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Friday, August 23, 2013

A city trip to Porto

We have just returned from a couple of days away, to Porto (Portugal) this time. We mainly booked the trip way back in May to be guaranteed to have some nice weather. Little could we suspect we'd been having one of the best summers ever!

Nevertheless, we enjoyed being away (we always do). It's only a two hour and thirty minutes flight from Brussels to Porto, and the airport is quite near the town. Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal and the people there are very kind and helpful.

We stayed in a boutique hotel a bit away from the center. It was situated in the Rua de Boavista (off the Avenida de Boavista) and is called Casa do Conto (the House of Tales). It's an old house which was converted to become a hotel, but then they had a fire and they had to start over. Tito, the manager, is a very friendly guy who is (nearly) always there and he'll do what he can to help you. The room we stayed in was on the third level (there is a lift) and faced the garden. We also had a little terrace (the suite is NG, it's the only one with terrace). It was peaceful there and we had a lot of space.

From the Rua de Boavista it's only fifteen minutes to the center of town, but if you don't like to walk a lot, you can also take the metro at Carolina Michaelis (outside left, and then the first street on the right). That only takes a minute or two. And you can purchase a Porto Pass for one day up to three days (the most expensive one costs 21€) which gives you access to public transport and reductions in museums, shops and restaurants.

The oldest part of town (and World Heritage) is the quarter near the river Douro. It is called Ribeira. Very picturesque, with narrow streets up and down and typical restaurants and bistro's. There you can take a boat to tour the Douro - something you really must do.

Another have-to is visit one of the Port wine cellars. They are situated at the other side of the river, in the part they call Gaia. We choose the cellars of Taylor's which are of the eldest (founded in 1692). The tour consisted of a visit through the cellars which a very nice guide and - of course - a degustation of three kinds of port.

For the rest there are lots of churches (often tiled in white and blue), museums, shops where you can buy really cheap things, ... Well, nothing is really expensive in Portugal. You can dine rather well for only 50€ with two persons, and then taking into account you have a starter, a main dish, a dessert and a bottle of wine. The Portugese wine, btw, are of good quality.

On our last night, we went dining to DOP, the restaurant of Rua Paula. It's to be found in the Palace of Arts, in a restored building. This restaurant is of star quality and you pay accordingly. On comparison to other star restaurants it's not too expensive though. We paid 320€ for the tasting menu for two, plus an arrangement for the wine - a glass of a different wine with every dish. These wines were of superb quality, and all Portugese. The food too was of the most exquisite quality and I can certainly recommend it. The service was impeccable and all the waiters spoke English and other languages.

We had a great time, and hope to visit there once more in the future.

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