BlogPorto: Down by the riverside


John Cooney




On a lazy Monday morning in Portugal, we headed north to Porto, the country’s second-largest city (although its citizens claim it is second-to-none). We’d been warned that this old town with its golden rooftops is preferred for long seafood dinners, slow strolls through sleepy streets, plus white-port-and-tonic as the sun sets across the Douro River. And we promptly fell in love with the place: unpacking in the perfectly-located, beautifully restored Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel – then sitting down in a local eatery for another Portuguese feast.

Mmmm – obrigado! (Thank you!)

Tuesday began with a two-hour guided meander through Porto – from the Praca de Liberade (Liberty Square) in the city-centre to the alluring Ribeira District, where colourful old houses overlook colourful old fishing boats, crumbling alleyways, the fabulous Sao Francisco Gothic church, port-wine houses and photogenic bridges. Come the afternoon, we found ourselves at a famous winery, Porto Calem, for a tour of the cellars plus a tasting of the famous local port (tawny and other tasty blends).

We enjoyed a break from busy sightseeing on Wednesday, taking instead to Portugal’s famous waterway for a full-day cruise along the Douro River Valley. They’ve been making wine here for 2000 years in what is now the UNESCO-recognised Alto Douro Region … and, I tell ya, sailing slowly past terraces, farmlets, bridges, dams and a scenic landscape that’s been shaped by human endeavour over the centuries was ooh-la-la lovely!

John Cooney 
Group Leader