Day 1 of our tour starts in PORTO! This historic city offered it's name to the well know fortified wine known as Port, and there's no shortage of Port houses here or Port Wines for that matter.
It's our first day in this beautiful city, and we check into the Teatro Hotel about 3pm, and the group meets together in the lobby at 4pm for a city walking tour. It's a perfect district for a walk through the historic waterfront where Barcos Rebelos boats would haul "pipes", as they were termed, (or barrels) of port wine down the Douro River to Porto for the long journeys to Great Britain and the Americas.
The walking tour takes us through parts of the dock where these boats are used for tourism and regattas now, they're painted with pretty Portugese colors that resemble the charming pottery produced here.
Porto lies on the mouth of the Douro River and has a long history dating back to Roman times. Porto is a Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale, or the port in English. The historic center of the city was named an UNESCO world heritage site in 1996 and Porto was elected The Best European Destination in 2014.
We enjoy the afternoon sun, albeit hot, the breezes from the sea and the confluence of the Douro River help bring in a cooling off respite in between the heat. The sun is still quite high at 5pm so we need a pit stop for a beer, everyone piles into a small cafe along the river where our wonderful translator orders beer all around and insists on several plates of fresh sardines, one of the specialties here in the land of Bacalau.
Our fishy nibbles and beer get us through the heat, jet lag and broke up the afternoon nicely, but we want to get back to our city tour that encompasses São Bento, Porto's central station, a luxuriously ornate and glorious structure. São Bento Railway Station opened to the public in 1916. The main hall is breathtaking with over 20,000 tiles that reflect the history of Portugal. Tiles and ceramics in general are one of many artistic mediums in Portugal, the clay from their soils is used to create magnificently expressive ceramics and tiles in particular. Igreja de San António dos Congregados is the church alongside the station that has equally magnificent tiles adorned on the walls of the church, we park ourselves on pews in the church to gape in awe.
We finish in Liberty Square, there's so much more to see but those sites will have to wait as our dinner hour approaches and we need to freshen up. We have a Fado music trio that will accompany our dinner and we don't want to be late.
Dinner is delicious and we practically have the place to ourselves - since it is earlier than most Porto residents eat we're serenaded during dinner and at the breaks in the meal, which aren't many since they serve so many courses. What a great first day, and it was only 1/2 a day too, imagine the rest of our journey!
Overall we are glad to dine a little earlier, the eyelids are heavy, the bellies full, and the music sad and sweet. We wander back to our hotel happy and content to be here in this charming city, and so happy to begin touring this beautiful and magical country!
Obrigada Porto and Portugal we love you already.