A day of touristing amidst heavy rain in Portugal.

Porto from a central square.

Porto from a central square.

Fresh off our flight from Berlin, Maki and I caught one of the last metro trains into central Porto, and headed up the hill to find the apartment we were sharing with Kate and Neil for a couple nights. They had arrived, via Lisbon and buses, earlier that afternoon, early enough to meet our host and get settled for the evening, and we arrived just before the rain started to come down that night. We headed more or less straight to bed, before reconvening the next morning for breakfast and a walk downtown.

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Statue to Henry the Navigator, a hint of Portugal’s imperial past.

From our first steps, it was quite clear to me that Porto specifically and Portugal generally felt very different from anywhere I had traveled.

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Competing architectural styles, including (clockwise from top left) a 19th century bookstore, Livraria Lello and Irmão, where JK Rowling was allegedly inspired to write Harry Potter while teaching English in Porto; a church peaking through stunning tile work; a fountain in front of another church; art nouveau decor from a central plaza; the stone staircase leading up to Palácio Bolsa.

Although clearly European, Porto felt nothing like Spain, and it reminded me almost a little bit of a more temperate Puerto Rico, perhaps because of the colorful houses.

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The weather held just long enough for us to get a good walk in around Central Porto, and Kate and Neil, better provisioned with good raincoats, were kind enough to lend us their umbrella (we had forgotten ours on our way out the door in Moscow).

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Street scenes in Porto.

The city was beautiful, and pleasantly walkable. The street art was also memorable.

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And more:

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We took in lovely views over the Duoro River from the perch in front of São Francisco Church and Museum.

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Although you can’t see the river in this particular photograph, the red roofs of the Port cellars are on the other side.

We paid admission to visit the church, as well as the museum there, which included the crypt below, and fancy rooms above.

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This was blissfuly before the rain started in full.

Kate in Porto.

Kate in Porto.

No sooner had we really caught our bearings than the rain started. First a trickle, but it was clear we were going to have to strategize. We decided it was about the perfect time to grab lunch and we headed across the river.

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No sooner were we at the bridge when suddenly, our need for shelter became pretty dramatic.

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Trying to keep dry.

We ducked into an entryway to make inquiries about a port tour, but decided lunch would need to be a higher priority. To give an impression of the pouring rain, I present Neil’s scouting journey.

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We sat over lunch, with our first in-person introduction to Portuguese vinho verde, while the rain cleared. When the rain briefly subsided, we headed onwards towards Taylor’s, located up the hill from where we were, taking in views over the city as we walked. Even in the rain, Porto was stunning.

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We were extremely glad, however, to get to our destination, at Taylor’s, one of Porto’s many Port companies, most of which were owned by British merchants.

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We started with our tasting (5€, if I remember correctly, got us four samples and a tour) with a cold white port, which was nicer than expected, but still port.

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The tour gave us a little background and insight into the history of the port industry in the city, as well as new creative approaches to pronouncing the world “cheeses,” and the tour was mercifully short, too, so we were soon tasting our other three ports. Port has never been a particular favorite of mine, and while the stop only served to confirm that, we enjoyed our samples, and then headed out to take in the beautiful views over the city.

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We were very, very thankful for a little respite from the rain.

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From there, we headed down the hill to catch a car — a small concession to the fact that our day of puddle jumping had been exhausting.

Winding down Porto's narrow, steep streets.

Winding down Porto’s narrow, steep streets.

We returned to clean up before heading to dinner. Food in Porto, I should say here, was really, truly memorable. From the heavy, unappetizing Francesinha that Maki and Neil had enjoyed for lunch, to the filling fish and pork dishes that were ordered for dinner, we ate well and cheaply, all washed down with ample Portuguese wine.

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Our travels in Portugal were off to an utterly fantastic start, and we were excited about what the coming days would bring.

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