Porto June 2018
Flying for the first time on Taag airlines via Luanda we arrived in Porto at 6am. TAAG was a definite parsleyspursuit of the perfectly priced flight. The plane was brand new with fancy touch screens and lovely decor BUT no headphones were handed out and we overheard the air hostess telling our neighbours, sorry bring your own!
But still, it’s a far quicker way to get to Europe than the Emirates Qatar options.
We booked to come to Porto as we loved our brief visit to the Douro valley last year and we did not get to Porto. After we booked we saw that festival of São João was taking place that weekend. Bonus. Of course, we could never just enjoy that all on our own, so we invited our honeymoon friends Mike and Allie to join us and then, of course, our travel mate of choice Selena and her boyfriend Rogerio, the fact that he is Portuguese another bonus.
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb close to the riverfront but not too close. Amazing how they turn a one high ceiling room into a one bedroom apartment very cleverly (see link). After checking in early we decided to first have a rest. New rules for the recovering patient but after that, we were off for an explore.
Porto is on the river Douro and is the second largest city in Portugal. One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine, is named after Porto, since the area, and in particular, the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, were responsible for the packaging, transport and export of the fortified wine. The grapes are all grown further up the valley in the Douro Valley (read here for our last visit) and then were transported down the river on barges to be made into port in the cellars next to river banks.
The riverfront is bustling and very touristy but a great place to people watch. We walked along the Ribeira side and then crossed over to the Gaia side. This is where all the port houses are. It’s worth taking a tour but as we have done a sherry tour previously, we felt we could skip this one.
The city, like a lot of Portugal, has so many beautiful examples of azulejos. These tiled works of art are a wonder all over the city, on the churches on the sides of the houses and then especially in the railway station of São Bento. I believe they were not only used as an art form as most of them depict either pastoral or religious scenes but were also used as a means of temperature control. I must say they are a highlight of my experience in Portugal.
The first night we were alone and went to a quaint restaurant with an international flavour. The food in Portugal is simple and uncomplicated. Not as exciting as Italy ( my opinion) but I think with fresh ingredients you can’t go wrong. Dinner was a rustic tomato and white bean soup and some lovely sardine butter and bread. The drinks are cheap and beer is from €1 to €3 and a glass of wine around the same price. Very affordable. Breakfasts are around €7 and dinner is generally
Our activities for the weekend revolves around trying to keep cool and later on trying to avoid the 1 million people descending on Porto for the festival.
There are a lot of lovey squares and we had breakfast and drinks in a few scattered all over the city. There is a lot of uphills so be prepared to give your calves a real workout but everything is pretty close so you don’t have to walk far.
Dinner with the gang on Friday night was at a popular eatery called Taberna Santo António which we had made a booking for… no ways we were getting in otherwise. I don’t think everyone felt the meal was outstanding but I had pork cheeks and I definitely think I might a good choice. It was so damn hot though and we eventually had to move to a table outside to eat dessert. Dessert was a magnificent chocolate mousse and a house speciality, it was very worth the calories.
Next up was a boat trip along the river Douro. Again a touristy option but we decided it’s a good way to escape the heat. The boat takes you along the Douro river and under 6 bridges that span it. It was a hot but enjoyable journey and a lovely way to see another perspective of Porto.
After the boat trip, we walked to a rooftop bar that our clever friend Michael had found. It was called Mirajazz and it served drinks and petiscos ( tapas or snacks). We spent a good couple of hours drinking ice cold rosé ( well the girls did ) and eating a lovely platter of aged cheese, meat and bruschetta with tomato.
The only reason we left was that they were closing for the festival. So now what…? We heard the festival is going to be madness so are we up to it?
Wait and see.