Saturday, May 14, 2016

Day 9: Bilbao, Spain, to Porto, Portugal

Day 9:  Bilbao to Porto, Portugal
Diesel? Two types!
POTD:  Excuse me/pardon me:  Com licença

Weather: Cool and raining early on the drive to Porto, then clearing as we get close to Porto

Fitness center, breakfast inside as it is raining in Bilbao in the morning, then check out and find a gas station (not easy), and the one we find is on a huge lot except the entrance to the pumps is backed up against a fence, forcing a line to form. The pumps don’t clearly designate diesel, a nice guy in the next row explains it to us. You give the cashier your credit card before pumping, then pump, and return to the cashier to pay. Most people leave their car in front of the pumps (there are only 4 sets) while the pay. Had to be the most inefficient gas station event ever (and THB has a lot of gas station experience). 71E to fill the tank.

THB has a chicken "hamburger" that comes with ham and cheese!

Long ride to Porto, pretty scenery, with one brief stop for food, 10E. In the area near the restaurant stop, there is a path paralleling the highway where we can see a steady stream of pilgrims walking along the Camino de Santiago. They are dressed for the weather: jackets, long pants, maybe even boots instead of sandals.

We stop at the border where Portugal (or the private company in charge of the highway) has set up a machine to prepay the tolls using a credit card; neither THB nor the woman in the car behind us can get it to work for us, or so we think (THB checks the credit card next day, no small tolls posted). Welcome to Portugal!

And, we gain an hour: Portugal is on the right time zone, Spain is on Germany’s
time zone, a remnant from Franco’s admiration of Hitler (and something that could “easily” be fixed now if there was central political will…and Spain can’t even elect a government).

The room is very nice, with four window "alcoves"...non functional alcoves

Our hotel in Porto, Intercontinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas, is in the heart of the old city. The GPS has us zigging and zagging through and around and down narrow streets, and around the last turn there is our hotel, where we park on the sidewalk. Our packet from our travel agent is not here when we check in, not a good sign. The room is very nice, we can even see our dinner place from our corner room.

After a brief rest-up, we go downstairs at 5 (at least we knew that much ahead of time) where we meet our guide, Sofia, and driver, Paulo. Good news: they are with us for the next 2+ days. Our intro to Portugal is a short talk in front of the hotel of the historic buildings and statue, then we drive across the river to Graham’s, a major port producer. This town has obviously given its name to the fortified wine, and along with Graham’s, there are a number of producers with a great view of the town.

The guide from Graham's

The tour is nothing special: lots of old looking small barrels, 10-15 huge vats, some pictures of the Scottish families involved in the ownership of Graham’s, and then some tasting of 4 different ports. That means a sip of each for THB.

Porto from across the river:

Sofia and Paulo shepherd us back across the river on another bridge to the hotel. THB is shocked that in Friday rush hour traffic and a ton of tourists, we’re back in time to walk 100 yards to our dinner spot, Tapa Bento.

DA talking pic of the dining room

THB orders a brewski, did it really come US or is it in the style of an American amber

The food is more substantial than a Spanish tapas bar: the starters are plenty big, big enough that shared by two gives you more than a taste, and the four main courses are substantial. THB and DB share starters of foie gras on toast with a mini-pear on top, guacamole and tuna on toast, and mussels in a curry sauce (which was too salty for THB, DB thought it fine) and a bowl of fish and shellfish in curry (not as salty as the mussels broth) accompanied by jasmine rice. DA has a potato tortilla (a large wedge of pie) and a Greek salad and SA has the bowl of fish and seafood. With cervezas and vino, 125E. Except for THB’s sense of salt, everything is very good.

And, for probably the first time on the trip, on our short walk back we see the moon! 


  1. We were in Porto about 5 years ago and loved it! Maybe too early for the festival season, seems to start in June, but they do know how to party. If you have the chance cruise up the Douro and then either stay a while or come back on the train the same day. Was going to recommend Pousada Solar de Rede, overlooking a near 180-degree bend in the river, but it appears to be permanently closed. Tough economy there!

  2. We're off to Douro today and wine tasting, not sure if we're driving the scenic route, there are several road closures due to races today, one taking place in front of the hotel here in Porto later today after we're gone...thb