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Day 8 |
Sep 09, 2012

Oporto 

By Imogen Corrigan, Medieval Historian

Co-ordinates: 41, 11, 04 N, 8, 41, 53 W
Weather: thick fog, giving way to sunshine
Air Temperature: 22C, 74F
Pressure: 1020.3
Wind: 0

We awoke to thick fog that only got thicker. No problem! We weren’t due to dock at Oporto until 1200 anyway and it lifted spectacularly just when we were wondering if we needed a Plan B. In the morning, we had a great lecture from Colleen Batey on the Viking Continental Expansion, followed by a Recap & Briefing and then suddenly we had arrived.

Oporto is a charming place that looks almost Mediterranean with its white houses and red roofs. Our tour took us around the sights that included the view from outside the cathedral, the statue marking Henry the Navigator’s birthplace, and the river Douro where Gordon Corrigan took over from the local guide and talked to us about the Battle of Oporto in May 1809. This was the highlight of the tour. We also visited the church of St Francis, which is either stunning or hideous, depending on your taste. It’s covered almost completely in gold leaf and is one of the more elaborately Baroque churches I have ever seen. It always gets a mixed reception from the guests and this time was no exception: it can be a little overwhelming, but definitely worth seeing if you’ve never been to Oporto before.

We had some free time to wander round the tiny, stepped streets or drink coffee near the river, a setting that always enchants visitors. As it was a Sunday, the local bands and street entertainers were out in force, making quite a festive atmosphere. Then we re-boarded the buses, crossed one of the six bridges that was designed by Monsieur Eiffel (you can tell) and visited the Ferreira Port House or Lodge on the other side of the river.

Our tour took us into the depths of the caverns where the port wine is made and stored (the smell is gorgeous) and it’s staggering to see the sheer size of the vats. The pressure inside them must be immense. No visit to a wine or port or whisky or beer-making centre is complete without a tasting and they do it extremely well at this particular lodge. They offered three fairly large glasses of different ports, which also offered us quite a challenge!

Then it was back to the ship and another evening of fine dining and conversation whilst we sailed south towards Lisbon. 

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