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Color, Charm, and a Few Fine Ports Along the Douro

Porto undoubtedly reminded me of the romance of travel— even when traveling solo.  Sure, I was only on my own for less than 24 hours, but brief as it was, the adventure of exploring a new city heightened my senses to the point where it was all I needed.  I crave the feeling of being so present in my surroundings— so aware of the the life around me, that as “alone” as I am, I barely realize it.

Porto in shades of green and blue

Porto in shades of green and blue

Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago

Hope to get to Fatima and do the Camino Portuguese one day.

Hope to get to Fatima and do the Camino Portuguese one day.

Shot of the church before my first mass in Portuguese.

Shot of the church before my first mass in Portuguese.

Sounds of the city

Sounds of the city

That first evening I searched like mad for Bacalao, the restaurant recommended by my Airbnb host.  Along the Ribeira, but slightly removed from the tourist congestion, I at last found it.  The server opened a bottle of Vinho Verde for me as I waited for a table outside to open up.  The half dozen tables,  all with a romantic sunset view of the Douro River were filled with couples. Wine in hand, I sat down confidently amongst them.

A sea of orange roofs

A sea of orange roofs

Perfect views

Perfect views

Solo dinner may not be on my list of favorite things, but as I discovered sitting down alone after my first Camino, at the famous Restaurante Botín in Madrid, they can be enjoyable.

On this late May evening in Portugal, without conversation to keep me company, I became absorbed in the crisp sweetness of my wine mixed with salty bites of flaky cod, and finished off with the creamy caramelized goodness of a pastel de nata, that put Lisbon’s most famous to shame.

Port

Port

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Behind me, the Luis I bridge reflected the last strokes of light and seagulls dropped in dramatic gestures, all as if I were caught in a snow globe.  The scene became increasingly more romantic when a violinist began entertaining the diners with passionate crescendos and decrescendos, seemingly in unison with the swooping birds overhead.

After dinner, feeling lighter, both myself and the bottle of white wine, I sauntered towards home stopping every so often to breathe in the scene.  My heart melted when I paused to watch a little girl joyfully letting loose to the sounds of a street band.

Just dance

Just dance

Night view

Night view

During the following days, joined by one of my Madrid amigas, Porto proved to live up to all its hype. We chased its charming colorful tiles along buildings and churches, and stood in awe of the historical scenes regally unfolded in blue and white upon the walls of the Sao Bento train station. There, travelers and tourists shuffled about, draped in the romantic light of the magic hour. Even my first Portuguese mass was enchanting with a man breaking in to a fado-like performance after communion that left me with chills.

Toasting at Mercado Balhao

Toasting at Mercado Balhao

Towels on sale at the market

Towels on sale at the market

Authentic snapshot of daily life at the market

Authentic snapshot of daily life at the market

So many details in Porto

So many details in Porto

Tiled delights

Tiled delights

Tiles for sale

Tiles for sale

Tiles and churches unite

Tiles and churches unite

The train station glows

The train station glows

The prettiest station there ever was

The prettiest station there ever was

We took a tram to Foz do Douro, the town where the Douro River meets the Atlantic and filled up on fresh fish amidst a strong ocean breeze.  Later, we mingled with the masses, all mindlessly snapping away at Livraria Lello, the unique bookstore where J.K. Rowling may have been inspired to write Harry Potter.

Tram to the sea

Tram to the sea

Meeting the Atlantic again

Meeting the Atlantic again

A brief moment without fellow tourists

A brief moment without fellow tourists

And most charming of all was our day spent on the Gaia side of the river, learning to appreciate fine reserve, tawny, and vintage ports at Graham’s Lodge.

Port tasting after the tour

Port tasting after the tour

Port tour and tasting

Port tour and tasting

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Before we crossed back over the mighty Ponte Luis I, we stood eating a bag of fresh cherries, admiring the radiant Portuguese treasure across the river— and I was reminded yet again why I travel.

The view from the Gaia side

The view from the Gaia side

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. lisamicheleshepard #

    Your pictures are stunning and your words make me feel like I was there with you. Thanks for another great post!

    July 4, 2015
  2. Great post about Porto!

    July 8, 2015

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