Porto, Portugal (Part 2) – River Cruise and Old City

River Cruise

After our delicious breakfast of sardines, tomato and cheese on toast, we strolled down the hill to join one of the ‘six bridges river cruises.’ We went with Douro Acima, but I don’t think it would’ve mattered which company we chose, they seemed all the same. It was lovely, though, to be on the water, but glad we didn’t devote a whole day to a cruise up into the wine country. If we had been in Porto longer, it would’ve been fine, but with so much to see in only three full days, we found other ways to spend our time and enjoyed walking around the city instead.

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Birthday Lunch

We decided to have an impromptu 50th birthday lunch at Rui Paula ROP just 500m from our apartment. It is mentioned in the Michelin guide (not with a star but recommended). Going for lunch and not dinner makes for a far more relaxing meal – and it can be a substantial adventure without feeling gorged going to bed.

Fine dining in Portugal is like fine dining at home where the portion sizes are modest, not like other restaurants in Portugal where they cater to robust appetites! We started with a bottle of Jacquesson NV grand vin cuvee no.737, which was an old and weighty bottle of champagne. And they knew how to handle such a beauty – the sommelier kept the bottle close and on ice, topping up the glasses in small increments, keeping it low so it stayed at a lovely temperature and didn’t get too warm. Noted, and much appreciated.

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For the foodies, our meals were as follows. Entrées: Me – scallops and carrot, John – shrimp, hollandaise sauce and curry. For mains we both had the seabass, mussels and cauliflower. The mussels were puréed, which was nicer than actually dealing with them (spillage often occurs!). We should’ve stopped there, but we didn’t. The portions were so tiny, that we thought we needed more…well, we WANTED more, not needed…which is what led to the cheese platter. Now, again, this was not a huge serve – five types of cheese each cut into 3 tiny pieces, with a pumpkin jam (divine) and three types of toasts. Bloody awesome and one of the most memorable meals of my life. We began at 1pm and finished at 3:30pm. Service was helpful and smiling, not at all aloof as some have reported on TA. Gentle suggestions and patience. The décor was impressive, all chocolates, ecru and a variety of aquamarines and teal. The cutlery was a contemporary satin gold that complemented the shades of jade and emerald perfectly.

Afternoon Stroll

Walking through one of the hilly lanes after lunch, there was a series of unsmiling senoras leaning on their balconies, surveying the gawking tourists below. I smiled and waved to each as I saw them, and their faces cracked into huge grins with big arm waves as response.

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At 8pm, sitting in our apartment with the French doors and windows open, we could hear some loud chat outside. There was a 4-piece band setting up for the evening in the street below. And they were good! What a way to spend our Saturday night, after a day of culinary indulgence and walking, but to sit on our balcony sipping chilled white wine from the Douro and listening to a cool band, all set up for us! The only distraction from the skilful musicians was the many aromas from the nearby restaurants, wafting through in waves. But it’s no hardship fantasising about the next meal while still digesting the previous!

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Last Day in Porto

We had walked pasted the Stock Exchange Palace several times each day of our stay but didn’t venture inside until our final day. Oddly, the Palacio do Bolsa is neither a stock exchange nor a palace, but rather a homage to the commerce of Porto and a chance to showcase the skill of the craftsmen of Porto – “a breathtaking monument to civic and commercial pride” (Rick Steves). It can only be visited on a 30-minute guided tour with capped numbers of visitors, but so worth it – it has some of the most lavishly decorated rooms in the country and took 70 years to construct.

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Had the intention of visiting Lello &Irmão, a famous bookshop (one of a number?) that inspired JK Rowling for the Harry Potter books. We had wandered past on a previous stroll and thought that the line was too long. Should’ve taken the opportunity when we had it! We bailed when we saw the length of the TWO lines – the first to buy entry tickets (at €5 a pop) and the second to enter the ‘famous bits’ of the building.

Abandoning the mission, we elected to go back to our apartment, drink beer on the balcony in the breeze and cook a fabulous lunch of broccoli, beans and garlic in white wine. Missing green vegetables and our own cooking!

Finished our final day with a visit to the iconic canned fish shop, ‘Comur.’ Spent a small fortune on sardines and sundries as gifts – who doesn’t want a tin of sardines from Portugal in funking packaging? Also hit the Chocolateria Equador to again pay a fortune for chocolate. Being the last day on holidays really does open the wallet!

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Sunday evening in the middle of Porto, about 9:30pm and people were having friendly quiet dinners at restaurants outside as the temperatures started to cool. A very different vibe to Saturday night, which was all about music, partying, drinking, socialising in the community. Sunday seems to be about winding down, getting ready for a week at work, and spending time with family. As we are just getting to know this city, it’s time to go, but I’m sure we’ll be back.

Read our full Porto story here:

Part 1: Arrival and Initial Explorations

Part 2 (current): River Cruise and Old City

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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