Portugal 3 – Porto, Part 3
Porto is a stunningly beautiful city, especially in the riverside neighborhood of Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we stayed. The riverbank is lined with restaurants and cafes on one side of the river, and port tasting rooms on the opposite side of the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. There are six bridges that cross the Douro river; one was designed by the architect of the Eiffel Tower, and another designed by a disciple of his. The bridge nearest to us is the iconic double decker, Ponte Dom Luís I. We've crossed both the upper span as well as the lower span of this bridge. There is a funicular, elevator, tram, and stairs that all get you from the bottom to the top (we took the funicular up, and the stairs down).
The Porto Cathedral, the Sé, is a Roman Catholic church located in the historical centre of the city and built between the 12th and 13th century. Originally a Romanesque church from the 12th century, it was rebuilt in a Gothic style 600 years later, then remodeled yet again by the famed Italian architect and painter Nicolau Nasoni. The architects each have their signatures on the key buildings.
There are notable mercados in and around Porto. The one shown above is the Mercado do Bolhão, located in the commercial part of the city. It is filled with fresh fruits, bread, vegetables, as well as meat and fresh fish. The two-story, wrought iron structure shows signs of the ages.
The the Livraria Lello bookstore (bottom right) is where it was rumored that J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for her Harry Potter books. Tickets are sold for 4 euros just to enter the bookstore, which is quite a clever marketing ploy, as they now draw thousands of paying customers per day, while previously they were jammed with gawkers who were not generating income.
The fish market at Matosinhos is one of the most inviting ones we've seen. We would have no hesitation buying fresh fish here, as all the fish are on ice and appear fresh. A special treat is we can select a fresh fish from any vendor at this mercado, have the vendor clean the fish and the local restaurant will cook it on site, served with salad and wine. We bought a fresh turbot (center photo), and had our lunch with 2 former couples from Cuenca.
We also stopped in at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Arts to see the latest exhibition. The artists are rotated regularly, and this time, the visitors were more photogenic to us than the exhibits themselves.
One of our day trips was a train ride starting from the São Bento train station in Porto, along the Douro river to the Pinhão station to see the tile paintings. We should have extended the trip to Pocinho, the end of the line to ride over the non-urban parts of the Douro river. Just a warning though, that the old train cars offer no creature comforts, and there are a lot of stops along the way, making this a rather slow trip with only marginal scenery along the way.
We stayed in Porto for 10 days, which gave us an opportunity to revisit our favorite places and observe them as the lighting changed. The weather in Porto is much like Portland, with many cloudy days sprinkled with sunny moments. The old part of the city is truly a photographer's delight.