Today in Portugal it’s a (religious) Public Holiday – Corpo de Deus or Body of Christ. A friend from the USA who is visiting with her sister and a friend invited me to join them as they were going to be doing a little sightseeing. So I did just that, and sort of acted as their tour guide throughout the morning.
Our first stop was the Palácio da Bolsa, the old Stock Exchange, but unfortunately it was closed to the public as there was an event taking place at the time. There was an actual tour guide trying to figure out what to do with his large group of tourists, as he was not expecting this, but as we weren’t tied to any specific tour, we carried on. As the Palácio da Bolsa is located close to the Ribeira (the waterfront by the River Douro), I took them through the Túnel da Ribeira, which was built between 1947 and 1956 and inaugurated on May 28, 1956. This tunnel was built to connect Rua do Infante Dom Henrique with the bridge Ponte Luis I and the walkway by the river. It was the first tunnel to be built in Portugal for the use of motor vehicles, it is 200m in length and 15m wide. On the other side of the tunnel by the bridge is some lovely artwork on tiles depicting the people of the Ribeira by the artist Júlio Resende, this piece of art is called “A Ribeira Negra”.
The bridge Ponte Luis I was build between 1881 and 1888 and was designed by the Belgian Engineer Théophile Seyrig who’d previously worked with Gustav Eiffel on another bridge further downriver, the Maria Pia Bridge (pictured below) and which was built to serve as a connection for the trains between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
We walked onto the Ponte Luis I bridge and took admired the view of both the Cais da Ribeira (Porto side) and Cais de Gaia (Vila Nova de Gaia side – where all the wine cellars are housed) before taking a walk down the Cais da Ribeira through a small market where people were selling traditional items such as shawls, embroidery, tiles, ceramics and cork items, amongst other things.
Despite the forecast for rain, the weather cooperated and we had a lovely sunny day. As we were already on Cais da Ribeira, we decided to go on one of the boat rides offered for tourist. We decided to take the 6 Bridges tour, which takes you on the River Douro past the first 6 bridges from the mouth of the river inland, it lasts approximately and hour or so. By the time the boat ride was done, it was close to lunchtime and we headed to a restaurant I quite like for its location and food.
We walked back up to Palácio da Bolsa as right next to it is the old Mercado Ferreira Borges building which was built between 1885-1888 to house the local farmer’s market but without success. Since being built it has had many functions from housing the army and being a warehouse for weapons to housing a soup kitchen and the Mercado Abestecedor de Frutas do Porto (basically a warehouse for fruit from which merchants could buy) until the 1970’s at which time the structure was once again abandoned. In 1983 the City Hall decided to renovate the structure and curiously enough the company contracted to do the renovation was the same company who’d originally built the structure a century before. It is a striking building known for its iron and glass work. It now houses several businesses and is used for a variety of cultural activities. One of the businesses inside this structure is “O Mercado” Restaurant, which is where we had a lovely lunch.
After lunch we decided to head back to my friend’s house to relax the rest of the day, but first we made a stop at Mercado do Bom Sucesso, another structure which is no longer being used for its original purpose. This structure was commissioned by the Porto City Hall in 1949 and officially inaugurated in 1952 as the local farmer’s market. This market more success than Mercado Ferreira Borges as it was in business until 2009. At this time the Porto City Hall approved the plans to restructure the building for a different purpose. It now houses a hotel, Hotel da Musica, most likely named this due to its close proximity to Casa da Musica, a food court with a variety of specialties local to Portugal, several shops and an area which still functions as a mini farmer’s market.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at my friend’s apartment, where we knit, enjoyed the cakes we’d bought at Mercado do Bom Sucesso and enjoyed the lovely view of river and the ocean.