Portugal's second-biggest city, Porto has a brawny beauty all its own. Built on granite bluffs above the Rio Douro, its heart is a tangle of World Heritage-listed lanes tumbling steeply down to a medieval waterfront.
It's hard not to be wooed by Porto's atmospheric riverside, dotted with old port-wine boats, pinched lanes and shadowy archways. Don't forget a visit to the wineries where you can receive a tour and explanation of how Port is made followed by tasting different types of Port. You can also learn the language associated with Port and become quite a connoisseur!
3 Jul 2006 - Porto, PortugalAnother morning trip to the Port tasting houses! This time I bumped into some English people with connections to Ipswich. Such a small world. As for Port, there is a unique body of English ritual and etiquette surrounding the consumption of port, stemming from British naval custom.
Traditionally, the wine is passed "port to port": the host will pour a glass for the person seated at their right and then pass the bottle or decanter to the left (the port side); this practice is then repeated around the table.
If the port becomes forestalled, it is considered poor form to ask for the decanter directly. Instead, the person seeking a refill would ask of the person who has the bottle: "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" (the notoriously stingy Bishop). If the person being thus queried does not know the ritual (and so replies in the negative), the querent will remark "He's an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the port."
A technical solution to the potential problem of a guest forgetting their manners and "hogging" the port can be found in a Hoggett Decanter which has a rounded bottom, which makes it impossible to put it down until it has been returned to the host, who can rest it in a specially designed wooden stand known as "the Hoggett."
Porto - The Rabelos
The Rabelos is the name of the traditional, flat bottomed boat that used to take the barrels of Port down the river Douro for storing and aging in nearby caves. Currently. the wine is transported from the vineyards in tanker trucks. These boats are here for photo opportunites and advertising.
Across the river can be seen the archways if the medieval waterfront.
Porto - Waterfront
These sign posts represent all the different brands of port makers. On this side of the river are the wineries which offer tours, explanations of how the different types of Port are made and the all important opportunity to sample the produce.
10 May 2006 - Porto, PortugalUnlike the last time I was here, I did not have to have any job problems to attend to which meant a relaxing trip seeing things I should have seen last time. This time I was introduced to the pleasures and intricacies of Port and did some sampling in one of the wineries along the waterfront. Drinking fortified wine on an empty stomach before midday gave me a nice feeling as I wandered around in the warm sun. Lunch on the medieval waterfront with another glass of Port prolonged that feeling of 'isn't life great?'
My impression of Porto is one of a great city which has fallen on hard times - which is true as Portugal once had wealth flowing in from a number of overseas colonies. Now that money flows in from the EU instead.
Some of the old areas have a feel of decay but dig deeper and you can detect the greatness that was once there. The old town is a protected area and for good reason. Washing hanging outside apartments in this part of town gives a shanty feel though and Porto has plenty of sketchy narrow streets and alleys which the guidebooks recommend not to find yourself in after dark.
Porto - Racist and irrelevent picture over a shop
I just had to take a photo of this shopfront. Though the shop sells meat and fruit as well as Port which every shop in Porto seems to, I cannot see the relevence of this image to the wares inside. Though my Portuguese language skills are almost non existent, I guess that the words above the shop say that it sells tea, coffee and chocolate so must be pre-date the current shop. Still, what is a picture of a black slave or servant serving his white colonial master doing in a modern city?
Porto - Igreja dos Clerigos
The church and tower were build between 1732 and 1763. The church is remarkable for its monumental facade, highly decorated, and the interior which is richly ornamented with gilt carvings. The 76 meter tower can be ascended for a birds eye view of the city.
Porto - Avenida dos Aliados
Called 'Aliados' by all, this is the axis of the old town and was carved out in 1915. The northern end has the town hall and going south there are banks, shops and bus stops. Further south, the city descends to the Douro river.
Porto - Old town leading to the waterfront
This shows the typical architecture of the old town. To the left, the road can be seen making the steep descent to the waterfront.
Porto - Advertisements on the south bank of the Douro
Because both sides of the Douro rise steeply the Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge has two levels; a higher level that takes you across to the higher parts of the city and a lower part that takes you from waterfront to the other. Upon crossing to the side with the wineries, the visitor is instantly assaulted with adverts detailing where various wineries are.
Porto - Grahams winery
I took a lucky dip and chose to visit Grahams, perhaps the more famous of the Port brands.
Porto - Barrels of Port in Grahams winery
The exposure to wood imparts flavours to the wine, which is blended to match the house style. Port is aged in barrels for varying lengths depending on the type of Port it is going to be eg. Tawny, Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage amongst others. Being in a barrel allows the wine to oxidise and the length affects its colour and taste. Maturation can also take place in the bottle.
Porto - The Douro from the Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge
On the left is the sourthern bank of the Douro River. Crossing the river at this upper level saves you the steep walk through the dodgy narrow streets which in the day time isn't too bad.
Porto - Se cathedral
This cathedral dominates central Porto from its highest hill. It was founded in the 12th century but rebuilt a century later and extensively altered in the 18th century.
Porto - Grounds of Se cathedral
The background to this photo shows some of the old houses.
27 Apr 2005 - Porto, PortugalMy first time in Porto and I forgot my camera! Never mind, in the end I didn't really have time to do the real tourist thing. I left my last job not 4 weeks ago and have been quite wrapped up with touching up my CV and speaking to recruitment consultants. At this point in time I had a contract sorted out which would have been great; a good rate and based in Dublin. Unfortunately I received a call from the agent to tell me that the contract had fallen through so rather than sight see I had to get access to the internet and make a few calls to find out what had happened and to chase up opportunities that I had previously allowed to slip by.