Day 9: Porto
We arrived at Porto in the mid morning. The main city in the Douro region is Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, the capital. Most river cruises of the Douro do a round trip Porto. But as we wanted to go to Madrid, we did Vegas Teron to Porto. The ports of call are the same as the round trip Porto cruises. Porto is my favourite city of this entire trip.
Porto is a very beautiful city and the historical core city and river side area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2001, Porto was declared the European City of Culture.
On one side of the Douro river is Porto, and opposite is Gaia. Along the Gaia bank, the various wine cellars “park” the traditional boats used to carry the wine from the vineyard in the Douro Valley to the cellars in Gaia. Now these are mainly more ornamental. Most of the wine cellars of Porto are now mostly in Gaia. Port Wine is actually named after Porto and only the sweet red wine from Porto can be called Port.
After lunch, we started our city tour of Porto. We were bussed to the centre of the city of Porto for a walking tour of the city. Porto is a hilly city. There are trams in the city which one can take, but Porto is really a city which should be best explored on foot.
Our tour started with a visit to Porto’s Cathedral, one of the city’s oldest monuments.
Another unusual place we visited in Porto was the Porto railway station, not to take the train but to look around. Its walls were covered with the beautiful Portugese blue and white tiles depicting scenes from Portuguese history.
Our tour ended at the main square which is ringed with shops and cafes. The city’s main street is Avenide does Aliados, which is lined by a number of art nouveau buildings dating back almost 100 years. We were then given some free time to wonder around the city on our own.
One interesting shop near the square that you cannot miss is MacDonald’s. This must be the most beautiful MacDonalds in the world. It took over the premises of the Old Imperial Cafe and retained the chandelier, stained glass windows and facade, including the eagle.
Did you know that JK Rowling was teaching at Porto University when she was writing her first Harry Potter book? It was said that she used to visit a very well known book shop, Livararia Lello in Porto and have coffee on the second floor of the small book shop. The staircase of Hogwarts castle as described in the book is based on the beautiful staircase of Livraria Lello. It is the oldest bookshop in Porto and has been listed as one of the best bookshops in the world by Lonely Planet.
After that, the bus came by again to take us for a tour of a cellar at Gaia. We were brought to The Graham’s 1890 Lodge, one of the renown wine cellars in Gaia. It is a working cellar and wines are aging in the barrels in the cellar. As usual after the tour of the cellar, we had a wonderful port tasting session, sampling the various types of port produced by Graham’s.
Besides coming here to have a wonderful port tasting session, another good reason to visit Graham’s is because, you can also get a wonderful view of the iconic 2-tier bridge the spans the Douro River and connects the cities of Porto and Gaia from its terrace.
It was Captain’s dinner that night and as this was our third cruise with Amawaterways, we were invited to the Captain’s table for dinner. Our ship docks at Porto that night. After dinner, we went up to the top deck of the ship and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.