beautiful! After landing in Porto it took very long to get to the city due to a problem with the metro-network. By the time I arrived
at the hostel it was already 18:00 and I missed all the afternoon. I tried to check-in and put my stuff as quickly as possible, then I grabbed a city-map and I immediately left to explore the surroundings first. Although there is Google Maps nowadays, I still love using the folded city-maps better sometimes. The metro-station lies within walking distance from the hostel with a quick access to the city centre. Porto has a good and relatively cheap metro-network that takes you to various parts of the city.
Porto is a historical city with its oldest parts being on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Between the 2nd
century before Christ and the 6th
century after Christ, Porto was a Roman city called “Portus Cale”. Apparently this name has had its influence to get to the current name of the country: Portugal. The city has many narrow, steep streets made of cobblestones, flanked by colourful buildings and their many balconies. An icon of Porto is the “Ponte de Dom Luis I”, a 85m high double-deck bridge built in 1886 over the Douro River which is beautifully lit at night. You will often see boys jumping off the
bridge into the river, although they first make sure to get enough tips from those watching. On both sides of the river there are other boys walking around to collect some money. It’s better to earn some money this way instead of criminal activities, isn’t it? The pittoresque Ribiera is a boulevard along the Douro River with several restaurants and cafes, often busy and with a charming ambiance. When you cross the bridge you’ll reach the other waterfront along the Av. Diogo Leite where you’ll also encounter several shops, restaurants and a cable-car. Here you’ll also see the Rabelo boats; traditional wooden Portuguese cargo boats that were used to transport wine from the Douro Valley to Porto. Especially the “port wine”, an exclusive wine type to the Douro Valley, is a popular wine is exported from here.
Looking for a place to eat good and cheap? Do not miss the “Mercado do Bolhão”, an old and emblematic market in Porto. The place is a little run down, but who cares? That is exactly what made me feel like being in a market hahah. The main square in Porto is the “Praça da Liberdade”, a big square surrounded by high-end
hotels and shops. Not very far from this square I visited the Baroque church “Sao Pedro dos Clerigos”. Built halfway 18th century, it has a 76m high tower which you can climb all the way to the top to enjoy good views over Porto. When you enter the premises you first have to walk a set route through the church and an art gallery dedicated to different Jezus statues and sculptures, then you’ll start climbing the 240 steps to the top, which is a narrow passage at some points.
If you want to sit down and relax for a bit and escape the heat, go towards the park “Jardim do Cordoaria”. Do not miss the the Catholic church “Igreja do Carmo”, built in Rococo style in the second half of the 18th
century and is known for its unique decorations made with blue and white tiles outside. I couldn't stay very long in Porto, just 3 nights, but the city has more to offer and it definitely surprised me with its beauty!
Before going to Portugal, I read about the Douro Valley
. The tours leaving from Porto were pricey, therefore I did some research to see
how to get there by myself, like I always try to do. And yes, I found out that it was possible. On a morning I took the train towards the village “Pinhão”. The train ride was a beautiful one, taking about 2 hours passing along the Douro River which meanders through the green landscape with vineyards, villages and slopes on both sides. Once in arrived in Pinhão
it was very hot! Pinhão is a very small village along the Douro River with less than 1000 inhabitants. It takes very little time to walk through the village. First I decided to stroll along the Douro River, then I headed towards the “Quinfa do Bomfim” vineyard; you can't visit the Douro Valley without visiting a vineyard. It’s a family-owned vineyard bating back to the 17th
century. Entry was free and they had about three different routes across the vineyard. Because of the heat I opted for the shortest one. In the building on the premises you’re able to read and see a lot about the history of the wine production here. They had a lot of wine bottles for sale; such as a 75cl bottle of “Vintage Port” from 1970
for just EUR 225. It’s a good price and I thought about getting two bottles. In the end I did not get them, since I did not have enough space in my luggage ;-) . After the vineyard I went for some lunch, then I took a boattrip on the Douro River. During the trip they told a lot about the region and its wine production, which made the trip extra interesting. I enjoyed the tranquility and serenity of the Douro Valley and I know that the region has a lot more to see. I did not have enough time to see more but I was satisfied with the little bit I've seen. Later I took the train back to Porto, where I stayed one more night before continuing further south the next day.
Mais Portugal no meu próximo relato (more Portugal in my next entry)!
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