Roadtripping through Portugal: Porto

The last stop on our Portugal trip was Porto. I liked Lisbon, but Porto is more my kind of town… probably because it was a bit smaller (but still bigger than imagined) or because that for some reason lots of landmarks in Porto are build by or inspired by Belgians? Yes, in Porto there are many buildings or landmarks that are build by Belgians. One good example would be the Dom Luis 1st Bridge that connects Porto city with Villa Nova de Gaia, this bridge was build by Théophile Seyrig a partner and former student of Gustave Eiffel (from the Eiffel tower). Another “Belgian” design is the Porto Townhall, which was inspired by either the Brussels townhall or the Antwerp town hall (not sure anymore).

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Town hall

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Just like in Lisbon in Porto you’ll have to climb a bit when getting around in the city due to the hills and Porto might look small but isn’t! What helps is the fact there are lots of ways to get to places without having to climb, like old trams, elevators or the cable cars 🙂 (we’re not lazy, we just do like the locals 😉 ). That last one is nice because it will give some very nice panoramic views over Porto as you take it at the Villa Nova de Gaia side of the city. Also to get a very good overview over the city you might consider taking the Tour buses, I know it is very touristy!! Many years ago I would have never thought of taking them, but they do give you the best general overview and give you the chance to hop on/off where you want and for you to decide what you want to see in more detail in the next days…

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Porto also lends itself for if you just like wondering around in small narrow streets… and the water being always closeby makes it that there is always a nice breeze and during hot days a more supportable heat. There are also many beautiful landmarks (like Palacio da BolsaTorre dos Clerigos and many more) to visit and if you want want you can maybe also take a little boat trip on the Douro river… Do try to get up to the Jardim do Boavista and visit both the gardens and the Mosteiro de Serra do Pilar. From up here you have very nice panoramic views and you’ll learn a lot about the history of Porto (visit costs 1 euro, guided tour 3euro).

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What’s the difference between Porto and Villa Nova de Gaia you might be asking yourself? Well the biggest difference would be that you at the Villa Nova de Gaia side you’ll find all the Port wine makers and at the Porto city side you won’t :-). As you probably all read in one of my previous posts, the Port wines get and always got made in the Douro Valley and were transported over water to Villa Nova de Gaia to age. The reason they brought it to Villa Nova de Gaia and not to Porto city is because the Gaia side has less sun shining on it during a day and therefore has a better temperature for the Port wines to age… A view I like is when you are standing at the waterfront in Porto city (right next to the Dom Luis Bridge) and you see all the Port winemakers ‘bill boards and Lodges… but both sides of the city have the same high picturesque level if you ask me…

Vila Nova de Gaia

As Porto is right at the Ocean, having a city trip combined with time at the beach seems like a good idea… although you could just go to the seaside at Porto city aka Foz do Douro , I would recommend you to go to Matosinhos or Madalena (where we went) as there you’ll find more peace and quiet and to my opinion more beautiful sandy beaches.

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Now my favorite part to talk about, the food! Just like during our whole trip the red wire in the food is simple food full of flavor. You know when you sometimes are craving for a burger but somehow it feels wrong eating it in southern countries where they have so much great local food? Well we did feel it, but didn’t last long after passing by Munchie on the Praca Filipa de Lencastre (close to av. dos Aliados) our craving only became bigger… I would say, just go for it as you won’t regret it (we didn’t 🙂 You’ll be able to make it a whole burger feast, they have some real beauties on the menu. FYI, in the back of the restaurant they have lots of seating (just FYI , as you don’t notice it from outside)

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If you feel like having more refined food I can recommend you one (or all) of the following restaurants: DOP (the first Rui Paula restaurant), Pedro Lemos (a rizing star who for sure will be awarded with Michelin star and a favorite amongst the Portuguese). I can also recommend a meal at the Taylors Port lodge restaurant (more details about this restaurant in my next post).

Pedro Lemos restaurant

The cherry on the cake in Porto would be The Yeatman which is the only Michelin star awarded restaurant in Porto and is part of the 5 star luxury hotel (same name)  with the best view over Porto. What makes the Yeatman hotel so special is that it is seen as one of the best wine related hotels in the world known for its winetourismn (also to get SPA treatments using winerelated products). Although the Yeatman hotel is part of the Taylors & Fonseca Port group, it has a connection with vineyards from whole Portugal. In their wine cellars for example they have one of the biggest collections of Portuguese wines. The hotel also has partnerships with many of Portugal’s finest wine producers who actively participate in The Yeatman’s wine tastings, seminars and wine dinners (I think every wine maker has to at least give 1 or 2 dinners per year in this hotel). These partner wineries  also sponsor individual rooms and suites (so all rooms have instead of numbers the name of a vineyard) that are decorated with pictures and objects  from each of these winery’s unique history and give a unique touch to each guest room. This shows that Portuguese winemakers stick together even-though they are competitors! FYI you can also buy wines from these partner in the hotel wine shop. I must admit that it is a superb hotel, but rather to the expensive side to stay at… but you only life once I always say 😉

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The yeatman hotel

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The yeatman cellar

Try to avoid the tourist traps I’d say 🙂

My next blogpost will also be my last blogpost (for now) about Portugal and I couldn’t think of a better way to end  than with a post about Taylors Port 🙂

Stay tuned….

Roadtripping though Portugal

It that time of year again… everybody starts packing their bags and starts traveling. My fiancée and I prefer traveling outside of the busy travel periods July and August which usually results in us coming back when others are ready for leaving. This year it finally seemed like the perfect time to travel to Portugal, a trip I’ve already wanted to make for years… what pulled the trigger to travel to Portugal was my fiancee’s enthusiasm after her surf trip last year to Portugal (her blogpost). Portugal is a destination that gets underestimated, most people travel to Spain but for some reason never seem to make it across the Portuguese border… so with all my coming blogposts I’ll try to convince all those people to travel those few extra miles as it is really worth it!!

The thing that I feared the most was the language barrier, I speak Italian, French, Spanish and I do understand a bit of Portuguese… but talking it is a different story. So I was very curious on how the Portuguese people’s language skills would be?! A very big surprise I must say!!! That some would speak English I expected, but the amount of people speaking a very good level of French was definitely unexpected for me… also to see that most movies or tv-series weren’t dubbed, but subtitled (big step ahead in comparison to Spain or Italy and even France) . So I was very convinced that Portugal would have many more surprises for us during this trip…

One thing I was sure of when I started planning our Portugal trip (around December/January) is that I wanted to see the ‘real’ Portugal and not only the Algarve beaches (how beautiful they might be). A good combination of city tripping and time at the beach was the ideal scenario… I think I managed it well (or at least I didn’t hear my fiancée complain 😉 ). We started our trip in Lisboa, continued towards Curia where besides visiting the vineyard from friends we were able to have some beach time (Costa Nova) and we stayed at one most beautiful hotels ever!! We continued  to Portugal’s “Bordeaux” region, aka the Douro valley which is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen!!! (Visiting vineyards was just mandatory… no choice) We eventually finished our trip in Porto which was much bigger than I had imagined it to be… and how else by visiting a Porto winemaker (some things you just can’t get around…)

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Please stay tuned for my stories about how Portugal got a special place in my heart and became one of my favorite countries to travel to..