Mills Family Adventures in Porto – Day 1

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Sunday morning we all met bright and early to catch our 10 am flight to Porto. I’m sure the airport was the first place that my family wanted to visit after their long trips the day before. The only good thing was that this flight was barely more than 45 minutes and the Ryanair theme song played when we had yet another on time arrival. Unfortunately I do not really know how to type it, and when I did a google search I found many videos of a jingle that was different from ours…

The first thing that we did was check into our hotel which was absolutely fabulous! Not only did it have all of the amenities that we are accustomed to receiving (like a gym ect), but I think we would all agree that the breakfast was amazing. Our concierge told us that we could take the bus to the city center and so I thought that it would be a fun way to see more of the city. Unfortunately, this plan somewhat backfired as Sunday Morning held the Women’s Run which interrupted the normal route of the bus. One of my angels, not only told us about the detour but attempted to guide us to the center. I am not sure that we went the most direct route, but we got to see parts of Porto that we otherwise would not have seen.

[As a sidenote, Dad and I call the people who guide and help me on my travels  “my angels” because I always seem to have people who are looking out for me making sure that I steer clear of trouble. I usually do not know their names, but their faces and memories never  fade]

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Eventually, we arrived at this street and knew that we had made it. We kept wandering in aim of the tall building you see in the distance assuming that it was the Cathedral. We passed by many houses with the blue and white murals that I mentioned were also present in Evora. We came across the University of Porto, which is the building with the beautiful fountain in front of it. In 2015 Econtro Joven’s will be holding their fourth conference at this location, maybe I will have the pleasure to present again.

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From this plaza we could easily see the tower and kept heading towards it. We were mistaken because it is not the Cathedral, a building we would later visit, but rather the Torre dos Clergios. For a few euros you can climb the winding staircase to the top of the tower and you receive these kinds of views:

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After visiting the tower we went into the Baroque church attached to it.  We entered the church from the backside and passed through the heavy curtain placed to cover the doors to the church. Crossing through this plain threshold we arrived at the ornate circular interior.

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We then headed to look for lunch. It was a little harder than we imagined since it was Sunday afternoon, but eventually found a good restaurant where we could sit outside and watch everyone go by. Our one complaint, the shrill buzz telling pedestrians that they could cross the street. It was our first meal of Portuguese cuisine and I think all of us were very pleased with our choices, at least I was ecstatic with my meat!

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Here is a picture of Andrew in the plaza outside of the restaurant:

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In case you would like a high quality version without him:

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From here we headed down the street to the real Cathedral.

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Construction on the Cathedral began in 1110 and was completed under the Bishop Hugo in the 13th century. Many aspects of the original romanesque church still remain visible, mixed with the later periods of change as all churches and buildings undergo as styles come in and out of fashion.

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Dad and I did a tour of the cloisters attached to the Cathedral. Here are a couple of glimpses of this monastic community’s dwelling:

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After throughly exploring the Cathedral we descended the stairs on the side passing by the Sacred Art Museum, which happened to be closed. Regardless, the staircase and view from this building were incredible. We made our way through the streets heading towards the Market Place. Currently the cast iron red building is dedicated to theater arts and performance. I did love the lantern that hung above the stairwell.

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From here we headed to the waters, the Douro River. We crossed through the market stalls as locals sold various goods. Andrew and I bought two port jams, one original flavored and the other pear port (It seemed absolutely fitting that we buy it and have yet to eat either, but I have no doubt that there will be a post when it happens!)

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Andrew, Dad and I decided to go to fort we had seen and Mom decided to people watch along the river and so we split ways. We ended up taking a type of tram (anyone remember the technical name?) to the top. From there we thought it would be rather easy to find the fort. We stopped along the way at the convent of Saint Clare’s and a 17th century ducal palace that is now in disrepair. We found a tourist center and asked for directions, only to learn that our eyes had mistaken us and there was not fortress here. Instead of calling it a loss, we walked across the bridge Dom Luís that spans 172 meters and upon its construction in 1880 was the largest in the world. Andrew  studied a course on these types of structures, I believe the focused specifically on the Eiffel Tower, which our architect was a contributing member.  Téophile Seyrig was the sole architect working on this bridge. Currently the upper deck is reserved for the metro and pedestrians,  we decided that we would cross. To be honest, I was not that scared, assuming I was safe, but the two buffoons behind me kept speaking of all the things that could go wrong, and then  a little bit of fear crept in. Needless to say we crossed without any issues and that just goes to show how powerful the mind is. We also took a picture of Mom, she was sitting under the umbrella next to the one with the whale.

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After crossing the bridge we visited the monastery or Serra do Pilar, which is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We watched a video that explained the different treasures to be found in Porto and its surrounding cities. We were rather proud that in one day we had accomplished almost all of the things that they recommended one do. We also were able to look briefly around the cloisters. I fell in love with this dress patterned after a picture of the cloister, maybe one day I will have one made for one of my monasteries…

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We headed back across the bridge and walked down the stairs to get down to the water and meet up with mom. We then used Yelp to find a restaurant for dinner. It was this rustic old building with beautiful dark woodwork paired with white walls. It was an absolutely delicious meal and I had some of the best octopus to date, it was tender instead of chewy and flavored with a sweet tomato based sauce. After dinner we took a taxi back to our hotel ending our first day in Porto!

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