The Ivory Swan is a collection of curated stories about travel, fashion, home, recipes and weddings. A celebration of all things beautiful, elegant and classic. I hope you'll step into my storybook and be inspired to find your own fairytale. 

 

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Porto, Portugal (Day 1) - Romance on the River

September 8, 2016

Porto is an enchanting and romantic city not to be missed when visiting Portugal. Known for the production of port wine, the city has also become a hot spot for foodies, like me. We spent 12 days in Portugal and Porto was our first destination. Upon arriving in Lisbon, we took the train North to Porto. I suggest just buying your ticket the day of, it's a short subway ride from the Lisboa Airport to the Lisboa Oriente train station. You can find out more information here www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/. The 2.5 hour train will take you to the beautiful, blue tiled San Benito train station in Porto. From there, we journeyed down the cobbled streets to the historical UNESCO and very lovely Ribeira District where our hotel, THE 1872 RIVER HOUSE was located. The Riberia District lines the Douro river and is just across the bridge from Villa Nova de Gaia, where port wine is stored in caves. The Ribeira is oozing with charm, that feels like you've taken a step back in time. There is an abundance of quaint restaurants and bars dotting the river. 

 

We spent a few nights at  the 1872 River House, a charming and romantic boutique hotel. It sits facing the Douro River. There are only 8 rooms with 4 facing the river. I highly recommend booking early and booking a room facing the river. One of the most charming things about this boutique hotel is the entrance. 

 

                                                                         

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Once you've entered the whimsical iron door you walk down a suspended corridor encased with gorgeous stained glass that leads you to your room. The room is secluded, which is perfect for your honeymoon or romantic getaway. 

 

 Our room was stone and had a cave like atmosphere. And while having an old world feel, our cozy room had modern amenities like heated floors, a pop up TV hidden in a cabinet and a very large bathroom. he rooms have juliette balconies with french doors that open up to the sounds of seallgulls and smell of fresh air. I could have sat there all day just watching the boats float down the river. Spectacular scenery. 

 

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The 1872 River House provides guests complimentary breakfast of traditional portugese meats, cheeses and pastries.After breakfast, we took a run along the Duoro River sidewalks (great for those of you who like to walk or run).

 

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the acclaimed Bacalhau, which means Codfish, the fish of Portugal. Highly recommend this place, even the seagulls were well behaved :) 

 

 

For our first day in Porto, we walked from our hotel to Villa Nova de Gaia, where the port wine tasting rooms can be found. We took the long way so we could take in all the beauty and history of Porto.

 

Church of Saint Francis.....a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site. Built in 1223, King Ferdinand I was crowned here and his son, Henry the Navigator was born here. Henry later led the Age of Discovery with his nautical school he built in the Algarve.

 

 I see you........Porto has a wonderful blend of old and new. This is a modern restaurant design in the heart of the Ribeira Square.

 We climbed up the hill and walked across the Dom Luís I Bridge. Purr-fect day for a walk. (can you spot the cat?)

 

We made it! Bring on the Port wine!!! 

Once over the bridge, we hopped in a gondola that gave us a birds eye view of the city.

 Vila Nova de Gaia is very old.....amazing to walk on the narrow roads and alleys built by the Romans.  Beautiful architecture and interesting things to find everywhere you look.

 

 

There are several port houses to visit. With limited time, we chose a visit to TAYLOR'S one of the oldest houses of port wine established in 1692. Taylor's is best known for their Vintage Port. My favorite was the 2007 Vintage Port (click link to buy).

 

 

 

You can do a wine tasting indoors or out. We did both! Grab a seat at a cute wine barrel table or sit in the lawn and smell the sweet roses. You will make new friends with the family of peacocks and red rooster roaming the grounds.  Basking in the sun, the port and the beauty of Porto 

 

 This little family of Peacocks was allowed in everywhere. So majestic and so charming.

 

We found this patio in a hidden location.......just around the corner from the garden. Best view of Porto. The bridge in the back was built by the apprentice of Gustav Eiffel, yes the one and only designer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Looks similar doesn't it?

 

 Me and My Shadow........a quick stop at the House of Sandeman

 

Once you've finished exlporing the port wine houses, I recommend grabbing a table or chair facing the Douro River at D. Tonho restaurant.  A wonderful place to relax, watch the sunset and have another glass of port and cheese board. I mean why stop now?

 

 

 

 

At D. Tonho's, you'll be a stone's throw away from the venetian styled boats, called rabelo boats, that carry the casks of wine down from the vineyards to the cave cellars for aging.

A boat on the river, is there anything more romantic?

 

The journey back over the bridge to Ribeira District.

Back in Riberia, for dinner, there are endless choices. While ODE PORTO WINE HOUSE was highly recommended, the weather was perfect and we wanted to dine al fresco. Just next door, we found a quaint table on the cobbled streets at TERREIRO. We ordered the Maionese de Lagosta (Lobster). Maybe it was the Port wine, or maybe it was the seduction of Porto but I'm telling you, hands down the BEST lobster entree I've EVER had. Our waiter was superb, so much so, we chose to eat there again the next night. He even gave us a tasting of their oldest and most expensive Port wine, no charge! Now that's service. 

 

After dinner, we took a leisurely stroll along the hidden, narrow cobbled streets. With the moonlight glistening on the river, the fresh river breeze, we basked in the romantic allure of Porto. It's great to get out and walk because that's when you stumble upon the local places. We found ourselves at an outdoor bar overlooking the river that comes alive after all the restaurants close.

 

 

 

 

We made new friends and drank wine till the wee hours of the morning. And the best part, we felt completely safe making our walk back to the hotel. Porto is a quiet place at night and suits me just right. We toasted each other to a wonderful first day in Porto and it was time for bed. Lots to do the next day! I hope you'll continue the journey with us in my next post, Porto Day 2. Stay tuned!

 

Recommendations for Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Things to Do:

 

Accommodations: 1872 River House, The Yeatman Hotel

Restaurants: TERREIRO, ODE PORTO WINE HOUSE, BARÃO FLADGATE, D. Tonho restaurant. GASTRONOMIC RESTAURANT, Bacalhau

Port Houses: Taylor's, Sandeman, Warre, Graham's, Offley

What to Do/See: Vila Nova de Gaia, Visit Port Houses and Cellars, São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis), Ribeira Square, Lello & Irmão Bookstore (inspired for Harry Potter library), São Bento Railway Station

If Time Allows: Drive, Take a Train or Take a River Cruise into Douro Valley - Stay At: Quinta de la Rosa or Casa da Calçada

How to Get Here: Train, Car or Airline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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