Fin: A Second Day in Porto

After a month of getting up early to hike, we really do appreciate waiting for the sun to rise. Only, in Porto, sometimes it doesn’t! This morning we managed to sleep in a bit late and still visit the church/museum/catacombs of “Sao Francisco.”

The exterior is a mix of 16th century Gothic and earlier Romesque styles.

The interior is a VERY interesting blend of artistic styles with Baroque carvings dominating the main altar.This was an curious and graphic altarpiece depicting the slaughter of Christian monks by Moorish invaders.

A main attraction at Sao Francisco is the catacombs. Actively used until the mid to late 19th century (when interment within churches was banned by the state), it is a true time capsule of Porto’s “Who’s WAS?!”

OK, so here’s a little trivia for you: the USA is one of the few countries in which one can “own” a grave. In most of Europe (and the world), one technically “rents” a spot for a hundred years or so. Then, after the body has decomposed, the bones are removed from the grave and placed into an ossuary. This makes room for new tenants.

Talk about tight quarters! We see the evidence of slum-lord practices by looking through a grate in the floor into this mass ossuary.

Enough creepy catacombs for one morning! We headed down to the river for lunch and a tour of Graham’s cellars.

The view from Graham’s terrace was a bit overcast, but stunning (as was the look on Frank’s tired face after walking all the way from the two towers you see on the top left!)

Mikey thinks this view of him is just fine!

Much of our tour took us through Graham’s cellars and private bottle collection. Notice the dates on these barrels – they’re actually storing wine from those years (1912, 1924, and 1935) for use in future special releases!
Speaking of special releases…(that’s a shoutout to Kerry Dean!) Graham’s keeps their family’s private collection on premise. It contains a hoard of bottles from the most exceptional years.

Speaking of exceptional, Mikey got to do a tasting in the “Reserve Library” room following the tour. Oh, and that amber colored one in the middle is a 40 year-old tawny that goes for around $100 a bottle. But, the innocent looking one on the right is more like $150. While you probably won’t find these specific ports in the US, Mikey is already planning on bringing some tasty ones to the LA market!

Then there was the port and chocolate tasting at Kopke – the world’s oldest port house.

But there was weird stuff, too. For instance, Porto is famous for its hand-crafted ceramics. So, in addition to plates and such, its artisan entrepreneurs have gotten quite creative in making keepsake figurines. Take a look at one display:

 Yeah, maybe a bit risqué for some Porto-ians.

We also found this jewel of a candle in a window at a Catholic gift store. No pressure, birthday girl, but you’re certainly expected to meet age-specific goals so we can celebrate them by lighting your most demanding candle each birthday. Wow. (Mikey’s biting his tongue right now – something about a candle burning at both ends?!)

Ok, words simply fail at times like this.

We wrapped up the day near Porto’s famous bridge. Sure looks fancy at night! Well, good night and goodbye Porto.

“We’re leaving on a … Graffiti Train!” Yeah, still not sure if the Portuguese trains are actually graffitied or if it’s just a bad paint job. Anyway, we’re headed back to Spain aboard this diesel beast! Hasta pronto.


Fin: Santiago to Porto

We returned to Santiago de Compestella from the end of the world and said our goodbyes to Saint James. With one last walk around the cathedral, a final farewell to his remains below the altar, and a visit to the cathedral museum, we finally parted ways with the city.    The “spare” botafumiero on display in the cathedral library. Mikey really likes ringing bells! On the real though, look at the size of these!!


It was, however, a bittersweet departure from Santiago as this city has for so long been our ultimate Camino destination. Still, we once again packed our bags and headed off for parts unknown.

Porto, the major city in the north of Portugal, is known for its dessert wine and ceramic goods. As it has close economic ties with Great Britain, English is an extremely common second language. This is a good thing as neither Mikey nor Frank speak ANY Portuguese!


Moreover, Mikey’s Spanish is useless due to centuries of bad blood between Spain and Portugal. For instance, restaurant menus are normally written in three languages: Portuguese, Engligh, and French. (Don’t even try speaking Spanish!) Likewise, weather maps on Spanish news broadcasts show a gray area where Portugal should be while Portuguese stations similarly blot-out Spain. Like a trailer park brawl, it’s best to just stay out of it!

So…here’s a nice view of downtown Porto!   Mikey and Frank took turns posing in front of the Dom Luis I Bridge. It’s a double-decker metal bridge that has become quite iconic for this city. Oh yeah, we walked across both levels for good measure.    Just can’t seem to get away from the churches! This is the Sé Catedral of Porto. It’s a pretty standard romanesque cathedral with thick walls and narrow slotted windows.

Franks thinks Mikey has taken enough pictures of churches to last a lifetime. Mikey reminds Frank that we are on a Catholic pilgrimage.

But even the most hardy pilgrim succumbs to thirst! As such, Mikey celebrated 225 years of Port wine making with the chaps at Sandeman Vintners. While they’ve had ample time to perfect their craft, Mikey has appointed himself final arbiter of this. Actually, he is using today and tomorrow to research Port wine for future Los Angeles markets. (Frank thinks he just wants the tax write-offs!)

One more pose below the iconic bridge.

Well, we bid you adéu with a shot across the bay. Prominent in the foreground is a Rabelo boat. This style of small river cargo vessel was designed to transport barrels of port wine downriver to the larger cargo ships that would export Porto’s finest to all parts abroad. Frank and Mikey just walked home.
Anywho, we’d better sign off for the night as we lost/gained (?) an hour today (look it up, Portugal is 1 hour ahead of the rest of Europe.) Let’s just say that Frank and Mikey are e an extra hour tired. ¡Tchau!