Today was a bit of a rough start. I tried to go to bed at 10:30pm last night, however my neighbour in room 402 was listening to music fairly loud, and smoking pot. I had enough by the time 11pm rolled by, so I knocked on his door to ask him to turn off the music. For some strange reason he was trying to use a hairdryer to blow the marijuana smoke from his room out the window. It was not working very well… He came home from partying at 6:00am or so and tried to enter my room, instead of his, so that woke me up. After having my breakfast it was time for me to venture out into the city.
First stop was Cais da Ribeira, which is is Porto’s historical city center square. It is included as part of the recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ribeira district spreads along the Douro river front, and was used as a center for commercial and manufacturing activities since the Middle Ages. In 1491 the majority of the buildings were destroyed in a fire, and rebuilt with arcades on their ground floors. In the mid-18th century the city needed to improve access for the swift flow of goods and people between the neighbourhood and other areas of Porto, so a new street, the Sao Joao Street, was opened on the North side and connected Ribeira Square and the upper town. The project took place between 1776 and 1782.
While I was in Ribeira I took the Elevador da Lada to the lower area of the Dom Luis I Bridge. This elevator was designed by Antonio Moura, and was built in 1994.
After looking at the view from the lower portion of the Dom Luis I Bridge I took the Guindais Funicular to he top of the Fernandine Walls of Porto. The funicular railway that was built in 1891. It descends 61 metres (200 feet) down the steep cliff from Batalha to the quayside at Riberia. The journey takes a mere 3 minutes.
The Fernandine Walls of Porto are medieval fortifications that began construction in 1336 during the reign of King D. Afonso IV. These Romanesque walls were topped by bastions, strengthened by turrets and watchtowers. The Trecho dos Guindais part of the wall was restored in 1920 and is open to the public to walk along, and also is home to the nearby Funicular dos Guindais.
After exploring the walls I walked across the Dom Luis I Bridge, which is a double-hinged double-deck arch bridge constructed of iron and granite. It has two decks that span nearly 400 metres across the Douro river. It was designed by Théophile Seyrig, and constructed by Société Willebreck between 1881 and 1886. The bridge utilized a toll system from its inauguration until 1944. Today the top deck is utilized by the D-Line public transportation and pedestrians, and the bottom deck by cars. In 2006 the lower deck was widened. The top of the bridge provides some incredible views below.
The Monastery of Serra do Pilar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1996. It was originally built in 1672 and houses a circular church and cloister. Both are situated quite high above the Douro river. The first monastery was constructed in 1538 by the order of St. Augustine. It was completed in 1564, with the cloisters finished in 1583, however was quickly rendered obsolete due to being too small. In 1597 work began on a new church. It took until 1672 to complete! The importance of the site wasn’t recognized until the Peninsular War when it was utilized as a fortified stronghold during the Siege of Porto. The destroyed portions of the monastery were reconstructed beginning in 1927. In 1947 some of the monastery grounds were converted into a military barracks, which remains on site to this day.
The Real Companhia Velha winery was founded in 1756 by King D. Jose I. It is also known as the Royal Oporto Wine Company, and has some of the most ancient cellars in the country. Here I had a tour of the Port House, and tried four delicious port wines.
It was time to get some lunch, so I walked about half an hour in the pouring rain to Aquele Tasco, and had a traditional Portuguese dish called Dobrada, which is tripe, white beans, chorizo, etc. in a tomato sauce served with basmati rice. It’s very similar to French Cassoulet. Afterwards I took pictures of a few more buildings before coming back to my hotel for the rest of the day, since it was raining so hard.
Rua de Santa Catarina 533 is a unique Art Nouveau style building, but I couldn’t find much information on it unfortunately.
Porto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church constructed between 1110 and 1737! The church encompasses the multiple architectural styles of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque, because it took so long to build. The cathedral is flanked by two towers, which are each supported with two buttresses and crowned with a cupola (dome-like structure).
The Coliseum of Porto is an Art Deco (Streamline Moderne) style theatre and concert venue that was built between 1939 and 1941. It has a capacity for 7000 people (3000 seated, 4000 standing). The building was designed by Cassiano Branco. Originally built as a concert hall, it was transformed to a cinema/studio in 1971. In 1995 the coliseum was to be sold to IURD, the Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. This caused a huge uproar by locals, municipal council, civil governor, etc. The “Amigos do Coliseu do Porto” was established, and stopped the sale of the building. In September 1996 the building was purchased by the Amigos. Unfortunately a fire started inside not too long after, which destroyed the stage, principal hall, and dressing rooms. The building was repaired and reopened in December 1996. Between 1997 and 2001 the building underwent numerous upgrades, which included electrical system upgrades, new washrooms on all floors, water supply upgrades, security upgrades, fire protection system upgrades, roof repairs, dressing room renovations, lighting and moving equipment upgrades, HVAC upgrades, etc. A very lengthy list! The building became a protected heritage building in 2005.
A Pérola do Bolhão is a beautiful Art Nouveau styled grocery store.
Be sure to check back soon, when I explore more of Porto. Tomorrow is my last day of exploring Porto before taking a train to Lisbon.
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