Today we were moved around by the hop-on bus, so we got to see a lot more of Porto, in no particular order.
Many of the old building are charming, even though some definitely fall into the fixer-upper category. Porto is doing a lot of fixing up, but it has also had a love affair with modern architecture, with the usual mixed results.
Careening up and down this vertical city can leave one a bit dizzy, but there is a lot of eye candy to enjoy. We got to the waterfront, where the Douro river empties into the Atlantic, with particularly rocky shores. One magical piece of art is a re-imagined fishing net, hovering over a roundabout.
Coming back into the city from the river’s mouth, we saw lots of people out enjoying the gorgeous sunshine and warm sun. We first passed the Ponte Maria Pia and then approached the Ponte Dom Luis I, which we crossed over. Looking across the river, we could see the city of Gaia, home of what we know as port. There are 18 different vintners producing port in their lodges, and the competition for tourist euros is fierce.
Back on the Porto side, we flew past some more churches, nodded to Henry the Navigator again, and got off to travel the main shopping area, which still has some of its late 19th/early-20th-century storefronts intact.
It’s interesting to see some Halloween references, though they are hardly as overwhelming as they would be in America. But the spirit(s) is certainly here.
Don’s Food Corner
While yesterday we tested Big Macs in a former grand Art Deco café that had been nicely re-purposed to house a McDonalds. Today we visited another grand Porto cafe from the last century. This one was the 1921 Majestic Café designed and outfitted in high Art Nouveau style. The story here is that the cafe had deteriorated and faded over the decades until someone came along to restore it to its former glory in 1992 and reopened in 1994.
The restoration looks seamless. The tooled leather coverings on the banquet seating and chairs look properly aged, but also in perfect condition. All the light fixtures, mirrors and woodwork also have the look of old-timey reality rather than the phony Disney-like restorations we have seen marring too many attempts at reviving vintage spaces.
Since this is a place that invites you in for a confection and a cup of coffee or tea, it is not really designed as a full restaurant. The menu choices for a real meal, therefore, were limited. (The breakfast and high tea menus look more complete but we got there during lunch time.) We settled on a ham and mushroom omelet (for me) which came with a few French fries and a tiny salad and a Caesar salad with chicken (for Jo), along with a vegetable soup starter. All was fine and the service was crisp and professional. The real star of the lunch, however, was the dazzling environment.
The crowds that this café pulls in must be a satisfying sight for the people who took on this restoration project.