Oporto, Spain

Sep 22, 2017 - National Geographic Orion


Since Oporto was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996,it  has become quite a magnet for tourists. Of course, its fame for port wine production goes back centuries. Its connection with the British market strengthened during the frequent times of trouble between Britain and France, when the market in Bordeaux wines, or “clarets” as the British traditionally call them, was disrupted.  The majority of port wine houses in Opoto bear English names but the river trade along the Douro using the traditional rebelos was very much in local hands.  An English influence can be felt in the old town also, interestingly so in the bookshop now famous as J.K Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter. 

Oporto was a business city in the nineteenth century and a wealthy one, with its own stock exchange. Its railway station is confidently decorated with ajuelos, blue tiles, originally part of the country’s Islamic heritage. The sidewalks are of basalt and limestone, a feature common to Portuguese towns on five continents.

We spent the morning either on a walking tour of the old town or visiting the avant-garde art gallery and its grounds at Serralves, the latter tour on board open-top double-decker buses that afforded spectacular views of the city. All groups enjoyed a tour of a port wine lodge followed, naturally, by a tasting.

The domestic architecture of Oporto is distinctive with small properties with Roman-style tiles roofs lining the steep sides of the Douro Valley. This is a town still very much lived in by its population, who shop locally, often in small local markets and using small family-owned shops and cafes.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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