From Folgosa (Douro River) we drove east to Porto (old town) which was about 161 km away. On the way we made a detour to explore “Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies”. In many ways this cathedral was similar to “Bom Jesus do Monte”. It was built on a hill top and had a Baroque style zigzag stair that went all the way to town. Of the two, I found Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies more beautiful.
At Porto we stayed two nights. Porto was very beautiful day and night and we had a wonderful time exploring Porto old town.
Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies
Shrine of “Our Lady of Remedies” was about 26 km from Folgosa and the drive took about 30 minutes.
Near to Lamego the route took us up hill and we reached a car/bus parking (co-ordinates: 41.090724, -7.817473) on the upper side of the Cathedral. It was Sunday abd there were many cars circling about looking for empty lots. We managed to find a empty lot a short distance away.
The “Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies” was also known as “Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios”. It sat on the hill of St. Stephen. The erection of the present shrine started in 1750 and completed about 255 year later. It replaced another chapel dedicated to St. Stephen which was demolished as it was collapsing. The worship of St. Stephen was progressively replaced by the worship of the Virgin Mary.
We saw a stream of locals dressed in their fineries going into the chapel, it seemed like there was a wedding event going on. The cathedral and its garden was lovely. The panoromic view of Lamego city from the ground of the cathedral was absolutely stunning. It was a bright day and the sky was clear and blue and we could see the zigzag stairs going down all the way to the town onto a pedestrian walk that was flanked by long rows of trees on both sides.
Going down there were a total of twelve zigzag sectors before we reached the road level. After every zigzag stage there was a “display” on the white wall between the left and the right zigzag steps. Among these displays we saw an obelix at the top, about five beautiful blue paintings (Azulejo) and a couple of lovely statues.
At the base of the stairs was a pedestrian walk that was part of a garden, “Jardim da Avenida Visconde Guedes Teixeira”. The garden was a long rectangular stretch of land with several beautiful maiden statues.
Coming down the steps was easy but returning was tough. We were reluctant to go back up but we had no choice as our car was parked up there. We sat in the park and bought ice-cream from a small local supermarket that was one of the many shops surrounding the park. After a “ice cold” break we were ready the tackled the step.We decided to count the steps as we went up. All in we counted 613 steps from the start of the zigzag stairs all the way to the chapel. But on record it was suppose to be 686 steps so where were the missing 73 steps.
It was a 1.5 hour drive of about 135 km to Porto. We had booked a two night “stay” in Vila Nova de Gaia, a city that was located south of the old city of Porto.
On the north side of the Douro River was the old town of Porto (Ribeira District) and on the southern side was Vila Nova de Gaia city. Along this river we wanted to stay as near to the famous old bridge of Porto, “Dom Luís I Bridge” that spanned over the Duoro River, as we could. If we stayed in Porto old town, we would have issues with parking our car. As for Vila Nova de Gaia town, we had found several secured parking/garages near our stay which was also a short walking distance to the famous bridge.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Luck was with us, we managed to park our car at Miaraporto Car Park which was the cheapest and nearest (to our stay) of the three carparks that we had identified. Miaroaport Car Park (co-ordinates: 41.135681, -8.610795 ) was a secured open-air carpark with a 24 hour guard. The cost for 24 hour (continuous) parking was capped at €15. We left our car there till we left Porto . two days later. During these two days we returned many times to the car to pickup/offload stuffs.
Since it was guarded carpark we felt it was safe to leave our bigger in the boot/trunk of our car. We brought out our smaller bags and grocery. Though it was a short distance to our stay, we found out too late that it was mostly steps/stairs! Anything that involved uphill/downhill, steps/stairs when we were carrying our grocery and pulling our bags was hateful!
We should have parked and checked into our “stay”, picked up the house keys, drove directly to off load our bags/grocery at our doorstep then parked our car again!
On the first day we explored only the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the Douro River. From our “stay” we went up the same stairs what would have led to our carpark, but before our carpark we turned left to “R. do Gen. Torres”.
This road was on a higher elevation which allowed us to look over many roof tops to the opposite side of Douro River. On the opposite bank was Riberia District of Porto old town and it was filled with colourful houses. The view was awesome, we continued walking and soon Dom Liuz I Bridge came into sight. Wow it was gigantic.
If we continued along “R. do Gen. Torres” we would reach the base of “Dom Liuz I Bridge” and from there we could cross Douro River to Riberia District. But we were not ready to visit Riberia District so we took another route that go further uphill to “Jadim do Morro” which was a park. Located at the park was a cable car station and a tram station. The cable car ride “Teleférico de Gaia” linked the upper part of Gaia (where Jadim do Morro was sited) to the lower part of Gaia which was the Gaia Quay. The six minutes aerial ride costed €6 for a single trip and €9 for a return trip. As for the tram ride it connected Jadim do Morro on Gaia side to Ribeira District by crossing the Douro River on the upper deck of Dom Liuz I Bridge
Standing on the terrace of “Jadim do Morro” we had a clear view of the opposite bank. We could hear loud cheering and singing coming from Riberia Square. Zooming in through the our camera lens we saw that the square was packed FULL with people.
