Thursday, 28 July 2016 – Day 43 – OPorto, Portugal

Thursday, 28 July 2016 – Day 43 – OPorto, Portugal 

Porto or OPorto is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the second largest city in Portugal. Porto possesses the special charm that characterises cities whose history spans thousands of years. Porto began its journey through history in the 7th Century to its present days.   Although it has a long history, this city is very modern and highly developed. It is full of quaint streets, historic palaces, ancient cathedrals and architecturally stunning buildings.  Its historic centre, classed as a world heritage site in 1996 by UNESCO is where the colourful gabled dwellings are perched up the hills in the neighbourhoods of Ribeira, Barredo and Miragaia. Ribeira is the oldest and best known neighbourhood in the city with its daring colours, bustling taverns and many fine restaurants and several beautiful piazzas. Most of all Porto is known for its wine and wine properties extend as far as the eye can see along the Douro.

After breakfast, I walked down to the Palacio de Cristalio and the lovely gardens.    The Crystal Palace (Pavilhão Rosa Mota) is a project of the architect José Carlos Loureiro. The original Palace was demolished in 1952 to give place to a Sports Pavilion, which would receive several sporting events. In a tribute to the athlete Rosa Mota, the Crystal Palace (called so due to the glass used on its surface) was renamed in 1991 and was named after the marathon runner.
The Palace has a total area of 12,000m², with capacity for 4600 bench seats. The Palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and flowers where you can admire nature as well as enjoy the views over the Douro.

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Crystal Palace and gardens

I then made my way down to the River Douro and walked along the promenade into the Old Town heading to a travel office to make some bookings for tours. Along the way, I came to the Praca do Infante Dom Henrique. In the centre of the square is the huge sculpture The Estatua do Infante D. Henrique, also known as the statue of Prince Henry the Navigator, was first installed in Porto in 1894 to honour the memory of the famous Portuguese navigator.

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Behind the monument is the old Ferreira Borges Market built in 1885. It is now a cultural centre. Also on the square is the Stock Exchange (Palacio da Bolsa) and the Church of Sao Francisco and the Church of Sao Nicolau. I made a booking for the drive/walking City Tour which started at 2.15pm.  I wandered up and down little alleyways and had lunch before joining the tour.

 It was hard for me to know exactly where we were on the tour and I realised I had seen some of the buildings when I was by myself so I have combined the buildings around the city.
Our tour started with a visit to the Porto Cathedral. The Cathedral is a fortress like building whose origin dates back to the 12th Century. The major alterations carried out over the course of time transformed the original Romanesque church into a building more in harmony with the baroque taste. The main altarpiece has Solomonic columns and has so much detail. Very ornate.
Outside the Porto Cathedral

Outside the Porto Cathedral

We passed by the Equestrian statue of Vimra Peres, who conquered the city from the Moors in 868 and was made first Count of Portucale that same year.

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Praca da Liberade Square is a crossroads where the old and the new city merge. It is presided over by the equestrian statue of King Pedro IV, 10 metres high.

Avenida dos Aliados starts at the north of the square.  The central promenade was reconstructed in 2006 by famous architect Alvaro Siza Vieira.  Avenida dos Aliados is also known as “the heart of Porto”, –  a wide boulevard lined with a number of impressive buildings, most of which are banks or hotels. The avenue is closed at the upper end by the Town Hall built between 1920 and 1957. The main feature is the 70 metre high bell tower made of marble and granite.

Avendas dos Aliados

We headed into Rua de Santa Catarina.  This street is lined by shops and businesses and here we have a quick look in the Cafe Majestic, the oldest and most popular cafe in Porto. Walking through its glass door is like travelling through a time tunnel.  Evidently nothing seems to have changed since its distant inauguration right at the end of the 19th Century.

Adjoining Praca da Liberade is the famous San Bento Station and the Church of Os Congregados which dates to the early 18th Century and its front, like so many churches, is decorated with the blue and white glazed tiles.

