I was quite tired this morning, so we intentionally slept in a little. We got up at about 10:00AM, showered and went down to the hotel’s dining room for breakfast. At this hotel they serve breakfast until 11:00AM for us late risers on vacation, which I think is very sensible of them. 🙂
A Good Day for a Tuk Tuk Tour
Today we decided we would like to take a Tuk Tuk tour of Porto, so after breakfast we set out looking for the Tuk Tuks. We figured if the Tuk Tuk scene in Porto was anything like the one in Lisbon, then logically the Tuk Tuks should gather in one concentrated area.
Since arriving in Portugal, I have really come to love this way of touring around – it’s energizing, engaging and interactive, especially if you have a great guide/driver. If you’re still in the dark about Tuk Tuks and wondering what they are, please see my post Day 6: Thursday, September 14, where I describe in depth this Portuguese phenomenon.
Google Maps had directed us to where the Tuk Tuks usually gather, but that spot was no longer in service as the area was under construction. During our visit the core of Porto was in absolute construction chaos, traffic jams and detours (much like Toronto on any given day), as the city was building a new Metro (subway) line.
Tuk Tuks are not quite as prolific in Porto as they were in Lisbon, so it took us a while to find their new gathering point – we finally found a group of them clustered outside the Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Church). In English, the literal translation of this name is Church of the Clergymen:
An Afternoon Tuk Tuk Adventure
We were approached by a friendly fellow named Paolo, who explained the different tours and pricing structure his Tuk Tuk company – Porto Tuk Tours – offered (to see tour descriptions offered by Porto Tuk Tours, click here). We agreed on a combination tour package of the Old and the New Porto, including Vila Nova de Gaia and the Foz do Douro (the oceanside/beach area of Porto). Then, we were off!
As we travelled around Porto, Paolo told us a little more about his Tuk Tuk company and how he came to work for Porto Tuk Tours. Paolo was a registered and certified tour guide, and this showed in his presentation and depth of Porto knowledge – he was an absolutely awesome guide.
A Few Highlights From the Day’s Tour
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens)
The name refers to a structure that once stood here. It was built in 1865 by the English architect Thomas Dillen Jones, who used London’s Crystal Palace as a model. The site was constructed for Porto’s 1865 International Exposition. The place where the beautiful building used to be, was replaced by this “spaceship” looking building. Known as the “Pavilhão Rosa Mota”, and more recently as the Super Bock Arena. This structure is used to host concerts, shows and different fairs held in the city.
A Few Good Lookout Points
Travelling Through Old Porto
The Foz do Douro district of Porto sits at the mouth of the Douro River. It is one of the most affluent districts of Porto, encompassing the northwestern banks of the Douro River and the Atlantic coastline of Porto. The Foz is known for its sandy beaches, affluent residents, pounding surf, rolling waves, eclectic restaurants and boutiques.
The São Francisco Xavier Fort, also known as the Cheese Castle, is located in the parish of Nevogilde in the municipality and district of Porto. It sits on the Atlantic Ocean, close to the mouth of the Douro River. The fort was built in the mid-17th century during the War of Restoration of Portuguese independence, using the design of French military engineer Miguel de l’Ècole and directed by Fernando César de Carvalhais Negreiros. Its exact construction date is uncertain, but it is believed to have been built around 1661 or 1662 as a small maritime fortification to protect the coast from the Galician fleet.
The Atlantic Ocean
Paolo gave us a fantastic three hour tour, then returned us where we started, at the Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos. We paid Paolo for the tour and said our goodbyes – the total cost for the three-hour tour was €200 in all (the base cost was €180 because we had to pay for a minimum of three people), plus a €20 tip. So worth it in every regard.
It was 3:15 at this point and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so we sought out a restaurant somewhere near our current location at the Clérigos Church. We settled on a charming little café called Café Portas do Olival, located at Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 126:
As we discovered during lunch the café is quite significant to the history of Porto – it is the city’s oldest café still in operation. It was already in operation in 1853, in the same place where it currently operates: in the middle of the Fernandina Wall, very close to the old port of Olival, one of the most important entrances of the city of Porto in medieval times.
For our lunch we each ordered a Bifana with fries on the side. I had a Coke Zero and Vince ordered a small beer. This was a great choice for lunch: the food was absolutely delicious and the vibe was casual and relaxed.
