27th September

We left Viana do Castelo a little reluctantly as we thought it was a delightful stopover, our first experience of sailing in Portugal.

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Leaving with some company!

It was time to make progress towards Lisbon and to see Lizzie and Den on the ‘Mighty O’ for the last time!  Lizzie and Den were heading south and going to be based on the Algarve where as we would be heading out into the Atlantic after Lisbon to Madeira!

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Porto coming into view!
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The River Douro, Porto

We arrived after a lovely sail with the cruising chute up.  The distance was 38 nautical miles and it took us a little more than 6 hours! Dear Lizzie had gone into the marina office and provisionally booked us in and so when I called up the marina on the radio as we were approaching the harbour they appeared to know who we were and came out to meet us!


Having secured Musetta we completed the formalities of arrival and then went to have a farewell drink with Lizzie and Den!  It is a shame that we won’t see them again as they are such a fun couple!

28th September – Visit to Churchills Port Distillery!

As part of our booking into the Douro Marina we were given a voucher for a tour of the Churchill Port wine distillery here in Vila Nova de Gaia which is known for it’s wineries!

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A little taste of Port!


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We booked in for an English speaking tour at 2pm and so we had time to do some boat jobs before setting off!! It also gave us a chance to wave Den off as he set sail for Cascais!

“The Mighty O” Bound for Cascais!

After Lunch we set off on our bikes for the Tour!  We discovered that Churchills was founded in 1981, 37 years ago and has built up a reputation for exclusive wines of the more elegant and less sweet variety!

In 1999 John Graham, owner of Churchills, bought the Quinta Da Gricha vineyard which is in the north of Portugal securing a production of top quality grapes. It was amazingly interesting.  The tour was followed by a tasting of the ports produced the distillery!  I really liked the white port, it was very drinkable, delicious in fact!!

It was rather dark but exceedingly atmospheric!

We of course bought some port wine which luckily, for a small amount extra, they would ship to UK so relieving us of the worry of transporting it ourselves!

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Off again on our bikes, we cycled on in the late afternoon sunshine towards the D. Luis Bridge! When we arrived there were throngs of people and a traffic jam?!  We soon discovered the reason why – a fellow clad in a wetsuit was standing on the bridge and milking the crowds for ‘cash for a jump’!!  It was a long way down and I didn’t envy him the jump one little bit but jump he did and normality on the bridge was restored!

The Jumper is standing on the railings in a wetsuit!

Ponte de D. Luis

It is a double deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro, a distance of 172 metres.  It is the first thing of note you see when entering the river.  It connects the city of Porto to the north with Vila Nova de Gaia to the south and was completed in 1886 taking 5 years to build in total! It carries a light railway and pedestrians on the upper deck and general road traffic and pedestrians on the lower deck.

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Ponte de D. Luis 

The bridge looks remarkably like the work of Gustave Eiffel and it is, indirectly that is! Eiffel had built the Maria Pia Bridge further up the river 9 years earlier.  He was working on the plans for the D. Luis bridge before heading to Paris to build his famous Eiffel tower when he presented the plans of his design to a student of his, a Belgian engineer Theophile Seyrig who took the project on and was appointed the official architect.

A Gustave Eiffel design

The gondola like river cruise boat in the photo is a converted barge which was used to transport the barrels of port down river!

Back to Musetta!

After the excitement of the ‘Jumper’ we returned to the marina and got ready to meet up with the crew, Andy and Ilona, of a German catamaran, Yoko who we have been bumping into at various points during the summer!  They were leaving Porto in the morning and so we went to have dinner  at a local restaurant in Gaia village behind the marina. It was a very pleasant evening and we were grateful for their excellent English!

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A happy occasion with Yoko’s owners!

29th September – Into Porto!

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Porto from across the R. Douro!

We walked to the ferry from the marina and came across this communal laundry at Afurada?! This is a very traditional part of village life in Portugal where local women come to wash their clothes in large tanks and then hang it out to dry on lines on the beach.

The communal Laundry at Afurada

We gathered that anyone could do their washing there but the lines were definitely owned by someone and so obviously you wouldn’t be able to use them!  We gave it a miss unsurprisingly!!  This is not a custom that is about to die out as the laundry appeared to be new, in a very smart building! 

Having done the Port distillery tour the day before we took the small ferry  from Vila Nova de Gaia across the river Douro and then a bus into the city!

