Having seen so many cities during the past 412 days on the road across Europe, you'd think we'd be getting bored of seeing historical monuments, bustling cities or hopping on public transport.... but you'd be wrong! Especially when cities like Porto come along!!! Vibrant, Engaging & Unique are the first words that spring to mind, make no mistake, this city is growing in popularity.... Yes it has a little of so many of the cities we've visited across our European Roadtrip.. a little touch of Naples in the narrowness of the streets, similar to Bergen for the warmth of the people & an abundant history & location like Dubrovnik.... but we'd place it even higher than these cities!! Perhaps as high as our current favourite in Copenhagen... High praise but why does Porto feature so highly? Let's find out our reasons why we love Porto...
Let's start with our entry into the city... using the optional transport card we headed in from the Orbitur Canidelo campsite on the Number 15 bus across one of the famous 6 bridges that are so linked to Porto's history... perhaps none more so than the Gustav Eiffel bridge that we sailed under during our 'Six Bridges' river cruise courtesy of the discount achieved by our Porto Card.. but more of that later on
Letting Lottie loose with both the Porto Map and the phone, she enjoyed every aspect of our 'road schooling' map reading morning... plotting her course across the city to find the bits that interested her..... we've found that creating our own 'Treasure Hunts' can make the city feel that little more enjoyable and as Porto has links with Harry Potter where better to start than with the library that inspired the Hogwarts Library
But Lottie's passion for shopping got the better of her on our next destination in the newer part of the city.... with Christmas coming and the need to find presents or just a little Christmas music (we have none in our Adria Motorhome currently..), we headed for a craft show in a wonderful 'Glass Dome' north of the amazing train station at São Bento (a truly outstanding series of tile (azulejo panels) that surround you as you step through the door of the Estação de São Bento....
Thankfully Lottie managed to find her way to Liberty Square and a chance for us to see the truly varied, yet amazing architecture across the city... the first stop was the excellent tourism office at the north of Liberty Square whose interactive e-baords provided us with yet more places to see... so energised after a coffee & 'pastel de nata' at one of the local cafes.... we headed 'downtown'! Both girls loved researching what had influenced Portugal, so I guess it was no suprise that 'Brazil' and it's export of coffee to Europe would make an appearance at somepoint... what we hadn't anticipated was the extensive use of wood and gold to decorate the fine churches in Porto (again linked to the Golden Age of Discovery that we were to find about tomorrow at World of Discoveries)
Having loved the old tram system in Lisbon, both girls were enthralled with the beautiful old trams that make certain circuits across the city... our advice would be to head for the '22' tram (to see the old city) but take the '500' bus to see the river front and onwards towards the Sea Life Centre by the fine beaches to the west of the city... But not before trying out one of the local favourites 'roasted nuts' ... now there's a thought for a festive snack when we return back to the UK for Christmas
No visit to Porto could probably be called complete, without taking a chance to see the Tower of the Clergy (Torre dos Clerigos)... but if that's all you visited, you'd be missing out...the amazing Baroque 'Church of the Clerigos) and it's ornate chapel... or the fascinating exhibition about religous iconography that kept the girls interested for well over an hour... but the Tower beckoned and a chance to clmb to see that inspiring view of the city (allbeit in the kindly donated 'Pai Natal' hats!!)
Porto's wealth flowed into the city from the 15th Century onwards due to the exploration of both India & Brazil... but the exploration went further into China, Japan and even the Americas.. so the city is a mixture of gilded ornate buildings next to quickly constructed narrow residential streets that blend together to provide a wonderful series of twisting routes towards the River Duoro and the Porto Cellars that have continued to make it famous across the world.
You simply can't fault the warmth of the people from the North.... we felt it in Tomar, Batalha & Aveiro as we enjoyed chatting to locals who helped us journey across both old cities... but the people of Porto go one further... whether they detected our 'sense of adventure' or they noticed the copius amount of guide books and maps spilling out of our pockets.. they couldn't have been more helpful... at the Port Shops that adorn the route 'Downtown' to the festive wrapped building that housed a wonderful shop or at the breath taking Palácio da Bolsa (the stock broking palace with it's 'golden room'!)..
Sensing an opportunity for tomorrow and our chance to explore further, we've sorted a visit to the riverside 5D cinema called 'Look at Porto' which both girls can't wait to see... it promises to show us the city from a dragon's perspective and should hopefully help both girls visualise the layout of the city they've just walked 10,000 steps around!! So with aching feet and tired children slightly flagging, we finished up with a river cruise of the Duoro... a chance to see dusk fall and the city come alive... as the darkness fell, it was replaced with the twinkling of lights and the rythmic drumming of the river side entertainers.... small cafes seemed full of couples and families enjoying the chance to relax and enjoy the warm ambience of the 'heated al fresco terraces'... as the river winds it's way towards the Port Wine region... we took the 45 mins journey under all 6 bridges in the authentic Rabelo boats made in the Duoro region to transport the barrels of port along the river... it proved a brilliant experience that both girls loved!
With night well and truly fallen, we headed up the funicular railway from the foot of the Eiffel Bridge towards Batalha...... however both girls loved the São Bento train station so much, we had to take a peek back inside on the way back up the hill towards our eventual bus ride back to our motorhome at Orbitur Canidelo.. on the seafront some 6km outside the city (we'd considered biking in to add to our growing list of bike adventures from Europe... but having literally spent the entre day in Porto from 9am in the morning to 8pm in the evening... we were glad of the seat and a chance to enjoy the ride back!!) So I guess that's a vote for using a Porto Card... easy to use, offers good discounts (especially if you take the public transport card) & allows you to explore the whole city in 48hrs (much like we did with the Oslo Pass (Norway) and Valencia Card (Spain) earlier in our travels
So hopefully you'll have worked out now why we loved this authentic, charming & interesting city... a place for families certainly yet we'd have loved it just as much on our own... in fact we've already recommended it to both sets of grandparents!! I guess you might just need to visit it to see for yourself... Can't wait to discover it more tomorrow in Part 2 of our family adventure around Porto!
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