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Travel: Porto - Portugal, 3/22/2018

Updated: Oct 4, 2021




Date: March 22/2018

Place: Porto - touring with Luis


Luis  - a  charming vivacious proud Porto Portuguese, who is an old professional acquaintance of David, kindly offered to welcome us to the city upon arrival, and to guide us for 2 days around his beloved city.

Luis is an MD and has been a Chairmen of  St. John major hospital.

He was number 2 at Portugal's Health Ministry, holding very influential position - heading the International Affairs as a deputy to the  Minister of health.


Few of the a achievements, from an impressive long list, which he shared are:

*The ambulatory life saving motorcycle mobilized in beatingic conjestions. .

*And utilizing and training Vudu Witch Shamans in the dissemination of

medicinal pills for treatment of HIV patients in Africa, The Shamans are more effective and are listened to then formal medical staff.

The program is also funded by the Bill and Melisa Gates foundation.


Lately Luis has been trying to raise funds for a Digital Medicine project hoping to also apply Voice Technology to speediate medical reporting.


An hour and an half drive from Luso brought us to Porto and before we were picked up by Luis, we first checked into:


Pestana Heritage Hotel - PORTO , Most charming

Pedro Bra’s- Hotel's Manager pedro.bras@pestana.com 351 223 402 300


Situated on the waterfront of the Douro river, right on the charming historic Ribeira square, with views over the river and the historic Port wine houses on the other bank. The hotel consists of a group of buildings dating back to the 16th c completely rebuilt as a luxurious modern hotel. We got a fabulous corner room on the 5th floor

with  fantastic views toward the river, and the charming colorful heritage houses at Square.



Ribeira Square - Riverside


Popular hang out place for strolling tourists, preforming street's musicians and dinners and drinkers at restaurants,Cafes and Bars.

The views of the river Douro, Gaia wine caves across and and bridges as well as view of the traditional wine barrel carrying boats on the river are spectacular picturesque  scenery.

UNESCO declared the area a "World Heritage Site" because of the maze of medieval streets and back alleys overlooked by tall multy-storey colourful ancient merchant's houses. Some are crumbling and need protection and restoration.





Luis had kept us on the go, planning a very busy site-seeing during the day, and then dining late into the wee hours of the night. It left no time to keep up with my daily reporting. but every moment with him, was worth our time..


Luis is so vastly net-worked, and is known by many in town, so he manged to get us into many sites by courtesy and avoiding waiting in lines. Furthermore, in every place we visited the site's manager was waiting for us and personally giving us the special grand tour.


The attractions Luis took us to starting with:


Look at Porto - Virtual Experience of Porto

reservas@lookat porto.pt Rue de Atafona/Rue de Ancira 6&8


It offers a 5D interactive virtual travel overview of heritage Porto, on its magnificent panoramic scenery while sitting on very comfortable moving chairs in a small theater of no more then 30 sits.

It is a very enjoyable way to get a first sense and orientation to the city which I full heatedly recommend.


From there we continuing walking along the riverfront we reached:


Church of São Francisco -UNESCO world Heritage site


Gothic monument in the historic center which started being built in the 13th c, with outstanding Baroque inner decoration. 



Walking back and away from the river front to town center and through the piaton -historic Rua das Flores all the way to Porto's Train Station building.


Rua das Flores


There is a charming and tasty Pastry Shop not to be missed, distinguished by its beautiful wooden exterior on Das Flores street 213-221 in an old historic building, which once belonged to the Alliance Jeweler establishment and which during its hay days, consisted of 5 floors shops in the building. Make sure to stop there view and also taste.


Porto Sao Bento Train Station

It is an early work by architect José Marques da Silva (1869-1947), and it opened for business in 1916. The interior is made up of gorgeous blue and white ceramic tiling.



More on Porto

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula with a population of 1.4 million .

It is recognized as a global city and is one of the oldest European centers.

