We decided to start Monday off going to a fort, this time one that did in fact exist. That being said, it was not open when we arrived…
Instead, we decided to visit the Sea Life Porto, which according to its tag line boasts the largest research center in the world. Andrew correct me if I got that wrong. The following are a few pictures of the Mills family enjoying the displays. Some may have been geared towards smaller children, but we are all just kids in adults bodies anyways!
After exploring the natural side of things we tried once more to enter the fort and were luckless. I traveled around to see if there was another entrance point that we were missing, but alas it really was closed.
We continued our journey going to the Palacio Crystal. We believe that it is currently an auditorium, but it sits on a beautiful park that we could explore. As we were strolling through we found this peacock who decided to give us a personal show. I am thinking that he knew I had a camera…
A characteristic of Porto that I cannot stress enough is its ability to create and maintain expansive views. One of which you will see in the park and elsewhere throughout the blog posts. I particularily enjoyed them because around every corner there was something to see. We saw the Douro River many times, but each new framing changed the comprehension of the city and the surrounding area.
From the Palacio Crystal we headed back towards the center for lunch because we had chosen to do a boat tour, visit of the Palacio da Bolsa (combined they were cheaper) and then to go to a tasting of Port wine. Along the way we stopped at the 16th century Hospital which is still functioning (Thank you Mom for peaking inside). We found a plaza nearby to try some of the delicious pastries and have a coffee.
Two churches were side by side and we decided to quickly check them out. Looking at this first photo you may believe that it is just one large church, but in fact, look closely at the interiors, they are separate. On the left is the Igreja de Nuestra Senhora das Carmelitas and on the right is Igreja do Carmo. They highlight the richness that this city once held as the main site of Port Wine.
From here we ventured to a small restaurant for an all inclusive meal, Menu do Dia, something that is incredibly common in Spain, but not as common in Portugal. I was a huge fan of my lunch; however, I am pretty sure that I am the only one who loved the rice and bacalao combination. Needless to say, with our strength returned we continued on our journey.
We headed towards the Palacio da Bolsa to buy the combination tickets we had seen for the boat ride and a tour of the palace. Upon buying the tickets the salesclerk told us that the best use of our time would not be to go as we had planned but rather, to start with the tour of the portery (I believe that I’m making this work up, but I mean the winery that makes port…) and then the boat ride and finish with the tour of the palace. We are very grateful for her advice because if not for her we would not have been able to accomplish everything.
We had a tasting at the Ramos Pinto center. Here are two pictures of us as a family outside. We were each given five different ports to try along with score cards so that we could record our thoughts and comments. It was my first official tasting of the kind and it was a ton of fun to share the experience with the rest of my family. Overall we decided that the 20 year Tawny was the best of our selection. Ramos Pinto still uses many 20th century icons to promote their Port and there was a cut out to place your faces in outside of the shop. The photo of my parents is adorable, but clearly Andrew and I didn’t get the memo to look nice. We really do like one another, but its hard to tell from this photo.
Right across from Ramos Pinto was our boat tour-the Douro Azul. Unfortunately, they did not give too much of a history of the tradition on the boat, in fact they did not speak at all. However, it was nice to transverse the calm waters and talk amongst ourselves. At the farthest point you can see the place where the ocean and the river meet. (We would learn much more about this tradition at the wine and port museum on Wednesday) Again many of these photos do not depict anything new, but rather a different perspective or lens through which to see the city of Porto.
After our boat tour we crossed back over the bridge onto the other side of the city to have a tour of the Palacio da Bolsa which at one point held the stock exchange of Portugal, before it was later moved to Lisbon. This gives a hint at the commercial activity and prestige present in the city. Many of the rooms still retain their original function, for example parties and ceremonies are still held in the arabic room, a 19th century theme room meant to impress visitors with the wealth of the Portuguese monarchy and the city of Porto.
We concluded our day with a delicious dinner. We attempted to use Yelp, but my choice had been closed due to a massive fire. Oops. Instead we ate at Don Tonho, in their glass restaurant on the bank of the Douro River. Again we received yet another fabulous meal, which was only improved by the ability to see the “golden” waters.