It’s Friday morning and it’s a beautiful day here in Porto. We will be here for a few more days and are really enjoying our time in this historic city. One of teh best parts of our visit is seeing the Douro river that runs through the city. This city is also the home of port wine and it’s the only place in the world that wine of this name comes from.
And there’s more. As an added benefit of visiting the city, I get to do a real boating related post, finally, as the river is the home to a unique style of traditional sailing craft. These boats were used for many years to transport wine in casks down the river from the wine country that is upstream from the city.
Port is a fortified wine that is made from either white or red wine that is made elsewhere and then brought to Porto where it is mixed with additional alcohol and aged a minimum of three years and often much longer to make the well known wine. This is a good link to learn more about this type of wine.
While the wine is brought to the city via truck these days, the city still has a tradition of maintaining the historic boats that used to transport it from up river. And, it seems that they are still building a few new ones. And, the tour boats that are used today on the river are still built out of wood although they are now powered by engines. We really enjoyed our short cruise on one these nice boats.
The style is unique to the region with a high bow and stern, designed to manage the rapids in the river north of the city. The current really rips when the tide is ebbing. The force of the current is impressive.
Our hotel is a short distance from the river just off of a really impressive city square. I guess that you could call this the “modern” section of the city. As you go down to the river, you are in the really old section where the port wine business are located, even to this day. The sides of the river are very steep and there are a number of really impressive bridges. In particular, this one was designed by Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. It’s beautiful and has a pedestrian walkway on it’s top. The boat that we boarded for the river tour looked like this one. It was constructed locally out of wood. I like the design and was impressed with the speed it could make against the current that was ebbing at close to 5kts. Unlike so many tourist boats you see in historic areas that only barely resemble their traditional counterparts, these are very nice and there is a high attention to detail in their construction. The interior was quite well appointed. Brenda and I were the only ones on board that seemed to appreciate the need to stay out of the sun. I guess it’s from our years aboard, always trying to avoid getting a “good tan”. We went under a number of great bridges but the Eiffel was clearly the most impressive. There is a boatyard perched on the bank of the river, right in the heart of the city where they are building and repairing traditional boats. There were several traditional boats under construction and a big tour boat being made as well.
Quite a bit of activity. Notice the chain saw near the guy on the scaffolding. The builders are clearly all about efficiency and using the best tools for the job.The port wine companies are thriving and each “house” underwrites a traditional craft that’s moored on the river and flies their banner. It’s impressive to see them lining the waterfront. They appear to be in excellent condition. It’s good to see a thriving classic wooden boat tradition living today. I found this wonderful video of the Douro wine boats making their way down the river back in the 20s. It’s very well done. Check it out. Amazingly, the video only has a few hundred views.
We also took a tour of the Ferreira Port caves. It was very well done and the tasting was spectacular. Bummer that we can’t bring more than a few bottles home with us. The cellars were room after room of huge barrels, some holding 15,000 liters of wine and there were hundreds and hundreds of them. After the tour and yet another tasting we enjoyed a terrific dinner overlooking the river as the sun set. Yes, we even had wine with dinner. What a spot. Brenda and I have been wondering if it’s possible to die from too much cheese, bread and cured meets? Yes, we know the hazards of too much wine as well. However, no risk of DUI as our rental car is safely in a parking garage. So far, we seem to be surviving on our “limited diet”. Yumm…I just never get tired or nighttime views of these beautiful cities. Well, today a walk over the top of the great Eiffel bridge. We’d better get on with our day as it’s almost time for lunch. Bread and cheese? Hmm…