Some magnificence of Porto
The riches Portugal acquired during the age of discoveries is beyond decency. Noble, majestic and imposing. This would about summarise the sights we have seen in Porto this day.
Impressions are similar to the magnificence Lisbon has offered. Splendid architecture and regal treasures.
In today’s less flashy times Portugal lives off the past. Together with a stagnating economy, many of the past riches could do with a financial boost.
European Union aided projects are a blessing and the restoration of Porto’s stock exchange palace is one of those.
Palacio da Bolsa
The Portuguese stock exchange is a 19th century beauty. One room has huge oil paintings of the royal family.
A testament to Portugal’s prosperous reign which came to an end when all royal descendants fled Portugal during the 1910 October revolution. The last king died in exile in England without an heir.
But before all that the queen commissioned the stock exchange building which looks more like a palace, hence the name Palacio da Bolsa.
The building is located at the Infante D. Henrique Square in the historical centre of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage.
View from Palacio da Bolsa to the Square.
The halls and chambers of the stock exchange were clearly designed on a generous budget.
One room is made of wood half way up the wall, the rest is a special plaster covering, so designed as to look astoundingly like real wood. We were told by our guide that this was done for a simple reason. The money was there to try various methods of reproducing wood (and metal) and so, what could be done was done.
It looked very real but sadly no pictures allowed, so here is one from the hallways.
Probably the most intriguing room, more reminiscent of a huge prayer room, is the so called Arabian room. Constructed during a period of 18 years, it followed the trend of orientalism by the end of the 19th century. The Oporto Treaty, the agreement on the European Economic Area, was signed here in May 1992.
An overload of repeated Arabic patterns and the phrase allah is great lining the walls. The ceiling is adorned with more decorative allah praise. Remarkable, as all this lies in the very heart of Porto, the historic stronghold of catholicism. Progressive. Now and then.
This is a taste of Portugal’s stock market today. A clashing sight in the waiting hall of the Palacio.
Next up was more overflowing decoration.
The Palacio is conveniently located right beside the St Francis Church.
Igreja de São Francisco
You pay an entrance fee and then you can see an exhibition of donation boxes.
But that is not all. At all.
Golden altars and many devotional figures. A place where the rich thought to buy their way into the heavens by making generous donations for the construction of incredible altars, intricate woodwork, decorative vaults, pillars, golden ceilings, azulejo compositions and paintings. Exuberant use of gold, golden panels and shiny but gloomy bays. There is a lot of history, the church was once part of the St Francis Convent, founded in the 13th century.
I learned that Napoleon, who was a functional man, kept his horses in this church during the occupation of Portugal. Horses must be great animals, the church looks like it has never been touched.
You will find various stories of first attempts at Christianization in the Middle and Far East. Which mostly didn’t end very well for the missionaries. I think these depicted crucifixions took place in Japan. Maybe a bit of a drastic measure but Japan has got Shinto and with a more positive spiritual attitude it really had no need to transform to a world of sinners.
I loved this figure of Mary, looking like sleeping beauty, actually lying in a glass casket.
A creepy thing to do here is to walk on corpses in the crypt. Well, you walk on tombs – which make up the floor, economically lined one by one with hardly any space between them. Bigger wallets were buried along the walls.
Rich or poor – the main thing that distinguishes them is a number.
Well, not true. Some people are part of a bone pile.
Off we went to the Porto’s next sight.
Torre dos Clérigos
This bell tower is higher than most structures in Porto and features 240 steps, which can be climbed up for a small fee. Porto’s iconic landmark was constructed in the middle of the 18th century and is attached to the back of the impressive Clérigos Church.
I enjoyed the tower most and some superb 360° views all over the city!
Porto is a very pretty town.
I especially like that the city is not very big but fancy in its own way.
Climb your way up to a new hairdo!
While living on the high side of life in Porto, that is mainly speaking of calories, we had our daily fix of buttery, sugary, eggy (heavy on eggs!?) pastry.
At the same time enjoying the view onto the tower. So nice. If it wasn’t for the pigeons. Not afraid of anything, they would fly straight onto the tables and snatch food away. I have never seen such bold birds before.
In the evening, I got all excited for what was an almost magnificent dinner.
Adega de S Nicolau
You can tell there is something special about the restaurant as it will be the only one pretty much filled up – while other restaurants around it stand completely empty.
Even outside, in freezing temperatures.
People love Adega de S Nicolau which seems to consist of newcomers who have also been recommended this place.
Location: Rua S Nicolau 1 , Porto. Very near the river front.
The restaurant is small with tiny windows, people bumped into our table when walking by. The look is unquestionably unique, like a narrow ship cabin or eating in a submarine.
Porto is all about wine, which we had. The Douro wine. And I had porto (of course, because we are after all in Porto!).
The service was nicely dressed up. It was the first time we had a waiter separate the fish bones from the meat for mum and The One.
But service was rushed and did not make one comfortable, it felt very much like on a touristy production line.
I am your grumpy waiter.
When I ordered prawns, they came cooked whole in a small pan and served just like that. It took forever to get the shells off and was a bit messy.
Eating dinner with my hands. Good I have been to Malaysia. That left me semi-prepared.
Yet still, while my family was way done.
Prices. 4 Euros for the cheapest 1,5 l plastic water bottle. Is a rip off. This was the most expensive dinner in Portugal so far. 75 Euros was about double what we usually paid for, well frankly, very similar dinners. For starters, we got a plate with greasy fish croquettes, for which the restaurant charged per nibble (not plate), and, regardless of consumption, put everything on the bill. The food was good but the overall experience not excellent.
And there were crisps. Yes, a traditional Portuguese side dish.
As the end of the day slowly approached, we decided to unhurriedly stroll home.
Truly magnificent Ribiera
The view from Cais da Ribeira – the world heritage river front was indisputable magnificent!
Happy End in Porto!