October 22, 23, 2022
We added to our transportation venues by taking a bus from Santiago de Compostela, Spain, to Porto, Portugal. It was really our only travel option and it was comfortable and safe as we rode through the forested hills in sometimes heavy rain. Upon arrival at our awesome Porto apartment in a palace built in the late 1600’s, we set out to explore the city. Directly across the square from our apartment was the Santa Clara church. We were not prepared for the beauty we were about to experience. Really, the complete gold baroque interior took our breath away. Awesome to the max! Fortunately, the docent inside spoke English and told us that the church was in complete ruins after years of neglect; however, corporations and various organizations banded together to completely restore it to its former glory. He was one of the rebuilders/restorers himself and glowed with pride as he spoke of the precious history of the church.
We walked a short distance to a pedestrian area filled with shops and restaurants and picked a restaurant already packed with people. It was a delicious choice! We ordered a Porto specialty—Francesinha—Portuguese bread stuffed with beef, sausage, mortadella and goat cheese and covered with a mozzarella shell with a fried egg on top and covered with a beer sauce all heated on a grill. That’s a mouth full, right? We enjoyed the “sandwich.” With fries, of course!
The next morning, after the rain had subsided, we headed out to the nearby famous bridge over the river Douro, designed by Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. Unfortunately, as we approached the bridge, the rain returned in spades! Here we were, on the top of a multi-tiered bridge, hundreds of feet in the air in a driving rain. My plastic rain tunic ripped in the blasts of wind that propelled the rain sideways. There was no way to stay dry and no place to find refuge. I started to laugh, because as soon as I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did! Melisa was behind me and said she could only watch my feet as she could look no where else but down. Once safely on the other side in a building housing the sky tram, Randy, Melisa, Kathy and I looked at each other in disbelief. We waited for the rain to pass to head back to the apartment to change clothes, take showers and reassess our plans for the day. As we approached the bridge we realized that the streets were flooded and all the transportation had come to a halt. So we waited some more for the flooding to recede. By early afternoon the sun was out and the weather was pleasantly refreshing. We ordered a cab to take us to the Taylor bodega on the other side of the river. Port wine takes its name from Porto and port vineyards line the Douro River outside the city. Taylor is the oldest of the port wineries. We really enjoyed the tour past multitudes of vats and barrels (one holding 140,000 bottles of wine) and relished the port tasting at the end. From there we walked down to the riverside and to the sky tram that transported us back up the hill to the bridge. This time we enjoyed the views from the long bridge on this beautiful afternoon. Once across the bridge we walked to the old train station, noted for its Portuguese tile interior, depicting historic scenes from Portugal’s past. From there we walked to the funicular that took us down to the riverside where there are many pastel-colored buildings lining the river, with historic port wine boats bobbing in the water. We ate in a wonderful restaurant specializing in Portuguese fare. We drank more port wine! We took the funicular back up the hill and got out right by our apartment. Porto is quite hilly, but with a funicular, a street elevator, and a sky tram, you don’t necessarily have to walk up many hills. We were very blessed in that our apartment was in the center of it all and a few minutes walk got us to most of the sites.