Porto: Out and about

A charming Porto street
A charming Porto street

We arrived in Porto after a somewhat more than three-hour train ride from Lisbon. By the time we checked into our hotel it was too late for lunch.

Ha. Ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha. Good one. Sometimes I crack myself up.

You didn’t honestly believe that, did you?

Yeah, it was late for lunch. But, too late? Miss a meal? Really? Get serious. It’s not like missing something minor, like, say, heart surgery. We’re talking about lunch. Of course we had lunch.

The point is, we didn’t have a lot of time to wander around Porto today. But we did do a couple of short, self-guided walks: An upper central city walk and a lower central city walk.

Hilly Porto

Porto city hall
Porto city hall

But, wait. A story before the walks.

Porto has at least two train stations: The station our intercity train left us at and a train station in the centre of the city, close to our hotel.

We didn’t know it until I went to the ticket office in the first train station and asked to buy tickets to the other station, but the frequent train between the two stations, about a five-minute journey, is free if you arrived on an intercity train. Free! Bonus!

Needless to say, we took that train.

According to the map, the inner city train station is only a few short blocks from our hotel. The map didn’t lie. However, it also didn’t provide topographical information.

Following the directions of our mapping apps, we turned the corner around the train station and, a short distance ahead of us, we saw a very long, very steep set of stairs leading up to where our hotel was. Faced with the prospect of lugging our bags up those stairs, I turned to my brother and suggested that we go back to the front of the train station and get a cab. He quickly concurred.

One thing I learned from walking around today is, Porto is very hilly.

Upper City Walk

Two, two, two churches (almost) in one
Two, two, two churches (almost) in one

The first sight on the upper city walk was a large public square that allegedly is quite grand when half of it isn’t torn up for metro line construction. Guess what its condition was when we were there. I’ll give you three guesses. If you need more than one you should spend some time working on your reading comprehension and powers of inference. In fact, you should spend considerable time working on them.

Porto’s city hall sits at one end of the square, the end that wasn’t torn up. It is, indeed, grand and imposing.

The upper city walking tour also took as along some charming streets and by some nice squares. We also saw two churches that looked like a single church. Decorated blue and white tiles cover the walls of one of the churches.

Between the two, and adjoining each, sits what locals apparently like to call the world’s narrowest house. I can’t verify that it is in fact the world’s narrowest. City boosters like to say stuff. Nevertheless, it is quite narrow. It’s almost as narrow as condo developers make units in Toronto these days. But that’s another story.

Clérigos Church and Tower

Clérigos Church
Clérigos Church

The upper city walk also took us to the Clérigos Church and Tower. Entry to the the church is free, but they charge admission to climb the tower. I love me a good tower with views. So we went into both.

The church is nice, but not spectacular.

The tower, on the other hand, is closer to spectacular if you enjoy good views of cities. I enjoy good views of cities.

Clérigos Tower
Clérigos Tower

Going to the top of the tower requires climbing 225 steps. On the way up, small rooms on each level contain religious art and artifacts. It is, after all, attached to a church. What would you expect them to display? Hoola hoop art and artifacts?

Above those rooms were two observation decks, one on top of the other, that provide terrific views of Porto, the river, and over to the other side of the river.

Clérigos Tower
A view from atop Clérigos Tower
Another view from Clérigos Tower
Another view from Clérigos Tower

Lower Walk

Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores

The lower city walk took us, among other places, along Rua das Flores, a very lively, fully pedestrianized street. I love those sorts of streets. That street led us to the Ribeira, Porto’s waterfront along the Douro River. That too was very lively. Too lively. Jam-packed, in fact.

Across the river sits Vila Nova de Gaia, the port lodge district. “Port” as in “port wine,” that is. Not “port” as in a place where ships dock. Aging of port wine happens there. We didn’t go to Vila Nova de Gaia today, but we probably will on this trip.

The Douro River waterfront, looking across to Vila Nova de Gaia
Porto’s Douro River waterfront, looking across to Vila Nova de Gaia

By then, it was time to take the funicular that travels a fair piece of the way up the high hill to our hotel to have a drink before dinner. That is to say, the funicular travels up that hill when it isn’t closed for maintenance. Want to take any guesses as to what its condition was today? I’ll give you a hint: We climbed up a long staircase leading up to the section of the city that contains our hotel.

Dinner is now done, and I’m writing this, tired but satisfied. And a wee bit drunk.

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