After we went to Lisbon, we headed to Portugal’s second largest city, Porto. I’ll be honest, I had high hopes for our two days in Porto. Everything I read before hand waxed on and on about how Porto was one of Europe’s top new destinations. I was expecting it to be authentic, less touristy than Lisbon, and full of yummy food. What I found, was a very beautiful riverside town teeming with tourists and those that wanted to trap them. Porto is of course the home of Port, the fortified wine that gained popularity in England in the early 1700s.
Port still plays a major role in the city’s identity, and it would be impossible to miss all of the port cellars on the south side of the Douro River. I’ll admit, neither of us are huge port drinkers, but we felt like we had to tour at least one of the major producers.
We chose Taylor’s, mostly because they had a free opening when we wanted to go for the tour. The grounds were delightful and the guide was extremely knowledgeable. The English style gardens and airy terrace where we enjoyed the last of summer’s warm breeze made it tempting to while away the whole afternoon there. The whole experience was so lovely that we almost forgot that we didn’t like the port.
After reading about a gazillion recommendations for francesinhe, we decided to seek out the best place for this sausage and ham stuffed, cheese smothered, egg laden sandwich. I was expecting something deliciously fatty and hard to resist, the kind of thing you find at a county fair and know you definitely should not be eating, but in no world would try to resist (elephant ears anyone?). Instead, I found it completely lacking–the bread was thin, dry, regular sandwich bread, the meat was fine, but the cheese was more like american cheese and wan’t quite melted. The fries were barely passable. Overall, I was left with a resounding, meh.
Unlike our so-so sandwich, our studio apartment in Porto was divine. The room was fresh and full of light and had a gorgeous view. I could have easily curled up in the sunlight and read my book for hours (and would have readily extended my two days in Porto to a week or more). Also, the host was perfectly helpful and pointed us to several worthwhile places to visit in the city.
One of our favorite places where we stopped for drinks and a light dinner was Mercearia Das Flores. We enjoyed a couple glasses of vino verde along side a yummy selection of Portuguese prosciutto, olives, and cheese. Naturally, they had a hard time pulling us away from their great selection of Portuguese specialty foods–tinned fish, jams, honey, wine, crackers, chocolate–long enough for us to enjoy our meal, but can you blame us?
Although a little underwhelming after Lisbon, the city was still gorgeous.
It was pretty compact and we found it very easy to explore on foot. (All the hills we climbed just helped us justify that second glass of wine!)
By far, the most charming aspect of Porto is the waterfront. The skinny old houses covered in gorgeous tiles, the old Portuguese boats ferrying tourists along the banks, the whole scene was mesmerizing. Coupled with the comfortable early fall weather, we could have spent our entire two days in Porto just gazing back at the city.
Coffe is a big deal. I don’t think we passed a single cafe during our whole trip that didn’t have a line of people at the bar gulping down little espressos.
For me, the strong robusta beans were a bit to bitter for sipping, so I found myself tossing them back in one gulp (closely followed by a pastel de nata).
I think an entire trip to Portugal could be consumed just by photographing gorgeous blue tiled churches.
Why aren’t all churches covered in these tiles?
I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t constantly on the hunt for fresh figs. Luckily, I was not disappointed. We caught the very tail end of fig season and bought kilos and kilos which I merrily ate for nearly every meal.
Many of the ‘sights’ recommended to us in Porto (the famous Livraria Lello & Irmao book shop that inspired JK Rowling, for example) didn’t appeal to us, or rather the long lines didn’t appeal to us. So, we were content just to wander the beautiful streets stopping for the occasional glass of wine.
As in Lisbon, I spent the majority of my time in Porto wandering the streets with my neck craned toward the sky, wondering how many things in my apartment would look better with Portuguese tiles. (In case you’re wondering–all the walls, the floors, the tops of all end tables, the backs of our book shelves, our headboard, our coat rack, and our kitchen bar all made the cut.)
So. Many. Beautiful. Tiles.
Lovely location near the river. We especially enjoyed the huge windows and lovely view of the major port producers on the other side of the river.
Mercearia Das Flores
Beautiful dishes, tiles, soaps, candles, and a selection of gourmet Portuguese foods.
Rua das Flores, 110, Porto | +351 22 208 3232