Porto: River Cruise, Church and Ramble

View from my hotel room
View from my hotel room

Today was a slow day in Porto.

Wait. I need to clarify.

I don’t know if it was slow for all of Porto. No doubt, some people here were fast and busy today, notwithstanding it being a Sunday. I apologize if those people felt that I disparaged them by unintentionally suggesting they were slow. And there is a derogatory meaning of the word “slow” in the context of people that I did not intend to apply to anyone at all. Not at all. I swear it. So, I again apologized if that’s how you read it.

Even using the not-the-least-bit-insulting meaning of “slow” I intended, I can speak only for my brother and me. And, come to think of it, I didn’t ask my brother if he thought today was a slow day. “Slow” is a subjective term. Maybe he thought otherwise. So, I guess I can speak only for myself.

Not that slow is necessarily bad, you understand. In fact, one needs a few slow days—say, nine out of ten—to relax and fully enjoy life. Or so I’ve been told. I’m not at all an expert on relaxing and fully enjoying life. Quite the opposite, in fact.

All this is my roundabout way of saying that I expect this will turn out to be a rather short post and I want to pad it. Mission accomplished. We can move on now.

For me and my brother (again, not speaking for anyone else in Porto, or anywhere else for that matter), today included a short Douro River cruise, a visit to a church, and some rambling. Other than that, there’s not much to report. For this and other reasons (see below) there aren’t a lot of pictures on this page.

Douro River Cruise

View of Porto from the boat while docked
View of Porto from the boat while docked

The hop-on, hop-off tour we took yesterday included a “Six Bridges Cruise” on the Douro River. The tour ticket was valid for 48 hours. We took the cruise today.

(If you’re ever in Porto and want to take a Six Bridges cruise, but don’t want to take a hop-on, hop-off tour, head to the Ribeira district of Porto’s riverfront. A few companies hawk their Six Bridges cruises there.)

The river cruise lasted about 50 minutes. Does anyone want to guess how many bridges the it traveled under? Anyone? Anyone? No one?

View of Porto from the boat while on the river
View of Porto from the boat while on the river

I’ll give you a hint. The cruise journeyed up the river for a piece under five bridges. It then turned around and went downriver under the same five bridges, past the starting point, and under another bridge before turning back to return to the dock. Five plus one equals, what? Those of you who couldn’t come up with the number six definitely need some remedial arithmetic, not to mention reading retention practice.

Each of the bridges is of a different style. One of them was a railway bridge, but it’s not in use now as one of the other five bridges replaced it. They left the old railway bridge up. I assume that’s because its a quaintly attractive metal bridge. That, and a fellow named Gustave Eiffel was contracted to build it. You might have heard of Monsieur Eiffel. He also got a contract to build a rather famous tower in Paris.

I didn’t take many photos from the boat because the seat I was in didn’t allow for many good shots. However, I did take a couple of pictures of Porto from the boat. They are on this page.

São Francisco Church

A Porto street with a tram line, close to the riverfront
A Porto street with a tram line, close to the riverfront

After lunch, which we ate after the river cruise, my brother and I went into São Francisco Church. This old church is smallish, but did its best to cram as much decoration into the small space as possible. Ornately carved wood covered most of the walls.

The altar might have been beautiful. Or maybe not. When we visited, scaffolding replaced the altar as that part of the church was undergoing restoration.

I would post some pictures of the interior church here if I could. But I can’t. As we entered, the ticket inspector told us, “no photos!” This was without us showing any hint of intending to take photos. I don’t have a camera apart from the ones in my phone. And my phone sat in my pocket at that point. And my brother almost never takes photos. But, the guy at the entry nevertheless peremptorily told us not to take photos.

Why is that? Did the church not want the rest of the world to see the scaffolding? Is god ashamed of his São Francisco church? I don’t get it.

Of course, I would have otherwise taken photos and posted them here. So maybe the guy at the entrance read that in my face. But I’m an obedient Canadian. So, sorry, no photos.

A view from a vantage point
A view from a vantage point

Beside the church, and included in the admission price, is a small museum and catacombs. The museum contained, not surprisingly, religious artifacts. To my mind, none were exciting. Then again, I don’t have a mind that tends to get excited by religious artifacts.

The catacombs weren’t what I expected. When I think of catacombs I think of long, earthen, roughly hewn, tunnels lined with tiered graves, many of them open. I can’t remember where I saw catacombs like that many, many years ago. It might have been near Rome. But, ever since, that’s the image the word “catacomb” triggers in my mind whenever I hear it.

A lively pedestrianized street in Porto
A lively pedestrianized street in Porto

The catacombs in the São Francisco Church aren’t that. They are a few clean basement rooms. The catacombs’ tombs are mostly in the walls, but they are covered with some sort of whitewashed material and clearly labeled with the name and date of death of the occupants.

There are also people buried under the floors. In those cases, the grave coverings were again clean. However I didn’t see any names on the in-floor tombs, just numbers.


In addition to taking the cruise and visiting the church, I also did some rambling around Porto, both with my brother and on my own. My conclusion is that I like Porto a lot. It has attractive streets and buildings, both large and small. The streets include a number of lively, fully pedestrianized roads. And, being a very hilly city, Porto also has a number of vantage points with great views.

P.S.: To partially make up for the shortage of pictures today, I took a photo from one of the windows in my hotel room. It’s at the top of this post.


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