By: Megan Walker
Having just spent a magical birthday trip in Lisbon, we were on our way back home to A Coruña, Spain, by train. But before our journey back was complete, we would have an overnight stopover in Porto, Portugal, a city we knew little about. Come to find out, the city has a long history and dates all the way back to the 4th century during Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula (that’s old).
Another fun fact I found VERY interesting is that Porto sits in the Douro Region, which is where Port Wine is produced. Moreover, after Port Wine is produced, it’s transported down the Douro River to the city of Porto to be stored in Porto’s Wine Caves. This is how Port Wine earned its name; makes sense. With limited time in the city, I naturally chose to spend it experiencing (or experimenting) Porto’s most famous international export. It was off to the Wine Caves!
The Douro River
Knowing the Wine Caves were across the river from where we were staying, I headed downhill towards the shore. I crossed over the high bridge and was pleasantly surprised to see the town of Porto seemingly painted on a hill, sloping up from the river. The river was spotted with different types of boats and you could feel the energy rising from the pedestrian street stretched along the water. Music pulsed and white umbrellas shaded hungry tourists and locals. It was perfect. I took my time crossing the bridge, stopping every 5 seconds to take a picture of the same scene.
Once across the river I was so pleased with my surroundings that I tossed the map into my bag, in hopes of getting lost…and I got my wish. I roamed the streets of Old Town Porto with the “Offley” Port Wine Cave logo painted on a distant building as my only compass.
The Wine Caves
Destination reached. Offley is just one of the many Port Wine Cellars you can visit. When I entered there were three tours to choose from ranging from 3€ to 12€ with the only difference being the number of tastings at the end of the tour. I chose the classical tour for 3€. The tour lasted about 20 minutes.
We strolled through the aisles of rustic port barrels learning about the production and storage process through broken English. At the end of the tour, we sat down for a tasting of two Ports, a Tawny and Ruby. Since I’m not the connoisseur, my amateur opinion is…they were both equally lip-licking good. I finished the tour by purchasing a bottle of the Offley Ruby for the tour discounted price of 6€. I walked out of the cave with a small pep in my step knowing I had just bought a bottle of Port wine in Porto, Portugal.
I quickly made my way back towards the pedestrian street along the river I had spotted earlier, and was excited to see the energy had only risen as the day turned into dusk.
Then a MAGNIFICENT thing happened. A gift from the travel heavens. A brightly colored sign…Welcome to the Porto Wine Fest.
The Porto Wine Festival
Talk about being at the right place at the right time. I couldn’t pull out my wallet fast enough. For just 7.50€, you gained entrance into the festival, access to live music, lounges, tapas, desserts, wine tastings, chef cook-offs, cooking workshops, and a ride on a river boat! Not a bad deal.
It didn’t hurt that the entire festival was right on the water’s edge. Tapas and Port Wine taste a little better when you can hang your feet over the water.
That night, walking back to the hotel, I was suddenly aware of how beautiful the city center of Porto was and that life in this city wasn’t restricted to the riverside. Old cathedrals lit up and people were talking outside of charming restaurants. I realized that Porto was a bustling city and that I had just scratched the surface of what the thriving Porto had to offer. I’m so thankful for my memorable experience in Porto, Portugal and I look forward to returning to experience the city in its entirety.