Sunday, March 15, 2020


By Ana Kippel

This is Portugal

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

A colourful contrast of mosaic hand painted tiles, fishermen on the rivers, shepherds in the green country side, beaches and mountains, cobblestone and lime, a combination of tradition and modern. Let’s discover and take a journey through this majestic country


Porto was my first destination. This is a city with a magnificent landscape, a view like no other, and where I was born. The temperature is a perfect 20c with a soft wind blowing and the sun shining. People are wearing light jackets and tennis shoes. The city of Porto is known for its beautiful bridges, which cross the River Douro and connect to the city of Nova de Gaia.

The Praca Da Ribeira is one of the oldest and most attractive places in Porto. It lies along the River Douro and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this area, there are many restaurants, terraces, and authentic shops all visited by tourists. The history of Porto lays in the streets and old buildings, in the staircases and alleys, with numerous examples of architecture from the middle Ages. 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash (Click to enlarge)

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

The Rabelo Sailboat is a vessel that traditionally carried the Port Wine from the Alto Douro to the Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wine was stored, aged and bottled and then marketed. This small boat is 19-23 meters in length and has a Nordic, Mediterranean look. The boat carried 6-7 men, who used an oar over the stern to steer the boat. These boats stopped being used in 1961 and are now a tourist attraction in the River Douro. They make a beautiful photograph!

On the strip, there are many restaurants you can choose to dine in and enjoy a traditional Portuguese meal. This night I decided to eat at Restaurant Marisqueira, located on the Praca Da Ribeira, by the Douro River. I highly recommend this restaurant; the Bacalhau De Natas (photo below) is ridiculously good and OUT of this world!! One of the best I have ever tasted. As a tourist, try to stick to the authentic dishes, they are always so much better. Just ask the waiter, they are all so informative and friendly and they all speak English. The Calde Verde, (a kale and potato soup) is a favourite of mine and is a very traditional and popular dish. 

Bacalhau De Natas (Photo by Ana Kippel)

One of my most favourite things to do in Porto was a wine tour. As a tourist it is a must! There are many to visit, such as Sandeman’s, Kopke Port House, and Cálem, Graham’s Port Lodge, Taylor’s Port Winery and more. My taxi driver suggested W. & J. Graham's Port Lodge; saying it has the best combination of food and port. It is situated on the Vila Nova de Gaia. I chose the classic tasting which included 3 glasses of Port, one Ruby, one Tawny and one Vintage. I had a 45 minute guided tour with a group; it was very enlightening, sophisticated and elegant. If needed there are English speaking tours. At the end of the tour I take a seat and enjoy the view of the Douro River, as I savor my wine.

I ordered a cheese tray and truffles to go along with my Port. These 3 Ports all have different ageing styles. First up is Graham’s Six Grapes Port, served slightly cool, it has the most concentration, very fruity and elegant with blackberry aromas. It is aged for a period of 3 to 4 years in oak vats. This Port is excellent paired with, hard cheeses and chocolate cake.

Next is Graham’s LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) Port, it is aged up to six years and seasoned in wood vats, it is lighter in colour and texture than Ruby, and also slightly drier. Vintage Ports are only made in years of exceptionally high quality harvests, which on average take place two or three times in a decade. A great pairing is blue cheese and dried nuts.

Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny, aged for 10 years in oak casks has an intense golden amber colour. The aromas are a combination of orange peel and cinnamon prunes, raisins and figs. With a full and generous flavour, this port has a long clean finish. Perfect with chocolate truffles or coffee, and figs. It is best served slightly chilled. Visit for a guided tour and prices at

Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In the heart of Porto, is the Sao Bento Railway Station, lined with twenty thousand ceramic tiles, it is one of the most visited stations in Portugal. Built in the early twentieth century, the tiles represent various scenes in Portugal’s history of war and historical events in Portuguese history and transportation. Included in the landscapes are the Battle of Valdevez (1140) and the Conquest of Ceuta (1415) along with several other important events and places that created the vibrant city that this extraordinary and beautiful station resides in. It was built by José Marques da Silva, a Portuguese architect in 1896.

Livraria Lello was the most memorable experiences I had while in Porto. It was definitely magical when I walked in. Renowned worldwide, it is one of the most beautiful book stores in the world, built in 1906. The architecture is a neo-gothic style; in the midst of the store is a beautiful crimson staircase with red flooring, and a majestic stained glass window on the ceiling with iconic features. It is known that J.K Rowling was a frequent customer and was inspired by the store, hence, all the Harry Potter fans. Many have noticed the similarity between Rowling's description of the Flourish and Blotts bookstore in the “Harry Potter" books and Livraria Lello. It is where characters in the novels purchase their books on magic. 

