Trip Start Mar 01, 2014
Trip End Apr 05, 2014

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Flag of Portugal  , Porto,
Sunday, March 30, 2014

We are in the Douro and Tras-Os-monte - a new adventure... Ever since the Romans built a route here, where their trading route crossed the Douro, Porto has prospered from commerce. Expelling the Moors and profiting from Crusaders en route to the Holy Land, Porto took advantage of the wealth generated by Portugal's maritime discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Later the wine trade with Britain compensated for loss of the spice trade, now they are leading the industry in the production of Port. There are too many stories to tell them all....history...

The Cathedral District crowns the city of Porto's upper level. We reached this by travelling up a Funicular, very helpful and it certainly was easier to get to where we were to start our walk of the city. This photo of the bridge, Ponte de Dom Luis I built in 1886 links the southern bank, it is two tiered and quite splendid. It was built by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) a great view from the Funicular. On the south bank land is occupied by the wine distilleries who produce Port named so because of this city. We will have the opportunity to visit the south bank this week. I look forward to that, we both do. A wine product of course!

We reach the top.

Looking around from this point you get your bearings and realize you can easily circumnavigate the city. It is an active city with lots of promenades where cars are not allowed. This is nice. The buildings tower at three, four or five stories. You feel so small in all of this.

The churches, railway station and various other buildings are covered in the hand painted tiles so familiar in this country. Some homes display the tiles as well. They all tell a story. There are a lot of churches, and to be honest they are all incredible in structure outside and in, the interiors with the hand painted frescoes and golden ceilings, yep we have seen a lot of churches. I appreciate every one of them for their architecture, the art within, the history, but boy oh boy it is obvious there is a lot of wealth within the walls

Porto's railway station was built on the site of an earlier Monastery in 1916. The interior is covered with the tiles, hand painted, and depict early modes of transportation, rural festivities and some historic scenes. This was an interesting building to walk through and watch the trains come in and out. Travelling on the train in Portugal is very convenient. 

We skirted the shopping areas and headed down side streets, much more interesting and full of surprises. We stumbled on an artisan market not unlike going to the craft shows at home, all displaying Portuguese craft from embroidery, soaps, jewellery and wooden toys. The wooden toys are exactly like the ones we have seen at home. Music is playing,

I am enjoying the people, the street entertainers could not have a better venue than singing in the midst of all these towering structures, the acoustics are near perfect and crowds draw close. Singing, dancing, Statue Artists, bands tuning up for a street festival that will take place in the late afternoon. We stopped for a beer/vino at the Cafe Majestic a historical destination itself. It is easily understood why this Cafe is listed as one of the top ten most beautiful cafés in the world. It currently sits at number six.  Mirrors, cherubs, chandeliers, marble, leather and wood surround you. Every window is hand cut glass, clear and clean, the lead holding it together or it may be copper is strong and the patina on it is gorgeous.  It was once known as THE meeting place for politicians and artists and today, well they they have us! Neither a politician or an artist, not illustrious just curious. I loved it when a table was set with a linen square cloth, an overlay, beautiful cutlery if you were having food. Just a drink, no cloth. We enjoyed the respite.

We start walking down to the River  and we want to walk back to our Pousada. We were told it may take an hour but it is a beautiful day. On our route down we pass different areas of the city, the Barredo, a Quarter that is seemingly unchanged since the medieval days. Balconied houses cling to each other and to the hillside, there are no roads between them, only what looks like outside staircases. Then there is the Ribeira Quarter. This is on the riverside. It is a warren of narrow, twisting streets and shadowy arcades. The homes are faded, the tiles which one day were probably very bright are lifeless. Washing hanging outside is common. We did notice some restoration taking place. These homes are on the Douro, prime real estate on the water you would think, but a population that works very hard for a living resides here.

It takes us an hour and a half to walk back, just when we thought we were there - another corner.....but it was fun watching the fishing boats on the River, the fishermen on the boardwalk, the walkers, bikers and kids in strollers. The fishing boats are quite colourful. They are long and narrow with pointed bows and tiny motors at the stern. They are work horses.

We saw a fig tree growing out of the water laden with figs ready to be picked. It was hugging the concrete of the boardwalk wall that is warmed in the sun. Just like our early tulips that are ahead of anything because the bricks get warmed near the house and provide the hothouse necessary for their growth. We saw a prickly pear cactus that was also full of ready to pick fruit, hundreds of them....Tony could not believe it. We wished we could have leaned over and picked both of these fruits. We hope someone is able to get at them.

We are pretty tired when we reach the Pousada, our feet hurt, my hip hurts and Tony's shoulder is acting up. We were work horses today and it was worth every ache, we saw so much.  I want to be strong like some of the elderly we saw walking today, a lot older than us but walking with their canes, one step at a time and slowly, but out enjoying their daily routine. Tony heads for the pool and a massage, I head for a hot bath. 

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Karen on

You make my daily history lesson so interesting! To bad Whatmore couldn't listen to you!

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