There was something about Porto that really drew me in. It was quite subtle, I really didn't notice it, I wasn't that impressed at the beginning, but as the days......check that, the hours went by, it seemed that things just got better and better......
We enjoyed the train ride from Coimbra, it was comfortable, free WiFi, nothing to complain about. We arrived at Campanhã Station, the main train station which is about 2 kilometers from the city centre. We then got on the train to São Bento Station. It was an easy transfer, one of the gentlemen who got off with us at Campanhã took an interest in us and walked us to the correct platform. São Bento is translated as Saint Benedict and the spot on which the station is built was a Benedictine Monastery from the 16th to 19th century. Why am I going on and on about a train station? Well, within the station are some beautiful Azulejo tile work, which makes for quite a welcome to Porto.
The tile work was done between 1905 - 1916 by Jorge Colaço who was the most renown azulejo painter during that period. The tiles depict various scenes like the Battle of Ceuta to the right. It's quite a stunning welcome to Porto.
Porto itself is fairly compact and yet sprawling. The city itself has a population of 300,000, but there's a population of over 2.5 million within the Porto Metropolitan area.
Walking out of São Bento and taking a look around was a treat for me. Whenever I plan our trips, I study maps and read what I need to, I usually don't look at too many photos, there's a certain part of me that wants to be surprised. However, one can't help but have that mental picture inside your head.
As I looked around, I told the Missus, "this is what I thought Portugal would look like."
As we walked down Rua Mouzinho da Silveira toward the Ribeira (the River) I was charmed by the architecture, even with all the construction going on.
We headed down the street and met up with João, who was one of the "two João's" who took us to our apartment which located in a building a couple of hundred years old and basically located two blocks from the Douro and the waterfront.
While a bit on the dark side since it was on the lower floor, the apartment itself was huge! Full kitchen.......there was a small outdoor area since we were on the lower level....funny, there was even a bathroom located outside, a remnant from when there was no indoor plumbing.
João was fantastic; we told him our priority was, well, food, he brought out a map and quickly made a dozen recommendations, places he and his family ate at. He also gave us a bottle of wine and ticked off where the local market was; where to get a cup of espresso and other things.
We were literally steps from Praça Infante Dom Henrique.
In this park, the statue of Henry the Navigator is pointing off into the far horizon, a symbol of Portugal's Age of Discovery.
Hungry, we headed off to lunch. Located in one of the small side street right above the Douro is a tiny restaurant with four indoor tables, a couple of outdoor tables, and laundry hanging above it named A Grade.
The guy serving was very friendly and there weren't serious complaints about our meal which was simple, basic stuff which we love.
It was sardine season, the Missus loves them, so ordering it was a no-brainer (10 Euros).
Which were simple and fine, though we'd have really great sardines - actually 8 really fresh sardines for 7 Euros a couple of days later.
The Octopus was quite good (17.5 Euros), though not quite up to, say Vasiliko in texture and prep. Still, it was tender and suited me well.
The rice, as with all previous meals just wasn't to our taste in terms of texture.
Overall, a decent meal at tourist prices. At least they do serve a decent product. The dining room is quaint and cozy and the folks here are really friendly.
Rua de S. Nicolau 9
After lunch the Missus was rarin' to go......no post lunch nap for me on this day. It would turn out to be a fun afternoon!