9 September 2010

On The Port in Porto [Day Three]

Up early and off to the local markets - Mercado do Bolhão. It was full of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and other bits and pieces. There were woman selling sardines out of a polystyrene container, people peeling potatoes in an alleyway, and massive stalls full of fake flowers... All quite random really.

A short walk away is the Dom Luis Bridge - a massive two levelled arch bridge spanning the river Douro. On one side is Porto, and the other Vila Nova de Gaia. Although only separated by a bridge, these are completely separate cities. The top layer of the bridge provided amazing views over the colourful Porto old town and the river. As soon as I reached the far side, as predicted, it started to rain. I made my way down the hill to the waters edge to got up close and personal with rows of rabelo boats (you can see the miserable weather in the photo).

The Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river is home to the port houses and caves. The most touristed being Sandemans and Cálem. I attempted to visit both, but was told that the English tour was not run for at least another two hours! I called in to one or two of the other port houses along the edge of the water, and was again turned away, one because you cannot enter if you are not in a group of two people or more. OK...? I made my way up the hill away from the river, and came across Offley port house. I walked in and was told that they would be running a tour in 10 minutes. 10 minutes came, and I was still the only one waiting. I paid my €2 and had a personal one-on-one tour of the port house. I learned all about the different types of port, the flavours and what occasions suit each type best, how they are made, stored and aged. It was really interesting. At the end of it all I tried two different types, a tawny and a ruby, both very nice. I was tempted to buy a bottle!

I called in for a quick lunch of a toasted sandwich and a beer (very traditional), then back to the hostel. The cold, miserable weather was not doing much for my motivation, so spent the rest of the afternoon watching a movie.

That evening I met an american guy and we decided to go out and try something more traditional for dinner. As it was still bucketing down, there was a bit of a trade-off between distance from the hostel and how traditional the food was. I can't actually remember what I had, but I remember it was at least semi-traditional, tasted really good and the potions were huge.

Back at the hostel the drink special was port wine cocktails. To be honest, I preferred the port wine on its own, but you have to try these things. I knew it was going to be a looong day tomorrow, with the trip to Madrid, so I decided to have a relatively early one, and hit the hay.

Next Post - 'The Missing Museum'

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