From Northwest Spain to Porto
After 18 nights in the Basque country, the Picos and Galicia, we dropped our little 4 door VW Polo off in Porto. The car return in Porto was super easy, parked on the street right out front of the Europcar office on Rua Antonio Bessa Leite, walked in and handed the keys over. In minutes they’d checked the car over, wrapped up the paperwork and had a taxi there to take us to our Porto apartment. Really friendly and efficient service, a great end to the trouble-free rental.
Top Flat Porto, 3 nights in a lovely apartment with a view up and down the Douro – Style+Comfort+Quiet+View+Location=Perfect.
3 nights, really just 2 1/2 days, is about the minimum for Porto. We enjoyed Porto a lot – quite different from Lisbon. We didn’t feel like visiting museums and were happy with walking tours and logging a few hours sitting across from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia with a port and the fabulous view.
Tours – Cruising, Walking and Tasting
The weather was beautiful when we arrived and we took advantage of that by hopping on one of the Douro 6 bridges tourist boats for an hour long cruise.
Too late in the day for Port tasting, we hung out across the river and enjoyed the view of Porto at an outdoor table with a white port apperitif and a meal.
The night before I’d emailed Eugenie with Porto Free Walking Tours – the walk was on despite the rain and we had a fun and entertaining time with the 8 other people on the tour, among the sites we visited were: The Imperial McDonalds, formerly the Imperial Cafe; Sao Bento Railway Station; Igreja de Santa Clara with the best example of gilded wood; original wall with views of the Dom Luis bridge; the Porto Cathedral; Livraria Lello bookstore; finishing up at the touristy Ribeira district. Time for Port wine tasting at a couple of the cellars across the river!
Tip: Bring your umbrella! It rained off and on for an entire day.
Harry Potter connection: When you visit the famous Livraria Lello bookstore and see the marvelous staircase you can imagine how it must have inspired J.K. Rowling’s magical staircases in Hogwarts. You have to see the stairs for yourself, a two-dimensional picture just doesn’t do them justice. BTW: Photos inside the bookstore are not allowed.
Last day in Porto
One last day to see some more Porto sights – see the Sao Francisco Church, climb the Clerigos Tower, walk across the top of the Dom Luis Bridge for fabulous views of Porto, take the Ferreira port wine tour (the best of the 3 we took) PLUS try some food found only in Porto. It’s all easy to do, the part most tourists want to see is pretty compact, just uphill!
Tip: We didn’t take the expensive funicular down from the top of the Dom Luis Bridge. It’s easy and quick to walk down to the wine cellars from the top.
Great Eats: Gazela Cafe: The BEST hot dogs in the world. Sit at the counter in this tiny cafe and watch the 2-man action behind the counter as the hussling chefs prepare their very special hot dogs. You have to try one… or two.
What about those Francesinha’s? You’ve heard of the loaded meat sandwich smothered with cheese, a Porto original? If you want to try one the best is Santiago’s, according to 2 local people we talked to. You don’t need two, just split the one that comes with fries. We didn’t get the egg on top. I’m not sorry we tried it but…once was just fine.
Travel: A 20 minute Taxi to the airport and a cheap advance purchase flight on TAP to Paris Orly airport and we were on the last leg of this trip – Paris!