A Day in Porto – Part 2

(Lunch at A cafe called the Garden in Porto. Florentine eggs)

Just in case you were worried, we have managed to top up our toll account online. This was impossible (for me) to do last year and created a mighty challenge to our relationship for an afternoon. They have changed it and all danger to relationships has been averted.

(I snuck over a barrier at the gentleman’s club to get you a picture of the stairs. Not a feminine touch in sight)

So back to Porto. It had been a beautiful morning but after lunch the rain started so we went to the cafe/WiFi location at Fnac. That a French shop selling books, magazines, general stationery, cameras and general electronic goods. We waited until 2.45pm and then went next door to the C’alma Speciality Coffee Room where our tour was to begin.

(An old tram. Fnac is on the left and that’s St. Catarina street in the distance)

There had been an instructions email with our tickets saying we should arrive 15 minutes early. I love following those kind of instructions and would happily have arrived there 20 minutes early. Denis on the other hand likes to arrive “near enough” to the exact time. We compromised… and left Fnac at 2.45pm. When we got to the cafe, two minutes later, our guide was waiting outside. We exchanged names and I said, are we the first? and she said, no the others are waiting inside.

(They are renovating the old market. It’s huge, could take years)

I could not believe it! We were the last! There were five people waiting for us to show up. Five sets of eyes looking up at us. I definitely looked embarrassed. Too embarrassed to give Denis the this is your fault eye.

(Beautiful old grocery and cafe)

I forgot to take pictures of the incredibly cute coffee glasses. Oh well… Our guide was lovely, her name was Isabel. She explained that the C’alma cafe was part of an old gentleman’s club and we would be starting our tasting in one of their sitting rooms, with coffee and a Pastel de Nata. I think I mentioned the Nata (everyone calls it nata, which is just as well because I can’t pronounce Pastel) in another post, they are a flaky pastry case base filled with custard and burnt on top. I love them. If you want to try one in Ireland (or in the UK) they sell them at Costa’s cafes – in Greystones anyway.

(At the windows of the Fábrica de Nata cafe you can see the bakers making Natas. When a new batch is ready one of the bakers rushes outside ringing a hand bell. You can hear it two streets away!)

Isabel explained that some time in the 1800’s the government of Portugal stopped supporting the monasteries and convents and they had to find ways to make an income. The Jeronimos monastery in Belem, Lisbon created the nata and that’s why there are queues of people at the bakery near the monastery. (I’ll try to get a picture of the queue for you when we get to Lisbon.)

(Saint Catarina’s church. There are 16,000 tiles on the exterior, Isabel said she counted them… or maybe she said she didn’t count them…)

Next we were off to see St. Catarina’s church on St. Catarina’s street, a major shopping street in Porto. Isabel had explained that this tour would be taking us to places not normally frequented by tourists but very popular with the locals. Well we were all thrilled with that because even though we are tourists we prefer being adventurers. Adventurers are almost the first outsider to see an attraction. Once it’s popular with other tourists we are disappointed. (Human nature is nothing if not strange.) Isabel knew we were only human, accepted us and brought us to local haunts. We loved Isabel.

(Close-up of one of the tile scenes on the exterior, telling the life story of St. Catarina. I can’t remember the details but if she’s anything like the other saints it was difficult and had a very sad ending)

Anyways, St. Catarina’s church was popular with the locals because it is the church where they pray for their dead. It’s the only church in Porto where you can light real candles (instead of the electric push button pretend candles) to honour your dead. Unfortunately, it is closed on Saturday afternoons so I couldn’t get a picture of the candles for you.

Sorry about that, Mairead.