Like any Harry Potter fan, if you’re in Porto, you have to visit Livraria Lello. J.K. Rowling lived in Porto teaching English from 1991 to 1993 and was a frequent customer and many say it was a direct inspiration for the books (which when you see below if evident). Livraria Lello is not only one of the world’s oldest bookstores (opened in 1906), but frequently ranks as one of the most beautiful.
Koen and I love gastronomic tourism – you really are able to get a sense of the city and culture by eating the food. While in Porto, we couldn’t pass up the chance to eat at The Yeatman, one of only two 2 star Michelin restaurants in Portugal (the other being Belcanto in Lisbon). Most notable is the wine cellar at The Yeatman. Maybe the name sounds familiar if you’ve been reading my posts – it comes from the port house Taylor, Fladgate, & Yeatman, more commonly just called Taylor’s Port.
One of our must-do’s while in Porto was taking a trip to the Douro Valley. You have many options for getting there – renting a car, taking part in a tour that begins in Porto, or taking the train. If you know Koen and me, we love taking the train (hence the Trans-Siberian Express vacation we took two years ago from Moscow and ending in Beijing). So any opportunity for a long train ride – we’re in! Plus that means no one has to drive and we’re both able to enjoy the tasting.
The Majestic Café dates back to 1921 and still exudes a Belle Epoque-era ornate interior featuring carved wood, mirrors & chandeliers. The Majestic was a recommendation by someone we know from Porto, an old, beautiful café with a lot of history. I particulary liked the idea that JK Rowling spent a lot of time here writing the first Harry Potter book!
The famous francesinha sandwich from Porto. There’s a saying that to be a good resident of Porto, you must eat two francesinhas a day. Francesinha, or Little Frenchie, is a crazy meat-heavy sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça (Portuguese smoke cured sausage), fresh sausage like chipolata, steak, and then covered with melted cheese, topped with a fried egg surrounded by a thick tomato and beer sauce. Daniel da Silva invented the sandwich after having lived in France and Belgium. When he returned to Porto, da Silva adapted the croque-monsieur to the Portuguese taste.
Koen and I decided beforehand that we needed to visit at least two port lodges, so after some research we made reservations at Graham’s for a tour and tasting (visits are reservation only) in addition to Taylor’s. Grahams is smaller and a bit further away, but worth it! The tour is smaller and more intimate, and the tasting is great value for what you pay. We decided on the Super Premium Tawny Tasting and the Super Premium Vintage Port Tasting – which means we were able to sit in the Vintage Room for our tasting.
When we decided to visit Porto, Portugal, one of the first things I looked into were visits to the port houses! I love a glass of tawny port after dinner with some cheese and was interesting in learning (and tasting!) more.
One of the largest and oldest of the founding port wine houses is Taylor, Fladgate, & Yeatman – more commonly known as Taylor’s – founded in 1692. This was recommended to me by a client who had just been to Porto. So we made a reservation for the tour and lunch at their restaurant Barão Fladgate.
All over the island of São Miguel, you can’t help but find the white wrapped pastries with green ribbons – the Queijadas da Vila Franco do Campo. Koen and I had some time in the afternoon and decided to explore the namesake town! Our favorite way to start a city trip is with a cup of coffee at a local cafe. When I searched the best places for coffee, I was so excited to see that the Queijadas Bakery was open to the public!
Our last day on São Miguel we had beautiful, sunny weather – a welcome contrast from the misty, cloudy weather of the day before. Perfect for a trip to the island’s highest lake – Lagoa do Fogo, or Lake of Fire. Lagoa do Fogo is a crater lake within the Água de Pau Massif stratovolcano in the center of São Miguel.
Koen and I loved the thermal waters at Terra Nostra in Furnas so much we couldn’t wait to visit Caldeira Velha! We were really excited to swim and relax in a Jurassic Park-like jungle setting! There are two thermal pools and a waterfall where you can relax and enjoy the lush foliage of the park. Natural jacuzzis!