2 of its historical cores were proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996


The history of Porto dates back to around 300 BC with Proto-Celtic and Celtic people being the first known inhabitants. Later it became an outpost of the Roman Empire. During the Roman occupation the city developed as an important commercial port, and later became world famous for originating and naming the desert Port wine industry influenced by the historical close contacts it maintained with England.


Now a days Porto is considered as one of Europe's most energetic, colorful highly atmospheric international cities 


Luis took us to his favorite superb fish restaurant, where he eats weakly every Thursday with his best male bodies -"The Parliament".

The place is about half an hour drive from city center in the area of Porto's commercial port, but it is by all means worth the driving



Arquinho Do Castelo - A fantastic fish restaurant booking is a must.

Rue do Castelo 51 939 318 203 www.ArquinhoDoCastelo.cpm


P.S David's input on Fish


Wild fish that is  too fresh to eat:  first , I have rarely  encountered wild  sea bass  of less than 700 gr . Farmed  sea-bass is 400 -500 gr . Farmed never exceeds 600 gr .

Second , regarding freshness : Any fish that was swimming 1-2 hours before  being cooked needs to be treated very carefully because it is before the onset of  rigor-motis. Rigor Morris is a stiffening of the muscle ( meat) due to lactic acid released from the dead cells that burst. Most fish  and all meet we consume is post rigor-mortis . Every Israeli ( our age) remembers the Greeks slamming Octopus on the rock 100 times to release the rigor-mortis  .

In restaurants such as Barbur in Acre  and Shawartina in Haifa they have their own fisherman and serve very fresh  2 hour fish. They will offer to deep fry the fish . Do not agree !! It will be chewy. Pre rigor-motis must be steamed slowly or cooked in wet oven in sauce - the Portuguese way . Six days later , after rigor-motis is over the fish can be cooked in any way .

I doubt the Portuguese know what  lactic acid and rigor-motis are  . But the fish they cooked at Arquinho Do Castelo in Port was 10/10 and the three of us easily devoured it.   

  • ******************************

Date : March 23/2018

Place: Porto - touring with Luis



Luis - all energized- showed up at our hotel, already at 9:30am for a heavy duty site-seeing schedule. A short walk from our hotel brought us

to the most famous landmark of the city:


Nicolau Nasoni's Toro dos Clerigos -Clerics Tower



Between 1732 and 1763, Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni designed a baroque church with a tower that became architectural and visual icon:



Luis R. our friend arranged for Luis P. - the very simpatico  Director Executive of the Clerigos Tower- to guide us on the church &tower tour.

Luis Pedro Martins luispedromartins@torredosclerigos.pt


I frequented the exterior of the tower on my previous trip, in 2015. But on this visit, all of us climbed the stairs to the top observatory, alas unfortunately the clouds and the fog were all to be seen, on this rainy wintry cold day.

Luis P. the doctor who checked up David pulse, at the top of the staircase, was very impressed with David's physical aptitude, which made David's day.

Once we came down and out of the tower, the sun teasingly reappeared, and dispersed the clouds. We could, only suspect on how spectacular the view we missed, was at that short missed moment.

Luis P.  shared with us on the success of this landmark. He runs it with a staff of 40 guides, working all year around, daily from 9:00am to 11:00pm at night, running programs , VIP tours, concerts and other celebratory functions and for which he got an EU esteemed award.

The surplus revenues of the foundation running the tower, also funds several religious/social/cultural projects of the city

Before departing Luis showered us with the site's promo memorabilia including, books, coins, soaps and chocolates. 


Continuing up the road  on Rue das  Carmelitas

you can not miss the Lion Square. The area once was the place where the Carmelits compound was situated. There are  2 landmarks there: historic church Carmo and Church Carmelitas still functioning


Fonde des Leos -Lion Square -19th-century fountain




Igreja dos Carmelitas


Part of a the 17h c convent, the two churches are separated by one of the world’s narrowest houses. This house was built to make all contact between the nuns and the monks impossible. If you look closely, you’ll find Carmo Church (on the right) and Carmelitas Church (on the left).


