Today's journey commenced with two short metro trips into the centre of Porto. The train system was surprisingly clean and easy to navigate. Once in the city centre, I was again struck by the dilapidation of parts the city. Porto undoubtedly oozes with atmosphere and culture, but many residences could have really done with a few coats of paint and a little TLC. I'm not sure whether this is a recent phenomenon brought on by broader economic issues or a longstanding issue. Nonetheless, it was something that I was not expecting and clouded my initial impressions of the city (thankfully these were soon to change!).
We set off on foot to explore the narrow and often steep alleys of the city.
After a fair bit of huffing and puffing, we found ourselves at quite an altitude with a sensational view of the city below.
On our descent, we visited a couple of churches and I was thrilled to find a shop containing the creations of a number local artists. (A quick aside: I was very pleasantly surprised by some of the creative and affordable locally made art and craft throughout Portugal.) I was particularly taken with a young jewellery designer's work - a combination of colourful plexiglass and silver jewellery. Three pairs of earrings and €30 later, we were on our way again.
We ambled along the Douro river and crossed the bridge to Gaia as we neared Porto's famed port wine "caves".
On a friend's recommendation, lunch was at Taylor's - one of the better known port wine producers internationally. The ascent to the premises is very steep (the sun beating down directly overhead at lunch time didn't help us either!). However, once at Taylor's, the brief pain was well and truly out of our minds!
For what seemed to be pretty close to "fine dining" in Portugal, Taylor's was very reasonably priced (let's face it, with the Aussie dollar what it is, and the Portuguese economy what it is, Portugal is currently extremely affordable for tourists from "down under"). Food at Taylor's was quite delicious, but clearly not memorable, as I am unable to fill you in on exactly what we ate (pictured below).
After some port tastings and the procurement of a particularly special and delicious aged drop, we were on our way again...to drink more port of course!
Numerous places along the beautiful Douro river offer free or very reasonably priced tastings. We stopped at a few, but the highlight was Kopke, which offered a variety of chocolate and port tastings - what's not to love?! The establishment was relatively quiet during our visit and our waitress was extremely generous in her advice and in both the port and chocolate departments (consistently offering to top up both!). Here's what was initially brought to our table (for €28.80 split among four, we were blown away by the value for money - check out how full those glasses are!).
For those who are interested, the above ports (from front to back) are:
- Kopke Fine White
- Kopke Ruby Reserve
- Kopke LBV 2005
- Kopke 10 years old
- Kopke 30 years old
Feeling...ummm...a little jovial(!), we decided to fork out €10 on one of the many Douro river cruise touts. The cruise was fairly mundane, but provided some good photo opportunities.
Back at our hotel, we opted for a simple dinner and cracked open one of our recent port purchases - why stop the party? Yum!