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Tulip Talk from Porto, Portugal

Tulip Talk from Porto, Portugal

by Martha Andrus

I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in the beautiful city of Porto, Portugal. We flew from Amsterdam to Lisbon and then from Lisbon to Porto. Upon arrival in Porto, we were taken to a beautiful, quaint, but very upscale Portuguese Hotel, the BoaVista. Our room was large and spacious, with wood floors and a large balcony overlooking the sea and the landscape.

The Old city of Porto and the New city of Porto are divided by a large bay in the Mediterranean. Our Hotel was in New Porto overlooking the beautiful, rocky beaches. The sand along these beaches is brown, not white like our Florida beaches. This is because of the rocks and large boulders that rise out of the water and dot the coastline of the beach. Then, scattered along the shoreline and anchored in the corner of the bay, are the Portuguese fishing boats and the Port wine boats.

Porto is the home of the original Port wine and in Old Porto you will find the wine cellars where the port wine grapes are brought in from these boats. The mostly white stucco buildings are hundreds of years old, with basements dug into the ground for the storage and making of the port wine. A large part of the employment in Porto comes from the Port Wine industry.

Connecting the two cities of Porto is a beautiful expansion bridge that is approximately half a mile long. It sits between two large mountains and can be viewed from both sides of Porto. At night the bridge is full of lights and the view over the bay is magnificent. This bridge is not only for driving from one part to another, but is also a bridge for pedestrians.

My dining experiences ranged from eating fried octopus, to goose liver pate and were capped off with dinner at an Argentinian restaurant. If you have never experienced dinner in an Argentinian restaurant, then you are in for an adventure. After appetizers and drinks are served, the main course consists of, at least, a dozen portions of meat carved at the table. The servers will come around with these meats on large skewers and carve a slice for your plate. They continue this for about an hour and if you sample all that is offered, you will have a hard time getting up from the table. Simply delicious and also an experience to remember.

Porto was the home of the European Voetbal (soccer to us) Championship in the summer of 2004. Four new voetbal stadia were constructed in Porto to host these events and they are a sight to behold. These new arenas will hold at least 80,000 or more and were sold out each night of the two week tournament. New construction of shopping centers and apartment complexes was still going on built near these new stadia.

The business centre of Porto is lined with tall, ancient trees and beautiful brick, stone, and stucco buildings. Traffic is very busy around this area and the people of Porto depend more on automobiles for transportation than bicycles. The churches are many and most of them have the most beautiful tile mosaics on the exterior of the buildings along with stained glass windows. These mosaics are huge and depict various religious stories and scenes.

Shopping in Porto consists of the many small, home-owned stores that line the streets but there are also the large, urban malls. You will see many apartments mixed into the business area with a lot of them being above the stores. Because of the recent Voetbal tournament, all the windows of these residences were proudly displaying the Portuguese flag. As prominent as these flags were, also displayed proudly is the laundry. Clothes lines are strung from one window to another and the laundry is hanging out to dry for all to see. The streets leading through Porto are hilly and with multiple curves and you find yourself driving up and up and up. When you are standing and viewing one of these streets, it appears that the stucco homes of white, yellow and pink with their tile roofs are sitting on top of each other. And to add to this view are the bright, tropical flowers and plants growing along the fences of these homes and in their yards.

Porto is a large city and one that is well worth a nice, long visit. The people are friendly and hard working but also know how to relax and have a good time, sitting on the decks of the many restaurants and bars that line the beaches and watching the sun set or sunbathing on the rocks. It was a pleasure to be able to enjoy this new adventure and experience the beautiful city of Porto.

Tulip Talk consists of my observations of Dutch life and culture and some humorous experiences I have had or observed from an American point of view. It also consists of entries from trips I have made around Europe.

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