While most serious wine drinkers know about Oporto, a.k.a Porto, few are aware of the charms the greater municipal government with a population of over 1.7 million.
Located at he mouth of the Douro River, the city is virtually one with Vilanova de Gaia, connected to one another by several bridges, one of which was designed by Eiffel, the famous architect and creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Port shippers have established their blending facilities, bottling lines and warehouses here because of somewhat cooler air.
Oporto has daily (four times) luxury train connections with Lisbon, the capital of Portugal; there are several flights too.
The luxury train is comfortable, fast, and glides over the rails at high speed while you enjoy the scenery.
is compact and hilly. Downtown, the streets are narrow and lined with old, colourful houses.
Traffic in these labyrinthine quarters can be trying at the best of times, but around 11 a m when delivery trucks deliver goods to retailers, the traffic literally stops for up to half an hour at a time.
Walking downtown is recommended to visit many of the churches. The Cathedral, Clergymen Church and Tower, Carmo Church, Lapa Church, Cedofeita Church are absolute musts to appreciate the devotion of the overwhelmingly Catholic population.
The plazas are always full of people and there are many bakeries that also serve espresso. Portuguese seem to love pastries and sweets of all sorts.
The modern subway connects Oporto with Vila Nova de Gaia in the south where many of the old and well-established port shippers like Calem, Croft, Sandeman Ramos Pinto, Warre operate sidewalk cafes. Here you can enjoy the slow-flowing mighty Douro River’s beauty and the traffic on it.
Port shippers are always eager and proud to serve their precious vinous creations, and also offer cellar tours.
Several shippers have their old flat and wide rabalo boats on display in the river, emblazoned with their names on the sails. They were used to transport one-year old wines in barrels from the interior to warehouses before railroads and highways were built.
You can visit most of the cellars to see old, huge, upright barrels and hear the story of port wine. At the end of the tour, you may be given a few samples of different port wine styles and urged to buy a bottle or two at the adjacent boutique.
The Port Wine Museum is in Oporto on the shores of the Douro, and those interested in the history of the wine should pay a visit to this highly interesting museum, which surprisingly does not serve any type of wine.
The main thoroughfare of Porto is Miguel Bombarda lined with several art galleries, and many intense parties are held when new exhibits open.
Palacio Bolsa (the stock exchange) was designed in neo-Moorish architectural style, and definitely worth a visit is the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Moors occupied large parts of Portugal and Spain for several centuries and influenced local architecture to the extent that it is still noticeable in toady’s modern buildings.
Romans significantly expanded the city in the fourth century on the foundations of Celtic and proto-Celtic remnants of citadels.
Moors invaded the area in 711 and were defeated in 868. In the approximately century-and-a-half of their “stay” Moors influenced architecture, agriculture, city planning, and culinary evolution.
If you are looking for an interesting and relaxing day, book a Douro River cruise, which travels upriver.
Here you can marvel at the terraced vineyards while sipping a glass of wine derived from fruit grown on these soils. Such a cruise is highly recommended, even if you do not drink wine, and may even result in you getting to appreciate wine.
Accommodation in Oporto is available, but like everywhere else in Europe, quite expensive. Book ahead and make sure the hotel has parking facilities. Alternately, you can seek accommodation in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Casa Aleixo (Rua de Estacao 216) is one restaurant you can safely visit and try their fish and seafood specialties.
You can also try Douro’s famous tripes, and fresh grilled sardines when wash it down with white vino verde.
The best time to travel is spring and autumn to escape the infernal heat and humidity in summer.
For more information about accommodation and restaurants
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.