We are back in one of our all-time favorite cities! On our previous visit (pre-covid) our rental flat was in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. (For a recap of that visit, photos of our beautiful views, and stories of various vagabond activities: https://conhan8.com/?p=2135).) For this go-round we decided that staying near the historic center of Porto would be an interesting change of pace. Bob did the research and found us a rental that was a 15-minute leisurely stroll into Centro with its gorgeous São Bento train station and must-eat-at Traça restaurant (where the prato da dia was olives, bread, squash soup, baby mushroom risotto, coffee; it met our lofty expectations).

This is the block where our flat was located. It is clearly a transitioning neighborhood. Much of the new construction is narrow and, frankly, quite visually stark.
Case in point: this is building where our flat is located. The good news – there was a dedicated parking space (note the roll-up door) and an elevator for conveniently taking our suitcases and grocery bags up to the third floor.

I thought it might be fun to share our neighborhood so I decided to take a boundaried walkabout. Using our flat as the center point I walked three blocks in each direction and did some investigating of what I would find within those thirty-six square blocks. (I am using the term “blocks” pretty loosely as very few of the intersections meet at 90 degrees and some junctions branch out in 5 or more directions. It’s good to be flexible in our thinking.) Within that zone we had at least one bakery (padaria) and a fruit stand per block, 4 motorcycle showrooms, a decent grocery store, a unique pizza place for easy takeout, a meat market, a variety of hair salons/barber shops, a laundromat, and a nice mix of other eating/shopping establishments.

This corner, just 2 blocks from the flat, is across the street from a large hospital. Always busy; great coffee and an excellent spot for people watching.
The beautiful house fronts directly across the street from the coffee shops. Those tall doors, the circular grill work above the doors, varied embellishments under the windows. Details, details, details! (And I am not going to bore you with my enthusiasm for the roller shades…those of us who like to sleep in a cave are great fans.)
Not more than a couple of blocks from the coffee shops is a practice field complex for the Porto Foot-ball Club.
Look closely – I did manage to peek through a fence and watch a bit of the action.

Go Dragões!!

Down a couple of blocks (Bob and I have an ongoing domestic debate about what “down” means…after over 45 years of marriage we still have not reached concensus, so I am hoping you will just trust me here and know that we are still within those 36 square blocks) is a beautiful park with a metro stop.

This park, along with a number of others we have seen in Portugal, offers walk-in free rapid covid tests. Impressive response to the pandemic.

And now for some random visual delights:

A lovely tile front.
A unique approach (a compromise?) to no tile but not spartan.
Across the street from our flat is building with a unique tile front, the only design like this I have seen in my Porto jaunts.
A lovely green window detail to break up the concrete.
The ever-present graffiti on buildings along the parkway.
Back home in time for cocktail hour. The view doesn’t compare to what we had on our last visit nor is it like what we left behind in Cascais, but we pretty much knew what we would be looking at when we decided to go full-on urban. Cocktails, on the other hand, are deliciously consistent.

We could have comfortably hunkered down into our neighborhood and had a happy stay but we had places to go and, more importantly, people to meet. Two of our dear friends, Lynne and Kerry, have relocated from Reno to Portugal (in Moledo and Porto, respectively); we were eager to catch up with them so we exchanged texts and arranged for a beach afternoon on the north coast.

The beach front in Moledo. We had a beautiful day for being out and about.
We drove up the coast for a late lunch of tapas of which the polvo (octopus) was a highlight.
The batatas fritas (fried potatoes) and carne de porco (pork) were also gobbled up quickly. As Bob would say, “bring me mine with gravy over the whole plate.”
On our way back to the house we stopped at the weekend market in Terres de Cervaria. This mansion, alongside the square, is said to be done in Brazilian style, which I find interesting as Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese and Brazil’s architectural style is based on that Portuguese influence. I think we have a chicken/egg thing going on here.
We peeked into the tourist center (which had closed for the day) to see the display of crocheted items that this area is famous for. Every two years the downtown is decorated with crochet sculptures and installations that cover trees and buildings and fill shop windows. Looks like we will have to plan a return trip.
I was intrigued by this clock which seems to portray the evolution of man. (I am open to other interpretations.)
And my eye was also snagged by this Pinocchio marionette. Unfortunately too big for my suitcase so it won’t be coming back to the USA to delight my grands.

Overall, a lovely day spent doing pleasant things with two life-affirming and truly gracious women. As we exchanged thank yous the next day Kerry treated us to a photo of the ocean view she had that morning while enjoying coffee in Porto (Foz area). She gave me permission to share.

Pretty spectacular! And a testament to the beautify of this area.

One more road trip – actually two because we were so wowed on our first day that we went back for another taste. It’s BRAGA!!

North of Porto about 40 minutes (55 km) is Braga, the oldest city in Portugal; known for its Baroque architecture, its college, and its religious roots throughout history. Entered via one of the four city gates, the entire historic city center is pedestrian-only.

Within the walls we admired buildings and gardens.

Tempting though it was we didn’t make any purchases at the sardine store.

As much as we enjoyed our time on foot we also made a side trip to….

At the end of this hallway is IKEA! The store anchors a huge complex that also has a hospital, the futbol stadium, and lots of other retail. It had a Mall of America feel.
Bob, a connoisseur of grocery stores, was smitten. (The fact that he likes them also means he likes shopping in them. This so works for me.)

And finally, a few random bits with accompanying photos. Who knew 2 quiet weeks in the city would result in so much to post about?!?

On our first lunch in Porto, Bob ordered a Francesinha – the official sandwich. (Bread, ham, linguiça, fresh sausage (chipolata), steak or roast meat, cheese, topped with an egg and spiced tomato and beer sauce, traditionally served with fried potatoes in some form.) He loved it.
He ordered it again in Braga. Same stuff different approach. And once again, he loved it.
Let’s hear it for a wine menu that has an extensive list of vino verde options. (As Kerry and Lynne say, “Are we drinking red or green?”) Back in the states I consider myself lucky it there is one vino verde offered. Here we keep coming across new bottles to try. Happily, we are up to the challenge.
While Bob gravitates toward sandwiches I am consistently drawn to the tiles. When we were in Barcelona a couple of years ago I opined that it must do something wonderful to your brain to be surrounded by all of the art and design that a person is immersed in daily in that environment. I think Portugal, and especially Porto, brings that same brain buzz for me. It feels good to be here.