The crowd was made up of thousands of soccer fans. Coincidentally our two nights/days in Porto coincided with 2019 UEFA Nations League Final! We hoped that when we visited Ribeira District the next day the crowd would be less dense.
As the evening proceeded more people came up to “Jardim do Morro”. Many people we standing around or sitting on the ledges of the terrace and waiting… waiting.. We wondered what were they waiting for?
They were waiting for the sun to set. Unfortunately on the first evening we were there the sky was too cloudly so the sunset was not spectacular at all.
After the sun set, the temperature dropped and the weather was chilly and cold. I did not have my windbreaker and found my fleece jacket insufficient to keep me warm. Unable to take the cold I dragged Yat Thong home with me.
On the next evening we were back at “Jardim do Morro” again, this time I came fully prepared to weathered the cold. We went up to “Igreja da Serra do Pilar” via a road “Rampa do Infante Santo” just near the end of the garden.
The terrace of “Igreja da Serra do Pilar” was a scenic view point. On the second evening the weather was good, the sky was beautiful and we saw a beautiful sun set over Porto old town. We were glad that we had two nights in Porto or we would not have witnessed such beautiful sight.
After the sun set we still stayed up on the viewing terrace to wait for the lights to come up. Especially the golden light of Dom Liuz I Bridge. Wow it was beautiful!
It was about 10 am in the morning on Sunday when we took a short walk to the river bank. It was a short 500 metres walk. Anchored along the Douro River were a row of quaint boats, what a lovely sight they made. These were the rabelo boats which were traditional Portuguese wooden cargo boats that was used for centuries to transport people and goods along the Douro River. Today these rabelo boats served as boat cruises for tourists.
Along the river was a wide promenade and on it were many makeshift stores. This was probably the Sunday morning market.
Old Porta Town
The steel bridge “Dom Luis I Bridge” was a double deck steel arch bridge. The steel bridge connected Vila Nova de Gaia and Ribeira District of Porto town at two levels. The upper deck connected the hills on both sides, one side of which was “Jardim do Morro”, the garden where we were viewed sunset the evening before.
We crossed the Douro River on the lower deck of Dom Luis I bridge. On the deck were four lanes. The two center lanes were for vehicles (two ways) and the two sides lanes were for pedestrians. I felt tiny walking across this historical bridge that was build more than 100 years ago (construction took place between 1881 and 1886).
Definitely at river front of Ribeira District, the crowd was larger, there were more cafes, restaurants and shops. The place was colourful and vibrant and the Sunday morning market was out in “full force”.
We “snaked” through the stores in the morning market, mentally memorizing the locations of the stores where we might come back to purchase souvenirs. We did not want to make any purchases yet in the event that we might find better “things” elsewhere. It as a mistake! Because four-five hours later when we returned, all those we liked were already sold!
From the riverbank we walked to Riberia Square (1) which was crowded but not as JAM packed with “soccer fans” as the night before.
At the Riberia square there were more stores selling basically the same stuffs that we had seen before, some more expensive some cheaper. The square was part of the historical Ribeira district which used to be a centre for intense commercial and manufacturing activity since Middle Ages.
From Riberia Square we walked upslope along road “R de Mouzinho da Silveira” and turned left into into “Av. Dom Afonso Henriques”. Near Sao Bento station was a side alley and there we chanced upon another morning market, “Urban Market” (2) (co-ordinates 41.145426, -8.611366). It was a craft market where local artists/designers/craftmen displayed their products. Lovely but pretty expensive.
We left “Urban Market” and went back to the main road. The wide walkway/promenade outside the building which was opposite “São Bento Station” (3) was cluttered with outdoor cafe seats, tables and sun umbrellas. Many people were queuing up here and there buying icecreams, cakes, pastries etc etc. At one cafe we saw a lovely display of mini portugese tarts so we bought one too. It costed only €0.90 and it tasted fantastic. The crust was thin and crispy and the egg cream was soft and warm. It was so unlike the larger horrible ones that we had tasted so far!
The old town was full of grand old buildings. Igreja dos Congregados (3) (Church of Santo António dos Congregados) was just outside the metro/train station of São Bento.The exterior blue tiles and the interior wall paintings depicted scenes from St. Anthony’s life.
São Bento Railway Station was opened in 1916 and its structure emanated the city’s typical melancholy and nostalgic mood of that era. We did not go in as we did not think that it had anything special. It was only after we left Porto that we came to know that the inside of the station was even more striking than the outside. The walls in the main hall had more than 20,000 blue tiles that reflected the history of Portugal!
Next was Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square). This was Porto’s main square (4) and connected the old town with the modern part of the city. At the start of the square was a huge 10-meter bronze statue of King Peter IV (Estátua Equestre de Dom Pedro IV) riding on a horse and holding the Constitution that he had fought to protect during the Liberal Wars.
