After rolling out of bed bright and early (ok, 9:30) and eating some of the tastiest Greek yogurt I’ve ever laid hands on*, we headed out the door. Tiago again bemoaned the weather, which, to be fair, wasn’t optimal given that the sky was overcast. In England (where we live for most of the year) that kind of weather is pretty much bog standard, so neither of us were particularly fussed.
Just outside São Bento Train Station.
We took the bus into the center of town and got off at the São Bento Train Station. Although we weren’t going to be traveling by train, the station was well worth a visit. Covered in blue hand-painted ceramic tiles (a style known as Azulejo), it is a beautiful work of art.
The interior of São Bento Train Station.
After the train station, we wandered down to the Douro river, stopping in at ceramics shop on the way (located in Mouzinho de Albuquerque). Although the day was gray and we were ambushed by the occasional rain shower, the river was still beautiful. We crossed over the river into Vila Nova de Gaia and Tiago jokingly suggested that the only good thing about living in Gaia is the fact that you can see such a beautiful view of Porto.
Our main purpose in crossing the river (aside from seeing a panoramic view of Porto, of course), was to tour the port caves. There are many places to do this – Porto is, after all, famous for port, but in the end we went with the Sandeman caves. Unbeknownst to me (well, I knew at some point but had since forgotten it), these were the same caves that my sister toured 2 years ago when she visited Porto and she recommended the Sandeman tour highly. We mainly chose them because the ceramics instructor at our school is a member of the Sandeman family and we wanted to pick up something there for her.
The Sandeman caves are right next to the river, as are many of the other port company caves. This is for the simple reason that the port casks are transported down the river from the Douro on boats and so the riverside location is particularly convenient. Because the caves are right next to the river, they’ve experienced flooding many times over the centuries. In honor (or perhaps remembrance) of this, the most notable floods are marked both on the outside of the Sandeman building, as well as on the insides of the caves.
As soon as we walked into the Sandeman caves, we were greeted by the scent of port, which permeates right through the walls of the aging barrels and infuses the air with a heady aroma. We both breathed in deeply, sighed out with contentment, then looked at each other and burst into giggles.
We finished our tour with a sampling of two different (and rather generous) samples of port. Heads reeling, we realised that we should probably eat something fast as neither of us drink very often (ok, basically never) and consequently have the alcohol tolerance of toddlers.
After a refreshing lunch of soup and octopus (hey, it was yummy!), we headed off to see the sights of Porto, including the Cathedral, Mercado do Bolhão (the open-air market), a fancy chocolate store (Chocolataria Equador), the Central Square of Porto, and, of course, Livraria Lello which is where J. K. Rowling allegedly started writing the first Harry Potter book. The inside of the bookstore looks like something straight out of Harry Potter, so I would not be at all surprised if that were true. Sadly, no cameras are allowed inside so you’ll just have to content yourself with a photo of the outside and the all-seeing eye of google images.
Energy flagging, we made a quick stop into Leitaria Quinta do Paço for some yummy eclairs, which we then brought back to Tiago’s and devoured while lounging around on the sofa.
We ended the day with another delicious meal cooked by Tiago’s mum – fried, breaded white fish with rice pilaf and pea soup for starters.
*I think the amazingness of the yogurt had less to do with the maker (Dannon, so nothing special) and more to do with the fact that I’ve never actually had full-fat Greek yogurt before. I usually only eat the fat-free kind, so the normal version tasted like pure cream.