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Church of Os Congregados

The San Bento Station began in 1900 and the main attraction is the marvellous tile decorations in the main hall. Attributed to Jorge Colaco in 1916, the scenes represent different episodes in the history of Porto and Portugal.

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Railway Station in Porto

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Main hall in San Bento Train Station

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At the opposite end of the Rua de Santa Catarina is Praca da Batalha square and offers several points of interest, both from the architectural and historical points of view. Adjoining the square is the Church of Santo Ildefonso. The tile work on the exterior is by Jorge Colaco, the same artist who created those at the Sao Bento Station. 28-july-29

Now back to Praca da Liberdade to see the Church and Tower of Os Clerigos in nearby Rua dos Clerigos. This architectural complex by Nicolau Nasoni is one of the prime examples of baroque art in Porto. It was built between 1732 and 1763. His remains at in the Church of Os Clerigos.

The church stands near Praca de Gomes Teixeira, with the Fountain of the Lions which dates back to 1886.

porto-092There are so many fabulous UNESCO azulejo (tiled) churches/cathedrals in Porto, but the one on the corner of the square is the Church of O Carmo, built in the second half of the 18th century.  has a magnificent side panel completely covered in glazed tiles installed in 1912. Just beautiful. .

Our next visit was to the Liberia Lello e Irmao bookshop. This establishment has hardly changed since it first opened its doors in 1906. There is a lovely carved wooden staircase. The store served as an inspiration for the first Harry Potter film. While we visited, it was quite crowded as another book to do with Harry Potter had been released.

That was the end of our City Tour and we boarded our transport to visit one of the many wineries in Porto, the Graham’s Winery.  For almost two hundred years W & J Graham’s has been an independent family business renowned for producing the finest Port wines. We were given quite a comprehensive commentary on the growing and making of their wines. We went into the Museum that showed us the story of the families and saw where the Queen and the President of United States had praised the winery and then went into the wine tasting area to sample a couple of their wines.

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Sampling a couple of the wines in Grahams Winery

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View from Grahams Winery

View from Grahams Winery

After being at the Winery we made our way back into Porto and that was the end of the great busy tour.

At 6.30 pm. went on a nice relaxing boat trip.

After boat ride

After boat ride

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This would be the most photographed bridge in Porto – you see it so often on your travelling around. The Ponte Dom Luís, also known as the Luis I Bridge, is a metal structure located in the historic city of Porto, Portugal. Built in honour of King Luis I, a 19th century Portuguese king who was known for his vernacular poetry and his love of the sea, the structure was opened during his reign. The bridge’s arches reaches 172 meters into the sky above the Douro River, while it extends between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The incredible edifice is completely made from wrought iron. The bridge was built during the 19th century as a result of a competition among renowned architects in the region. The result and winner was a design provided by architect and civil engineer, Téophile Seyrig. Sevrig was a protégé of Gustav Eiffel. He was trained at the famous Central School of Arts and Manufacturing in France, which is still in existence and operation today. Structurally, the erection is a two hinged bridge with a double deck meant to serve a variety of traffic types. Completed in 1886, it measures 385 meters in length and weighs over 3,000 tons. It was constructed to hold a variety of traffic including foot, automobile, trolley and railroad tram traffic.

I returned to my accommodation in readiness for a pickup for dinner at the Fado Restaurant. On our way, we stopped for a nighttime view over Porto.  Portugal is a land famous for fado – songs that express so much feeling. It is mainly heard a lot in Lisbon and Coimbra but I did not get the chance to go to a dinner while in Lisbon.

Restaurante Tipico o Fado is a family run business and served a very enjoyable meal while listening to the Fado music. One of the vocalists was Antonio Laranjeira and had a photo taken with him afterwards along with the members of the band. Very friendly.

 

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Photo with Antonio

Arrived back at my accommodation at midnight – feeling quite weary as has been a very packed full day but did and saw some of the the most popular attractions in Porto. Porto is just so fascinating.

 

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