Today we were to be taken on an escorted sightseeing tour of Porto.
Our first stop was at the cathedral, the Se do Porto. The interior was beautiful. Photography was allowed but no flash. My little Lumix performed well and I got a few images.
Outside in the square there was an equestrian statue of Vimara Peres, a 9th century nobleman from the Kingdom of Asturias who became the first ruler of Portugal.
The square also provides an excellent viewpoint over the rooftops of Porto. Nine churches can be seen from here.
It was now time for a coffee stop and another chance to sample the Pasteis de nata. the famous Portuguese Egg Tart Pastry.
Our next stop was at the Sao Bento railway station. The station is famous for the magnificent tile panels in the vestibule. The painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles are known as Azulejos and there are over 20,000 in the vestibule.
The tiles date from 1905 – 1916 and are the work of Jorge Colaco who was the most famous painter of the time. The panels depict landscapes, everyday scenes and historical events.
Along the frieze near the ceiling were some more colourful examples.
On the way back to our coach we passed through some narrow streets. Here the walls of the houses were also decorated in tiles although these had a more functional use.
I passed a lovely post box but as usual it was surrounded by graffiti.
We crossed the bridge to the De Gaia district where we were dropped off close to the river. It was pouring with rain but I wanted to explore. Lining the banks of the river were the Barcos Rabelos.
These flat bottomed, square rigged boats were used to transport the port wine from the upper reaches of the Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia for shipment abroad.
The flat bottoms were needed to shoot the rapids and negotiate the shallows. The tall platform in the stern provided the helmsman with a clear view over the rows of casks. A huge steering oar was needed to rapidly change direction.
The damming of the Douro to provide hydroelectric power bought an end to the use of the Rabelos. The port wine is now transported by road.
It had stopped raining but it was still gloomy, exposure was what in the old days of film I used to call “a fortnight at f8”, but these little digital cameras seem to cope.
We were now off to Taylor’s Wine Lodge to learn how the port is made.
The wine is aged in casks or vats. Casks are seasoned oak barrels holding around 630 litres of wine. They are used mainly for the Tawny Port. Cask ageing gives more contact between the wine and the wood leading to complex flavours. The method is used to produce the 10.20,30 and 40 year old Tawnies.
The vats hold 20,000 litres of wine. There is less contact between the wine and the wood and is used in the production of the fruitier styles of port such as Taylor’s First Estate Reserve.
Chip dry port is a white port made from traditional white grape varieties. It is fermented for longer than usual to give a dry finish and aged in oak vats.
Now came the all important tasting.
We sampled three types of Port. My favourite was the bottled vintage port.
Later we returned to our hotel. I felt tired, nothing to do with the port!
I am beginning to like Portugal, and the Port.