Further up the street at number 144 of Rua das Carmelitas you will see long lines all hours for:

Livraria Lello Porto - Magnificent Book Shop with a connection to Harry Potter





The Store Manager - Manuel De Sousa- greeted us and told us the history of the store.  manuelsousa@livrarialello.pt   351 912360 348



In 1894, José Pinto de Sousa Lello in partnership with his brother bought what previously was "Livraria Chardron"shop, and all its contents and created this shop establishment. Both brothers became prominent members of Porto's intellectual bourgeoisie by the turn of the century. 

It is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world. The brothers hired engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves (1864-1944) to construct the new bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas and in 1906, the Livraria Lello was inaugurated


The store's facade is a beautiful example of neo-gothic design, with just a hint of art nouveau

Book's revenues at the store jumped from to 200k  to to 5M per annum once it became a formal visiting tourist attraction landmark, charging entry fees and managing long lines


Harry Potter -And in modern times allegedly also the birthplace of this world-famous fictional character, -- (author J. K. Rowling was living in Oporto as an English teacher when she started writing her first book).


In addition to satisfying your intellectual curiosity at the book store, just next to it you can also satiate your sweet tooth with

Amorino fantastic brand name Ice -cream further up the street on Rue das Carmelitas.



Crossing the river to  Gaia's wine caves we skipped the visitors' tour and formal wine tasting. Instead we got right to buying this recommended brand of Sherry at:


Sandrman Porto Wine and Sherry brand since 1790.

www.sandeman.com/


Crossing back the river to Porto's side, and driving to where the Douro River  runs into the open sea, took us to Foz

Douro River and valley



Pergola do Foz -  plush neighborhood



A coastal gem, one can also get to, by riding a traditional tram from the Port's historic center's water front. A walk along the Pergola do Foz board walk  built in the 1930s or spending at the many beaches is the favorite activities there.





Avenida boa vista porto Boa Vista - the longest ave in modern Porto


It is about 5 km long extending in a straight line from the Military Hospital of Oporto to the Plaza de Gonçalves Zarco, known as Castelo do Queijo popular name of the old fort of São Francisco Xavier by the sea. It contains office buildings, hotels, commercial areas, housing areas - many of them luxurious - and also a shopping area, where there are the most prestigious shops of the city and country.



Other Niegborhhoods


Parque da Cidade City park -The biggest urban park in Porto


“Naturalist” style park located on the western end of Avenida da Boavista, Facing the ocean and with a direct access to Praia Internacional 



The Red Wave Net sculpture by Janet  Echelman (2005)



After this long day of site-seeing, mostly in quite miserable weather, we

finally found a warm dry shelter and had a terrific dinner in the historic town center at


DOP Restaurant

Classic  Portuguese cuisine recreated by the hands of Chef Rui Paula



P.S There 2 more days of reporting on the Portugal trip, which I am trying to finalize, while being on the way to Zanzibar with our girls for a Passover vacation..


A very Happy Passover


******************


Date: March 24 /2018

Place: Porto without Luis



Luis - our host and tour guide for the past  2 days, had to tend to his family obligations, so we spent the last and most cold windy and rainy day on our own, touring various sites under the hotel's umbrellas..


We passed by the Porto's impressive stock exchange building, which is close to our hotel. We saw it few times and also on my previous visit, but only today we got the entrance tickets to the English speaking guided tour of the building's beautiful interior.


Palacio Da Bolsa- The Bursae Palace



The Palácio da Bolsa do Porto is a British Neoclassical monumental 19th-c, former, Stock Exchange building, owned by the Porto Commercial Association.


It was built to impress and earn the credibility of European investors and is located in Praça do Infante D. Henrique, the former economic and commercial heart of Porto.

