by David Allan-Petale
The Portuguese are very stylish and intensely proud of their art, food, culture and history. The fiercest examples of this pride were on display in Porto, the great city sitting astride the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean. Porto is world famous for its architecture, which is a heady mix of the ancient, the modern and the futuristic and the locals were rightly not shy in pointing it out!
We met someone who told us we could see a pyramid turned upside down by visiting the Casa Da’Musica, the city’s musical hall, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Each room inside has been specifically tailored to create the best sound. Going up the stairs is almost like boarding an alien ship and its surrounds hold a concrete garden used by skate boarders. Locals, young and old, were doing kick flips on their boards on the curves around the hall, making the building a living part of the city rather than just an expensive ornament.
We ambled away from the intricate streets of the UNESCO protected city centre, travelling down the steep hills until we came to a valley filled with fertile garden plots. Far down below we could see the sharp bows of the Rabelos boats slicing through the water. These elegant vessels used to journey down from the Douro Valley, carrying barrels of the port that made this city famous. Today the gondola lookalikes ferry tourists.
Simply walking around Porto is a pleasure, especially in the old Foz area, where every building must be preserved under very strict heritage laws. Owners are free to do whatever they like to the interiors and the doorways, but the facades must be left alone.
The acclaimed architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, Pritzker Prize winner 2011, lives in the area and has put his talents to good use. We were lucky enough to stay at 4Rooms in this area of Porto, which was designed by de Moura himself. Take a look at his superb modern architecture below.
A thing of beauty is a joy to behold, and we will certainly be making our way back to Porto as soon as possible. It is not often a city can be so bustling yet relaxed, and with such a balanced mix of old and new. Its inhabitants are right to tell the world about it!
Special thanks to 4Rooms for hosting us in their Sky Room for three nights at a discounted rate.