The remainder of our open days were spent making the Thanksgiving feast, that I posted about before – https://dinneratmidnight.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/happy-thanksgivin/, as well as a side trip to Portugal with some of the group. It was a pretty quick trip since we had to be back in time to depart for southern Spain with Sophia and the rest of the group. We spent one night in Porto and one night Lisbon, but packed the days full of as much stuff as possible.
After arriving in Porto and checking into our hostel, we set out to explore the city. Porto is built up on the banks of the Douro River, making it a really interesting city topographically. The main part of the city sits up on a hill over the river, with switchback roads and trails leading down the river.
The passages lead down to the base of the Ponte Luiz I, the main bridge that crossed the Douro. The top roadbed is restricted to pedestrian and tram traffic while the bottom is open to cars.
Just past the bridge is the old part of town along the river, where we ate a later (delicious) lunch:
We then headed back to the hostel to get changed to go the show at the Casa da Musica. This was the main reason we wanted to come to Porto. The Casa da Musica is a new grand concert hall designed by none other than Mr. Koolhaas at OMA. We’ve seen it in school and heard rave reviews from friends who had been, so we decided to experience it for ourselves. We got tickets for the Gulbenkian Orchestra, a visiting symphony orchestra from Lisbon. It was a classical concert featuring soloist Christian Tetzlaff on violin. The concert itself was pretty good, but the real reason we wanted to go was to see the building. So here it is:
Inside the main performance hall:
The view from our seats:
Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures or video during the show.
After the show we got dinner down the street from Casa – we didn’t want to walk too far because it was absolutely freezing out. Around 0° C. I have to say that the food in Portugal was some of the best we had during the entire semester.
The next morning we got up to explore the town some more. We walked back to the Ponte Luiz I, this time crossing to the other side. There was still a ton of fog hovering in the river valley that morning, so it made for some interesting pictures:
We stopped for some lunch at one of the small cafes on the river. We got some traditional Portuguese food, which was delicious and inexpensive. I got the Francesinhas, a sandwich packed with sausage, ham, beef and cheese, all covered in more cheese and some sort of mild tomato sauce:
Another popular dish was the chorizo, served over a flaming pot:
After lunch we visited two wineries to learn more about Port wines and have some free samples of the locally made product. Dalva and Croft both had free samplings, which subsequently turned into a few souvenir purchases because of how good they were. Pretty effective marketing I would say. Here are some pictures from Croft:
After the wineries we headed back to the hostel to collect our things and catch the bus to Lisbon. An express bus leaves from Porto every hour and takes 3.5 hours to get to Lisbon for €18. Not a bad deal, plus the bus had free Wifi.
We got into Lisbon in the evening, and really only had time to find a place for dinner and eat. Of course, we too our time because the food was so good, and it was pouring rain and cold outside.
The next morning we got up in the morning and set out to visit the great monastery on the edge of the city, the Jerónimos Monastery:
But is was Monday, so it was closed. So we went down the street to the famous pastry shop Casa Pastéis de Belém, where we got some of the famous Lisbon egg tarts called Pastel de Nata:
We passed by the Monumento aos Descobrimentos, a monument to Portuguese who contributed to the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries:
After heading back into town, we walked up the main hill to visit St. George’s Castle. It’s kind of a trek, but well worth it. The castle sits at the very top of the hill overlooking the whole city and its port.
After the castle, we had to head back to the hostel to get our bags and go to the airport to catch our flight. We decided to take public transportation because it would be cheaper. However, the buses took forever because of rush house traffic so we just barely made our flight. Anyways, it was a pretty short trip, but well worth it, considering the cheap flights as well.