Sep 24, 2017 - National Geographic Orion
A dense white mist surrounded our ship this morning as we sailed towards Oporto, Portugal. We had a morning at sea filled with meetings and lectures, and the whiteout made sure we were undistracted by views of the Portuguese coastline. By the time we arrived, the sun had burned most of the fog away, but soon denser clouds moved in and a fine rain sprinkled down on us as we walked through the streets of this colorful city.
Our first stop was at Livraria Lello & Irmão, aka the Lello Bookstore, an architectural marvel that regularly finds its way on lists of the world's most beautiful bookstores. Small and cozy, the bookstore features elaborate woodwork and a curvaceous central staircase that provides plenty of photo ops to an endless stream of visitors. One of Oporto's most popular tourist destinations, it is one of the few bookstores I know of that requires a reservation. Supposedly, the bookstore's décor inspired author JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame, who lived in Oporto for a number of years.
From there we strolled through Oporto's busy streets, passing elaborately tiled churches, train stations, and apartment buildings. The city is colorful in more ways than one: apparently the old ladies that can be seen hanging laundry from the balconies of the city's tall, tiled buildings are renowned for their proficiency with Portuguese swear words.
Our rain soaked walk ended at the Offley port house, one of Oporto's many purveyors of the region's defining beverage. Made from grapes harvested in the vineyards upriver and aged in oak barrels, port wine is thick, sweet, and warming. Our tasting offered the perfect end to a chilly day.
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