Porto and surroundings

Though this company is called “Lisbon Stories” I’ll be spending the next week quite far from Lisbon: I’ll be doing a tour in Porto and it’s surrounding areas, visiting Barcelos, Guimarães, Aveiro, Viana do Castelo, Régua and Douro valley.

All those who know me fairly well know about my passion for the North of Portugal. Porto, the main city and 2nd Portuguese city is now becoming a fancy “outsiders” destination and won several travel awards. Why is this city so special? Some say it’s because of Douro river; others mention the port wine, aging in its oak barrels not far from the city, many mention the baroque style carved on the granite stone, or even the famous sandwich “francesinha”. I have another reason: the laid-back personality of the inhabitants and the city itself couldn’t care less about this sudden popularity and didn’t change its character.

Being there it worths to pick a car and drive around this green region, discovering “Minho” area. Here you’ll find small scale agriculture, the catle raising and untouched Natural Parks (like Gerês), for the wild life, small rivers, lovely views from its mountains and also for the Green Wine. As for towns to visit, I specially love Barcelos and Guimarães. Guimarães was declared World Heritage by Unesco for its lovely historical center. Barcelos is also worth visiting, specially on Thursdays when its traditional framers market happens and a visit won’t be complete without passing by its open-air archaeological museum, one of my favorite museums in the whole country.

I could keep writing about this region forever, but, it’s time to pack my things and get ready for this trip. Thank you Kristin for booking this tour!

Here are the famous sardines!

Today I was doing this tour with Julia and Todd, a happy couple from the USA. Though they just had one day in Lisbon, they really wanted to seize it. We started with a tram ride towards Lisbon’s castle, visited the castle, walked trough the labyrinthine streets of Alfama, tried some port wine, bought some hand-painted tiles and sat for lunch before going to Belém area.

Right, lunch! As you may know, one of Lisbon’s most famous dishes is the sardines. They can be eaten from May until August (the months without an “R”), grilled, preferably accompanied by boiled potatoes, grilled green peppers, salad and some green wine as well. The funny thing is that since sardines used to be a poor’s people dish and hey must be grilled on the coal, you can’t find them in elegant restaurants. To eat sardines you can either follow your nose (the smell of grilled sardines can’t pass unnoticed) or look for a “normal” restaurant, preferably outside, preferably one of those with the special dishes written in a paper-towel, hanged on the wall. These are the best ones and of course that we visited one of these.

While Todd had grilled squids and I had “Frango no churrasco” (roasted chicken, I’ll write about it soon), Julian made me proud and ordered sardines, with Green wine. I’ll write about green wine soon, I promise, but by looking at Julian’s happy face, you can see that it was very good! :)

Share your thoughts with me and this post with your friends!