We sailed 39 nautical miles from Viana do Castelo to the home of port wine, to the city of Porto from where this famous sweet wine is shipped all over the world. We however were just about to dive into the vivid city and here are some memories for taking back home.
There are two marinas in Porto. Leixões, that is located literally in the village of Leixões about 10 km north from Porto’s center. In the corner of commercial harbor is situated the marina and we heard that it’s a bit cheaper but it’s further afar. Also, for anchoring Leixões is better as it is possible to put the hook down in the harbor basin.
The second marina, where we stayed, is Marina Douro. It is located in the village of Afurada closer to the center on the southern shore of the Douro river while the hills of Porto are located on the northern shore of the Douro river.
We arrived in Porto at sunset. There was no response on VHF even if there was an enormous sign to call them at the marina entrance. We put her alongside long outer pontoon and thought that we can always move her the following day to better location. However finally we did not move her at all as the marina was completely full.
The berthing spot was good except that the pontoon dock made a terrible noise. It sounded like monstruous pop corn pot was popping continuously. Earlier people had complained that swell is entering the marina. To mitigate this the plastic pipes were installed for the whole length of 100 meters under the outer pontoon that clank even from the smallest wave. There is no more swell, but the sound is rather annoying.
The specialty of the marina in Porto is the breakfast service. We were still in bed when we heard the dinghy propeller next to us, and a bag of freshly baked rolls were thrown into the cockpit – one roll per crew member. Already when checking into the marina they confirmed the number of the crew, for the correct distribution of rolls. It was time to wake up, fire up the coffeemaker and start enjoying the breakfast in the summerly morning cockpit. We laughed that we could really get used to this kind of service 🙂
Portugal is like one big festa or celebration through the whole summer. Almost every week there is some kind of village happening. During our stay in Porto there was the celebration in the honor of the Saint Pedro who protects seafarers returning home – Festa de São Pedro. The party’s theme included enjoying various portions of seafood and fish while not forgetting drinking, dancing, and having all kinds of fun. If in Viana there were a lot of grills on the street, then in Porto there were several times more. We could have sardines or other fish, really whatever from the sea, not forgetting the meat choices either.
The festa of São Pedro lasted for 12 days in the local village of Afurada. There was the amusement park with various stalls and the big stage that had every day more and more famous performers. The later after midnight the band started the more famous it was, and of course sound mixers added more volume as the night progressed.
On a second last evening the party was so fierce that we thought that this must be the final culmination. But no, next evening we were pondering why locals gather after sunset in small boats to the river. Anyhow we went to sleep, and it was quite a wakeup when the massive fireworks started from the raft next to us in the middle of the river. Well, we of course had to climb out of the bed and went admiring the fireworks as well.
We went exploring by crisscrossing the streets of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia that is located on the other side of the river. Of course, we had to visit the world’s most beautiful bookshop – Livaria Lello, from where J K Rowling got inspiration to the world of Harry Potter when she lived in Porto in 90s. The bookstore was extremely popular among Harry Potter fans that first you must queue for the entrance ticket. Then there is the second queue for entering the shop. There is also a discount for the amount on ticket if you purchase any books. We would have loved to get something home but despite almost all patrons being foreigners, all the books were in Portuguese. Well, I guess it is one way of keeping the ticket money as most people would not be able to purchase anything they understand.
The baroque style church of Clérigos and its tower that rises to 75.6 meters is looking inviting for having a broader view of the city from above. We climbed 240 steps to the sixth floor of the tower but the view from there was a disappointment to Andrus. The scenery in Viana do Castelo was much better compared to Porto. Maybe part of the disappointment was the dirty, urine smelling, and graffiti smeared walls of the staircase. You could think that one of the most visible sightseeing places would have been maintained better. Maybe it brings in so much money that it does not matter. Fortunately, there are a lot of alternative places for sightseeing, and we can forget about the Torre dos Clérigos.
Of course, the story of Porto must conclude to the port wine. Actually, we became delighted of port wine only a few years ago when our friend brought a bottle of Cockburn’s Special Reserve to us on a social evening. We fell for it so much that we had to purchase it again ourselves. It was rather obvious of which vineyard we wanted to visit now in Porto. The marina fee included one visit to port wine tasting but instead we took Bolt and drove to the vineyard of Cockburn’s.
In the city of Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro river there are multitude of vineyard wine cellars and most of them organize guided tours and wine tastings. The price included tasting of three different type and different age port wines and we selected two different selections so we could taste even more variety at the same time.
The guide explained the phases of making port wine as we were walking around the long rows of huge vats. All the grapes of port wine are grown in the valleys around the river of Douro and you can also take a river cruise for visiting the plantations and learn about growing the grapes in more detail. It was surprising to us the river of Douro is continuing over 900 km across the Portugal and Spain.
During the tour we also got to see the private collection of the yard’s owners that dates back to the 19th century. We wonder if they will ever dare to open any of these bottles?