The colorful noteworthy Arab Room very reminiscent of a 1001 Arab Nights atmosphere is stunning and is worth the visit  The room is used today for music concerts, often free for the public 




 A statue of. Henry the navigator is erected in front of the Palace



Prince Henry the Navigator

A 15th century Portuguese prince born in Porto, one of world history's legendary figures,  who helped usher in both the Age of Discovery and the Atlantic slave trade.. Although he was neither a sailor nor a navigator, he sponsored a great deal of exploration along the west coast of Africa.


Ferreira Borges Market  -Design center painted in red in the historic center

Built in 1885, by order of the City Council, it display jewellery, clothing, the home & decor objects on sale over the weekend in this red iron structure.


We couldn't miss the food attractions offered at the  main big market


Mercado do Bolahao- Food Market

Fruit and vegetables, butchers and souvenir shops situated in an old iron made structure, not that appealing

Rua Formosa 322, 4000-214 Porto

mon-fri 07:00-17:00 sat 07:00-13:00


Other Markets



Old Jail- City Center -now Center of Photography

Close to Clérigos Tower, the “Cadeia da Relação” is an 18th century building, active as prison until the 1974 revolution in Portugal that ended the dictatorship.



Rem Koolhaas' Casa da Musica,

An architectural marvels Modern twelve-storey, irregular-shaped  building open in 2005  exclusively for musical performances.




Crystal palace in Porto Park




This pavilion was once home to Portugal’s very own version of Britain’s London-based construction of the same name. Like the original Crystal Palace, the Porto version did not survive, although it lasted longer than its counterpart, until 1956, when it was replaced by the current construction, surrounded by leafy vegetation gardens and used for concerts


Another famous establishment in the city with long waiting lines is:


Cafe Magistic” an old beautiful  Belle Époque ' façade sand interior, establishment .


You can not visit Porto and ignore its imposing bridges over the Douro


Gustave Eiffel's “Dona Maria Bridge”


There are four other bridges in the city, best seen on a Douro River cruise.  An iconic bridge and most famous of all.  The impressive Dona Maria Pia Bridge, also an iron railway bridge, opened in 1886, when it held the record for the longest iron arch in the world was designed by Gustave Eiffel, before he built the famous Paris tower. It is named after King Luis I's wife. It held the world record for the largest span for seven years. It remained in service until 1991 but today it stands as a national monument.


 


The old Jewish quarter

Jewish presence and heritage filled with memories of Porto and the Douro river surroundings is found in the communities as they settled in this country between the 5th and 15th centuries.

Protected by the monarchy, the Jews – philosophers, humanists, scientists and merchants – were decisive in several important moments of Portuguese history, namely for their financial and scientific contributions during the Discovery era.

The Jews worshipped in secret even after the Portuguese kings ordered their deportation from the country, following the events in Spain in 1496.  Some  converted to Catholicism, becoming New-Christians  many left the country, but many others stayed and kept their faith in secret as crypto jews.


David acquaintances in Lisbon and in Porto- the 2 Luis-es and 2 Manuel-s, all alluded to their distant family Jewish connection, though non  identify themselves as Jews


Situated deep in the center's heart in which the 12th c, the old quarter was located near the Cathedral, in the area that is today defined by the ruins of the Convent of Monchique, by the Torre dos Clérigos, Sé, Alfândega do Porto. From the square and tunnel of Ribeira, the streets trail down along to where the community was born and developed.


The area is still comprises of  houses from 14 to 16 c and is considered UNESCO heritage. From those days, symbolic features- cross engravings to mark the new Christians and  Mezuzot, are carved on the stone buildings door frames,.

Some Jewish altars that still survived in private estates  can still be seen in the old Porto Jewish quarter. 

Also the names of streets indicate the existence of a Jewish community, for e.g., Rua Nova, Rua Direita, Rua da Estrela or Rua Espinosa.


Porto’s first synagogue stood in what is today known as Rua de Santana and, as the city developed, the Jewish community spread towards the river toward Praça da Ribeira.


Another Jewish quarter once stood, with a synagogue in its center when walking towards the area of Palácio da Bolsa. The Customs building, the old red Mercado, Ferreira Borges,(now a concert hall) at what is today known as Rua do Comércio do Porto.


