I’m sorry to say that Porto was a letdown. I was so prepared to love it, especially after Coimbra, which I adored. But I’m a fan of smaller cities and am turned off by countless tourists. Coimbra reminds me of Segovia, whereas Porto reminds me of a Zaragoza overrun by tourists.
I’ve also always said that the weather on the day that you visit a college greatly influences whether or not you fall in love with the school. On a gray day, even the most beautiful college campus can look drab.
Such was my first day in Porto. I arrived by train with two badly blistered feet hoping to fall in love with Porto, but it looked dirty, drab, and full of tourists. My mother referred these as the “great unwashed masses.” They were smoking and vaping, wearing cheap T-shirts and torn jeans, tatted, pierced and sporting unattractive facial hair. It was not the most refined crowd.
The next day, the sun shone and things perked up, but the same crowds were still here. I took a boat trip to explore the six bridges crossing over Porto, visited the cathedral and several churches, and attended a port tasting followed by a very poor Fado concert. I was most struck by visiting Igreja (church) de São Francisco. It may be the most ornate church that I have ever explored. Oddly, it’s named after St. Francis and was founded by Franciscan friars, but it’s completely contrary to Francis’ humble and simple spirit. The church was deconsecrated over a century ago, but it’s architecture still touches souls. The cathedral is far less impressive. There’s nothing subtle or striking about the architecture.
I’ve stayed two nights in the Douro Riverside Apartments. There are only three apartments. The owner said that it has the best view in Porto. I thinking that he’s right.
Tomorrow, I begin walking again and hope that my feet hold up. I bought a new pair of low cut trekking shoes as heavy hiking boots don’t work well in this heat.
With love and prayers from Portugal,