Free Tour: Porto Edition

After a good night at our hotel in Porto, we started our sightseeing day at a nice breakfast place the guidebook recommended.

Then on to a free tour of Porto!! This was a major event in the lives of Elly and Dan. They have tended to avoid tours, preferring to walk and explore on their own. However, Sarah and Eitan insisted on doing this, which introduced Elly and Dan to the exciting world of free tours (though generous tipping should be practiced), which involve enthusiastic young locals providing insights that would otherwise be missed. Another great benefit of these tours is the international group that they attract, with the only disadvantage being that Elly and Dan were two-to-three times the average age of their fellow travelers.

Porto is a fascinating and vibrant city that is rapidly becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions, and a buzzing nightlife.

The first stop was the Sao Bento railway station. Built in the 19th century, the French structure holds within 20,000 magnificent azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles depicting Portugal’s past – its royalty, its wars, and its transportation history. The blue and white tiles were placed over a period of 11 years (1905–1916) by artist Jorge Colaço.

To the left of the entrance is a scene depicting the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez and Egas Moniz before Alfonso VII of Castile.

We then walked to the famous Majestic Cafe. In the biography of J. K. Rowling, written by Sean Smith, it states that when the writer was living in Porto, she spent much of her time at the Majestic working on the first book of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.

Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European centres, and its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

Its settlement dates back many centuries, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Its combined Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale, has been referred to as the origin of the name “Portugal”, based on transliteration and oral evolution from Latin.

We crossed the Dom Luis I Bridge, this double-deck engineering beauty spans over the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal. At its construction, its 172 metres (564 ft) span was the longest of its type in the world.

You can see the Maria Pia Bridge, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel. If this doesn’t ring the bell, he designed the Eiffel Tower and built the Statue Of Liberty.

The tour continued… we visited a viewpoint of all the city.

And then we walked the narrow alleys of one of Porto’s most picturesque neighborhoods.

The tour lasted three hours, with all sorts of intriguing details about Porto, and ended at a dessert place. There is this family that makes delicious desserts to sell right in front of their home, the chocolate cake was the specialty… which may have proved to be problematic digestively (for Elly).

Bonus Pic of The Day:  Citizens of Porto are informally known as “Tripeiros” which literally translates to “animal gutters”. According to a well-known legend of the 15th century, Henry the Navigator needed a lot of supplies for his Conquest of Ceuta. As a result, the city and its citizens gave up all the supplies they had, including all their food up to the last gram of meat. All they had left were the animal “guts” or “tripas” and they did their best to make that work. As a result, a now-famous dish came along called “Tripas à Moda do Porto.”

We didn’t want to try this Tripas dish, but Sarah “Bourdain” decided that a plate of nasty looking sardines would make a good tasty lunch instead. That nasty smell is enough to end marriages….

To be continued…

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