Porto, Portugal (April 24, 2022)

We docked in the port of Leixoes about 7:30 this morning and eventually staggered off the ship still ripe with jet lag. We easily found our bus to Portugal’s second largest city, Porto, which is on the Douro River two miles from where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It begs the chicken and egg question: is Porto named after Portugal’s famous fortified wine or is it the other way around?

Everyone going ashore exited the ship onto an enclosed spiral structure that led to ground level. It was clear plexiglass on one side with a ceiling and inside wall covered in white plexiglass tiles. Quite an impressive welcome to this jumping off point for northern Portugal and quite handy on rainy days I imagine.

Our quick ride into town took us along the ocean and then east where we followed the river to Porto. We passed khaki colored sandy beaches, rocky shores, a launch site for fishermen and their boats, and a net repair station. We drove past the six-lane Arribida Bridge which boasts having the biggest bridge arch in Europe at the time it was built in the 1950s. Our guide explained that naysayers from all over the continent came to see the ridiculous structure and venture a guess as to how long until the silly thing collapsed into the river. The joke is on the naysayers because it is still in use today. By far the most popular place we passed was the Harry Potter Bookstore. A massive crowd had gathered well before it opened. Apparently there are a couple of draws: JK Rowling lived and worked in Portugal and it is presumed she took inspiration for her books from her experiences here, and the interior with its unique staircase has it ranking among the world’s most beautiful libraries.

Porto and Gaia, right across the river, are built on hilly granite terrain. They have a subway, streetcars, cable cars, a funicular, and trains, so it is easy to get around if you are not in the mood to walk.The buildings are either granite, pastel colored stucco, or faced with small colorful tiles in the style of days gone by.

The main stop of the day was at the old stock exchange which was eye poppingly beautiful inside. It was designed to impress foreign countries, customers, and trading partners and inspire confidence with merchants, bankers, manufacturers, etc. Some rooms have magnificent Brazilian parquet floors and others are tiled in mosaic designs. Gustave Eiffel (as in Paris’ famous tower) had an office there which we saw. We thought we were bedazzled by the magnificent solarium with its huge skylight, tile floor, and paintings until we saw the Arab room. Oh my! It has elaborate, intricate plaster walls and ceiling covered in gold leaf and soft colors, stained glass windows, and unique lighting fixtures. We visited the court where small disputes could be dealt with right on the spot. The stock exchange has changed locations leaving these beautiful rooms as venues that can be rented out for, no doubt, a pretty penny. There is a small park outside the entrance to the stock exchange with a large statue of Henry the Navigator, the man largely responsible for Portugal being such a well respected trading partner.

Eiffel designed two of Porto’s six bridges. We walked across one which was fun because it afforded us great views of the river and all the colorful buildings constructed up the granite mountain. It’s a busy river with lots of traffic to include river cruise vessels, small sail boats, and Rabelo boats once used to transport port barrels and now used to delight tourists.

We ended our tour by taking a cable car from the top of the hill to the water’s edge for a quick port tasting before heading back to the ship and the pretty spiral-shaped welcome center that lead us straight onto the ship.

Our half-day tour left us with some free time this afternoon which I spent in the company of a fruit platter and my iPad and Dan spent with mini-egg salad sandwiches and his pillow. He and I met up for a scone and tea at 3:30 before changing and meeting up with Hettie and Ronnie at 5:00 for our standing double date.

Dinner was delicious, as usual, and we continued with the Tribe of Mentors questionnaire. Tonight’s discussion was based on this question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Entertainment: The Knights, three handsome dudes performing songs made famous by Brits who have been knighted.

Weather: 66 and sunny!

We set our clocks back last night and set them forward tonight.

For what it’s worth…

Port’s higher alcohol content, between 16.5% and 20%, sets it apart from that of the average glass of wine at 12%. Hence the reference to it being a fortified wine.

Get this: Henry the Navigator, born into Porto royalty, never actually went on any (as in not even one) voyages! I kid you not. He was able through his government position to finance them however.
His expeditions discovered and colonized the island of Madeira, the Azores, and several of the Cape Verde islands. He also sent voyages along the West African coast, many of which returned
to Portugal with gold and slaves.

A word about tile. Blue is the most common color which would lead you to believe it was the most readily available and therefor the cheapest. Wrong. The blue color came from cobalt which made it quite expensive back in the day and a way to show off one’s wealth.

Another word about tile. Not only does it reflect the heat of the summer sun, it protects the exterior of buildings from the damp weather.


2 thoughts on “Porto, Portugal (April 24, 2022)

  1. You are such a good writer—I can’t remember did we do Porto when we went?

    Matt Mongeon, PMP, Technical Project Manager II
    Engineering Management Office
    PMP,ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA, PPO
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | • matt.mongeon@cox.com


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