Porto, Portugal Exploration
Our first few days in Porto were full of blue skies and sun. The three days after that consisted of wind and torrential rain. However, like Gil’s optimistic perspective from the movie Midnight in Paris – “Paris is at its most beautiful in the rain” – we must admit that Porto, like Paris, is also quite beautiful in the rain. Here are a few of our highlights from our time in Porto.
When you see pictures of Porto, you will no doubt find photos of the Ribeira district. With the old buildings, cobblestone streets and riverfront, it’s about as picturesque as you can get. Adding to the view is the Dom Luis I Bridge, which connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, a separate city often mistaken for being a part of Porto.
Vila Nova de Gaia, usually just referred to as Gaia, is known for being home to many port cellars/caves. In fact, you will see the names of major port houses (Graham’s, Taylor’s, Sandeman, etc.) on the roofs of their buildings.
Raining = Eating
What better thing to do on rainy days than to fill our stomachs with tasty Portuguese food! The two items that were highly recommended were the sande de pernil and the francesinha.
Sande de Pernil
This is a very simple, but tasty, pork sandwich. The guide on our Douro Valley 4×4 tour, as well as the guide on our Bairrada sparkling wine tour, suggested that we go to a place called “A Casa Guedes” (Praça Poveiros, 130, 4000-222 Porto, Portugal). We had noticed the place a few days before because we saw a line of people out the door…sadly, the place next door was empty!
We have nicknamed this the “heart stopper”, and understand that others call it the “widow maker”. This so-called “sandwich” (although you would never pick it up with your hands!) consists of bread, ham, sausage, and steak or roast meat covered with melted cheese and a hot tomato and beer sauce. You can even get it with a fried egg on top. It was perfect with fries and a cold beer.
This is certainly not a sandwich you would want to have, in our opinion, on a regular basis. But as the occasional treat – absolutely! We had ours at Restaurante Girassol (Rua Sa da Bandeira 131, Porto 4000-433, Portugal) but you can find them all over the city.
Matosinhos Day Trip
We were told by several people that a trip to Porto wouldn’t be complete without taking a 40-minute Metro ride to the coastal city of Matosinhos to try some seafood. As “water people” who live on the Chesapeake Bay, it was nice feeling the ocean breeze. Despite the cool January temperatures we were impressed to see dozens and dozens of people in the water taking surfing lessons.
Back to the Food
It was suggested that we go to a restaurant called Tito II (R. Heróis de França, 321, 4450-718 Matosinhos, Portugal). Tito I is right down the street, so you technically have two options.
We went to Matosinhos on a Sunday. What we did not realize, despite the beach area being relatively quiet, was that Tito is a very popular restaurant. We went in Tito II when they opened and discovered that every table was reserved. Fortunately, the manager, with a friendly smile and a great sense of humor, took pity on us and found us a table for two. As a result of his kindness, we ended up having some of the best seafood we have ever had…no exaggeration.
Harry Potter Fans
If you’ve been following along with us on our blog and social media, you may have picked up that we are Harry Potter and Game of Thrones fans. We haven’t intentionally traveled to locations tied to these two franchises, but have been fortunate to run into a few along the way.
Porto is home to Livraria Lello (The Lello Bookstore). It really is a beautiful store, with carved paneling, a curved staircase, and a stained-glass window for a ceiling. Although still a store, visitors must pay a 5 euro entry fee to enter (understandable to limit the crowds). Fortunately, if you purchase a book the entry fee is applied to your purchase.
J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for several years as an English teacher and it is said that she was inspired by the Livraria Lello. We can see why!
A Few More Photos
Porto is quite photogenic. Here are a few more pics from our time here.
Porto is a lovely city and we suspect we will come back here again in the future to explore it even more!
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