Hilly architecture and art of Porto

Las Chicas visit several Porto neighborhoods, beginning with the Riberia, where our hotel is located. The Douro River, a short walk down the hill, sparkles in the sun with less sparkly musicians and their karaoke machines, a large scout troop, and assorted riverfront cafes and restaurants.

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On our first day we take a walk along the river and spot this eye-catching bar adorned with old chairs. We are curious, but not quite enough to see what’s inside.

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We begin our uphill journey with a visit to Aliados and Bolhão neighborhoods and a multitude of sights to see.

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The São Bento train station is our first stop. Known for its design and decor with the azulejos, or tiles, the station still serves as the local railway station for Porto. (See our post on azulejos at: http://wp.me/p3N7FT-1eG)

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We continue uphill to see the Torre de los Clérigos. This 76-meter-high tower, was constructed in the 1700s. The tower has a great view of the city, that is if you’re willing to scale the 225-step staircase. Las Chicas decline the invitation.

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One of our favorite spots in this area is Livraria Lello bookstore.   An iconic and extremely popular site, with neo-Gothic construction from the early 1900s.

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To enter you must first purchase a ticket in the quirky trailer across the street. Yes, you must pay to enter, but when you purchase a book your entry fee is refunded.

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Once inside, it’s hard not to be drawn to the famous red staircase. This store is rumored to have inspired the library at Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter series. But beyond the staircase, there are more treasures. We find a great collection of books in numerous languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, and settle on a few.

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We pose because we can:

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We climb steep streets to the Miragaia neighborhood.

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During the 14th century, these narrow streets made up the Jewish quarter. Following the Inquisition, only about 1% of Porto’s population were Jews. The bronze hamsas, protective hands, are still visible on a number of doors, and continue to remind us of this time.

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We also pass the Chafariz da Rua das Taipas fountain, circa 1700. This public fountain was once a popular community gathering place.

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A number of sights we hope to see, including the Centro Português de Fotografia and the Mosteiro de São Bento da Vitória are closed, so we enjoy a variety of art and nature instead.

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Las Chicas are excited to see the yellow arrow, symbol of the Camino de Santiago, so special to us.

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Just a short walk from our hotel is the Ponte Dom Luís bridge. Across the bridge we visit Vila Nova de Gaia to check out the Port wine houses. This side of the river seems more tourist-focused with lots of sidewalk vendors and tours galore.

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We see Rabelo boats, the flat boats with empty barrels, moored near the shore. These boats were used for centuries to transport the wine from vineyard to wine cellars, when there were no roads or rails to do this. Today they move only one day a year, to celebrate St. John’s Day.

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But all is not festive and happy  in Porto. Las Chicas explore the crypt beneath Igrejo de Sao Francisco (Church of St. Francis) and see really old bones beneath the floor grate:

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Fortunately, window shopping provides a happy antidote, the Holy Family in guitars:

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Finally, in this sunny city, Las Chicas enter full-on tourisa mode, and help Porto promote itself in the main plaza:

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