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Portugal’s official name is the Portuguese Republic. The country is located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe (here’s a map). Spain is located north and east; the Atlantic Ocean is to the west. The reason my flight was so short is because Portugal is the westernmost country on mainland Europe. The official language is Portuguese. Don’t make the same mistake many Americans do, which is speaking Spanish to the locals – it won’t make them happy. English is a much better choice, because most Portuguese in the touristy areas (especially the younger generation) speak both languages. Native Portuguese are primarily a mix of pre-Roman Iberian and Celtic tribes, with some Romans and Germanic tribes. Most Portuguese are Roman Catholic. Portugal is full of history. There is no way I can get into it in this newsletter; here’s a link
if you are interested. Portugal is a member of the European Union, so the euro
is currency (1E = $1.26). The population is 10,366,000; the area is roughly the size of Indiana, and the capital is Lisbon.
AIRPORT TO DOWNTOWN
The Porto airport is officially called "Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport" (named after a Portuguese politician killed in an airplane crash), but it is better known as "Aeroporto do Porto." The three-letter airport code is OPO. The airport was renovated this year, and is much larger then I imagined. The place is huge, but it has a real welcoming feel. It begins when passengers disembark into glass jetways (I love those) that lead to a terminal with high ceilings, lots of open space and modern design. It’s a long walk
to customs (about 7 minutes), but pleasurable. What also helped was no line at passport control, and friendly agents -- they just smiled, asked no questions and stamped my passport. A taxi to downtown Porto cost €17 ($21) for the 6-mile ride. It should take 20 minutes, but I arrived at rush hour and traffic was horrible. It took 45 minutes to reach my hotel. A much better choice would have been the metro
(30 minutes for a mere €2.25 [$2.80]).
The official name of Portugal's second largest city (after Lisbon) is Porto, which translates to "port." OPorto is the English name that the British gave it because when they used to arrive at the entrance of the Douro river they were amazed by its beauty and they said "Oh Porto". Porto, located 172 miles north of Lisbon (about a 3-hour drive), is famous for its port wine (more on this later). The population is 263,000 in the city, around 2,000,000 in the metropolitan area. There are not a lot of young people living in the city, because there aren't a lot of places for rent. But that's changing, with the passage of new rental laws that force owners to fix up their decrepit historic buildings. That will make the city look more appealing, and
entice younger generations to move in. In 10 years the city should be completely different place. Don't get me wrong: Porto is beautiful today and full
(thats why it’s a World Heritage site). It’s definitely worth a visit, but it has a chance to be very special in the near future -- Perhaps even one of Europe's treasures. To read about the history of Porto, click this link.
HOTEL INFANTE SAGRES
I checked into
the five-star Hotel Infante Sagres. It’s centrally located in the city center, within walking distance of Santa Catarina (Porto’s Rodeo Drive). The hotel is charming. The lobby
is opulent, filled with antiques. The staff is friendly, the rooms are large (with satellite TV), and the bathrooms are enormous (though the rooms on the fifth floor might not have good water pressure). The view
from my bathroom made me sit longer, and the breakfast buffet
was excellent. Wireless internet is available in the lobby for €5 ($6.27) an hour, or €20 ($25) a day. Rates, beginning at €98 ($123) for a single, can be found on the internet (use Johnny Jet’s search engines to search for the lowest price). Hotel Infante Sagres, Praça D. Filipa de Lencastre, 62, Porto; tel.: 351-22-3398500.
MUSEU DE SERRALVES
The first place I
went to was the Museu de Serralves. This modern art gallery, set in a beautiful park
with lush gardens, is a perfect place
to be out in the sun and ward off jet lag. (Portugal is only a five-hour time change from the East Coast, making it easier than other places to adjust.) The exhibitions are just okay, but the gardens and extensive lunch buffet
(€16 =$20) make it a must stop. Serralves Museum, Rua D. João de Castro, 210, Porto; tel.: 351-22-6156500.
