Friday, December 6, 2019

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 3: Discovering Porto

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day3 : Discovering Porto
Portugal, Spain & France : Day 3 Tuesday, 29th October - Discovering Porto
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering a walking tour of Porto:
Cycling Distance: N/A as we were walking around.     Level: N/A.
Cycling Time : N/A
Time Taken : N/A

This is page 2 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1-2 Porto 1            |         Go to Other Days               |             Go to D4 Ovar >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    It was a rainy and cold day, so instead of cycling around we walked. We got to further away places by hailing Uber cars.

3. Weather
    At Porto day temperature averaged 19°C while evening temperature averaged at 16°C. A slight wind and intermittent showers made it feel cooler. It rained for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
   It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather, and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
    Along this route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
  1. Painel de Azulejos Ribeira Negra (GPS: 41.14135, -8.61143) just before the Túnel da Ribeira.
  2. Torre dos Clérigos (Clerics Tower(GPS: 41.14567, -8.61459).
  3. Jewish Quarters centred around the Kadoorie Synagogue (GPS: 41.15598, -8.63706).
  4. Miradouro da Vitória (Victoria Viewpoint) (GPS: 41.14316, -8.61581), from this viewpoint is a scenic panorama of Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of Douro River.
  5. Jardim da Cordoaria (Cordoaria's Garden) (GPS: 41.1458, -8.61671).
  6. Centro Português de Fotografia (CPF) (Portuguese Centre of Photography, a former prison) (GPS: 41.14458, -8.61582).
  7. Igreja do Carmo (Church of the Venerable Third Order of Our Lady of Carmo) (GPS: 41.14735, -8.61627).
  8. Fonte dos Leões (Fountain of the Lions) (GPS: 41.14713, -8.61561) in front of Universidade do Porto.
  9. Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) (GPS: 41.14690, -8.61477oldest bookshop in Portugal.
  10. Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) (GPS: 41.14619, -8.61138).
  11. Porto Sao Bento Train Station (GPS: 41.14566, -8.61053) (elaborate Portuguese azujelo blue tiles wall murals, and architecture).
  12. McDonald's Imperial (GPS: 41.14668, -8.61085), supposedly the most beautiful McD in the world.
  13. Sé do Porto (The Porto Cathedral) (GPS: 41.14282, -8.61118).
  14. Pillory of Porto at the Cathedral (GPS: 41.14253, -8.61196).
  15. Ponte de Dom Luís I (Dom Luís I Bridge) (GPS: 41.13995, -8.60944) spanning over the Duouro River and connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.
  16. Best famous views of the colourful houses of Porto is from Jardine do Morro (Garden of Morro) (GPS: 41.13714, -8.60925) at the side Vila Nova de Gaia.
  17. View point from Esplanada do Teleférico (Cable Car Esplanade) (GPS: 41.13815, -8.60915), a good place to have drinks and have the same scenic view.
  18. Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar (Monastery of Serra do Pilar) (GPS: 41.13836, -8.60736).
  19. Sandeman Wharehouses (GPS: 41.13764, -8.61239).
5. Food
   - Breakfast: in apartment.
   - Lunch: Restaurante Nova Luanda (GPS: 41.14541, -8.60433), 5€ pax that included bread, soup, mains, dessert, coffee, drinks (wine/beer/fruit juice).
   - Tea 1: Portuguese custard egg tarts (pastéis de nata) at Pastry Bela Torre (GPS: 41.1469, -8.61493)
   - Tea 2: Portonic & Caipirinha cocktails at Esplanada do Teleférico (Cable Car Esplanade) (GPS: 41.13815, -8.60915).
   - Dinner: ÉLoi'os Café & Snack (GPS: 41.14474, -8.61246); Salad, cod dumplings (Bolinhos de Bacalhau), Piglet Puffs (Rissóis de Leitão), roast piglet (suckling pig) (Dose de Laitao), Port, Super Bock beer.

6. Accommodations
    We stayed three nights at the House above Douro River (GPS: 41.14330, -8.58683) which we had pre-booked online an apartment with four 2-pax bed-rooms at €148.95 per night inclusive of city tax (€18.60 per pax per night).
    Address: Rua de Sabrosa, n 33, 2 left, Porto, Porto 4300, Portugal.

7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In Portugal, except in rural areas, many locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
    As we were in the city, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests. At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. Do note that Google Maps does not work in Cycling Mode in Portugal so use Walking Mode but do be aware that sometimes recommened routes are against traffic.


