a symbol of progress
'PROGREDIOR' was deliberately written over the front doors of the first grand Exhibition hall of Porto, the 'PALÁCIO DE CRISTAL' - the word 'progredior' means 'progress' in Latin and it was deeply symbolic. In the mid 1800s, Portugal, and in particular the city of Porto, were trying hard to catch up with Europe and US's industrial revolution and, at the same time, going through a period of intense... romanticism!
The merchants and industrials of Porto were bohemian, wealthy and seeking class and personal affirmation. A small group of Industrials - an association called AIP - decided it was time for Porto to have a grand exhibition hall, one that could host trade shows, large scale festivals, huge banquets, a space worthy of the the rising bourgeoisie of Porto... all of this surrounded by these 'staged' romantic gardens filled with exotic trees and wandering peacocks, fake ruins, fountains and small lakes, classical looking statues: a dignified space for poets and artists looking for inspiration or for those merely looking for romance, during those long lazy Sunday walks... wearing their best Sunday outfits...!
WALKING up the arch of the Arrábida bridge ✔️
That item was on the list for a long, long time...! It took me 3 years, many excited reports of visiting runners who had done it and one kind invitation to make up my mind and do it. All I can say I am really glad I did it!
Read on for some (fun) facts about the construction of this bridge and its project's designer, Edgar Cardoso, an inventive engineer way ahead of his time...! Bonus: a short video of the experience, the highest point of my week :)
Why was there never a royal palacE in PORTO?
This blog post provides you a virtual guided tour to the interiors of Palácio da Bolsa, which was never royal, despite its majestic appearance. In fact, this is somewhat odd for a second largest city of a country that was a monarchy for almost 8 centuries: there was never a royal palace built in Porto, by any of the Portuguese kings of any dynasty (...)
"LONG LIVE THE KING! LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE! DEATH TO THE COMPANY!!"
Leading the crowd were many tavern keepers followed by some coopers, wine merchants but mostly were... tavern regulars! This blog post contains a short overview on one of the most humiliating episodes of the city's History, where 26 of the involved people were hung, beheaded and quartered and their bodies displayed in several locations within the city...! (...)
Though this was a rather gloomy introduction, take it as an invitation to learn more about about the oldest Portuguese wine company and its recently opened interactive museum, '1756 - Museu da 1ª Demarcação'. We already visited it! Includes photos & a short video :)
EVERYbody LOVES A GOOD FRIDGE MAGNET
From a few visits to souvenir shops in the city I realized that dragon-shaped fridge magnets and souvenirs are much harder to find than the sardine or rooster-shaped ones... so, let me tell you: that's deeply upsetting...! :) It reminds me of the over-abundant Russian matryoshka dolls sold in every souvenir shop I've entered while visiting Czech Republic's capital, Praga... Dragons are indeed the symbol of the city of Porto and this blog post is meant to set things straight, once and for all :)
A RIVER AND ITS BOAT
The Douro river has always been part of the soul of the city of Porto and worked as a transport conduit for an entire region, upstream. Instrumental in moving goods and people up and down the river were the rabelo boats, a type of cargo boat unique to this river.(...)
Port, ONE of Europe's great classic wines
Produced on the steep hillside vineyards of the upper Douro valley, this wine originates from one of worlds oldest and most beautiful wine regions where vines have been grown for over 2000 years...! (...)
Some people led extraordinary lives
Our 'King-soldier', Pedro IV, the 'Liberator', was born in Portugal 220 years ago, in 1798. When he turned 24 he was proclaimed the first emperor of Brazil, 'Pedro I', to which he had recently given independence from Portugal. That day was also 12th October, of 1822.
Over the course of Pedro's short life (34years) he abdicated the throne twice, was father to 19 children and fought many battles for freedom, in two different continents. Pedro's heart is nowadays the most amazing treasure the city of Porto has in its care.
In this post I share a couple more of utterly unbelievable -real- stories about him...!
A DASH OF IRONY
Guess what… a new Starbucks franchisee cafe just opened in Porto… yay.. (not...!)
You know, we've all done things in the past that we’re not proud of. Mine include entering Starbucks a few years back in Madrid on a desperate quest for free wi-fi or going for a BigMAc burguer in Vienna. Oh and… those chicken wings at a KFC in London… shame on me…!! Yes, I have been a lazy tourist, I must admit. Against all guidelines of sustainable tourism, I have 'sinned'. Not proud of it though..!!
IS IT THE PASTRY?
I’m pretty sure you won’t need more than the friendly attitude of local people or a glass of full-bodied red wine from the Douro valley to really feel like at home in Porto. But still, if you’re looking for a common element, something familiar, one that you can find in other parts of the world, then you may want to read this post through to the end. Spoiler: it's not the croissants!
I had never even set one foot inside that building...! (honest confession)
Fact is, unlike many cities around the world, Porto does not have daily or weekly tours of the city hall. There are, however, arranged visits on special occasions and one monthly opportunity, if you book in advance (see bottom of this post).
So, this was THE gap on my 'rap sheet', considering I am a tour guide in Porto and slightly 'hooked on' History...!
NOT ONE but THREE DIFFERENT BUILDINGS
Allured by the promise of visiting the tower, (finally!!) I registered for a group tour - not a running tour, unfortunately :). As a bonus, the Architect guiding the tour also lead the group to 3 other locations where local politicians discussed the fate of Porto during the previous centuries. Hence this handful of photos you'll see, some of old demolished buildings and some fresh, from inside and from the top of the present building's central tower. Got 2 minutes?
At the top of Aliados Avenue, the present city Hall is turning 60 this year!
Sérgio is the founder of PRT, a keen runner since 1999 and a friendly running tour guide since 2015.
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