This past weekend, many of the students went to Paris with Miguel, others went to Sevilla or Madrid, and I went to Portugal. RyanAir offered a killer fare to Porto (30 euro round trip), and even though I had only vaguely heard of Porto, I jumped on it. I spent two nights in Porto with a day trip to Lisbon (Lisboa), hardly a decent amount of time to get to know a country, but a pleasure nevertheless. I know only one word in Portuguese–obrigada (thank you)–which was helpful but insufficient, so I relived the early days in Spain where gestures were essential. Surprisingly, returning to Valencia felt like coming home, with the familiarity of Spanish now comforting.
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, built along the hills overlooking the Douro River. It’s biggest export is–you guessed it–Port wine, which I highly recommend should your taste run in that direction. The city is hilly and the architecture is varied, with some commercial and industrial sections and some areas that are pretty rundown. However, the riverfront and historical center are charming, and the hills worth hiking. One of the best spots in town is the Lello Bookstore (Livrario), open since 1881, with an incredible interior of wood, stained glass, and stairways that reportedly inspired J.K. Rowling’s moving stairs in the Harry Potter series. Lisbon was certainly more of a cosmopolitan world capital, but I liked Porto’s character.
- My hotel in Porto.
View from my hotel window.
Many of the streets of Porto are very colorful.
The main square of Porto, Praca da Liberdade,with a statue of King Pedro IV.
The same square at night.
The emblem of the city, the Ponte de D. Luis, built by a student of the famous Eiffel.
View from the bridge across the River Douro to Gaia, where most of the Port wine is stored.
The riverfront is quite charming.
I would have liked to take a river cruise on one of these boats--it's supposed to be a great thing to do here.
Much of Porto is very hilly.
Some of the buildings are in obvious need of repair.
The wonderful Lello Bookstore.
I can see why J.K. Rowlings was inspired by this staircase.
The cafeteria down the street from my hotel was showing a Porto home team soccer game--always fun to see how much folks love their futbol teams!
I wasn't quite up to tripe, which is a Porto specialty, but I did try this "francesinha," a sandwich made of ham, cheese, and sausage covered in a spicy beer-based sauce--woohoo!
A view of Porto from the Luis Bridge.