After stuffing my self with a Francesinha at Cafe Santiago, the Missus decided that I needed a walk....a rather lengthy walk. So we walked back down to the Ribeira....the "riverbank".
One quick look at the Ribeira and you instantly understand the importance of this location on the Douro River estuary. The Romans obviously understood the importance of the location, establishing the town of Portus. Though the focus has shifted from commerce to tourism, seeing the "Barcos Rabelos", traditional Portuguese boats used to transport goods, bobbing in the water, it's quite easy imagining that long ago time.
And while the waterfront is full of tourists, it's quite laid back and relaxing..... We didn't encounter various touts doing the "hard sell". It was a very low stress area, with dozens of little alleyways and arcades, lovely, colorful buildings......a very nice place for a stroll.
Across the river is Vila Nova de Gaia, home of all the Port Wine "Lodges".
You can read the signs from this side of the river....beckoning you to come on over and have a taste...Sandeman, Calem, Vasconcellos....
At the east end of the Ribeira towering over the Ribeira is the Ponte Dom Luis I, a metal arch bridge. When it was built in 1881, it was the longest of its type in the world.
The upper deck carries the metro and there's a pedestrian walkway; the bottom is for automobiles, with a pedestrian sidewalk.
The City Centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so there are undoubtedly hundreds of stories, like the one memorialized in the plaque to the right....The Ponte das Bracas disaster. This occurred when Porto was surrounded by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Citizens attempted to cross the Douro on a pontoon bridge, the Ponte das Bracas. The bridge collapsed under the weight and some say up to 6,000 lost their lives. More on the disaster can be found here.
We enjoyed spending the "golden hour" at the Ribeira, but soon enough it started getting dark. We were looking for a place to have dinner; not too much after all, I'd had the Francesinha earlier in the day. I opened up the tourist map....don't you love these? We usually don't even give them a glance, but João had indicated a handful of places, some of them touristy, some places he takes his family on occasion. I'm glad I didn't lose it....it's a nice memento from our time in Porto:
One of these was a places noted on the map was called O Caracas.
So we wound our way up one of the side streets and ended up on a residential square. We had no idea where we were....I went and asked one of the women for directions, but she waved me off....she spoke no English, until I said "O Caracas"....she started laughing and pointed to the window right behind us....there was no sign, but a menu. O Caracas serves but two dishes and evening.
We entered, and ne of the owners, who are twin sisters told us they had no tables. So we turned to leave....she said there was one table, in the corner, away from everyone, next to the beer cooler....which was perfect for us, quiet, intimate....just perfect!
We enjoyed watching folks entering and leaving....most of them looked like locals. When one of the twins had to change the beer keg....she is tiny, like under five feet tall, I had a blast helping her change the beer keg. The place just kind of embraced us.
We mentioned that we'd be sharing.....which was no problem. We were told to come and take a look in the kitchen to see what "Mama" was cooking. And there mom is really cooking here......no kidding.
For me, the most fascinating item during the meal was that very dense, moist, dark brown bread. It was quite substantial, but I loved the flavor, which had rye tones. I later learned it is called Broa de Avintes and we sought it out for self catered meals.
This dinner was like many of the homestyle meals we had in Portugal, soulful and hearty.
The acorda au arroz primavera, basically a bean-vegetable stew thickened with bread and rice, was hearty and far from bland.....a very "stick to your ribs" dish.
The fried fish was simple, but very clean tasting and also quite filling. I was told we were given extra as an "offering"......for helping them with the beer keg. An offering......it still brings a smile to my face.
This is typical of the hearty food we came to enjoy in Portugal...plus it was truly made by "mom". You can't beat that. I'm glad we shared; there was no way I could have finished this myself. The price was right, under 15 euros for dinner and drinks. I'd gladly return.....
Rua das Taipas 27
We walked back down the winding street to our apartment, warm and happy. It had been a fun first day in Porto.