Co-ordinates: At 12.00 noon N 41.11.13, W 8.41.54 W
Weather: Overcast, dry
Air Temperature: 15ºC
Pressure: 1014 hPa
Wind: 32 knots
As the Silver Explorer sailed through foggy but calm seas towards Leixoes, the second day of our cruise began with a lecture about one of Portugal’s most famous sons – ‘Henry the Navigator and His World’ – given by our medieval historian, Imogen Corrigan. Then, after docking at 10.45 am and an early lunch, we disembarked for a tour of Oporto (English)/Porto (Portuguese).
Strategically situated at the mouth of the River Douro, Porto is historically Portugal’s second most important city. Originally a Roman settlement, much of the medieval city remains and while probably better known for its eponymous drink than for anything else, Porto was the site of one of the most important battles of the Peninsular War where the second French invasion of Portugal was defeated and driven back in May 1809.
After a coach tour of Porto that included the cathedral and the bishop’s palace, our three groups visited in different order the church of St Francis, the riverfront quarter and a wine cellar.
The 14th-century church of St Francis has been deconsecrated and is now half of the original building, the other half having become the stock exchange after the dissolution of the monastic orders in the 1830s, and now a museum. The church, while not to everyone’s taste, is a magnificent example of the late Baroque architectural style with its finely carved oak representations of biblical stories and characters, all covered in gold leaf.
The Ribeira, the riverfront quarter of narrow streets, tied up wine barges and tiled facades, is unquestionably worth seeing, although it could be improved by the removal of the many shops selling cheap trinkets and ‘souvenirs’.
The visit to the wine cellars of Ferreira was popular and we were shown the various processes involved in the production of Port wine, including sampling generous portions of the product.
All three groups returned to the Silver Explorer at around 5 pm and we sailed for Corunna at 6.15 pm.
At 7 pm we gathered in The Theatre for a welcome cocktail party given by our captain, Captain Alexander Golubev, followed by our welcome dinner where our recently joined executive chef and his team excelled themselves (if indeed that could be possible). A convivial evening was rounded off by a showing of the film ‘The Bucket List’ accompanied by drinks and popcorn, in The Theatre.