Getting merry on port and sherry...

Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Northern Portugal,
Saturday, July 26, 2008

In an attempt to continue 'travelling' despite full-time jobs, there is no better way than to hop on a plane on Saturday morning, spend 2 days viewing a European city and be home by Sunday evening.  Ed and I made the most of Ryanair's cheap flights, some proper summertime sun and lastminute's good hotel deals in Porto, the home of port.

The city of Porto is quintessentially European, with spectacular churches dominating the hilly skyline and a cafe culture that saturates every street - what I love most about mainland Europe (that's so lacking in England's inhospitable climate).  The town also boasts seafood dishes to return for (as Ed did twice!) and the ability to while away summer days topping up tipsiness levels with free Port distillery tours. 

We spent out first day walking, simply inhaling warm air and admiring the churches and waterfront, as the river passes through the heart of the town. As evening settled, a crowd had settled around an erected tv to show football (some cup was on - you can see how interested I was) and Holland vs. Russia drew in tourists from across Europe, many of whom we chatted to and slowly got drunk with. We had booked the famous Feijoada for dinner and sat down to be served impeccably and accompanied by a guitarist / singer and hen party (not British!!). The girls entertained us all evening, and despite neither of us being able to speak a word of Portuguese nor the girls English, we joined in the revelry, being forced onto stage to kareoke an English song I had never heard of and Ed eventually providing a strip-tease (no hen party is complete without one, I'm told!). We even were the last guests to leave and were kindly given a lift home by one of the waiters! What lovely people :)

The following morning we wandered again. I visited a church, which literlly took my breath away as I entered, and opposite it, we both visited the catacombs, as well as frocliking around 500 steps up a church steeple and with an incredible view of the town's red rooves below. All highly receommended.

Porto is beautiful, though aside from the distilleries, quiet.  The beach is reportedly a 20 minute bus ride from the town and has a pebbly beach.  We stayed in the Best Western hotel in the centre, which overlooks a beautiful square and a blue porcelain-fronted church.  The town´s main cathedral is an architectural wonder and the town´s hilly nature gives for great views.  I don´t remember which distilleries we went to, but those further away from the river front on the "distillery-side" were tourist-free and offered attentive and generous service.  We also visited the famed Sandeman distillery, and though you pay more for the tour, are taken through the dim echoey corridors of aging barrels and sampled with numerous port and sherry variations at its finale.   This city is hugely underrated and one that really deserves a visit to sample Europe at its zenith.

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