17 Dec What to Do on Rainy Days in Porto
Our next destination was Porto for Bill’s Birthday on November 20. Porto is the birthplace of port wine and only wine made in this region can be sold as port. The wine is made in the Douro Valley and historically transferred by boat on the Douro River to the Port Houses in Porto. That time of the year it rains everyday nearly all day, so we went to our concierge at the beautiful Sheraton.. He was able to tell us exactly the best way to spend the two full days in town.
A Day in Downtown Porto
A taxi ride to the market started our day. In the market you will find meat, fish, and vegetables similar to any market in Europe. The difference is the many stands selling Port Wine, Portuguese Pastries, and nuts. We even found a dry fish stand which was a wonder to behold.
Our concierge gave us to other stops in the immediate area of the market, First, the Capela da Armas, a beautiful church with front and side wall art composed of small (6 in X 6 in,) tiles. We were amazed at the quality of the art and then found out that 16,000 tiles were used to make the composition. Second, was a stop at the Cafe Majestic, also known as the “Titanic Cafe”. Built in the 1920’s, the design of the interior was based on the design of the Majestic, as sister ship to the Titanic. The beautiful wood and glass paneling can be enjoyed with the most expensive cup of coffee in Porto. You will probably have to wait to get in, but the doorman wearing a tux keeps an eye for available seats and somehow knows which of the bystanders outside the entrance is next.
Walking further in o the city we came to the Sao Bento Train station which is known for the detailed interior artwork made from blue ceramic tiles. One photo of the tile work is shown below, but the following website will provide much more detail and a 360 degree panorama. Tile Style (São Bento railway station, Porto, Portugal) – The Beauty of Transport
Our final stop was the Livraria Lello, a famous bookstore which opened in 1906 and is considered by many to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world. We did not know about getting entry tickets online for 5 Euro each. As a result, the wait in line in the rain was an hour instead of twenty minutes. If you buy a book from the extremely helpful staff, you do get the ticket cost back as a discount. Though we took many pictures and roamed the bookstore for nearly an hour, photos cannot capture the overall beauty. It is like seeing the stairways of Hogwarts. Here is link to the video page provided by Lello. Livraria Lello – The Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World
A Day at the Douro River
Waking up to another day of rain was not exciting, but at least good things lay ahead. Another taxi to the Cais da Ribiera (the waterfront district started our day where we jumped on the boat for a tour of the six bridges. The first was a steel bridge with the largest metal span in the world. The second was the largest concrete span in the world when it was built. The other four bridges were not as special but had an enjoyable view of the lovely river district on both sides of the Douro.
After the boat ride we walked across the steel bridge to the Port Wine District of Porto. We chose not to climb the steps to the top of the bridge, instead we cheated and took a lower section which was at ground level. Along both sides of the river, you could see the old barrel boats which were used to deliver the port wine from the Douro Valley to the Port Houses, kind of a floating museum exhibit. Once across, the Kopke Port Wine Office provided a tasting for a reasonable rate with small chocolates to go with the wine. We tasted a standard white port, 10-year-old white port, a ruby port, a ten-year-old tawny port, and an even older tawny port blend.
After an excellent birthday lunch, two large stores could not be passed up. First, a cannery store and then a cod pastry shop. Each of the stores was two stories in height and basically sold one product. The cannery store featured canned fish, but not just sardines. They sold over 30 types of canned seafood including lobster, squid, sea bass, shark, and octopus with the cans stacked along the wall in two story high columns. Georgene posed with one of the life size statues and Bill’s photo is in the King of Sardines chair. The pastry shop decor was a library with actual books. They did have a small section for tasting and purchase of port wine, but the rest of the store was dedicated to a pastry about the size of a baseball which contained cod and cheese.