View from our patio in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the Douro River from Porto. Some days we were tempted to just stay at home and enjoy the beauty. We had lovely evenings for cocktails al fresco before walking to one of the many neighborhood restaurants for a late dinner. It was also an easy walk down to the port wine lodges along the water.

But first: a disclaimer: Two weeks in this part of the world resulted in almost 250 photos to sort through and choose from. I figured if I kept the text relatively short and the number of photos at around 60 it would take a person with an average reading speed and a quick mouse finger under 10 minutes to make it through this post. (And where are all those middle schoolers who ask when they are going to use math skills?) I am hoping that attention spans will accommodate… Timer starts NOW!

The Ponte Dom Luís I. Bridge, designed by German architect, Téophile Seyrig, a student of French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), Originally meant for road traffic, now the upper span carries line D of the Metro along with a pedestrian walkway while the lower span has road traffic and walkway.

Looking back toward our rental – within the cluster of apartments just behind the G on the Graham’s Port Lodge sign.

Road trip: the Route of the Romans.

Guimarães, once the capital of Portugal and heralded as the “birthplace of the Portuguese nationality” or “the cradle city”.

The medieval castle, built in the 10th Century, was originally a monastery which was fortified to protect the area from Moors and Norsemen.

The unusual round brick chimneys on the the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza.

The azulejos mural on the exterior wall of the Church of our Lady of Consolation.

Quintandona – an agricultural village that was completely restored in 2006.

The historical restoration meant building all structures out of slate.

On another afternoon it was off to Manteigas to visit the Burel wool factory. At one time there were 11 fabrication plants in this mountain town. Today there are only two.

The stone buildings that house the factory.

Wall hanging at entrance…

…reveals itself to be felted sweater shapes sewn together.

The 30 foot multi-bobbin winder.

This threaded loom…

…was making this polka dot fabric.

The machine that twists the fringes at the ends of shawls, wraps, and throws. (I had never even thought about how this was accomplished – though I have many articles of clothing that have twisted fringe on the ends. Nice new piece of understanding.)

In addition to weaving, many of Burel”s signature lines are made from felted cloth. This machine is at the beginning of the felting process where the fibers get combed and pressed. The fabric is then turned into…

…whimsical pillows…

…intricately hand sewn custom pillows….

…or a variety of upholstery and wall covering applications..

On our way back to Porto we wound through Serra da Estrela, a nature park with beautiful forests and lakes.

The views were incredible and the rock formations a delight to look at.

Up early one morning (yes, 8a is early for us…), we arrive at São Bento Station to catch a train to Pinhão, in the heart of the Douro Valley wine region.

While waiting for our tour contact we have time to admire the floor-to-ceiling murals that surround us.

We are met at the Pinhão station by Paul, a resident of the valley, who takes us to a port wine vineyard with beautiful views where we enjoy a pre-lunch treat of wine, cheese, and sliced meats.

The rolling terraces that cover the hillsides all along this section of the Douro.

Lunch is at Paul’s family vineyard. (Quinta means farm.) It is a delicious multiple course meal with a variety of wines to taste. Afterwards we get a tour of their facilities – the port barrel storage and a reenactment of the harvest process, complete with the stomping of the grapes. Another new piece of learning – stomping of grapes is a regimented process, not the Lucy and Ethel version many think of. Stompers move in unison and on cue and it is very physically tiring. Wine at the end of the process is a good incentive.

Our final stop of the day is to visit the Bread and Wine museum, an interactive space that tells of the regional importance of these two products. Paul then takes us to a local bakery where we enjoy and purchase some amazing loaves. Paul also gifts us with a bag of family wines and then drives us back to our flat in Porto. Great day – and I am happy to share tour contact information if anyone is interested.

Museum time – or, in this case, Serralves – an art museum, villa and gardens. Built in the 1930’s the villa is an art deco dream. The green candlestick sculpture on the left is made of wine bottles.

Originally a private residence, the rooms evoke a luxurious lifestyle.

My favorite – the dining room, as I do love people gathered ’round the table. The French doors look out to a series of landscaped pools and gardens.

The gardens have a teapot…

…Cindrella’s slippers – back together as a pair…

…and an engagement ring at the end of a tree-lined path.

Trying it on for size.

We walk through more gardens, enjoying the Sky Mirror (Anish Kapoor) on our way to the modern art building.

Inside we are tickled with the galley of the featured artist: Joanna Vasconcelos, entitled “I’m Your Mirror”.

A closer look reveals this mural is knitted fabric with embellishments. I am awed.

There was a lace-covered bull’s head…

…and sculptures made from steam irons…

…and Bob riding the Chair-o-sel taking a photo…

…of me riding the Chair-o-sel.

At the close of one afternoon we hopped on the Metro (we had 3-day Andante cards allowing us unlimited Metro and bus travel – the procurement of which is a story unto itself, but to be saved for another less photo-filled blog post) and went to Póvoa de Varzim, a beach town at the end of the Red Line, for an amazingly wonderful fresh seafood dinner @ Restaurant 31.

Of course, our visit wouldn’t be compete without a tour of a performance space, Casa da Musica.

This very modern and somewhat controversial building, is basically a huge cube with some corners and various edges trimmed off and a symphony hall situated in the center interior. It is surrounded by undulating patios that are signed for “No Skateboarding”…Right…

Our tour guide made a great point of telling us of that the seating was “democratic” (all sound and sight lines equal) and that the funds for construction were from the European Union at the time Porto was declared the European Capital of Culture. The Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas, wanted to escape the traditional box that performance spaces are typically housed in and put acoustics as a secondary priority to design. (Vision Bob cringing~)

The back wall is completely window. There is a curtain that can be drawn to shade the space.

The double glass wall we were just standing behind, as seen from the opposite side of the house. Of note: the walls are plywood with metallic rivers of actual gold fill. (Now vision Bob eye-rolling~)

Not your traditional Green Room, this one is walled with foam to aid in acoustics for small performances.

A small performance space that had to have the floor tiles scraped of their colored pattern. Patrons kept complaining of getting disoriented and feeling nauseous.

A non-designated corner that our guide says parents use for entertaining children. An architect in our group called this “Sloap: space left over after planning”.

One our last day in Porto we took a walk through Palácio de Cristal – a beautiful and peaceful panoramic garden spot…

…with flocks of peacocks.. and their shrill calls…

… and a sunset view of the Douro as it heads out to the Atlantic.

Before we know it, it is time to take a final descent on the spiral staircase for the next leg of our journey. Basque Country…here we come! Ah – but Portugal. You will stay in my heart.