Second day in Oporto and it’s time to get lost into its narrow streets. It was hard to avoid the capture of the light blue sky, the flowered terraces, the cracking walls, the bell towers and the azulejos, the white clouds and the sea.
Our first stop was the Sé Catedral (Oporto’s Cathedral), which dominates a hill above a river over a labyrinth of roofs and streets.
Although you have to pay to get in, I recommend you to visit the wonderful Cathedral courtyard. Some of Portugal’s spots take me straight back to Harry Potter’s atmosphere (yes, I know: I’m a bit obsessed). I could say the same about the amazing Livraria Lello, where some of the movies scenes were shot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures of it. Amazingly enough, I’ve found out that JK Rowling had really lived one year in this city, teaching English.
After our sightseeing we went down to the Douro, with its riverside Ribeira. It’s one of Porto’s most touristic places, but also one of its most picturesque: labyrinth of lanes leading to a parade of colorful houses, reflected over the river. It’s very pleasant to have a walk here, it’s full of bars and stalls and it’s also very easy to discover artisan’s ateliers and buy some little souvenirs to bring home.
The greatest thing about Porto is the fact that the life of locals in the town centre has not being involved in the touristic craze, even after Ribeira had been proclaimed as one of the Unesco World Heritage sites. Even now, while walking here, you can see old men looking out the window, clothes hanged out, people chatting out the porch. Wonderful atmosphere.
After our Ribeira tour, we crossed D.Luis Bridge to go on the other side of the river, at Villanova de Gaia, home of the most famous Porto wine cantines.
The cantines are open to the public and you can visit them and taste some of the excellent wine they serve. We enjoyed a lot visiting Sandeman, amazing Porto cantine whose black-dressed man logo reminds a mix of Zorro and Portoguese university student.
We discovered something more about Mr. Sandeman’s story. Scottish in London, from 1790 he began to be interested into Oporto’s wines. Then he bought these tavern and made them what they are today.
But most of all, we discovered something more about Porto, the liqueur made with Douro Valley’s grape grown on its splendid terraced hills.
Actually, I had never tasted the three kinds of Porto.
White Porto: citrus notes and less alcoholic. Perfect to be enjoyed chilled or as an aperitif, as in the famous Porto Tonic, the city’s official drink.
Porto Ruby: with red grape and a very slow fermentation. Intense, with red-fruits notes. Considering its long oxidation, its flavour tends to stay the same over long periods of time.
Porto Tawny: aged in 500 lt barrels, amber colour and strong dried fruit and nuts taste. Its flavour changes over time: the more it ages, the more the oak taste arises.
I’ve also learned something about Porto’s recipe: the official method consists in a short period fermentation, just three day. Then they add brandy, which increases sugar’s quantity and alcoholic level of the drink.
Too bad we were travelling with a cabin luggage only, otherwise three bottles would have certainly been mine!!
After having tasted all three Porto glasses I was… well, very happy 😀
The only way to deal with it was going for lunch, and so we did in a very good restaurant back to Ribeira called D. Tonho. Here, after eating a very delicious veal that tasted as real veal (I’m sorry but I don’t like red meat I can buy here in London, yuck!), I decided to try a typical Portuguese dessert: the Pudim Abade de Priscos.
It’s entirely made of sugar, egg yolks and fats. Literally, a calorie bomb. Every teaspoon is a super-concentrate créme-caramel; but it’s very good to eat. After the Francesinha I felt fearless.
We should have done a healthy digestive walk, instead we catched the Douro Azul boat and had a mini-cruise on the river Douro. We crossed many bridges, one of those actually built by Mr. Eiffel’s Company. The view over Ribeira from the river was so beautiful. Unfortunately, with the help of the boat swing and the previous lunch, I suffered a few moments of what Romans would call “cecagna”, or sever narcolepsy.
Time for local shopping! I didn’t buy the traditional Portuguese cockerel, but I brought home a hand-coloured tablecloth (there’s maybe a domestic goddess who’s – very well – hidden inside myself…).
We walk around Ribeira and Sao Bento, exploring the area and walking up and down the streets. We took a look at the shops, the people, the ordinary Portuguese life. Someone had advised us to visit the Café Majestic in the Bolhao zone. Here tourists and local people are mixed up in a wonderful art-decò location.
Tempted by what we saw on the others’ tables, we decided to make a toast to our trip with a Portuguese Sangria, made with red-fruits and White Porto. Delicious and very alcoholic. Due to the earlier Porto and the last Sangria, we left the café very high-spirited!
In my third and last part of these post I’m going to talk about this city’s food… absolute fantastic!
Thanks to Porto Convention – Visit Porto for the support to this trip.