Really glad we talked ourselves into visiting Porto, Portugal’s’ second largest city. I wasn’t looking forward to navigating the city streets to find our out-of-the-way pensione but the city was worth the occasional wrong turn(s). We ended up staying on the street known for its bohemian art scene and little designer shops, which was a pleasant surprise. Pensao Favorita, on Miguel Bombarda, is a charming place. Beyond the imposing front door is a warmly retro and minimalist 12-room place. We were warmly welcomed (with glasses of port, of course) and our room was in a pretty garden, among a small row of new brick buildings, with a wooden deck pathway lined with succulents. Next door is a cool little shopping space (Centro Comercial Bombarda) with lots of small shops, including a good place we followed people to for lunch today…a mellow cafeteria style display with excellent grilled chicken served with several sides (lentils, beans). We ate last night at Bugo Art Burgers, a fun little burger place that was so packed on a Friday night that we ate at the bar, chatting with the sweet young women working there. We picked two burgers that were made with Porto products (namely Port) and they were great.
enough about the food. The sights were dazzling too. We loved Porto’s Ribeiria district, with white-and-blue tile-fronted buildings spilling down to the river. Charming even with the tourists and glad to see the laundry whipping in the wind. Also enjoyed touring the stunning stock exchange building, walking up elegant Rue de Flores past astonishing blue and white painted tile churches and buildings, and visiting the Mercado do Bolhao on Saturday morning (where we found russet apples, a favorite I can’t find in Iowa and have found only in Michigan and Spain). We also sauntered down the main shopping street (no cars) with the crowds to have coffee at the elegant Majestic Cafe (recommended by our pensione folks).
Our first day we also took the rickety #1 tram out along the river to the start of the Atlantic, where we found a cool glass-walled but open air cafe, called Shis, perfect for a light snack and beer on a stunningly beautiful afternoon.
Last night we made the mistake of wandering around after dinner without our map and had a heck of a time finding our way back to our hotel in the dark. Today we tried to see the Rem Koolhaas Music Hall but tours were booked in advance until 4 pm (when we arrived before noon) so we checked out a nearby synagogue (not only closed but very secured, with a gate, barbed wire fence and a guard dog) and the elegant homes near it.
Dirck and I both decided that if we had to choose between a visit to the north or south of Portugal we would pick north. Granted we are not beach people but we love the rugged scenery and the elegant architecture of the north.
Tonight we are in the medieval town of Obidios, about an hour from the Lisbon airport which we fly out of tomorrow. Charming old place but packed with tourists, as expected. Much quieter tonight as I type on the terrace of our rustic Casa do Regolio outside the walls of the city,which are lit up gently tonight. We skipped the restaurants inside the walls, opting instead for some cheese and fruit.