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

A few tips when visiting…there is always a lineup outside. Best times to go are when it opens at 9:30 am or mid afternoon. During the summer months it is definitely busier because of so many tourists. I went in March so it wasn’t very busy and I waited in line about 5 minutes. I spent an hour inside; it was tough to leave such a beautiful place. It was also tough to take a good photograph, as it was exceptionally cramped. I was patient and got all the photos I felt I wanted, leaving satisfied.

Tickets are purchased around the corner for 5 Euro’s per person, or online, you can use the ticket as a voucher with any book purchase. At the far back of the store is a small nook, devoted to The Harry Potter Series. The books are written in many different languages. Lello Bookshop is a premiere tourist destination to visit while in Porto.

Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unspalsh)

Nearby the Lello Bookshop is a quaint café, Casa Portuguesa Do Pastel De Bacalhau, serving only cod balls with or without cheese, accompanied by white Port. The cheese is a popular cheese that originates in the north of Portugal, in the city Serra Da Estrala, (where my father was born). This region is popular for its scenic high mountain; it’s diversity of plants and birds and the flocks of sheep herded by Estrela dogs. At this café, you can sit and relax on the patio, or walk up to the library lounge, a beautiful sitting area surrounded by bookcases, while a chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Very aristocratic.

Casa Portuguesa Do Pastel De Bacalhau (Photo by Ana Kippel)

Another Portuguese experience to include is to have some Pastais De Nata, a traditional Portuguese egg custard, served slightly warm with dust of cinnamon on top, my favourite. I have tried this tart at numerous different cafes and this was the absolute best one. Halfway to the top of the hilly street of Rua Dos Clerigos is a café called Manteigaria; they served an outstanding, extremely creamy, Pastel De Nata that melts in your mouth. Nearby is an area where you can see the employees making the tarts from scratch, I’m sorry I didn’t have more! Absolutely delicious! #manteigaria

Pastais De Nata (Photo courtesy of Unspalsh)

Next on my list is the famous Majestic Café, built in the 1920’s, a romantic and elite coffee shop on the Rua Santa Catarina strip, a famous street where you can shop to your heart’s content. This street does not allow transportation, so tourists are able to stroll freely. I wanted to try the Francesinha (an authentic dish in Porto) and see what all the fuss was about. It’s a ham and steak sandwich baked with cheese on top, in a gravy sauce. Not my favourite dish, but for me, just to be inside this marvelous café and admiring the art nouveau, was worth it. The original chairs and tables are used, made of leather and varnished wood, and at the back of the café, a beautiful piano sits beside a dining room for special events. I do recommend a visit to this famous Café for the décor; however, it is pricey and do expect a lineup outside during peak seasons. J. K. Rowling would visit often while writing her first books, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I traveled from Lisbon to Porto, to Coimbra, back to Lisbon by Alfa High Speed Train; I highly recommend it, extremely comfortable. If airplanes were like this, I would travel so much more. You can reserve your seat on the Alfa at the train station or online.

Keep in mind that trains can become full during busy times. Tip-you have a designated seat, so make sure you look for your seat number and don’t sit on anyone by mistake! The Portuguese Alfa train connects all of the major cities in Portugal. From the capital city of Lisbon, to Coimbra, and Porto, this is what I did. From Lisbon to Porto it took 2 and a half hour’s which means…a good nap. Alfa trains only stop one or two times at selected ports. With speeds up to 220 km/h, and is the fastest way to get around in Portugal. Plus, they have excellent services, like free Wi-Fi on board, snacks and beverages, video screens, newspapers/magazines, and a mini bistro/restaurant.

Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Porto is one of the most beautiful and popular destinations. The second largest city in Portugal, it is known for its Port wine, which is made and marketed along the River Douro. Porto is home to a number of dishes from traditional Portuguese cuisine. A typical dish from this city is Tripas a Moda Do Porto (Tripe Porto style), Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa (cod in the style Gomes de Sá) is another typical codfish dish. Another traditional dish is a Francesinha, made with bread, ham, fresh sausage like steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. It is typically served with fries.

When visiting Porto, make sure you take a river cruise, where you will enjoy spectacular views of the River Douro. Sit on a patio by the Praca Da Ribeira and enjoy an espresso with an egg tart. Visit a book store; take photographs of the spectacular architecture, listen to Fado (old folklore songs) go on a wine tour and enjoy the traditional cuisine, the dessert wine, and hang out with the big hearted people of this city. You will fall in love with Porto…my Porto.

Porto, Portugal (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

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