An Ideal Destination for Port Lovers
I was fortunate to experience a number of mini-breaks as you do when living in London. The usual places were covered and sometimes repeated ie- Paris! One place that stood out for me was Porto in the northern part of Portugal. It’s also not too surprising that Porto, as the name suggests, is the birth place of the well known fortified wine - Port.
“Great – let’s go there!” Emma thinks to herself whilst scrolling through Easyjet’s specials.
We finally arrived in Porto after a 4am rise in London to get out to Gatwick and couldn’t have been happier to be off the plane and with baggage within about 15 minutes. We found our way to the tram line and to our hotel after another 45 minutes. Checked-in, showered and scanned a map. Right, let’s have a drink to celebrate.
We enjoyed four days there which was probably just enough time to cover the highlights (could easily give it a week depending on your taste for Port). We spent out first day on foot, exploring the streets, getting lost, walking through the shanty villages and thoroughly absorbing Porto.
There’s two distinct sides to town – the port side (Villa Nova de Gaia) and the old town (Porto). Both sides are separated by the Douro River and the bridges that link them. As with most towns centred on water there’s a lot of activity on the river banks and where we had dinner most nights.
After day one, feeling that we’d satisfactorily explored the old town, we moved on to the Port side – for the remaining 3 days.
In Porto just about everything can be done on foot. The port cellars are clustered together, joined by little cobblestone alleys, working up a reasonably steep hill. Naturally, we started at the top and worked our way down. We visited the Croft Port house and did a small tour through their cellars. It was amazing to find a bottle with a vintage of 1841; we just don’t have that history here in Australia.
A little out of town (about 20 minutes in a cab) is the beach and the costal part of town where the River Duoro stems from. Although not as spectacular as some of Portugal’s other beaches it provides another focal point to the city with more restaurants/shops and bars. The area (Matosinhos) lends itself to a more modern atmosphere, noticeably populated with the younger Porto inhabitants.
We were there in May 2007 about 5 days after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (near Lisbon). Even in the short time we were there the Portuguese people displayed their exceptional hospitality and were genuinely interested to know where we were from and if we enjoyed their home town. It was as if there were trying to convince us that Portugal is a good place and that the bad publicity should not put anyone off visiting.
That it shouldn’t…It’s a beautiful place. I’d definitely go again!
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