Day 10: Monday, September 18

Our First Full Day in Porto

We were up at 9:00AM this morning, showered and went down to the Eurostars Porto Centro’s dining room for breakfast – and what a breakfast! The hot and cold food variety was incredible and the breakfast room itself was lovely and huge, quite unlike the cramped little shoebox that was the dining room at My Story Charming Hotel Augusta in Lisbon.

After breakfast we set out for the day. We checked out the big public square and PORTO sign (it was a massive hit with Instagramers) at the Câmara Municipal do Porto (Porto City Hall). The Praça do Município (Municipal Park) is also part of the complex:

From the City Hall we wandered down the Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies). Avenida dos Aliados is generally regarded as Porto’s city centre and is, as such, a grandiose avenue. Flanked by ornate buildings in a range of architectural styles, from neoclassical to French Beaux-arts, this avenue was built to impress. As such it is home to some of the city’s most prestigious hotels along with a number of banks:

Along the way we stopped to get some souvenirs from a higher-end souvenir shop. The souvenir shops here were quality places selling good merchandise, much of it created locally.

“The Most Beautiful McDonalds in the World”

Over the years I’ve heard about the supposed most beautiful McDonalds in the world. Interestingly enough, it is in Porto. We passed the aforementioned McDonalds in our travels, and just had to take a look:

Opened in 1995, the restaurant is located in a renovated space previously occupied by Cafe Imperial, a famous coffee shop open in the city since the 1930s. The coffee shop was seen as a prime example of Art Deco architecture of the period and, thus, McDonalds retained most of the main architectural features when it took over the location.

I’m not sure why this woman was sitting on the patio of McDonalds with her bird every day as she did for most of our time in Porto, but she was a Falconer from the organization “Animal Experiences”

The Streets of Porto

Leaving the world’s most chic McDonalds, we resumed our directionless wandering in Porto, encountering some sights of the city:

Rua das Flores

We came upon a very lively pedestrian-only street called Rua das Flores. We returned there a couple more times before leaving Porto, as there was always something going on and it was an interesting street:

Bolsa Palace

Moving on, we visited the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace). The palace was built in the 19th century by the city’s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style. It is located in the Infante D. Henrique Square in the historical centre of Porto, and is a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Entrance to the building was a ticketed and timed event, so we passed on that and just took a few shots of the exterior:

Igreja Paroquial de São Nicolau (Parish Church of St. Nicholas)

We went into a small church called Igreja Paroquial de São Nicolau (Parish Church of St. Nicholas). Very charming:

Igreja de São Francisco (The Church of Saint Francis)

We also checked out what Vince and I came to call “the ugly church” during our Porto stay: Igreja de São Francisco (The Church of Saint Francis). We found it ugly as the church was completely overdone and obnoxious in its excess. There were no cameras allowed in this church so I couldn’t get a shot of my own (which was just as well) but here’s one I purloined from the Web:

Before going in the church we were allowed to photograph the exterior:

Museu da Ordem de São Francisco
(Order of St. Francis Museum)

Attached to the church is the Museu da Ordem de São Francisco (Order of St. Francis Museum). This one we were allowed to take pictures in, so of course I did:

Lunch Time!

It was lunch time at this point so we found a little eatery across the street from the churches called Pimm’s Café, located at Rua do Infante Dom Henrique 95. It was a comfortable, casual eatery in a historic part of Porto. Vince had a Frango (chicken) Burger and I opted for a Club Sandwich. The food was all pretty decent here but the server seemed quite stressed and was running around being quite curt with the customers.

More Porto Wandering

After our much-needed lunch we (intentionally) got lost in the streets and alleys of Porto and just wandered:

Sé Catedral do Porto (Porto Cathedral)

Sé Catedral do Porto (Porto Cathedral) was high on my must-see list, so we eventually ended up at this beautiful building. Porto Cathedral is also known as – wait for it – Santa Maria do Porto, de Nossa Senhora do Porto da Eterna Salvação or Nossa Senhora da Vandoma. Whew… I have to rest for a minute.

The Porto Cathedral was absolutely stunning.  It is one of the city’s oldest monuments and one of the most important local Romanesque monuments; it has been declared a National Monument. The construction of the Cathedral began during the 12th century, but it was rebuilt and renovated numerous times throughout the centuries. This explains why the Cathedral is a mix of architectural styles. The temple is predominantly Baroque in style, although its façade and the nave are Romanesque and its cloister and one of the chapels are Gothic in style.

São Bento Railway Station

Leaving the Porto Cathedral, we decided to check out the São Bento railway station. My specific interest at this station was to take a look at the beautiful Azulejos adorning the walls.

What Exactly Are Azulejos?

Azulejos (azoo-ley-ho) are a painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework, usually blue in colour, created by the Portuguese and Spanish. Azulejos are found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses, schools, restaurants, bars and even railways (like São Bento) or subway stations. Azulejos constitute a major aspect of Portuguese architecture and Spanish architecture and are fixtures of buildings across Portugal, Spain and their former territories. Many Azulejos chronicle major historical and cultural aspects of both Portuguese and Spanish history.

A Small Break

Vince was having trouble with the eSim in his phone, and we also needed a bit of a rest stop, so we returned to our hotel to take care of those things. Our room was being cleaned just as we returned, so we took advantage of the calm, quiet outdoor courtyard of our hotel and enjoyed some cool drinks. It was very peaceful there.

A Sunset & Meal on the Cais da Ribeira

We returned to our room after Housekeeping had finished cleaning, talked about our next move and, once that was decided, set out for the Cais da Ribeira (Douro riverside promenade) to take in the approaching sunset along with dinner. We had seen so many YouTube videos and Porto travel articles saying that a sunset view on the Douro River is a must, and were told one of the best places to see the sunset was from Cais da Ribeira.

Arriving on the Cais da Ribeira we took a long, slow walk along the riverfront, watching the people and observing the day’s colour slowly fading into the golden hour, then blue hour, then night:

Night falls on the Cais da Ribeira. This bridge is the Dom Luís I Bridge.

Dinner

With the sun mostly set it was time to eat (isn’t it always!?). After strolling the promenade looking at menus of the various restaurants we opted for a place called Fiume Douro (you’ll find Vince’s TripAdvisor review at the link below). We each ordered the Ravioli but when it arrived we started looking for the rest of it –  it was puny! There were only about five little squares of pasta and nothing else, and the price was exorbitant. What little there was, though, was absolutely delicious. Ah, there’s nothing like feeling hungry after an expensive meal out (this is to be read with sarcastic intonation, in case you missed that).

Review
If you’d like to read Vince’s TripAdvisor review of Fiume Douro, click here.

Day’s End

After watching the sunset and having our meal (aka the light snack) we walked back to our hotel at about 9:00PM. We were still so hungry from our earlier “meal” that we had to stop for munchies before reaching the hotel.

Reaching our room we rested for a while and caught up on some reading. It had been a good day out in Porto, and we were looking forward to several more to come. Off to bed at 9:45PM.

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