Porto and Portugal - Travel Bloggers Unite Conference from 07. Sep 2012 to 09. Sep 2012.
The quaint city of Porto was built in the hills overlooking the Douro river estuary. It is the second largest city in Portugal but is still fairly small with 240,000 inhabitants. It has a Mediterranean vibe and climate with temperatures rising to 40 degrees C in August. Thankfully, Porto averages 20 degrees C in September with very little rain so it should be perfect for exploring the city during the conference.
Meet the locals
The people from Porto are known as ‘Tripeiros’ which means Tripe Eaters, as in the rubbery lining from the stomachs of cattle, and tripe is still a speciality in Porto today. Tripe is thought to be the city’s famous dish after locals had to go without meat in order to give their rations to soldiers who were fighting to conquer Ceuta in North Africa in 1415. During this time tripe soup was a popular dish and stuck around ever since. A famous saying in Portugal is: “Porto works, Braga prays, Coimbra studies and Lisbon gets the money.” This may be a traditional view but it is true that Porto is a busy industrial city with hard working locals who are proud of the work they do.
There are a variety of architectural structures in Porto so don’t be surprised to see medieval buildings alongside warehouses, extravagant churches and modern structures. Many buildings are built into the cliff face and overlook the river which makes river boat cruises a great way to spend an evening and see the city. The historic centre of Porto is a Unesco World Heritage area where you will find narrow winding lanes that zig-zag around churches and village squares. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time as locals congregate for a natter around the old houses. Parts of this area seem run down but there’s a real sense of history among the ancient Roman ruins.
Food and drink
Lucky for us, tripe isn’t the only thing on the menu in Porto and in recent years many top restaurants have opened offering a culinary renaissance to the city and some of the best food in Portugal. Another traditional and delicious local dish is ‘Francesinha’ which means Little French Lady and is made up of toast and layers of meat topped off with cheese, spicy sauce and French fries. There are many bakeries and coffee shops in Porto where you will find good quality food and coffee at low prices. An obvious must-do in Porto is to try the local port made from the grapes grown in the Douro valley. There will also be many opportunities to try the local wine and there are many wineries around the city that are well worth a visit.
Among the history of Porto you can feel the modern rejuvenation breaking through. There are urban renewal projects that are restoring Porto to its former glory and new galleries and boutiques are showing off the cultural and artistic side of the city. A new metro system in Porto means that it is quick, easy and affordable to get around and see everything the city has to offer.