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"Falling" For Portugal - Mai Tai Tom's "Trip" Report

Today was Back To School Day in Coimbra. At the University of Coimbra, we visited its renowned (and gorgeous) Joanine Library, 16th-century St. Michael’s Chapel, the Royal Palace (the oldest palace in Portugal), a unique room where a cow skeleton greeted us and the interesting Science Lab. The New Cathedral (built in the 1500s) and an art museum where you can walk through a 1st-century subterranean Roman Forum were in store for us. We’d view some Street “Trash” Art, and end our day at a magnificent monastery that we nearly bypassed. Capping off our night, we dined inside a chimney at a ceramics factory. A busy day indeed!
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A couple of days of the trip in this installment. From Coimbra we stopped at the interesting town of Viseu (wish we could have stayed longer) and then moved on to Lamego, where in my younger days I would have climbed those 686 steps to Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, but thankfully there was a road up to it. Then we made it to the Douro Valley, where I accidentally drove off the highway (not as bad as it sounds) on the way to our lodging. The following day we’d go on a glorious hike into the vineyards to start the day. Then we’d take to the hills, where humanity seemed to have fled knowing we were on our way. Of course, being in the Douro meant a little wine to be consumed. Cheers!

Our final two days in the Douro Valley started with a slightly frightening drive to our next lodging that had some magnificent views. On that day we’d visit a regional wine museum and tour a palace/manor house complete with some gorgeous gardens. The following day Tracy and I would go rolling on the river in a rabelo, where we ran into our only Ugly American on the trip. Wine tasting and two good dinners at our lodging, and our time was up in wine country, but four nights in what turned out to be our favorite city in Portugal loomed ahead. Heading for the finish line!

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Leaving the Douro Valley, we arrived in Porto in the early afternoon. After a quick lunch, we’d scout out the historic and recently reopened Mercado do Bolhão, took a walk down one of Porto’s best shopping streets and stopped by Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, with a façade featuring about 11,000 azulejo tiles. Speaking of tiles, many people go inside the São Bento Railway Station not to travel, but to marvel at its azulejo-decorated interior. A walk up a famed avenue to its gorgeous City Hall, dining on a 50,000 calorie francesinha sandwich and a couple of glasses of wine at the grand Cafe Majestic would end a pretty busy Porto afternoon and evening. Oh, how we loved Porto!
Historic Porto Sites and Beautiful Porto Sights - Our first full day in Porto started with a stroll down the famed Rua das Flores. which took us to the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa and its spectacular rooms. Nearby, we stopped in the opulent Igreja de São Francisco and its sometimes eerieunderground Catacombs. Then we ventured down to the busy Ribeira on a holiday Wednesday, walked across the River Douro on the Ponte Luís I to Vila Nova de Gaia for a delicious late Portuguese lunch. Views back to Porto were stupendous. We ended the day with wine on our hotel patio and yet another wonderful dinner. We were digging Porto!
We got an early start on our next to last day in Porto. Our first stop was a bookstore called by some “the most beautiful book shop in the world,” with its famed red staircase. Then we visited two churches separated by the “narrowest private residence in the country.” A quick stop into a nearby church and we were off to see a highly touted art museum that unfortunately was rather devoid of art. Then we ventured up to a park and garden with spectacular views out to the River Douro. Two great meals and another wonderful day in Porto was “in the books.”
It was finally time to say “adeus” to Portugal. On our final day in Porto, we stopped at the nearby for a self-guided tour, and found an interesting building next to it after we exited. It was a gorgeous afternoon, so we walked through the city to grab lunch and then headed for one last remarkable view of Porto from the other side of the River Douro, before (carefully) walking back across the top of the city’s famous bridge. One last great meal capped off the evening.

On the following day, we’d take the train back to Lisbon, with an unexpected thrill along the way.

We would finally board our aircraft home, but not before Tracy once again seemed to be on an international terrorist list and had to undergo the usual interrogation process.

It was a great three weeks, and Portugal more than lived up to its advanced billing.
We are recently back from Mexico City, so I thought I better get the last installment of Portugal out while I still remember. Today, just a few random thoughts on our trip and some of our favorite photos taken during our three weeks there. Portugal had been on our radar for so long (thanks to Covid) that I worried it might not live up to expectations. Well, it more than lived up to its advance billing! https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/epilogue-final-thoughts-about-portugal/
Sorry that I am late to this. Wish I had your energy! Spectacular photos. May I ask what camera/lenses you are using?

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