Great Location, Great Hotel
By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(OPORTO, PORTUGAL) – The Pestana Porto Hotel is smack dab in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage site right on the waterfront of Old Porto perhaps better known In Portuguese as Riberia. The extra money spent on a river view room is well worth the price with views of the Douro River and its bridges and over the other side of the River Douro, Gaia with its row of Port houses, public market and lively street life. The hotel blends in well with colourfully painted homes and buildings on the Porto side of the Douro. Porto has many sides but its waterfront is a tourist mecca with restaurants (none of which look particularly good from the food I saw on the plates of the tourist diners), crowds of happy Euro tourists and buskers. The twin superior river view room (get 506 if you can) is as “superior” suggests superior both in size and with a spectacular view of the Douro and Gaia across the way. Tastefully furnished and spacious with a very large bathroom, Greens, beiges and pale yellow predominate room colour scheme.
create a laid back atmosphere. Two writing desks accommodate laptops with ease although the Wi-Fi was extremely problematic throughout the stay and you’ll be charged 5€ a day for it. Two armchairs help create some decent lounging space. Huge Euro pillows and crispy linen invite a good sleep. Windows opened at night can obviate the need for air-conditioning and hopefully the seagulls won’t be too loud for you. There is no great lobby to speak of but step up a few stairs and there are a series of mini cubbyhole areas with chairs and tables that add a bit of intimacy. There is also a small cubbyhole bar ,Heritage Café, on the main floor done in a funky raw cement style serving 39 ports by the glass including 6 dry whites, 3 sweet whites, 2 rubys, 7 tawnies, 6 late bottled vintages and several other aged ports. It’s the tourists here in Porto, mostly British and Brazilian, that are downing the port in quantity as the locals tend to save port for those special occasions. There is a movement afoot in Porto to freshen up the image of port a bit from a stodgy old man Brit drinker to a younger port infused cocktail drinker. For example where port and tonic is a cocktail served at the Heritage which refreshes and certainly cleans out he palate.
Breakfast is served at the first floor restaurant. With its warm wood flooring and orange and brown colours and its view of Gaia over the Douro it’s a great place to eat breakfast which is more than adequate to start your day with fresh fruit, cheese, sliced meats, fresh and canned fruit, fruit juices, eggs, bacon and even sparkling white wine if you are in the mood.
(Pestana Porto Hotel, Praca da Ribeira 1 4050-513 Porto Telephone (351) 22 340 2300). Singles run from 194-235€ and doubles 208-249€ but there are often specials deeply discounting these rates.
By the way speaking of the port available wine at the Pestana Hotel’s Heritage Café just turn left from the hotel walk 500 metres and cross the very mechano Set Pont Luiz 1st Bridge and you are in Gaia where every major port house has warehouses and most seem to offer tours at a nominal price which includes a tasting. Turn right after the bridge and keep walking towards the boats and you’ll see port house after port house with their symbolic transport ships floating on the water. I attended the Sandeman warehouses and took a great little English guided tour which explains the different types of port, how it is made, stored and has been marketed. The tour concludes with a tasting of two ports and is well worth the 10 euro price. There is a small museum at Sandeman which gives you a fascinating glimpse at its beginnings in London and its clever and innovative marketing strategies when such strategies were frowned upon.
If you want a rawer industrial feeling above the gay streets of Gaia keep walking a bit past the boats and hit a left when you see on the road “Yeatman Hotel” which is perched up in the hills of Gaia with a spectacular view of Porto, The walk up is in narrow streets flanked by very old port warehouses creates an almost Victorian England atmosphere. If you do manage to make it all the way up to the Yeatman the view of Porto at Dick’s Bar is well worth the effort of getting there. They have a very expansive outdoor terrace suited for an early evening cocktail. Two glasses of wine, a bottle of water and a terrific Mediterranean pizza costs around $40. The Yeatman is part of the Relais de Chateaux chain and is considered by some to be the best hotel in the area although its remote location and proximity to the train tracks might cause a wrinkle in that thought. If when you do go to Dick’s for an early evening drink sandals and shorts will not do. (The Yeatman Hotel, Rua do Choupelo, 345, Telephone 351 22 0133100)
Short URL: http://www.windsorsquare.ca/?p=36318