Trip to Porto, Portugal

As I mentioned in my last post, (over two months ago!) I went to Portugal for a trip towards the end of July. I was attending the SECRYPT conference and presenting my paper there. All I knew about Porto, was what I read on Wikipedia and other places online. I was looking forward to a cute historic European city and that’s exactly what I got.

North of the Douro river

I reached there on a Friday afternoon, quite jet-lagged. The hotel (Hotel Melia Gaia Porto) was in the area south of the Douro river called Vila Nova De Gaia. That evening I got food at a nearby place and explored about a mile around the hotel, partly in search of a wall adapter for my laptop power cord. Walking around Gaia reminded me of India, especially my maternal grandma’s neighborhood in Delhi. The streets are narrow. The cars are small. Old rustic architecture is mixed with modern glassy facades.

Streetscape

The conference was at the hotel and ran from Saturday thru Tuesday. Each day, I would attend sessions until about 6pm and then head out to explore the city. On Saturday I took a leisurely photowalk towards the city center. As I got closer to the river, historic buildings appeared and this time I was reminded of Bombay, which has a heavy Portugese influence. The extent of that influence was more than I realized. I rediscovered words that I thought were of Indian origin, only to find that they were in fact Portugese. In Bombay, the word for bread is ‘pao’ and the word for potato is ‘batata’. Both of those are Portugese words. This discovery surprised my friends and family too.

Angles

Over the next few days I explored several areas around the Porto city center. The metro was very convenient. On my last day there I went to Casa da Música. It is an interesting building with non-perpendicular corners and a variety of unique rooms. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was completely open to the public for free. You could just walk into and all around its various rooms, even into the main auditorium. You could sit at a Steinway grand piano and play to your heart’s content and no one would bother. I didn’t because I don’t know how but a guy was doing just that.

Overall the trip was productive and pleasant, definitely whetting my appetite to explore more of Europe. My photos from the trip are in the slideshow below. You can follow it to the photos on flickr where you can view their location on a map.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=59254

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