The quest to discover the magic of Port wine had brought me to Portugal’s second largest city, home to colorfully splashed buildings, a lively waterfront, and enough wine to make you weak in the knees. The city of course is Porto, located on the northern bank of the Douro River, just a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean and the famous Douro Vineyards unraveling east.
Following my day in the Douro Valley (read post here), a full itinerary was in place to discover Porto and its namesake drink. Wasting no time, my travel pack and I were en route to Porto’s historic district, where medieval architecture fuses with classical beaux arts façades, giving Porto a look unlike any other European city.
The streets are lined with houses of distinct character, dangling drying laundry and decked in hand-painted blue tiles called, azulejos. Vibrant reds, yellows, and blues beam in the city’s coastal sunlight and one cannot help but smile in such a brilliant place.
Cobbled sidewalks running alongside century-old trolley tracks brought us to the humming city center where old meets new in such a fun way. Giving a modern twist to the otherwise historic main square, is a life-size ‘Porto’ sign. Tourists and locals alike were waiting their turn to climb onto this jungle gym of sorts. But, if you wait long enough, you’ll have your time to shine.
While there was a lot to be seen and do, the girls and I were touring the city at ease, mirroring the pace of the locals. Wanting to enjoy the midday sun, we stopped along the river for a light lunch. Porto had me feeling as if it was spring, so I opted for a glass of sparkly rosé. It was the perfect refreshment before diving into another afternoon of Port wine tastings.
We crossed the iconic Dom Luís Bridge to Villa Nova de Gaia, the neighborhood which houses all the major Port lodges. Here, stately British names such as Cockburn, Croft, and Graham are commonplace. Quite the opposite from the far inland quintas we visited the day before, these Port lodges are interspersed within the city itself, becoming part of the multi-hued skyline.
We were promised the best views of Porto’s historic city center. What we weren’t told is that we had to work for them. Climbing the multi-terraced city streets after an afternoon of Port consumption was a battle in itself. Nevertheless seeing the soft glow of sunset brush the red roofs of Porto was worth it.
A wide open door to the recently renovated Graham’s Lodge was a warm welcome. The girls and I joined our guide for a private tour through the cellars, where bottles, barrels, and vats of Port silently mature, sometimes for centuries. The unmistakable scent of damp earth and aging wine permeated as we walked throughout the chambers. It’s funny to think most of their wine collection is older than me!
While I love exploring wine cellars, I much prefer the picturesque views from the tasting room’s floor to ceiling windows. Already poured and waiting to be tasted were three Ports: Graham’s Extra Dry White, Six Grapes Reserve, and 10 Year Old Tawny.
I was most curious to try the white, having never tasted one before. While not as complex and certainly not as sweet as its red counterparts, I have to say it would make a great apertivo during the hot Porto summers.
Sipping on Port against the backdrop of the dimming city outside, was the perfect ending to my weekend. I had come to Porto for wine and sun, but left with so much more.
Will I be back? The answer is YES.