Episode 266 – Port and Fado in Porto

May 3, 2022. 65°F/18°C

#myvikingstory

I took the day off blogging yesterday, partly out of laziness, but also in recognition of the style to which I’ll return after the end of this cruise: blogging around once a week unless we’re really active. Once we’ve briefly reconnected with our family again, we’ll be back to “slow travelling” in Europe in July, staying in one place for anywhere from 2 weeks to a month or more, so I’ll be journalling regularly but less frequently. In the 3 and 1/2 years between July 2018 and December 2021, I wrote 175 blog posts; in the 130 days so far of this cruise adventure I’ve written 125 – that’s quite a different pace.

Today, despite being only a half day in port, was full of interesting places and activities. Our excursion was called “The Best of Porto: Fado, Vistas, and More”, which included architecture, history, a boat ride on the Duoro, food, drink, and music!

We were driven from the beautiful new cruise terminal in Leixões to Porto”s Ribiera district along the Douro River, where we boarded a boat to see the sights along both sides of the Douro.

All the white surfaces on the terminal are made up of highly polished hexagonal tiles.
We learned that the tiles on the exterior of homes and churches were more than just decorative. The tiles are important in keeping moisture out of the infrastructure.

The boat we boarded was the shape of a “barco rabelo”, the traditional boat specially designed to transport barrels of wine.

Not our boat, but a similar one also taking tourists along the Douro.

We cruised under 4 of the bridges that span the Douro, connecting Porto on one side to Gaia on the other. In many ways , the two cities operate as one entity, but they have separate mayors and councils who do not always have the same priorities.

The topmost bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, THAT Eiffel)
A few sights on the Porto side, including (centre left) chimneys from former tile factories and (centre right) Porto’s city hall.
A few sights on the Gaia side of the river, including the former Monastery of Serra do Pilar (centre and top left)

Our destination on the Gaia side of the river was Herança Magna, a port winery which has a beautiful reception hall in the old stone storage room where port barrels used to be aged.

We enjoyed tawny port, white and red table wines, and northern Portuguese style tapas: cod fritters, cod croquettes, sausage, cured ham, cheese, and smoked sardines in tomato sauce. I was the only one at our table of 8 who ate the sardines; they reminded me of my Dad, since he and I used to eat them (from a tin that had a key that was used to peel back the lid). His favourite ones came from Portugal.

We also enjoyed a terrific performance of fado, the traditional passionate and melancholy Portuguese folk music performed with Portuguese guitar, classical guitar, and usually just one singer. We were treated to two separate vocalists, the more mature of whom had a strong sweet alto that carried beautifully without any kind of amplification.

Rozès port wine. I might have to change the spelling of my name. The wine was so delicious that we bought a bottle to bring home.

We had one more stop on the excursion, the 12th century Romanesque Porto Cathedral, locally known as Sé Cathedral. If we ever get to the point of thinking “ho hum, another cathedral”, we’ll have to remember this one. While much of the exterior looked like other cathedrals we’ve visited, this one had one big difference: the blue and white Portuguese tiles decorating portions of the façade and many of the cloister walls. The cathedral itself, while begun in the 12th century, underwent renovations and additions with each subsequent bishop assigned to the area. The tiles are 18th century. If they look like Dutch Delft tiles, that’s because the Portuguese were trading extensively with the Dutch during that time, and learning their ceramic techniques. Once cobalt was discovered in Portugal, artisans were able to reproduce the Delft colours.

While there was lots of ornate gold and silver inside the cathedral, it is the blue and white tiles found throughout that made this cathedral unique in our experience so far.

We returned to the ship just in time to very quickly change clothes and join the birthday dinner of one of our fellow passengers and blog readers. As we wind down to the last week of our cruise, folks are trying to ensure that they get together with new friends to share milestones and meals before we all head our separate ways. Ted and I feel very fortunate to be included in so many circles.

5 comments

  1. Thank you for all your blogs, I’ve appreciated them, and it was good to ‘pretend I was there’ during the colder UK Winter months

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your blog and look forward to your future adventures. Yesterday’s cathedral was just another dusty church. Have you seen the Gaudi church in Barcelona? Now that is a masterpiece. (Just teasing but I do love it)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny that you were in Portugal today. Rick and I have just signed on to spend a couple of months there next winter! It’s been on our bucket list for a while. Thanks for giving us a taste!

    Like

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