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Our Ferry! It was hard to make out the other side of the river!

it was a very murky morning but we could see that the sea fret was going to clear and so forged ahead with our plan and sure enough the fret lifted and we were again in glorious sunshine!  We also discovered that our tour would start at the bottom of the hill on which Porto was built!  This was fortunate as we knew then that the way back would be downhill!!

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The riverside, it was all uphill from here!

We set off uphill and the first place we came to of note was the São Bento railway station in the middle of town!  It was incredible as the photos show!  

Version 3The station was opened in 1916 and it is renowned for it’s floor to ceiling azulejo tiles in the lobby which very graphically depict the story Portugal’s history.  It was absolutely beautiful and far too nice to be a railway station!!  However, it must have made the travelling experience so much nicer and of course, the trains like the buses run on time to the minute in Portugal which is a real treat!!

The Azulejo tiled lobby!

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D. Pedro

We soon discovered that we could have spent the day looking at churches, there are so many in Porto and they are all beautiful to look at but we had other things we wanted to see too!  On we went uphill until we reached what seemed to be the principle area in the old quarter. It was long and lozenge shaped with a statue of Dom Pedro IV mounted on his horse at the beginning.


At the far end was the City Hall, a very imposing building.  

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The City Hall

Behind the City Hall was a lovely fountain outside this church, the Igreja da Trindade!


The facade of the church was very sober, unusual for a Portuguese church with tiles which depicted a story of it’s history, just some very old and mostly broken ones?  Indeed it looked as though it was next in line for a clean! 

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The Igrejo dos Carmelitas and the Igrejo do Carmo  ~             It’s just possible to se the metre wide house! 
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The Story told in Azulejo tiles!

Walking on to discover more we came to these two churches which appeared to be joined but were in fact separated by a 1 metre wide house which was built to separate the monks and nuns!!

From the outside both were beautiful and imposing and the Igrejo do Carmo had the most stunning Azulejo tiling on the outside!

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Inside the Igrejo dos Carmelitas  was probably a little over the top in the glitz department, not to my taste but very typically Portuguese.

The ornate interior!

The next church we came across was bizarre!?  It looked as though it was just a tower standing separately but it was in fact the bell tower which was part of the church of the same name!

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Torre do Clérigos

The tower is 76 metres tall and is Baroque in style.  It can be seen from various points all around the city. It really was an odd design, a sight to behold even a bit of an after thought but I really liked it!

The Livraria Lello!

This was an incredible place and so easy to miss too if you didn’t know it was there!  The lady in the marina office had told me about it saying that it was very beautiful and very famous and so we went in search of it.  She didn’t mention anything about Harry Potter, perhaps she was leaving me to find that out for myself?!! 

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The Livraria Lello!

We discovered that The Livraria Lello has come into prominence due to Harry Potter of all things and once inside the Harry Potter connection became very obvious?!! We had to queue of course but it was so worth it! There in front of us was the Hogwarts staircase?!!!

This was a surreal experience!

JK Rowling lived in Porto in the early 1990s were she was teaching English and the staircase was the inspiration for the library at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films!  It is actually a bookshop but it really did look like a library with books on shelves from floor to ceiling and a special Harry Potter section with the books in many different languages to buy and other merchandise too!

We made our way back down to the riverside, through the narrow streets, taking in the good and the not so good!  Like most places we have visited there are both scenarios!  For me it was mostly lovely!

The two extremes!

It was such a lovely day that we decided to walk back to the ferry alongside the river!  We had had a very interesting day!  Porto is not huge as a city but it is both interesting and lovely too.

A very pleasant walk alongside the river!


When we got back to Gaia on the ferry, we looked for a restaurant that our friendly lady in the marina office had recommended.  Oh wow, this was more like it!  We booked a table for later and had a delicious meal, very Portuguese of course!

A wonderful meal in this rather nice restaurant in Gaia Village!

30th September

We used this day to re-provision Musetta and generally prepare for moving on to our next stop, Figueira da Foz where we were looking forward to ……but more of that next time!!



5 thoughts on “Porto

  1. Hi Ros
    We’re loving the blog and all your visits to such interesting places on the way. We have just had our 6th summer of cruising ( now in Greece) and really wish you were coming this way. With your love of history and eye for fascinating details you’d really love everything the Med has to offer. Xxx

  2. Reading about Porto brings back very happy memories and I am dreaming of those beautiful bright tiles, churches and port! So enjoying the updates and our chat. Hope the weather is kind for your next hop.xx

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