Yesterday, we spent the first part of the day arranging to forward our bike bags and extra luggage either to Granada or Barcelona. We later walked around on our own to visit several places of interest.
Today, we wanted to cycle around but the weather wasn't conducive; rain was forecasted for almost the whole day so we decided to do more walking around but not on our own. We joined the Sandeman's Free Walking Tour that will take us around the the historic centre of Porto, a listed UNESCO Heritage Site, for a map of place of interest at this centre, click here.


Day's route: Torre dos Clérigos>Miradouro da Vitória>Jardim da Cordoaria>Igreja do Carmo>Livraria Lello>Praça da Liberdade>Sao Bento Train Station>Ponte de Dom Luís I>Esplanada do Teleférico>Sé do Porto.
Cycling Distance: N/A     Level: N/A
Time : 9:50am to 1;10 pm (Walking tour only)
Time Taken: 3 hrs. 20 mins. (inclusive of morning tea, visiting places of interest, rest, and many photo opps).
This is a walking route following the Sandeman's Free Walking Tour around the old centre of Porto and extending across the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge to the Esplanada do Teleférico before looping back to the Sé do Porto cathedral.

From our apartment overlooking the Douro River, we took Uber taxis to town. Enroute is the tunnel and just before it are the large wall murals of the Painel de Azulejos Ribeira Negra just before the Túnel da Ribeira. The tunnel runs under the old town section just next to the Ponte de Dom Luís I.

We headed for the Torre dos Clérigos (Clerics/Clérigos Tower)r; no the walking tour doesn't start here. The meet-up point is at the nearby statue of Bishop António Ferreira Gomes (Estátua do Bispo D. António Ferreira Gomes), where there is an ample open space to gather. But the tower is an easy landmark to locate. Apologies and no offense meant for the esteemed bishop, but the tower at 75m tall is a more prominent landmark. For a long time it was the tallest structure in Porto and was easily noticeable from afar, even from the sea. One can purchase a 5€ ticket and climb up the tower for a great panoramic view of the city.

But we are not here to climb the tower (and I doubt if my poor knees can take that climb). We are here for the 10:00am Sandeman'sWalking Tour. Here we met André Botelho, our English-speaking guide; with slightly disheveled hair, a short beard and twinkling eyes, he could easily be mistaken for one of those gung-ho Portuguese explorers of yonder days. Anyway, the tour started with a free-spirited walk down the quiet, cobble-stone back-roads .....

... on to slightly wider road that led us slowly uphill.

And then it was an easy climb uphill to a the Miradouro da Vitória (Victoria Viewpoint), where pair of eyes peering out (looks like the Wolverine's eyes) tells us that we are here for a scenic view of the city..... and it's this small, little open space that's free to enter! Yes, no tickets required!

It's a strategic viewpoint, over the red roofs of the houses, the Duouro River can be seen with the conspicuous Ponte de Dom Luís I (Dom Luís I Bridge) spanning over it, and leading our eyes to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.

Back down, we passed by the Centro Português de Fotografia, it  previously housed the  former Relação Prison. We did not go in, but from this sharp corner the imposing building does not look so threatening. For other views of the building, click here.

Further along was the Igreja do Carmo (Church of the Venerable Third Order of Our Lady of Carmo). I noticed this church as its old facade does feature any Portuguese azujelo blue tiles, and the steeple tower has a dome that reminds me of those Russian churches seen at the Golden Ring near Moscow.

The Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) is not a square but a long park with a few trees surrounded by some of the oldest buildings of the city. At one end is the Estátua Equestre de Dom Pedro IV (Dom Pedro IV statue); he is an interesting historical character as he is also known as Pedro I of Brazil, see during Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and the Portugal royalty fled and established their government-in-exile in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
At the other end this square connects to the Praça do Município (Town Square) which fronts the majestic Câmara Municipal do Porto (Porto City Hall) building.

Other than those grand buildings we passed by other interesting structures such as the Fonte dos Leões (Fountain of the Lions), so named as it has four winged lions at its based spouting out water too. This fountain sits in front of the Universidade do Porto.

We walked through several parks too, one of the larger ones was the Jardim da Cordoaria (Cordoaria's Garden).

At one corner of the park is a sculpture of laughing men; we wondered what made them so happy and laughing so boisterously until one of them fell off his chair! There are four of these bronze and steel benches around the park, which were sculpted by the Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz in 2001. The work is called Thirteen Laughing at Each Otheras there are thirteen figures in total.

We walked along, passed by a street performer who was belting out lovely and lively tunes on his trumpet .....

and then to a small but interesting building that housed the Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore), oldest bookshop in Portugal. Although it was a weekday, the shop was packed and we did not go in but instead proceeded to .....

.... the Pastry Bela Torre, which sells one of the best Portuguese custard egg tarts (pastéis de nata), !YummY!