In the Boavista area, the hub of Jewish life in the 17th and 18th cs, the Kadoorie synagogue, a Jewish white temple built between 1929 and 1937 . Also known as Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue (“Spring of Life”), the current headquarters of Porto Israeli Community is the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula.

The history of Kadoorie synagogue is inextricably linked to the history of its founder, Portuguese army officer Captain Artur Barros Basto, a Portuguese a crypto-jew returnee to Judaism.


Dinner

As David was so delighted with the fish served in the place Luis took us to eat, the first day we spent with him, we made sure to have another good gastronomic experience there, before departing Porto tomorrow.


"Arquinho Do Castelo" - www.ArquinhoDoCastelo.cpm A fantastic fish restaurant booking is a must.

Rue do Castelo 51 939 318 203





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Date: March 25/2018

Place: Porto back to Israel


I truly loved enchanting Porto, with its romantic atmosphere, fantastic vistas, colorful architecture, and wonderful historic sites, as well as touring with Luis, so was sad to depart.


At Porto Airport,

Iberia Airline just resumed today it’s direct flight between Madrid and Porto after about 15 years of their sourcing -out the operation to another alliance’s carrier.

Yet, Iberia was still using external staff but different one, to service its land check-in operation.

It was our bad luck day, since the external agent refused to tag our luggage, all the way to TLV, though, both our ticketing lags from Porto to Madrid, and from Madrid to TLV were booked with Iberia on business, and we are both Gold status.

Their logic to the refusal was that the reservations for the 2 flight’s lags were made separately, thus we would have to pick up the luggage in Madrid, and re-check the 4 suitcases . The problem with that was that we had not enough time for both, waiting for the luggage and making it on time to the continuation flight to TLV.


There was no Iberia’s agent at the airport, and all of David’s protest on the absurdity of the decision was in the vain.

After wasting precious time on arguing with no results, we run to Security, only to realize that David’s US passport disappeared.

Not remembering what he did with it, David activated every one who could help in searching for the identifying document, which “disappeared” between the check-in desk, and the security check, until the passport, finally resurfaced at his passport’s case.

The airport human resource director who happened to be there, the police, and the sound staff were all looking for the passport separately.


By that time we were both nervous racks trying to figure out what option to execute once we reach Madrid. Should we make it to the next flight leg to Israel, but without the luggage. Or should we wait for the luggage, and miss our 4:00pm flight???


The next later flight lag, departing at 10:00pm was operating by El-Al alliance, with only 2 seats left. . David tried to book two, three and four seats respectively on the Iberia website, as we were cruising towards the gate. Besides, there was not enough time before our original departure flight to properly consider that possibility. Furthermore, as we were flying to Zanzibar the next day it was too, tight to get back on a much later flight.


Thus upon landing in Madrid, we got boarding passes issued at the Iberia Customer Service desk, declared we had no luggage and sprinted out to the boarding gate.

Barely making it to the gate, just with our carry- on-s, we left the checked-in luggage behind on the baggage claim belt, probably going around and around…


And from that moment I started praying, that the luggage left behind in Madrid , would eventually make it to Israel ,with all our clothing also packed for the March 27 trip to Zanzibar, much sooner then latter, if at all.


David’s persistent calling, from the moment we landed, to both Iberia Spain’s and israel’s Baggage Claims, eventually made the trick, and our luggage finally arrived, on the March 26th later flight, just few hours before departing agin to Zanzibar.


David brought the suitcases, by midnight, back home from the airport, and I was unpacking the winter cloths needed in Europe, and repacking the summary ones, needed for Zanzibar until 3:00am. That was a very close call..

Lesson aka David : you can leave the luggage to where it was tagged .

It will be “pulled “ out and will make it to the final destination.


That was an anti-climax finale to what otherwise, was a wonderful rewarding visit to Palma, Lisbon and Porto.


THE END