Chapter Eighteen: Seeing Red & Taking In More Of Porto’s SightsApril 2, 2023
Epilogue: Final Thoughts About PortugalApril 29, 2023
Chapter Nineteen: O Sé Can You See & Farewell Portugal
Day Twenty-One: Up On The Hill, Porto’s Cathedral, Nap Time, Strolling Through Porto, Exceptional Views, Like “Little Cat Feet,” Train Coming Through, Anthony’s Azulejos, Ginjinha Treats and Buon Appetito
Our final full day in Porto and once again we were greeted with a beautiful morning. Our first stop would be the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral). Just outside the cathedral we passed the statue of a 9th century nobleman and the first Count of Portugal, Vímara Peres.
The 12th-century Sé has had many additions since it was first constructed.
Azulejos, we need more azulejos. We entered the Baroque cloisters, which were added in the 14th century. The azulejos depict scenes from the Song of Solomon. Not being biblical scholars, we didn’t know what that entailed.
You’d think after three weeks one might tire of seeing these tiles, but not me. However, I can’t speak for the others in my party.
After catching a glimpse of the courtyard …
A “steep and irregular staircase” with a sign that cautioned seniors to be careful lead to the Torre. Not wanting to end our trip with tragedy, the others climbed, while I stayed behind. Tracy captured many views from the top while I relaxed.
The orange rooftops and the River Douro beckoned on this sunny morning.
Back on the terrace, it looks like I had relaxed a little too much, and my beloved wife took a photo of the slacker who stayed behind. She said, “Well, now that you are finally relaxed, it’s almost time to go home.”
I need to start this relaxing thing earlier on trips.
I immediately ran into my good friend, Michael, who is kept busy on our travels saving me from one accident or another.
Michael can also be seen in the center of the ceiling paintings in this room.
We ventured inside the Cathedral with its huge granite columns.
We wandered through cathedral and some of the chapels.
Below is a famous bronze bas-relief of Christ being baptized by St. John The Baptist.
Virtually adjacent to the Cathedral is the Paço Episcopal do Porto, which is the Bishop’s Palace. This had not been on my radar. The palace was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries and enlarged four centuries later. The gigantic granite staircase is an impressive sight upon entering.
There is the Green Room …
… The Yellow Room (which might be The Coat of Arms Room) …
Finally, we hit the dining room, which once again reminded us it was time to eat.
Tracy and I decided to wander the alleys and streets of Porto in search of lunch.
It was a great day to walk through Porto. We looked inside shops …
… and enjoyed a little more street art.
Passing the newly renovated market, we hit the shopping street of Rua Santa Catarina.
All this walking meant we could once again throw caloric caution to the wind as we stopped in Il Pizzaiolo Coliseu (Rua de Passos Manuel) which, as the name suggest specializes, in pizza.
Pizza and vino make for one happy boy. Plus, they had a terrific playlist keeping my Shazam busy during the meal.
After lunch, we took an Uber to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar on the other side of River Douro. Where did the time go? Somehow it was already 3:30. We decided to skip it and take in the incredible views back towards Porto.
There was a fog bank that reminded us of a poem that had something to do with fog coming in on little cat feet. I was trying to remember the poet, but it would not come to me. Having a little bit of OCD, it was driving me crazy, but I wasn’t going to Google it (as least not right this minute).
We decided to walk across the upper level of Dom Luís I Bridge back toward Porto.
The Ribeira was hopping on a Friday afternoon.
There are a couple of ways to go up in Porto.
On the way back to the hotel we finally ducked in the nearby Igreja do Congregados, a church dedicated to St. Anthony, which took us back to the first church we visited in Lisbon. Church bookends.
We got a call from Kim and Mary who were at what is called “the most beautiful McDonald’s in the World.” McDonald’s Imperial (127 Praça da Liberdade) is housed in a building that once belonged to a famous coffee shop (Café Imperial). It has kept much of its art deco interior and also the large eagle that was the Old Imperial’s symbol.
Before returning to the hotel we purchased some Ginjinha (complete with chocolate cups) and a little port that we would serve at our Thanksgiving feast.
