With recent direct flights being launched from Malta to Porto and Lisbon, we in Malta can finally reach Portugal without a long drive from Seville.
We spent the Easter Weekend in Porto, having ‘done’ Lisbon a few years ago. A long weekend is plenty; Porto is very pretty and of course full of cantina’s offering Port tastings, food is hearty, Fado for the not-faint-hearted and there is an abundance of beauty in the architecture. The 90,000 strong population are keen to keep their historic buildings as they were, and sympathetically convert them to airbnb accomodation and hotels as well as serviced apartments such as the ones we stayed by the cathedral.
Shopping is not as easy as it is in Lisbon. There are almost too may souvenir shops but the blue and white patterned tea towels, table cloths and cups made it into my case. The ‘impossible to fathom out how they do it’ cork items come in every size and shape of bag; printed, laced, with leather….. and the iconic sardines made from ceramics or cloth are too quirky to leave behind.
And of course there is the port, And the wines of the Duoro, which if you haven’t yet experienced, you really, really must. From the vini verde, fresh, naturally sparkling and crisp white to the toffee apple teeth coatings reds; the region really produces some amazing wines. And if Rose isn’t your thing – try theirs. It’s not what you’ll expect. Nor is the hangover if I’m perfectly honest!
There are various ways to see the region; helicopter, boat tour or a guided tour which takes you to cellars and olive oil producers and feeds you a traditional meal too. We went with Meridian4People whom I highly recommend. We were picked up from our accommodation, driven through the exquisite countryside and taken for a tour and tasting and then on to lunch after a walk by the river. On to coffee at another town before a trip to an olive oil museum and tasting with views I just cannot describe.
There are a multitude of ways to get around Porto itself. By foot is easiest and best so you get to see all the tiny streets and intricate details of the buildings. The Hop On Hop Off is a favourite way of ours to get a precis of a city and you see the architecture from a different height too. Porto offers trams, segways, tuk tuks, electric cars and of course boat trips.
I think Winter is the best time to visit because of the heaviness of the wines and food, though there is a feast which sounds fun over the 23-24th June and also the harvest season in September sees an influx of people working and enjoying the fruits of their labour and a regatta with the traditional boats on the river which must produce incredible adrenaline.