Hills, steps, hills hills and more steps and that was only Tuesday! Like Lisbon, Porto is just too hilly. Beautiful but too damn hilly.
We settled into our Airbnb which is on the top of a hill in a residential neighborhood about 3/4 mile from the city center and a mile from the river front. It has balconies off the bedroom (circled below) and the living room (front and back) but unlike the sunroom in Lisbon the living room view is of the neighboring apartment buildings.
There is a Lidl down the big hill (which means coming home loaded is a chore) and thankfully a smaller market just down the little hill on the other side. We are tending to eat one meal out and eat in for breakfast and the other. That’s the view up the big hill below:
We have tackled the hills and only called an Uber once to get us back. That was today when I got overheated probably from wearing a ball cap (and probably dehydrated). Below are some highlights from several days of sightseeing.
We used Rick Steve’s walking tours on two different days. The first one started at the center of Porto at City Hall Plaza. This plaza is lined with incredible buildings some of which are commercial and some residential.
We then walked to the University of Porto which is located on the same square as Porto’s first department store-Amazens Cunhs. It has incredible neon lights including a peacock on its arts deco (looks like Miami Beach) facade. I like the store’s tag line “new fashions-we sell cheaper”
On the next corner there are two churches, one for the Carmelite nuns and the other for the monks. They are separated by a tiny house so that they could move between the two without going out in public. The inside are beautiful with plaster and gold leaf but it is the exterior of one that is the showstopper. The traditional tile work tells the story of the founding of the Carmelite order.
On the way to our next stop we passed by the oldest bookstore in Portugal which was supposedly the inspiration for the interiors in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Since the success of Ms Rowling and the crowds in the store you can no longer wander into the store. You have to pay 5 euro which is credited to your purchase. We didn’t go in so if you want to see more of the interiors google Lello y Imao Bookstore like I did to get the second picture.
The next stop was Clerigos Church and Tower. The tower can be seen from all over town and the Church was the masterpiece of the architect who designed the Carmelite churches and several other buildings around Porto. We walked through a slash in a hill (yea! flatness) that was created when an underground parking garage was built. The top is a park and the slash is restaurants and shopping. Pretty nice way to camouflage an otherwise ugly structure.
The other tour Mr Steve’s took us on was not quite up to his standards. Basically it was a walk downhill to the river. The only real places of interest were the train station waiting room with it’s beautiful tiles telling the history of Porto from the Middle Ages and the Stock Palace which wasn’t really a stock exchange or a palace but was the office for the commercial association. Still it was a lovely walk downhill. Now the walk back up….not so much. We cheated and took a funicular part of the way…unfortunately it wasn’t far enough! The walk along the river was beautiful and lots of folks were enjoying the beautiful day.
We tried to visit the cathedral today, alas it is apparently closed for renovations but we got to see the outside. We also walked by the fanciest McDonalds in the world. It used to be the Imperial Cafe, it’s on the square in front of City Hall.
We have had some tasty meals this week. One day we had Francesinhas at the place Anthony Bourdain said they were best. This heart attack on a plate is a sandwich that includes ham, pork, steak and sausage with an egg on top that is covered in cheese and after it melts served with a slightly spicy slightly tomatoey sauce. There name translates as little frenchy. They are sorta like an over the top croque Madame. They can be found all over town. Quite tasty and very very filling. But even though I was stuffed, the waiter twisted my arm to try his favorite dessert, Cloud of Heaven. Basically some meringue topped with custard and cookie crumbs. Yummy.
Another day we had lunch at a nearby restaurant, Mike had “the Portuguese Kitchen” which was a pot of chicken, pork, sausage, pot roast, potatoes, cabbage and carrots. I had Brazilian picanha with black beans, rice, plantain, potatoes and greens. Needless to say we brought home leftovers.
On one of our Rick Steve’s day we ate at a local obviously worker class place. For 4.5 euros ($5.22) you got soup, choice of 10 mains, bread and a beverage -including a carafe of wine. I accidentally ordered liver (damn you google translate) and Mike had fish. It was all tasty and certainly budget friendly!
This week our plans are to check out the coastal suburbs-maybe they will be flat? And on Wednesday we are taking a train 2 hours up into the Duoro Valley and then cruising back down the river to Porto. We also will be walking across the bridge seen in the river pictures to Gaia which is where all the Port wine is aged.
Happy Father’s Day! I’m remembering mine (and trying to understand the pants and why he was wearing them on the beach!)