. She was so funny and informative! When she was explaining about the banks and how the only money in it right now is German, she turned to a couple of Germans in the group and said a very exaggerated "danke schön." We went by beautiful buildings and streets and got info about markets and cool areas of the city to see. Near the river, we took a path that traversed the hillside down many stairs until we came to the waterfront. Jess and I came back to some of the spots we saw on the tour the next day to take our time with some photos. We saw one of the World's nicest book stores, where none other than J.K. Rowling used to work when she lived in Porto many years ago. It had an amazing twisted staircase and stained glass ceiling. You can definitely see how she was inspired here. We weren't allowed to take any pictures in here though. We walked a ton in Porto, and it didn't help that most of it was going up or down a hill. Porto is built on the side of a slope with the Rio Duoro running at the bottom. This makes for a very beautiful city, but a lot of stairs and steep incline walking. The place we were staying was on the south side of the river, technically in a place called Gaia, but still considered the Porto metropolis area. Everytime we walked into the old town of Porto, we crossed the two-tiered metal arch bridge called Ponte de D. Luis. Spectacular views from this bridge! I always had to take a second while we crossed it to enjoy the meandering river lined with old wooden sail boats, each loaded with barrels of their own brands of Porto wine.
The south side of the river, in Gaia, is where all the World famous Porto wine cellars are. There are no vineyards in Porto, just cellars for storing and aging the wine
. The perfect climate for growing the actual grapes used for the wine is located east and north of Porto. Here, the winters are extremely wet and the summers extremely hot. Some of the best vineyards thrive here, producing very sweet grapes with thick skin. Porto, on the other hand, is only a few kilometres from the ocean, so it has pretty moderate temperatures all year round. Way better to store wine and let it mature. It is located right on a river bank so barrels of wine can be easily transported by boat. Since the south side of the Rio Douro is shaded for most of the day, it is covered with different wine making companies. Most of these companies you can go take a tour and sample some of their World famous Porto wine. Jess and I went on two wine cellar tours. On each of them we had a half hour tour and we got to sample three different wines at each. The guides were very informative and all the info I just shared was from them. A lot of the wine companies are English companies, created from English businessmen back in the day. We toured the Taylor cellars and the Croft cellars. So many barrels of wine they had! And the story on how the vintage wine is made was amazing! There are only about two crops of grapes every ten years good enough to be considered vintage, and they are closely monitored by a specialist to make sure they are of the highest quality. Not to mention how long they need to mature. Croft had only two bottles that were made in the 1800's that now sell for over €5000! When the wines are three days old, a bit of alcohol is added to them to slow down the fermenting process. This makes the alcohol content a little higher, but makes the Porto wine a lot sweeter than others. It was crazy to see the rows and rows of barrels of wine stored in the cellars. The biggest barrel, the main one at the Taylor cellars, has a capacity of over 100,000 litres! And for the price a bottle of Port wine sells for, even in Porto, Taylors must be doing pretty good. Porto has definitely left a sweet taste in our mouths...Literally.
All that is truely Portuguese can be found in or around Porto. So I guess it is fitting that the country's name originated here. Full of culture, full of beauty, full of football, and full of wine! We had three nights in Porto, just enough to give us a good sample of the city. Our hostel was only a ten minute walk away from the main attractions in Porto. But it was far enough away so that we could escape any crowds into peace and quiet if we wanted. There were only four rooms at the hostel, and besides us, only one other couple were staying there, Ellie and Lukas from New Zealand. Edna, the lady running the hostel, made sure we had everything we needed and I'm sure she would have cooked us dinner if we asked. She was so sweet and gentle. Edna is from Portugal, but she has been around to a few places in Europe, and Romania is one of them. We talked for a while exchanging travel stories about Romania. One of the first things we did in Porto was a free walking tour. This one was three hours long, and our guide was a girl