European Odyssey visits Porto
by Cornell Sailing on 23 Aug 2014
Perhaps the European Odyssey left Porto with a bit of the saudade, a nostalgic longing that characterizes the Portuguese fado music. Certainly, we all felt that we weren’t in Porto long enough — that next time, we will spend more time here.
Porto, Portugal Cornell Sailing Events
Our home in Porto was the Douro Marina, conveniently just a short distance inside the Douro River.
Like all the marinas the European Odyssey has visited so far, the Douro Marina was a very friendly place. As each boat arrived, the marineros came out into the river in an RIB and guided the boat to its slip. Clearly the marina values the little personal touches — like delivering fresh bread to each boat every morning.
On the south side of the Douro River, just before the Arrábida bridge, the marina is technically located in Afurada, a fishing village which we explored in the evenings, eating seafood – sardines, octopus, and shrimps grilled over coals on the sidewalks.
A communal washing place is still used by the women of Afurada, who take in laundry, and dry the clothes on lines strung from long poles improbably propped up by large stones. It seems impossible that these clotheslines can endure the fresh afternoon sea breeze, yet they do. We sent our laundry out to be washed, dried, and ironed (what a luxury!) We wondered if we would find our laundry out hanging there with the rest…
Walking further east along the Douro River, and under the bridge, we enter Vila Nova de Gaia. This is where all the port wine lodges are located, and we had our choice of Sandemans, Taylors, Offleys — some 30 port warehouses which offerered tours and tastings. By the time we left, we were all acquainted with ruby, tawny, and white ports, reserves, 10 and 20 year ports, and late-bottled vintage….
The city of Porto itself lies on the north side of the river, accessible by ferry, bus, or by walking over the iconic double decker bridge Ponte de Dom Luís I designed by a student of Eiffel. We spent a morning together roaming the old town of Porto.
One distinctive feature are the azulejos, handpainted tiles that cover the walls of many buildings, and the most striking example was the Porto São Bento train station, where 20,000 ajulejos adorn the main hall, depicting events from Portuguese history.
With more time, it would have been nice to visit the vineyards up river. There are several ways to visit — boat, steam train, or car, or a combination.
We ended our time in Porto with another port wine tasting, this time hosted by the marina.
As we watched the last of our fleet straggle into the marina, we headed out to the docks to greet the crew of sy Geronimo. We presented them with two glasses of port before they even had time to properly tie up their lines.