The afternoon of our second day in Porto – the spectacular capital of northern Portugal – the group left for a wine country tour of the Douro Valley. Bill and I opted out as the temperature in the city was already 90 degrees and the vineyards proved to be upwards of 105 degrees. Instead, we walked the town of Porto, exploring the shops and making our way to the bookstore that inspired JK Rowling to write the Harry Potter series. The bookstore is small and without air flow and at least 100 people clamoring for photos on the red staircase, we didn’t spend as much time there as we had hoped. I did get a few images of the gorgeous woodwork. We also stopped at the Majestic Café for an espresso and pastry. Did I tell you that the Portuguese love pastry more than the French? Custard everywhere!!
Portugal produces over half the cork in the world. In addition to cork wine stoppers, products include belts, hats, purses, jewelry and shoes. Yes, I did get a small cross body bag made of cork. Cork trees do not produce their first harvest until 20 years after planting. Then their thick bark can be harvested every nine years. The heat and the hills and all the walking in Porto on cobble stones tired us out after four hours. A short stop in our room to decompress and enjoy a bit of air conditioning refreshed us and we found a small bistro a few blocks from our hotel for dinner and wine. The Portuguese are fond of soup and even eat it on very hot days. The small bistro served the best cabbage/carrot/white bean soup we have ever tasted!
Our second day in Porto we enjoyed a guided tour of the city including the beautifully tiled train station. The river cruise gave us an opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. We also saw a bridge designed by the architect of the Eiffel Tower before he created that beautiful landmark. The breeze on the river was a welcome change from the oppressive heat. That evening we enjoyed a farewell group dinner at the top of our hotel in Restaurant 17 with spectacular views of the city.
After a good night’s sleep we left the hotel at 6:00 a.m. to board a plane to Gatwick. From there we made a three hour trip to Crediton, England to visit our good friends Jan and Girts. What a wonderful, relaxing way that was to complete our visit to Europe.