An April 2001 trip
to Porto by Re Carroll
Quote: Technically called Oporto, this is Portugal's second largest city. Smaller than Lisbon and easier to navigate, it is Europe's City of Culture for 2001.
From the completely tiled exterior of St. Catarina to the impressive interior of Igreja de S. Francisco or the 200 plus steps to the top of Torre Dos Clerigos, Porto's churches and historical buildings are incredible. The square at Praca da Liberdade features the Town Hall and other beautiful old buildings that remind me a bit of Paris. Even Sao Bento, the central train station, is decorated throughout with beautiful tiles.
Port production is one of the city's main industries and there are lots of tours, tastings and other events related to it. Many stores carry a wide selection of Port, including a large assortment of mini bottles so you can do your own taste test.
A metro system is currently under construction and that means lots of dust, noise and detours around the construction areas but don't let that deter you from enjoying this attractive city.
The room had a private bathroom (shower only but good water pressure with lots of hot water) as well as cable TV and automatic wake up calls that you set via the phone. There is an elevator, bar and 24 hour room service. Continental breakfast is included in the price and consisted of juice, coffee, tea or hot chocolate, rolls, croissants and jam.
Within a block of the hotel, there are lots of cafes and restaurants and it was a safe area to walk alone at night. The train station is less than a 5 minute walk away and the bus station less than 10 minutes.
Price for my single room was 6000$ (under $30. US), making this a good budget option.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 24, 2001
Residencial Dos Aliados
Av. dos Aliados
22 200 4853/4
The four person rooms are fairly large with 2 bunk beds and a desk and chair although no separate reading light makes the lower bunks too dull for reading. Bathrooms are across the hall and there is a kitchen if you want to do your own cooking. I stayed here two nights and had the room to myself the first night but the second night, the hostel was fully booked.
The large cafeteria serves breakfast which consists of cereal, cold ham, cheese, buns, juice, coffee, tea or hot chocolate. A four course dinner can be ordered for a set price of 950$ (less than $5. US).
Although there are only three floors, the elevator comes in handy if you have heavy luggage. The front entrance and the common areas on each floor are monitored by security cameras. The large T.V. room has a pool table and a bar with drinks and snacks at good prices. This room also has wonderful views overlooking the river and is a relaxing place to have a glass of Port and meet people from all over the world.
Staff are extremely friendly and helpful. If the hostel is full, they will try and find you alternate accommodation at a comparable price.
To get back to town, Bus #35 (Campanha) stops less than 1/2 block from the hostel.
There is a grocery store across the street which is open until 8 p.m. as well as a large restaurant serving Italian and Portugese food with a great outdoor patio. Prices at the restaurant start at approx. $8.00 US for an entree.
The only drawback to the hostel is its distance from the central part of Porto but at 2000$ (less than $10. US) per night, including breakfast, you won''t find anything cheaper.
Pousade de Juventude
Rue Paulo da Gama 551
617 72 57
The Park was constructed on two levels with stairs leading from one to the other. The resident peacocks could be heard but not seen although there were a number of chickens running through the bush.
This is a place where lovers stroll hand in hand, young parents play with their toddlers and matrons stop to have coffee and a pastry at the tree shaded cafe in the midlle of the park.
Concerts are held here throughout the year.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 24, 2001
Palacio De Cristal
The walk back down can be a bit tricky because it takes awhile for your eyes to adjust from the bright sunlight to the dark stairways and it can be easy to miss a step - a scary prospect if you're looking at 200+ steps below.
A thick curtain separates the Tower from the Church. The high dome of the Church has been reinforced with steel bars to minimize damage in the event of an earthquake. The Church interior is done in pink and gold and the altar is carved from marble. It's very peaceful and a good place to catch your breath after the Tower climb.
Postcards are available for purchase at the Tower entrance. Admission is 200$ although there is no charge to enter the Church. The Tower is open daily (except Wednesday) from 10:30 a.m. to noon and again from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 25, 2001
Torre Dos Clerigos
The wooden boats are painted with bright colours (ours was yellow and green) and are replicas of barcos rabelos, the flat bottomed boats that were used to transport Port downriver in earlier times. There is indoor seating but everyone seems to prefer the outside benches at the front of the boat. It might be a bit windy but the sun and unimpeded view make up for that. There is a small bar on board where you can buy drinks - Port, naturally.
The boat motors under a total of 5 bridges that connect Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia where the Port warehouses are. There is no commentary , just lots of great scenery.
Price is 1500$ (approx. $7.00 US) and children under 12 are free. Boats leave from the Ribeira pier at the bottom of the Praca de Ribeira. There are a number of restaurants and cafes here and this is a good place to enjoy a seafood dinner.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 25, 2001
Five Bridges Cruise
Abbotsford, British Columbia