While we enjoyed wine with Kim and Mary, I related my frustration being unable to recall the poet who had written that “little cat feet” line. Our guesses ranged from Robert Frost to Walt Whitman to Jack London. We then Googled and realized why we had not done well in English Lit class. Fog by Carl Sandburg was the answer.
We arrived at A Despensa (Rua Conde de Vizela 141) a little before opening.
I asked Tracy if I could duck into the Gentlemen’s Club, which was probably not a good idea. Meanwhile, this out-of -this-world character looked on.
The restaurant garners good reviews, and once again we had a really good meal. I have no idea how I could be this hungry after devouring some pizza just a few short hours ago.
Tracy more than enjoyed a Penne Tartufo e Olive; pasta with a mix of black truffle and black olives, cream, Grana Padano cheese and black truffle shavings. All the pasta dishes were great.
The owner stopped at our table with a house-made limoncello and Prosecco cocktail. He even shared the recipe, 1 untreated lemon, 100 grams sugar, 100 grams Everclear which he described as “rubbing alcohol for babies.” Combine and let rest for 3 to 6 weeks (therein lies the rub).
Wandering back to the hotel after dinner we all commented on what a great city Porto is and ALL it has to offer.
I wouldn’t have minded staying, but our corgi was texting us it was time to come hone. We’d hit the sack, because tomorrow we’d take the train back to Lisbon (a bit of poor planning on my part, since I should have just booked an open jaw ticket), a trip that for awhile felt like we were on a roller coaster.
Day Twenty-Two: The Giant Pastry and Crazy Train To Lisbon
We had an early afternoon train, so in the morning we just wandered for a bit, stopping in that colorful store we had seen the prior day. After two Italian meals in one day I tried to suck my stomach in … to no avail.
Wine, cheese and ham were the order of the day, but I had sweeter things on my mind.
Although we had already had some pastries at In Porto Gallery Guesthouse, for some reason these caught my eye at a nearby bakery. Once again, I have no idea why I didn’t gain 20 pounds on this trip.
We wandered back up for one last look at Rua Santa Catarina, where a group of guys were singing and playing instruments while two other guys pretended to be a bullfighter and a bull. Meanwhile, for some reason, a car appeared, and by the looks of that situation he still may be there, unless, of course, he took the bull by his horns.
The train from Porto to Lisbon was pretty uneventful except for one stretch where the train rocked back and forth so much we felt like we were being tossed like a tiny ship at sea. Tracy looked a tad green, which had Mary looking through her medical supplies for some dramamine while I was looking for the Skipper and Gilligan on our three-hour tour.
Day Twenty-Three: Tracy’s Airport Adventure, Smoking Pods and Adeus Portugal
As we had an early flight out the following morning, we opted to stay at an airport hotel. Nothing to write home about, but it had a restaurant and was quiet. Plus, it had an airport shuttle every 15 minutes. We lined up in the early morning darkness to wait for the shuttle only to realize on the way that all we had to do was walk across the street.
The Lisbon airport has a small selection of dining options after the duty free area. If you want to grab something to eat, do it here as there are only vending machines after you pass through passport control to the gates.
Speaking of passport control, for some unknown reason Tracy was unable to obtain her boarding pass either online or at the airport kiosk (yet another reason why we arrive early). After obtaining her boarding pass at the ticket desk, Tracy noticed that her boarding pass did not have pre-check on it like mine but instead had a big SSSS on it. She asked the ticket agent what that meant and if he could add her Global Entry number to the ticket so she could also have pre-check. The guy said not to worry and wished us safe travels. Tracy was more than a little chapped as this happens to her quite a bit, but never to me or Kim or Mary. Sure enough, at the second passport check point at the gate, Tracy was pulled out for “Secondary Security Screening Selection” (aka “SSSS”)
While the three of us looked on in amusement, Tracy and her carryon bag were swabbed by armed guards and her name and passport number were carefully marked on a list. (Read here to find out how Tracy recently obtained a redress number and … hopefully … has been removed from any lists causing additional screening.)
While Tracy was being interrogated as an international scoundrel, I happened to look over at something I had never seen. Anyone who wanted to smoke had to go inside the Smoke-A-Tron Cone Of Shame (not its actual name).
Then it was smooth flying back to San Francisco. Our 23 wonderful days in Portugal had ended. Adeus Portugal. Saúde!