Jardim da Cordoaria
(known as Jardim da Cordoaria, Rope-Makers Garden)
After lunch we went into an interesting park opposite the restaurant: Jardim da Cordoaria (known as Jardim da Cordoaria (Rope-Makers Garden). This was a huge park containing a Parque Infantil Cordoaria (playground) for children, and most notably, huge trees with extremely dense trunks. Our guide Paolo from our earlier Tuk Tuk tour had told us these were ancient trees, dating back centuries:
Also prominent in this garden were four sculptures by Madrid sculptor Juan Muñoz. In total there were thirteen human figures in the four sculptures, which were entitled Treze a Rir Uns dos Outros (English: Thirteen People Laughing At One Another). The works were installed in 2001. I must honestly say that I really didn’t like these figures; I found them creepy and unnerving, but everyone’s mileage will vary:
The Cordoaria Garden was founded in 1865 by Viscount de Vilar d’Allen. It was created according to the design of Emilio David. The garden was significantly redesigned in 2001 due to damage suffered from a weather-related event.
A Video Diversion: Porto’s University Students
Leaving the Jardim da Cordoaria we encountered – yet again – hordes of University students. It was frosh week in both Lisbon and Porto, so almost everywhere we went in those two cities we were greeted by caped University students singing, dancing, moving in troupes and generally causing peaceful mayhem. Cutting across the University campus in Porto, we encountered the students doing the weird thing captured in my video below. If anyone reading this is Portuguese and/or knows exactly what this weird game is they’re playing, please let me know as I’d love to finally understand it!
Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)
Igreja dos Carmelitas (Carmelitas Church)
After resting a bit in the Gardens we went into the Igreja dos Carmelitas (Carmelitas Church) but didn’t go into the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church) next door. These are actually two separate churches – the Carmelitas Church was designated for the nuns, and the Carmo Church was for the monks. The Carmo Church had an admission fee so we decided to skip that one. In the shot above the Carmo Church is on the right and the Carmelitas Church is on the left.
Together, the Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church) and the Igreja dos Carmelitas (Carmelitas Church) look like one huge church, but they are not. The two churches are separated by one of the world’s narrowest houses; a one-metre wide house divides the two churches. The little house between the two churches was built to make all contact between the nuns and the monks impossible. The little house in the middle was inhabited up until the 1980’s. Apparently, to reach this little house one has to climb three floors and go over the dome of the Carmelite Church.
Igreja dos Carmelitas (Carmelitas Church)
The Carmelitas Church was part of a convent in the 17th century. The building has a classical façade with a single a bell tower and a rich gilded interior. The church was used as barracks during the French Invasion of Porto (1808-1814):
Time For A Short Break
As we left the Carmelitas Church we both were beginning to flag a bit so we decided on a rest/beverage stop. We found a very inviting looking pastry shop opposite the Churches, so we had a pastry and a Coke Zero at a pastry shop called Confeitaria Primar located on Rua do Carmo, 3-5 – it was awesome!
Back To Home Base
At this point it was about 5:15 so we decided to wend our way back to the hotel via streets we’d not yet seen; there are so many pedestrian streets to explore in Porto:
We zig-zagged our way back to the hotel, reaching there at about 6:30 PM.
In Search of Dinner
After our rest break at the hotel we went out for dinner before it got any later in the day. Our feet were a little sore at this point so, ideally, we wanted to find a restaurant in fairly close proximity to our hotel. We settled on a second visit to A Brasileira; it was directly beside our hotel and our meal there the first day in Porto had been incredible.
Upon arrival at the restaurant we were seated by a Host, then waited for the menu and a waiter to appear… and waited… and waited… and waited… and waited… the mountains started to crumble and the earth started to cool, but still no waiter or menu would appear. Over the span of our long wait time (over half an hour), two other tables of four people left as well as a couple of single diners. We followed suit and and found the door.
We walked around in search of a suitable restaurant, settling on something simple and very close to the hotel – a Doner Kebab place called Estambul Doner Kebab and Pizza. We each had a Doner Kebab with a Coke Zero. Delicious, huge and dirt cheap.
We returned to the hotel about 8:45PM. Earlier in the day we had bought some pastries from the amazing deli down the street called Bella Roma, located at Rua de Sampaio Bruno 19. Bella Roma was an enormous two-level shop with an extensive selection offering traditional Portuguese cuisine and pastries. We couldn’t eat those pastries earlier in the day as we were quite full, so we put them in the hotel’s fridge. This evening we were ready for those pastries so we tucked in! Delicious.
We caught up on some reading and journalling, then were off to bed at 10:00PM. It had been another great day in Porto. 🙂