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5 very wet days in Porto.

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It was raining when the plane landed in Porto on Sunday night and it would rain for most of the week.

Hotel was Grande Hotel de Paris very centrally located. It must have been the best hotel in Porto at the turn of the century (the 19th!) but it is a bit faded now. Room was very clean, halls were filled with antique furniture, paintings, tapestries, excellent breakfast served in a lovely dining room, inside garden with orange and lemon trees.
Off season unbeatable price of €40 a night which did not quite make you forgive and forget the dim light bulbs in the room.

On Monday morning it did not rain and I did the usual touristy things : one-hour cruise on the Douro, hop on and off bus, Bolhao market place, station Sao Bento with its azulejos (BTW there is a very nice shop selling embroidered linen inside the station) and the compulsory visit of a cellar which I found very disappointing - but then I live in a wine-growing area where they would not dream of making you pay €3 for a visit....
(note : they don't charge you if you purchase wine)
Had the worst lunch of my stay in one of the restaurants along the Douro.


On Tuesday I took a train to Braga (1 h 15 mn). By the time I got there, the sky had turned dark gray and it was pouring. The wind was blowing very strongly. When I reached the center of the town, I was drenched. Braga must be lovely under the sun :-)
Visited Casa de los Biscaihos, an old mansion richly decorated. Most interesting. Missed the garden which was one giant mud puddle. Went to the Cathedral and hurried back to the station in the vain hope of drying myself during the ride back home.

Wednesday was Guimaraes day and no, it did not rain. Tip : took a taxi from the station to the Castle (both on a different hill), duly visited it and walked down through the medieval part of the town. Visited the Sampaio museum (religious art)
Taxi was €3.35 and well worth it.

I had planned to go to Pinhao on Thursday but the weather was so bad there was not much point in going. So I stayed in Porto for the two remaining days. There was still so much to see :-)

I won't get into a description of all the places I visited, details are available in any good guide book. Just want to share a few tips.

Don't miss :

- the Lello and Irmao bookstore on Rua Carmelitas, 144 for its amazing staircase.

- McDonald's on avenida de los Aliados. Not for the food but for its beautiful Art Déco glass panels. However they have their own pastry shop (and Portuguese pastries are yummy)

- Tram 1 which runs from San Francisco to Foz and back along the river waterfront.

- sitting in one of Porto Belle Epoque cafés : the Majestic, The Guarany, Café Vianna in Braga, the Millenia in Guimaraes or in one of the many pastry shops.

- Ghoulish : the strange underground cimetary of San Francisco.

- Porto is very hilly. If you are down by the riverside take the Funicular to get back to the center.
It runs from Luis 1 bridge to Bathala, costs 0.85 € with the Andante card and saves you a lot of energy. You then have the pleasure to walk DOWN to the Catheral (tourist office nearby)

Food : I payed from €5 to €18 for meals in restaurants. €18 was for the worst meal in Ribeira and €5 in a restaurant in Cantareina (tram 1 terminal). Try codfish, it comes in many different ways and is always delicious. The best I had was in Guimaraes, restaurant Il Rei.
Portions are usually enormous, don't hesitate to ask for "meia dosa" (half portion).
Beware : in some restaurants, they'll bring a few amuse-bouche before you have even ordered. These are not free and can add up very quickly. Just refuse them.

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