Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 4th and 5th

4-November-2013 - Santiago to Porto by bus: Had breakfast at our hotel and 30 minute walk to bus station where we caught the 10am bus for the 3.5hr ride to Porto. Portugal is one hour behind so arrived at 12:30. Took the metro from the bus station to metro stop near Sao Bento train station and grabbed a quick lunch and then walked to nearby Dixo's Hostel. It is in a 5 story narrow old building but very newly painted, neatly decorated and very nice and run by young brother and sister. Unfortunately, it was raining but not too bad. We walked downhill to the river (4 or 5 blocks) and over the bridge to the Port warehouse side of the Douro river (actually a separate town) where all (i.e. 100%!) of the world's port is stored and aged. The grapes are grown 100 miles upstream where the terrain and climate is much different. After crushing and a brief fermentation, alcohol is added to kill the yeast and then the wine is shipped downstream to Porto for aging. We toured the Taylor facility and tasted three different port styles. Then walked back to the train station where the walls of the big hall are covered with hand painted tiles celebrating events in Portugal's history. Dinner was at a place recommended by the hostel and very difficult to find even though nearby. The dining room was interesting and the food good. However, we are unused to dining in this new county so ordered too much food and perhaps the wrong things. It was tasty, local specialties and we had a nice bottle of local white wine.

View of Porto from the top floor terrace of Kixo's Hostel - looking across the river.

View of Taylor port aging warehouse across the river from central Porto. Below is a view looking back across the river towards Porto. The boats were traditionally used to ferry the barrels of Port 100 miles downstream from the vineyards.

5-November-2013 - Sightseeing in Porto: The hostel has free breakfast in the 5th floor dining area so we enjoyed the view while having coffee and rolss. They also offer a free guided walk twice each morning so we did that at 9:45. The tour was excellent (although not quite "free" since the guide works for tips) and we learned a lot that we could not have on our own. After the tour 7 of us had lunch together and sampled the local "guilty pleasure" sandwich called a Francesinha - two slices of white bread with 3 kinds of meat inside, topped with melted cheese, cooked egg and drenched with spicy red sauce and usually served with fries. Then we walked around, saw Henry the Navigator's birth house, churches and museums, had a port wine tasting, visited the Majestic Cafe (along with a famous bookstore we saw this morning, was in Harry Potter books), did a blind tasting of 5 red wines at Touriga wine shop -- wines ranging from 4 to 14 euros and all were good and we each chose "correctly" the best wine. The wine shop manager recommended a neat local neighborhood restaurant, Taberna Sao Anthony, what was filled with locals and had good inexpensive food and wine and wandered back through the mist to our hostel.

A bookstore, considered to be one of the top 10 most beautiful in the world (actuall #3) - used as a setting in Harry Potter novels.

Interior view of tiles in Sao Bento train station

View of Port warehouse area -- all Port wine must be aged here.

City view.

Famous local sandwich - Francesinha.

We tasted 5 local red wines at this shop - Touriga.

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