Monday, May 26, 2014


First impressions: Chaos. Craziness. Total disbelief at the route into Porto our GPS suggested, which took us over some train tracks, through what seemed like a pedestrian alleyway, and then down the narrowest, steepest road I've ever been on in my life (even for European standards). We went around a series of hairpin turns along a cliff, certain we'd have to deal with reversing up that nightmare because there was no possible way we were on the right street and turning around was out of the question...when suddenly, as if out of a James Bond film, that tiny road-path led onto a gigantic bridge and we crossed the Douro River into Porto.

Tourism wins: Incredible architecture...a hodgepodge of gothic, rococo, manueline, and modern. Vertical is the norm, as the city is built along a steep riverside canyon and space seems to be at a premium. Every available piece of land seems to be covered by churches, elevators, bridges, restaurants, apartments. It is a visual feast.

Fails: Crazy traffic, lots of construction, crumbling/forgotten buildings, and a general sense of chaos in Porto.

If you go there do this: Walk across the bridge, then take the teleférico aerial tram on the other side of the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. Do a port tasting/winery tour (we went to Ferreira and it was great).

Food and drink highlights: Dinner with Rico and Emilia's distant relatives at a fish restaurant in Matosinhos, near the port. This is not at all a touristy area, although it's pretty easy to reach. Lots of fresh seafood cooked to perfection on charcoal grills set up along the street outside each restaurant. We tried percêves/percebes aka goose neck barnacles, these strange dinosaur-like mollusks that you peel and then eat.

Interesting observations: While I absolutely loved Lisbon, I didn't have the same feelings about Porto...and I can't really pinpoint why. It was an interesting city and well worth the visit, but next time I'd spend less time in the city and more time in the wine country of the Douro valley.

A selection of photos below...

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