After a shower and some unpacking, we decided to venture to El Centro of Porto to find something to eat, especially if it is typical of this area. The restaurant we found that looked great, Tapabento, right near the train station, is tiny and couldn’t take us until 9:30 or 10:00. Instead, we made our way up the street to a small, charming tapas restaurant, where we enjoyed yummy red wine, freshly baked bread to dip into our olive oil and balsamic vinegar, olives to savor (Jim, not me), and some delicious beans that you popped into your mouth like candy.
We ordered three tapas to share. The first, a flaky pastry stuffed with mushrooms sauteed in red wine (sorry that there is no picture… we ate it too quickly), goat cheese with local ham, honey and raisins and a cod salad served in a mason jar. The pastry and goat cheese were incredible. The cod salad, less so, but typical of this area.
The restaurant owners couldn’t have been more accommodating. Loved it! After, we stopped in a gelato store for some nata gelato. If you don’t know what flavor this is, you will by the time we leave Portugal. It is cream and vanilla custard-like, and not too sweet. I loved it. Just down from the gelato store was pastel de nata store. This little gem is what Portugal calls its national dessert.
Two lovely young men were making the dessert, one forming the nata shell and one filling it with the custard. Then, it is baked, with a dark crust, and served warm. It must be a thousand calories each. Still, we each had one and had no regrets.
The area near the train station is all lit up, with hundreds of restaurants. We probably won’t have the time to try many of them but it is worth the effort. The inside of the train station is a marvel, with all the lobby walls covered in hand-painted tiles. The scenes are of centuries before, when Portugal was conquered by its many foes. There were many people taking pictures, just as we were told to expect.
Finally, a taxi back to the hotel, to get caught up with sleep and be ready for tomorrow, when we meet our guide and group to take a tour of Porto.