Porto – Day 4 | Travel Blog

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Published: September 6th 2023

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Porto Sao BentoPorto Sao BentoPorto Sao Bento

This morning it was the Pálacio da Bolsa Take II. This morning we thought we had a cunning plan. Arrive soon after opening at 9.30am to queue up for the English-speaking tour at quarter past the hour. Well, that was the plan.

We arrived at 9.40am and joined the end of the queue which was fairly short at this hour of the morning. Great, we thought, we should be a shoe-in for the 10.15am tour believing from our reconnaissance on Sunday that the tours rotated all day through Portuguese, English, Spanish and French on the hour, quarter hour, half past the hour and the three quarter hour. And that optimism lasted until we were able to see the board inside listing the tours and the number of people already booked. Wouldn’t you know it, the English-speaking tour is at 10.00am not 10.15am – it is going to be close … again!

We inched along in the queue, with the time ticking ever closer to 10.00am. We are so annoyed at the ticketing system at Pálacio da Bolsa it just seems so … random?! We even tried to Google after Sunday’s disappointment to find out more about visiting and whether

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or not we could purchase a timed entry, but even their website is hopeless as we couldn’t access it.

It seemed even if you had purchased a ticket online you still had to queue up with everyone else to reach the ticket counter to then exchange your online ticket for an actual ticket in the next tour in the appropriate language. What? That seems a cumbersome way to do it. Anyhow, we reached the head of the queue at 10.00am exactly! Hello, good morning, is there any chance we can sneak onto the 10.00am English-speaking tour? No problem this morning with cutting it fine. The ticket clerk sold us two tickets and urged us to hurry into the courtyard to join the tour. Phew!

Into the Hall of Nations we scurried and entirely missed the guide’s information about this amazing courtyard lit by an incredible octagonal skylight. Already the guide was ushering everyone towards the Sala do Tribunal, the grand courtroom filled with ornately carved wooden furniture and vivid murals. Crowded into the courtroom it was very difficult to hear our guide, but then for us it was more about seeing the building rather than hearing the guide’s

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anecdotes. We also noted that for a tour that was supposedly only 30% booked (according to the board at the front) there seemed to be very close to the 50 pax maximum packed into this first room on the tour??

Gosh, these mandatory tours are a bit of a whirlwind! And, of course, Bernie was always trailing along at the end as he tried to wait for each room to clear so that he could take photos of the actual rooms rather than a large group of random tourists!! We were whisked onwards through the President’s Room, the Golden Room, the General Assembly Hall, the Portrait Room and the Arab Room which was inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. All amazing, each seemingly more ornate than the one before.

Very quickly we found ourselves back at the Escaderia Noble, the noble staircase which took 68 years to carve from granite. I think we queued for longer than the tour took?? Our guide left us at the bottom of the stairs to use the bathroom or make our way to the exit. Now unsupervised we managed to sneak back into the Pátio das Nações where the tour started

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to take some photos and admire the Greco-Roman floor mosaic inspired by Pompeii. This grandiose courtyard is where the stock exchange used to operate. As we made our way out of the building we were treated to one more room, the Biblioteca da Dreito Commercial (Commercial Law Library).

Next on today’s agenda the Porto Sé (Cathedral) which rises high above Porto’s tangle of mediaeval alleys and stairways. We have walked nearby a couple of time previously, but the rest of this morning was set aside to explore it properly. Into yet another queue to purchase tickets! So many tourists of a mind to do the same things that we want to do, ha, ha. The queue moved along steadily and we purchased our tickets to explore the 12th-century fortress-like cathedral that was made over in a more baroque style in the 18th-century. In 1387 King John I married his beloved Philippa of Lancaster here and Prince Henry (Henry the Navigator) was baptized in 1394.

From the cathedral we made our way over to the Paço Episcopal, the former residence of the bishops of Porto. Although it is right next door to the Sé it seems that it is

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not on the radar for many visitors even though you could buy a combined ticket for the two. We were able to explore the Bishop’s Palace almost on our own. Our explorations here fitted in nicely just before they closed the palace over lunch time. The attendant literally closed the door behind us as we exited.

We made our way over to the other side of the Rio Douro for the first time, using the top deck of the Ponte de Dom Luis. The bridge was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel and it certainly has a look about it that brings to mind the Eiffel Tower. It also provides outstanding views of the river and the Old Town clinging to the hill opposite. The rail bridge designed by Gustave is now out of use, but remains as one of the six bridges spanning the Douro River at Porto.

We headed into the restaurant overlooking the river, the Esplanada do Teléferic which also overlooks the Teleférico de Gaia, the cable car which offers a short ride down to the riverbank. Our timing was perfect. We secured an outdoor table with a view of the river,

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but with some cover. When we chose it we were mainly concerned about shade but, as it turned out, it was fortuitous to be sheltered from the shower of rain that accompanied our lunch break. This river view restaurant provided us with a much better lunch than the restaurant on Sunday. Lovely to enjoy a delicious charcuterie board while enjoying an outstanding view. When the sun came out again after the shower of rain the colours along the river really popped. Beautiful.

Bernie wants to take a ‘blue hour’ photograph from this side of the river one evening before we leave so we scouted out the Jardim do Morro before walking over to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. We had hoped to go into the monastery, but it seemed to be locked up tight this afternoon, despite Google saying it is open? Not to worry, we have probably seen the interior of enough churches, cathedrals and monasteries for us to have a good idea of what we might have seen inside? Deeming the forecourt of the monastery the place to take a sunset/evening photo we walked back down to the tram stop.

The sights seem closer together

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here in Porto so this is the first use that we’ve made of our Porto transport cards. Rookie error, you don’t scan on inside the tram you have to have done that BEFORE the tram arrives. Realizing this as the tram arrived we didn’t manage to both get scanned on before the doors closed and the tram departed. Luckily they run frequently and we only had to wait about five minutes for the next tram.

The tram crosses the Ponte de Dom Luis and plunges into a tunnel at the Ribeira end. We travelled two stops on the tram and alighted at Aliados Metro Station to discover that we were three flights of escalators underground! Much easier to ride the escalator up to street level than gain that much elevation on foot … which is what we have done on previous days.

After carrying an umbrella around all day and not needing it despite off and on showers of rain, I had to break it out about two minutes from the apartment. It’s a new umbrella, not a cheap one and it was so hard to put up. When Bernie stepped in to assist he dumped all the

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water that had collected in the partially opened umbrella onto me. Ahem, lucky it was only wet and not cold!!

We ate dinner tonight at yet another restaurant just down the street, this one named Bulha. After an entrée of cheese and walnuts we both had the pork loin on a bed of rice with vegetables. Definitely in our top five meals eaten in Portugal. Delicious!

Steps: 14,930 (9.82 kms)






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