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A Tale of Two Cities – Porto and Santiago

January 13, 2015 6:07 pm

 

 

Hello friends and family! So nice of you to stop by our adventure ……

Monday, Jan 5 – Porto, Portugal

Porto is located along the Douro River in Northern Portugal and is one of the oldest European centres. Porto’s historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCOin 1996. We were lucky our apartment was located in this district – so many exploring possibilities! One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine, is named for Porto. Our host left us a nice bottle to enjoy.

We still encountered lots of English speaking people here, so no communication issues. We bought a few groceries on arrival, stopped in at a funky Cafe, did some laundry and settled in.

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Tuesday, Jan 6

We walked past this statue today – we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It looked like a lion eating an eagle that it had stomped on. That’s exactly what it is. It’s 45meters high and represents the victory of the Portuguese army over the Napolean French Army. As you can see by the photos, the lion (symbol of the Portuguese) is smashing an eagle (symbol on the Napolean forces). My picture is bad; so I ‘borrowed’ the clear one from the Internet.

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We crossed the pedestrian/train bridge this afternoon for a view of the city back along the river – gorgeous!

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Then we decided we needed to find our way down to the waterfront and worked our way down a long and winding road to the bottom. We knew we were going to pay for this later when we had to go back up. The river was bustling with restaurants, cafes and shops. A few tour boats were loading and unloading passengers taking in the sites of the Douro River. We followed the walk along the river and wormed our way back up into the heights of the old town. It was an interesting adventure that gave us a glimpse into both the poverty and wealth of the city. Many gutted buildings are being restored and will breath new life into some abandoned areas.

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Porto has very few restaurants open at night and it is very quiet. Could just be the time of year. The food was very cheap at the cafe we found and NOT very good. I would not realize until the morning, how much I would pay for that dinner. There was a group of several young men in the restaurant with a guitar that dined and sang and it was pretty entertaining. Check them out:

Wednesday, Jan 7

I awoke this morning with regrets to last night’s dinner. I was not well for the next 48 hours and had to stay pretty close to home. Joe made me some chicken noodle soup – he was so sweet.

We did venture out for an hour or so to find Livraria Lello; Porto’s world famous bookstore – ranked in the top 10. You are not allowed to take photos inside so the Internet was kind enough to help out again because you have never seen anything like it. Although, it may remind some of you of somewhere…

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This bookshop inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. In fact, J.K Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s. Do those awesome stairs and the impressive mouldings look familiar? It was so cool to walk around this store.

This is my pic of the outside and nearby building:

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Thursday, Jan 8

We walked to a museum with a park today. ‘Serralves’ is a cultural institution located in Porto that includes a Contemporary Art Museum, a Park and a Villa. The Museum is now the most visited museum in Portugal (more than 300,000 visitors per year). We just walked part of the garden:

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Beautiful home on our walk:

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We had a nice dinner after watching an incredible sunset on the bridge. What a beautiful city. We enjoyed our time in Porto.

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My Youtube of the amazing sunset:

 

Friday, Jan 9 – Santiago de Compostela (contributed by Joe)

Took short 4 hour bus trip to Santiago Spain.

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Actually “Santiago de Compostela”. Santiago is in Northern Spain, above Portugal, in an area called Galicia. Our friend and old boss Victor is from this neighbourhood.

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We loved our time in Portugal, but we’re equally excited to get back into Spain. After finding apartment we had a Tapas meal right down the street.

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Paula’s interjection:

The apartment was perfect – spacious with great views from our 4th floor windows. Our host left us lots of goodies, fruit and dropped off two pieces of tuna pie on Saturday! Because the apartment is in a historic building, there are no gas lines – the water is heated electrically, overnight in a small water heater. Use it up, no more hot water for the day. We learned that quickly and were happy to make allowances as part of this experience. Also the stairs leading to the 4th floor were the best glute exercise ever. It was more like 8 floors as each one had a landing. We tried not to come and go much here because of those stairs. Staircase:

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I knew it was about halfway when I saw this door:

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We were steps from the cathedral and could hear the lovely bells chiming everywhere we were. They chimed every 15 minutes; one chime per quarter hour. So on the hour, it was four chimes. Then another unique bell tone sounded for the number of hours. I figured this out laying in bed the first night, counting chimes. When I got to 15 o’clock I did some deducing! (End of Paula’s interjection) and a fogging night:

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Saturday, Jan 10 – Joe continues….

Why do I get all the history lessons? Anyway this is quite fascinating…..

Santiago is a beautiful old city recognized for the famous Cathedral housing the bones of Saint James (one of Christ’s Disciples). This Cathedral is absolutely magnificent! All the detail, statues, gold and design is just incredible.

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Also famous for the Camino de Santiago (Camino is the “Way” or the “Path” of Saint James). This is one of the Christian pilgrimages (in addition to Jerusalem and the Vatican in Rome). Won’t bore you with the legends, but people have been making pilgrimages to Santiago since the early 9th century.

Being one of the oldest pilgrimages – the journey has been taken uninterrupted every year since it began.   Approx 100,000 people make the pilgrimage every year. We have seen several during our stay – with their backpacks and staffs. The journeys start from anywhere but most are from France – to be legitimate it must be at least 100k walk – a lot of folks make the 800k hike from France.

There is a symbol of the Camino which is a Scallop shell. The lines on the shell represent the many routes that lead to one end – the Cathedral at Santiago. You can see Scallop shells marking the way – all along the route…some on posts, some right in the pavement. Pilgrims also wear a scallop patch on their sleeve. Very cool to witness this type of history and dedication.

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An arrival area for the pilgrims:

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The pilgrimage ends with a ceremony in the Cathedral and they all get to touch the tomb of St James. We sat thru what we thought would be the ceremony – but it turned out to be a regular Mass (conducted totally in Spanish so we were at a bit of a loss to follow).

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Also went to very cool Farmers market that would put Granville Island in Vancouver to shame, 100′s of vendors with the all kinds of produce, meats, amid the weirdest types of fish we have seen.

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We just love Spain, the passionate people and the great food, tapas, and wine are just exceptional. Had another great tapas lunch and even better dinner – definitely coming home contented (if not totally overweight).

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Sunday, Jan 11

Toured great little park above the old town:

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These ladies are characterized everywhere!

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Also did a museum tour of the Cathedral. Very impressive.

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Another day of just waking around the old town, taking in the sites and enjoying great food and wine.

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Stopped for a bite along the way..love to see the older ladies getting together – they are so elegant.

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Joe enjoying the cafe….

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A typical coffee pot for us:

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Now that’s a cleaver!

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Various styles of ham bone holders called ‘Jamoneros ‘

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Pennies on the wall of the cafe:

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Monday, Jan 12

Quiet day. Packed a picnic lunch and went to the nearby park to enjoy cheese and beer on a park bench in the sunshine…very relaxing.

Had a last long walk through the old town of Santiago and enjoyed the shops, narrow streets and lively scene. Had more wonderful tapas and wine for dinner, an early night as we catch a train in the morning for Ponferrada.

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Tunnel entertainment:

 

I keep forgetting to take food pictures – my favorite!! Thanks again for following along with us. We know you are there! We will post again just before we leave for France around January 21.

Paula and Joe

xoxoxo

 


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