30 March 2013

Slippery When Wet: My Visit to Porto, Portugal - Sundays in My City

I spent the past week exploring Porto, Portugal. Porto straddles the Douro River in northern Portugal. It is one of Europe's oldest cities and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Port wine is named for the city that is famous for its production and export. The city rises steeply from the river on narrow, cobbled winding streets and alleys.

I tried many times to capture the steepness of the city but it wasn't easy.

I was looking forward to a few days of sun and warmer temperatures since we're still freezing here in the Netherlands. That was not to be. The forecast called for rain, rain and more rain and it did not lie.

When we arrived.
When we left.
Wet sidewalk. I'm not sure exactly what the pavers are but they're as slippery as bathroom tile!
I have to admit, the city has a definite charm and character but it was difficult to fully enjoy it.  It's hard to see when your umbrella is blocking a lot of the view and most of your attention is paid to where you're walking so you don't slip on the wet cobbles and bust your arse.

There were lots of little side streets and alleys I would normally have explored but the pouring ran really dampened my normal sense of wonder. Still, I did see a lot and found the city to be very beautiful.

There's simply too much to cover in one post without it being far too long. Additional posts about the São Bento train station, food, the Pointe Luiz I Bridge, tiles, faces and randomly odd and curious items are in progress (the links work but might be empty until I get everything uploaded; please check back...I have over 500 pictures to go through!).

My favorite part of the trip, however, was when I went to spend some time with the bridges. This might not be something most travelers do (at least, I've never heard anyone else ever speak of "spending time with a bridge.") but whereas there are many, many amazing examples of architecture and engineering in this world, nothing speaks to me like massive steel beams.

I sat down for lunch and this was my view. It was a brief period of no rain and I got to just enjoy being in the presence of the bridge. There are four other major bridges spanning the Douro River; one designed by Gustave Eiffel but some demolition on the hillside blocked my attempt to walk that far down the river.
This lady was in the restaurant and as soon as I saw her I knew I had to photograph her but I didn't know how I was going to pull that off. She got up to leave while I was still eating so I readied my camera hoping to get a quick picture without her noticing. She stopped in the doorway and looked right at me. I pointed to my camera and then to her and she nodded her head. I was giddy with the excitement of having been allowed to take her picture.  Between the time spent with the bridge and getting to take her picture, it was the perfect afternoon!
Porto is a wonderful city and I'd love the opportunity to explore it under drier conditions. There are beaches just a few miles north of the city and the river valley to the south is supposed to be beautiful (plans to bike there were, well, rained out).

I'm tired and our clocks change this weekend so I need to get some sleep. For more adventures check out the other SIMC posts at Unknown Mami.

Unknown Mami

São Bento Railway Station - Porto

São Bento Railway Station in the center of Porto is famous for the tile panels that depict scenes of the history of Portugal.  It is said to be one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.  There are 20,000 individual tiles in the panels. It's not possible to capture the grand scale of the place in photos.

Salted Cod and Port Wine - Porto Food

Salted cod fish cakes
Served with red beans and rice
Accompanied by green wine.  I never knew green wine existed.
High tea at the Majestic Cafe
Port Wine
Francesinha - a sandwich containing layers of beef and pork covered in cheese and tomato sauce. I did not eat this and my friend wasn't crazy about it. Each restaurant has their own version and compete to call theirs the best.
This restaurant (not where we ate) had 8 versions.
Salted cod fish baked with corn bread on top and served with "punched" potatoes.
YES, Please!

The last night we ate in this tiny restaurant shaped like a wine barrel.

Faces of Porto