The square was altered after 1916, when the municipality buildings were demolished and Avenida dos Aliados, a modern boulevard, was built to the north of the square. The buildings around Liberdade Square and the avenues were banks, hotels, restaurants and offices. The square was more of a long rectanglar land with many old buildings on both sides and the town hall with its clock tower at the end.
We walked down the length of the square/rectangle and saw somewhere in the center a huge stage with a largeTV screen, around the stage were stores selling alcohol/beers. This place was one of the assembly areas for “2019 UEFA Nations League Final” soccer fans.
Many fans were sitting on the ground sipping beers. We wondered if they were waiting for a event to start. We waited around for 10 minutes then gave up and moved on. We were back to the front of the square to explore a McDonald store. This was “The World’s most Beautiful McDonald” (5)! The entrance itself was already impressive. The interior had crystal chandeliers, modern art stained glasses and panels of wall art. Unfortunately the atmosphere did not match the Art-Deco. It was choatic and noisy!
We ordered a cup of McCafe’s latte and a piece of cake. It was such an anti-climax to be eating and drinking off paper plate and cup which were so out of syn with the grand interior!
After our coffee break we walked forward to Igreja dos Clérigos & Torre dos Clérigos – (6). The building seemed to be sitting in the middle of the road. Clérigos Church & Clérigos Tower was a tappering building that started with a church in front to a slim tower at the other end.
Entry into the church was free but entry up the tower via a lift was at a charge at €3 per person. We did went into the church to explore but did not bother to go up the tower.
It was amazing that there were so many churches in the old town, just after we left one church behind we came upon another church. This time a simpler looking church, “Igreja de Sao Jose das Taipas” (7). By now we knew that “Igreja” meant church and “Sao” meant saint, so that would mean “Sao Jose” was Saint Joseph. So this church was dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Naturally the next architectural site after “Igreja de Sao Jose das Taipas” was another church in fact was a pair of twin churches, Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Camelita (8). These two churches were separated by a narrow 1 metre wide house. Apparently the house was built so that there was no common wall between the two churches which would prevent any relations between the nuns of Igreja dos Camelitas and the monks of Igreja do Carmo.
The “Igreja dos Carmelitas” was built in the mid-17th century, it had a granite facade with three arched entrances. On the left was a single bell tower and the top was covered with blue and white azulejos tiles. Igreja do Carmo was built between 1756 and 1768, it had an outstanding azulejo-covered exterior that depicted the scenes of the founding of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel.
Across the road was a small Fonte dos Leões (9) sitting in a square just infront of the “Rector of the University of Porto. It was a monumental fountain, 8 metres in diameter and 6 metres high. On the lower tier were four lions with wings supporting the upper tier of the fountain.
By the afternoon we were tired of viewing churches. We had seen so many churches and they beginning to look too alike. We decided not to walk to another church no matter how famous/popular it was. We walked in the direction of Douro River. Unfortunately or fortunately our route passed another church/cathedral. It was the Porto Cathedral (10). This cathedral was one of the city’s oldest/important monuments.
From the cathedral we took a slope that led down to the river bank. It was a loopy route through steps/stair that finally brought us to the river front. Phew! after four-five hours of wandering around the old town we were so ready to go back for a rest.
Our stay in Porto
Our stay was “Old Town Apartment By Living Well“, an apartment we booked on booking.com. It costed €135 for two nights. For the entired two days we parked our car at Miaraporto Car Park 190 metres away (shortcut through steps/stairs). We found that outside the door of our apartment there were parking and since it was weekend the parking was free. Unfortunately they were always occupied and there was no way to make a reservation.
Living on the opposite of the Douro River was just perfect, it was within walking distance to old town and comparatively cheaper than those accommodations in the old Porto Town.
We had originally intended to book an apartment with a view of the bridge (Dom Luiz I Bridge) but could not find one that matched our budget and requirements. On arrival we found that such an apartment was not necessary as one of the best viewpoints of the bridge was on the terrace of Igreja da Serra do Pilar that was just a short distance from our stay, “Old Town Apartment By Living Well“.
Our apartment was lovely. The door opened to a sitting lounge that was quaintly furnished. The kitchen was equiped with stove, microware, fridge, coffee machine, cooking utensil, crockery etc etc.
Our bedroom had a queen bed, though the room was not small, there was still room to move around. Having an apartment was great as we did not have to stay cooped up in our bedroom. Having our own sitting lounge was a luxury as we could laze around comfortably in privacy.
The apartment had a large toilet with great shower and all the necessary toiletries. We loved this apartment, it was relatively inexpensive, it was spacious, we had a full kitchen and the location was good for exploring the old town and the famous Dom Liuz I bridge!
With a fully equipped kitchen we were able to cooked two breakfast and two dinner. For one dinner we had a ham & cheesy tortellini and the other dinner was seafood tortellini. And for every breakfast we got our eggs!