Porto Day 3

Last night I tried fitfully to watch TV and ended up settling on music videos. Meghan Trainor could have a better director. This morning I tried fitfully again to watch TV. My year and a half of not watching television has really shown me just how little I like it.

A relaxed breakfast followed by a walk in light rain to the metro station. There is a closer metro station, but it takes fifteen minutes longer in total. I’m a busy lady, I need to get things done.

Only cards were being accepted at the metro station that I went to, so I risked getting on without a ticket. Naturally, a guard came, but my confusion combined with my clearly not being from here and natural charm meant that he let me ride for free, something that I felt very proud of before realising that I only saved €1,20. All hail cheap public transport.

Things I Refuse To Pay For

Number one: entry into a bookshop. I’m sure Livrario Lello is lovely, but queuing to buy a ticket to enter a bookshop is beyond me. I shall forever remain not well read enough.

Number two: a church. Until today! I had been told by Paul and several guidebooks that St Francis’ wasn’t to be missed. The interior carvings are coated with some 100kg (of an original 4-500kg) of gold, and I can’t resist gauchy splendor.

St Francis’ is no longer an active church, but a museum, catacombs and visitor attraction. I momentarily thought about how it’s a when churches are turned over to secular uses, but then considered that the other option would be to let it fall into ruin. Empty buildings deteriorate at a worryingly rapid pace, and once the downfall starts it becomes increasingly less likely that someone would want to foot the bill. There is a house in the Tower of London that beggars belief at how it’s managed to slowly rot for twenty years.

So tourists come in and try to get their holy on. For 100kg gold, I had expected that it would be a church that would make me feel like eating foie gras whilst wearing mink, but instead I just sat down and looked at the carvings. Another point for Italy. Paintings beat carvings. If you are into rococo I expect that more could be appreciated than for me. Piped in classical music played on a loop. The catacombs and museum were touristy. I thanked the guards (correctly at last) and considered how I am glad that up until this incident I have largely avoided going to tourist traps.



Free churches for all!


The Monument Church of St Francis: gothic in the streets, baroque in the sheets

Number three: tours. Wandering along to the Bolsa Palace, I remembered that baroque halls didn’t necessarily do it for me, and wandering around baroque halls with a coach load of the elderly certainly didn’t. The same went for all of the Port wine cellars, where the tours were either overpriced or overbooked.

Am I the first tourist to come to Porto and not try Port?

My rule that I shouldn’t drink alone may be my undoing. Going on a tour of wine cellars feels like something that would be better appreciated with company. Looking around at the other tour-goers, I doubt I would have been able to make any fast friends with the aforementioned coachloads of the elderly, the small families, or the fondling couples. Travelling alone has its perks but also its pitfalls.

Firm Butts

As mentioned in my day one post, Porto-guese must have great butts. Spending the day traversing up and down hills made me grateful that I live in a flat city. But the views made me appreciate that the hard work for the legs and glutes enlivened the body and the soul. Thank goodness this year has been the year of working out otherwise I may have given up and befriended people so that I could get a coach ride.

But my, the views. As ever (say those who try to build character), hard work pays off. You’ll never lose when you have views. Recommended viewpoints:

The old wall, entered by an alley beside Santa Clara:


Anywhere along the Ponte Luis I


Shame about the crane

and the Monastery of Serra do Pilar:


Tourists huffed their way up to the last spot. Porto around the river isn’t a place for the physically unfit, but people are willing to test their limits for the perfect (literally any) picture.

I saw a man walk up to a viewpoint and I admired how he was just appreciating the view for the sake of appreciating the view. As soon as I finished that thought, he whipped out a camera.

Vila Nova de Gaia continues my trend of preferring the area to the south of the river. This wasn’t the art district, like in Florence and Rome, but, like deeper into Oltrarno, was the hilly historic heart of the city. With added wine smells.


You could hardly turn a corner without coming across yet another port wine cellar. The riverfront was awash with revellers, but even slightly up the hill the streets were quite desolate.

I walked from the Ponte up to Taylor’s then west to Graham’s (n.b. it’s only 3.4km from Trinidade to Graham’s, the furthest of all the wine lodges). Taylor’s had an hour and a half wait for the next tour in English, and Graham’s was full up. From the outside, either looks rather elegant. Possibly too elegant for my H&M jeans with raincoat self.

Loop down the streets and walk by the river. As ever, restaurants on the riverfront are overpriced. A waiter with dreadlocks was failing to attract customers. Coaches clogged up the traffic flow. Coach drivers stood together to smoke and wait.

From the outside most of the riverfront port wine cellars don’t seem very inviting, for this lone traveller at least. Porto doesn’t seem to advertise prices too willingly, and looking through the doors to see the sharply-dressed sommeliers (or receptionists) in darkened rooms doesn’t fill me with desire.


Cable cars for the lazy

Sandeman is the most prolific of the port wine sellers. Their tour was also full for the day. Advertising for Sandeman is apparent throughout Porto, and they seem to have a number of different outposts south of the river. The Scottish, they get ya. There is a free exhibition within the lodge on the advertising history of Sandeman. It was powerfully interesting, and is possibly the longest that I have spent inside anywhere during my stay. It reminded me of how interested I used to be in advertising, and how, while I am now somewhat opposed to techniques in advertising, it is still something that holds my attention.

Sandeman started advertising back when it was still considered a “common” pursuit, one which high-class, established brands needn’t do. They had been around for 130 but, as the junior partner says, that was slow progress; with advertising they will see their sales blossom. With their masked marauder mascot (with a Spanish hat and Portuguese student’s cape as an homage to their Iberian sherry and port respectively) their sales did indeed rise, and they did much for alcohol advertising during the period (or so the exhibition tells me). Slogans such as “look who’s here”, “I couldn’t wish for better wine”, “you’ll like it”, and “…is always correct”, along with cartoons about how people tried Sandeman for the first time were forever converted, show a humorous brashness which is the bread and butter of advertising. Cheesy in places, but always knowingly alluring. The “established in 1790” fact gave this brash pursuit credibility. And here they are, still going, tours sold out, al fresco drinking in the rain.

Another climb from the river’s edge up to the Ponte Luis I. Rain started. I stopped for my first nata (a steal at €0.90). I counted money then dropped it on the floor. The cafe was basic but comforting. Suave looking women chatted on high benches while sipping coffee and slowly eating pastries. Maybe the Portuguese do know how to relax. Or to enjoy food instead of facing the rain.


Nata big deal

The Chinese have stolen the Nata and made it their own dessert of choice. Having tried the real thing, I still prefer the Chinese-style. Maybe I will have to try some every day before I make my final decision.

Also to try: Francesinha, or “heart attack on a plate”. A sandwich that includes  wet cured ham, cured sausage, fresh sausage, and steak or roast meat, covered in melted cheese and hot thick tomato beer sauce, served with fries and an egg. I went into a cafe to have one but their kitchen had closed for the day. My arteries plod on for now.

Heavy rain again. I ducked into a church and nearly cried at the service, as is becoming a habit, and a wander around the church of commercialism before heading back to the hostel/apartment. Ah, the sweet ticking of solitude.







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