Europe 2006 Travelogue #5 From Porto
Dear Friends & Family,
Trying to keep these short, I will send another one. Tonight we are in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal and near the northern part of the country. It is here that they grow many grapes in the Duoro valley and make vast quantities of port wine which they ship down the river to Porto where there are 18 companies who finish the wine and either sell it or export it. We arrived today and had a delightful time poking around this city, which is very steep and hilly in parts. First we visited the Bolsa Palace which is a fabulous building built by the commercial association in 1834 and which is still in use today. The highlight was the Arabian Hall where there were many Arabic inscriptions and designs and they used 9 kgs of gold for the gold leaf decorations. There were also many wood inlay floors, and vibrant paintings, in addition to glorious chandaliers and intricate granite sculptures. We then spent some time walking through the Ribiera District which is right along the banks of the Duoro River and fun to stroll. Too bad this was our first overcast day! If it is sunny tomorrow, we will take a boat trip along the river, and also visit some of the port storehouses across the river for some tastes. Earlier today we visited the best preserved Roman ruins in Portugal at a place called Coimbriga. We had spent the night at a nice little hotel in a small town nearby, after trying to find a place in the much larger city of Coimbra and being unsuccessful, largely due to convoluted one way streets! It was a quiet small town and we enjoyed being there rather than in a large city. The Roman ruins were quite extensive and there were many well-preserved mosaic floors, garden areas and walls. In the museum there were many artifacts from everyday life. Because it was Sunday, it was free, so we enjoyed that part too.
The previous day we had left Obidos and visited the fishing village of Nazare. Here there was a huge sandy beach with an area where the fishermen had established nets guarding a drying area for the small fish they caught, cleaned and dried. The nets protected the fish from the birds. Part of the town was down near the beach and the rest was up on a high cliff overlooking the beach so we had to take a funicular to get up there.
From Nazare we drove to another beach town called Figuiera do Foz, and this was a much bigger town with hundreds of tall high rise apartment buildings and the largest sand beach I have ever seen. It was quite extensive in length, as well. They say that this place is quite impacted with vacationers in August, and if that is true, there must be millions of people on this beach! We are glad that we were here in May, when there were very few people on the beach. Coming here at this time has also made it easier for us to just drive from place to place and show up at a small hotel or pension and ask for rooms. If we were here in summer, we would have to have reservations.
Good news, today we actually drove on the toll road, figured out how to get a ticket, and made it here in record time and with a fee of only 6 Euros.
No more 40 Euros fines!
We forgot to say in our last report that while we were in Lisbon, we had a happy reunion lunch with Alistair and Paul, 2 friends from the UK, whom we met on the ship last year. They were sailing back to England and were in Lisbon for only a few hours and they joined us near our hotel. It was a fun time and we enjoyed showing them some of the sights of Lisbon and then escorting them back to their ship on the tram. This international travel results in some interesting and fleeting friendships!
From here we will be driving through the Duoro Valley, along the Duoro River, supposedly one of the prettiest places in Portugal. We will send a report about it in a few days. Sending hugs for this time.
Love, Mary & Elaine