The Pilgrims do not seem to want to go home. Most are leaving Santiago and heading out in all directions. We are going to Porto by bus to meet up with JC* and Big A* and are anxious for our reunion.
Porto is one the oldest cities in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s location on the Douro River and it’s hilly streets (more inclines and descents!) make it an interesting city to explore.
We travel well together. Big A and I are armed with all the research we’ve done. I especially like the New York Times 36 hour city guide that Big A has provided. Oh, and he surprises us by being able to speak some Portuguese (he already speaks Spanish and said it was easy with the free Duo Lingo app.). Mr. Wiz* is in charge of getting us where we want to go and JC provides the spunk and enthusiasm (she is first one up and ready each day).
You can always count on the NH Hotels for a trendy vibe and the NH Collection Porto Batalha delivers. I particularly like the ancient stone arches that grace the modern lobby and the old postage stamp theme in the elevators and on the carpeting. On arrival, we are given coupons for a port wine tasting in the bar. This will be the start of a wonderful relationship between us, the bar and the port, every night after dinner.
Those inclines and descents really help us work up an appetite and we foodies can’t decide what we like the best: bacalhau (salted codfish), grilled pulpo (octopus), cabrito (baby kid), suckling pig or Portuguese sausages. One of the more interesting meals was lunch at Pastel De Bacalhau. There was only one item on the menu: a large, egg shaped codfish fritter stuffed with cheese served in a plastic holder inset into what looked like an artist’s palette with room for your glass of white port and your thumb, so you could carry it all with one hand.
We stroll the narrow cobblestone streets of the Ribeira District, the old quarter on the Duoro riverbanks, the beautiful gardens at the Palacio de Cristal and the Avenida dos Aliado, a lively avenue. We visit the Livaria Lello & Irmao Library, named the most beautiful bookstore in the world and rumored to be the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. At the Do Porto Cathedral, we delight in the story that a local resident painted the altar to hide its silver, so that when Napoleon and his troops entered the city to pillage it, they left it behind never realizing it was there.
The days fly by and before we know it, it’s time to head to Lisbon by train.
Pictured: view from the Duoro riverbank
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.