My sister-in-law, V-8 , occasionally sends nuggets of true wisdom my way. We followed one of her maxims on our last full day in Porto, Portugal.
“Don’t do any more than three major tasks a day.”
Our Brazilian peregrino pal Heleno was here for three days before he started walking the Camino. Before we parted company, he adorned our map with some must-do locations that we decided to check out today.
First on the list was a visit to Bolhāo, Porto’s large open-air traditional market that opens at 8:30 AM.
It was an easy uphill walk of a half-mile from the Yes! hostel. The market was loaded with vegetable farmers, grain vendors, florists, fishermen, butchers, wine and cheese merchants, as well as purveyors of traditional crafts and souvenirs.
I have a favorite place in Porto!
After doing a run through of the two story sprawling floor plan, we found a little café along the rows of booths where we sat and enjoyed our €.80 cafe con leches. Little free pastries came with our cups. I wandered off and bought Marcia a flower as part of our modest celebration of completing our Caminos.
We also had a purpose here at the market. I have been disappointed about my lack of success in ordering a traditional Portuguese soup so I decided that we could make it ourselves.
There was a well-appointed kitchen for resident use at the Yes! hostel where we are spending our last two nights. We fleshed out a traditional list of ingredients for the soup: potatoes, collard greens, onion, shelled beans, a tomato, local chourico, and garlic. Fresh bread rolls rounded out our list. I also purchased a bottle of white port from one of the vendors to bring home, plus three little bottles of various quality port wines to try out later today.
Marcia was interested in the chickens, perhaps springing the cage?
By this time, we were hungry for lunch and we just happened to be in the vicinity of the Majestic Café, one of the iconic establishments in Porto, and the second place recommended by Heleno.
• “… it is in the country’s second city that we find the most stunning of all cafés in the nation and one of the most attractive in the world.”-ucityguides.com
We were given a small table adjacent to the piano in the center of the large café. Check out the stunning website.
This place is a gas. It truly was a special meal. Marcia wanted a gin and tonic. The stylishly uniformed waitress, who spoke English, asked Marcia what brand of gin she preferred.
“ I’m OK with the house brand,” Marcia replied.
“The waitress retorted, “We don’t have house brands here, but we do have anything you would like.” She steered Marcia to the Bombay Sapphire, and then brought back what appeared to be a stunning double.
We were provided with a few tapas dishes to start our brunch.
I had seafood soup and a chicken Caesar.
Marcia preferred a seafood salad.
All concerns about costs went out the window, to the tune of €78 for drinks and lunch. Other couples who sat around us were content with a couple coffees and their selfie shots, as they rolled their eyes at the menu.
With two down, I had one more even to go today. We parted after the meal, with Marcia content to wander the shops on the Rua de Santa Catarina while I headed back to the hostel to drop off our purchases and then walk down some twisty steep streets to take in the third of Heleno’s recommendations, the WORLD OF DISCOVERIES, an interactive museum and “Theme Park” that re-enacts the adventures of Portuguese navigators as they crossed oceans to discover previously unknown worlds. Around 1500, Portugal played a leading role in this process, creating new maritime routes and circulating all around the world.
At 14 Euros, the entrance fee is over priced. Billed as an interactive theme museum, it’s a bit weak, but my frame of reference is Disneyworld. I was able to get into the 4 pm English-guided option. There were two parts, billed as a 75 minute experience that stretched to an hour and three quarters due to a bit of waiting around. The story was narrated by on young bearded man who was dressed in period. There was considerable money and design to the place, which had replicas and some historical objects, as we were led through a half dozen rooms that were illustrated with standard mannequins and replicas. The data we were getting was not 100 percent. For example, I liked the part of the tour where we were shown models of the half dozen types of sailing vessels that cruised the seas in the late 1400s.
I asked our guide how long the biggest one was- the gunboat. He told us it was appointed with 360 cannons. He first said it was much smaller than our present ships, but I pressed him:
“How many meters long ?”
When he replied, “ Ten to twelve,” every one of the four other guests looked as shocked as I was at what was obviously an incorrect figure. I knew that Columbus’ Santa Maria was the largest of his three ships and that was just under 20 meters (58 feet) long . A couple of folks even challenged him but he held firm.
The boat trip was disappointing. The cheap headphone only produced sound out of one side, and that was poor quality. The audio portion was laggardly, with periods of silence that were too long as the boats weaved in and out of the different rooms of the voyage. The gift shop had the expected nautical puzzles, magnets, etc, but there were also some strange things offered for sale. When I was looking around there were many middle school aged students in the shop and they were tittering at something on one of the sales tables. After they moved on I went over to see that they had been checking out a box of embossed chocolates that depicted 12 Kama Sutra couples actually coupling. I did not check out the dining room, which received great reviews.
So three events were enough for me today- almost.
I’d call our supper collaboration a success as well. A good kitchen make it easy to whip up a good meal, this one with local ingredients that we purchased this morning for very low prices- 5 Euros or so. I did get my Portugese soup, on the last day.
We had to come though, and we did, together.