CASA DA MUSICA
One of Porto’s new icons is the Casa da Música, the city’s major concert hall. There are two auditoriums
in this unique
and highly acclaimed modern building, which has been compared to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and the Berlin Philharmonic auditorium. It was designed
by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The building opened in April 2005. Lou Reed perfomed, and it was such a big deal that even the prime minsiter attended. For a list of performances or an hour tour, log on to their website. Casa da Música, Avenida da Boavista, 604-610, Porto; tel.: 351-22-0120200.
PORT WINE CELLARS
Porto is the capital of the port wine industry. That’s why Porto’s most famous attraction is visiting the wine lodges (or caves) where the port wine is stored, then shipped. The lodges are actually located not in Porto but just across the Douro River (Porto has six bridges) in Vila Nova da Gaia. The Douro River begins in north-central Spain and travels through Portugal’s Douro Valley (we will visit this UNESCO world heritage site next week). The view
of Porto’s old town from Vila Nova da Gaia is spectacular. There are a number of wine lodges along the river; the one Americans know best is Sandeman. I toured
Calem, which is popular with both Portuguese and Brazilians. Wine was first shipped to Brazil back in the late 1800s. The Calem
lodge is a beautiful facility; it’s earned a Best of Wine Tourism award for incredible architecture. The tour
takes roughly 30 minutes; it costs just €2 ($2.50), and no appointment is necessary. The higlight for most visitors is not the lesson in how port wine is made (the English added brandy, giving it a sweet taste) or seeing barrel
after barrel aging, but rather tasting free samples of the sweet wine at the end. Of course, the tasting room is also in the store, so visitors can stock up. Unfortunately, because of new carry-on security rules I bought only mini-bottles that would fit into my checked luggage. Vinho Porto Calém, Avenida Diogo Leite, 26, Vila Nova de Gaia; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel.: 351-22-3746660.
D. TONHO RESTAURANT
A great spot to go to after your wine tasting is Restaurante D. Tonho. It’s a 5-minute walk from Calem (across the bridge to Porto), and on a warm night diners sit outside and enjoy the wonderful vistas. The restaurant serves authentic Portuguese food; their specialty is codfish (I hear it’s very salty). Just be careful when dining here or at any restaurant in Portugal. They use the same custom as in the Czech Republic. They charge for the bread and the appetizers
to the table as soon as you sit down (unless you say "no thank you"). Restaurante D. Tonho, Cais da Ribeira, 13-15, Porto; tel.: 351-22-2004307.
Because I did not get to the Douro Valley, I’ll save the Portugal video for next week. Instead I made a a 2-minute
Johnny Jet Video
from last week’s trip to California. To view past videos, here’s a link of all JohnnyJet Videos ever made. Remember: With high-speed the video takes about 1 minute to load; with dial-up, it could be 3 weeks.
NEXT WEEK Next week we visit the Douro Valley, and head to another country. Stay tuned!
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SOME OF LAST WEEK'S READER AIR-eMAIL
I get your stories from Frommers Newsletter and Johnny
Jet is the one part that I never fail to read... hope
that your show gets picked up by a network, will keep
fingers crossed, would be cool to see you on TV just
like my other favorite Travel show with Rick Steves... Joe Espinosa - Dallas, Texas
Those chalk drawings are my son's! And those are his son and daughters--and my grandchildren. He is the architect. My daughter lives up the canyon (from the photo) with her husband and two sons. Read you every week but this one was special personally. Jack M - Santa Barbara
This week's newsletter was very informative, well written and fun to read. Your picture connections made it personal and helped me participate along the trail with everyone. Thanks for sharing! AO from New Mexico!
Congrats on your new travel show. Sounds like you have a great family. Sharry - Indiana
Hey Johnny, great web-site! I like what you’ve done with your business idea and turned into reality. Michael T-
I just signed up for your service which I first read
on Frommers.com I like your style. You should do a x-mas special shopping trip to France with a personal shopper for
one day, lunch at Fauchon, beauty treatment and
haircut and dinner at the Crillon or Spoon. Breakfast
included...led by you! Jon-Henri B. - Miami.
Where's the video? It's a great way to review your trip. Clifford H -
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