Of course no tour would be complete without a visit to the Porto Sao Bento Train Station which showcases the best murals made from the renown Portuguese azujelo blue tiles. These murals tells of some interesting history of Portugal, including some events that had important significance, such as Battle of Valdevez (1140) and the Conquest of Ceuta (1415), etc.

Porto sits on a hill and many of it's roads are rather steep, this one (can't recall where it was exactly) can give Baldwin Street, the world's steepest road, a run for its money.

With that, we concluded our walking tour with a group photo with André. Many thanks!

We will continue to explore Porto on our own, but first lunch! Where shall we go (scratching our heads)? We did not have to scratch too hard, it was back to our favourite 5 set lunch at Restaurante Nova Luanda. They change their main dishes everyday; today's mains were either two types of fish with tomato rice, pork balls with fries and buttered rice OR Pork belly and ribs with fries and buttered rice.
We soon found out why their food was so good, peeping inside the kitchen we saw Mama Luanda personally cooking the dishes with a smile and a good dose of her heart going into her cooking.

It started raining, more heavily this time, but following Annes' high spirit we made our way towards the Ponte de Dom Luís I. "Not having walked across the bridge would be like not having really been to Porto!" she quipped. Enroute was a bonus - on of those traditional LInha 1 trams, they look historical and squeaked by noisily and seem to have jumped out from a by-gone era.

As we approached the bridge, on one side was this large mural of a man, looks like somebody important, I wonder who he is?

On the other side, house with green creepers to hold the steep slope firmly sits on terraces that slowly step down to the river level. Both Porto and it's sister city, Vila Nova de Gaia (which is divided by the Douro River) sits high on hills and as such the Ponte de Dom Luís I is a tall bridge, and with it's steel lattice structure it is an imposing structure that perch high over the river.

The top-deck of the bridge, is used by the trams. Two rail lines run across it, no motorized vehicles are allowed in on the top-deck; these vehicles have to use a lower deck running at the bottom of the arch bridge. Pedestrians though can freely walk across the top deck.

Other than intermittent bollards, there are not railing and fencing that bar pedestrians from walking onto the rail line. As the tram approaches, pedestrians have to keep to the lanes outside of the yellow demarcating lines, those who didn't will get a loud toot of the bell from the coaches!
As one approaches the Vila Nova de Gaia side; on the left can be seen the huge round tower of the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar (Monastery of Serra do Pilar). On the left is the Jardine do Morro (Garden of Morro) park, from where one can view across the river back to the Porto side and see the remarkable scene of the colourful houses.

View from mid-span of the tall bridge, everything seems to look so small down at the river!

Looking back towards the Porto side, today the moody sky seems to make the houses less colourful, but the unique curved-hull traditional Portuguese Rabelo boats still ply the river.

View of the Ponte de Dom Luís I from the Jardine do Morro. It DOES look imposing, doesn't it?

On a cold, and rainy day like today, viewing the river and the city from the warmth of ?? will be a good idea. While there one can sip on the famous Portonic cocktail; it's a refreshing mix of dry White Port and tonic with a couple of twigs of mint to enhance the freshness.

Satisfied, we made our way back and headed for the Sé do Porto (The Porto Cathedral), one of the oldest monuments of the city.

Within the compound of the cathedral, is a newer structure called the Pillory of Porto, an ornately carved twisting stone pillory, called a pelourinho by the Portuguese. It is a reconstruction of a 1797 one and was inaugurated in 1945 during the authoritarian rule of António de Oliveira Salazar. At the top, two short horizontal bars extended outwards mimicked a hangman's bar, supposedly put there to warn detractors against opposing his rule.

Less threatening and actually rather soothing was a aria performed by Clare, an English tourist, at the pillory.

The inside of the cathedral was very impressive with tall pillars twisting up to support the roof of an impressive altar.

Our dinner at ÉLoi'os Café & Snack consisting of salad, cod dumplings (Bolinhos de Bacalhau), Piglet Puffs (Rissóis de Leitão), roast piglet (suckling pig) (Dose de Laitao), PortSuper Bock beer. It was quite good except for the roast piglet which we felt was below par.

One last place to visit, a fast-food joint.... yes a fast-food outlet - the McDonald's Imperial, supposedly the most beautiful McDonald's outlet in the world. As we enter an imperial eagle stands proudly, telling visitors of the difference and significance of this place.

Inside the tall ceiling with bright chandeliers, wall panel carvings, bright stained mosaic glass did indeed make the place look very classy; Ronald McDonald would have been proud!

(Cheers! Tomorrow we start our actual cycling, heading for Ovar!)

(For more photos of the Day 3, Click Here)

This is page 2 of a 16-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1-2 Porto 1            |        Go to Other Days               |             Go to D4 Ovar > 

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