Most of the travellers coming to Portugal start their visit from Algarve or Lisbon. In the former, they look for relaxation on beautiful beaches, and in the latter, they want to get to know the capital and occasionally its surroundings. We forget a bit that there are other equally or even more interesting places to see in Portugal. I recently visited the region around the city of Porto.
I started with Atlantic beaches. The temperature of water is similar to the one in the North Sea, the Baltic or California’s Pacific Coast. With a bit of luck with a favourable current, the water temperature reaches around 19-20 degrees Celcius. The beaches are wonderful: wide, with tiny sand and surrounded by dunes. They are incredibly long. The waves can be really big, as you would expect by the Ocean. Along the coast, many surfing schools are located. The amateurs of such activities need to consider spending less time in the water, unless they wear a wet suit.
The local seafood is amazing. However, you need to find it in the right places, consistently visited by the Portuguese themselves. I happened to eat the best squids in the world, served on yellowish potatoes and onion, seasoned with scrumptious olive oil. Just see and imagine!
From the Atlantic beaches, you can take a trip to Porto. It’s best to start from the panoramic view of the old town of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia.
Porto itself is equally attractive. You can find there examples of some of the richest baroque in the world. You will find here a cathedral with a cloister, amazing small streets coming down to Ribeira and city’s wharf with supplies of a local specialty – Port wine. The two sides of the river are connected by a picturesque iron bridge. There are actually a few of them, and one of them had some input from the very Gustave Eiffel known for… you know what :) The old town of Porto is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After visiting the coast, it is worth stopping by the Douro Valley. It is the first wine region in the world, situated on stunning steep edges of the valley surrounding the river.
It is best to stay there in one of many historic houses, which were built by aristocrats and vineyards’ owners. Staying at these houses can give you a great overview of the region’s history and personal contact with the owners who can give you invaluable advice not found in touristic guidebooks. Many of the local houses have pools, in which you can relax and cool down from the heat, compensating the limited ability to swim in the Ocean.
Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, can be visited by boat, but a car drive using local roads that spread over the hills is more interesting.
If you want to visit the region of Porto and Douro Valley this month or in the future, I can help you organise the trip.
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This is a story based on what actually happened. Young German, Manfred, could not make peace with the reality he got to live in. A few years ago, soldiers created an enormous wall in Berlin, separating his home city into two parts. The sight of this giant concrete wall, surrounded by barbed wire, touched his heartstrings every time he smoke a cigarette in the window of his flat on Bernauer Strasse. But now, everything was ready for him to change his fate.
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