For years, Porto has been one of my favourite cities. Located in the north of Portugal, it is a diamond in the rough and the absolute opposite of Lisbon. There’s really no comparing these two cities. Also, it is less crowded with tourists than the nation’s capital. I used to have a lovely Local Hideaways right in the centre, but unfortunately it was sold last year. Time to find something new! This proved to be less of a challenge than I had expected, for Porto is a city on the rise. A fresh creative wind is blowing and lots of young professionals are starting up their own business. And not only in the centre; Foz do Douro is the place to be now. Many young couples have settled in which was once an up and coming neighbourhood, where they were able to find more room and affordable housing. By now, Foz do Douro is a hip and happening and very affluent neighbourhood where the prices of most of the properties are sky high. Foz is located at the mouth of the Douro River, where it meets the ocean and consequently, some of Porto’s best city beaches are to be found in this area. It is a former fishermen’s quarter, which becomes apparent when you wander around the small and winding backstreets. The quays, with their stacked fishing nets and moored boats are another indication of this fishermen’s past. The beautiful lighthouse São Miguel-o-Anjo, dating from the sixteenth century, and the Felgueiras Lighthouse also illustrate the heyday of the fishermen of Foz.
Luísa, a young architect, grew up in this neighbourhood and has witnessed the changes it has gone through. She and her family strongly believed that they ought to protect and share the ‘Foz’ feeling. This ideal resulted, how could it not in a family of architects, in a monumental building, designed by mother Luísa. Merging the old front of the building with a brand new construction at the back of it, she created a contemporary Bed & Breakfast with 8 rooms, managed by Luísa and her aunt Francisca….it’s a family affair.
I visit Duas Portas at an ideal time, the weather is gorgeous and lots of people are strolling along the pier that reaches all the way to the Matosinhos harbour. But first I have to check in!
As expected, I receive a warm welcome. This is how I’ve come to know the Portuense (citizens of Porto) and the northern Portuguese in general: very warm and welcoming! The magnificent building is a beautiful blend of old and new. All rooms are spacious and light and the design is tastefully minimalist. Comfortable and large beds provide and excellent night’s sleep after a busy day in the city. The rooms at the look out toward the Douro River and the sea and the rooms at the back overlook the garden! Yes, a lovely surprise in the back! Coffee and tea are available and a lovely breakfast, consisting of various baked goods prepared by Francisca, is served each morning in the (somewhat bare) breakfast room. Two complimentary bikes are available, which can be taken out on the first-come-first-served principle. If they’ve already been taking, be sure to rent one, for this will get you anywhere in the city easily.
I decide to stay in the area this time, I’ve only got 24 hours after all. As I’m quite familiar with the old centre, I decide to take the ferry across the Douro to Afurada, for a lovely barbecue lunch of fresh fish. Back at Duas Portas, I take one of the bikes to go and discover Foz. Along the way, there are plenty of lovely little venues for a pit stop: ranging from a hip beach bar to an authentic little kiosk with a terrace in the park and from trendy clothes shops to delicatessens that will make your mouth water. There are many tourists about, but also lots of locals, which creates a lovely local atmosphere. Especially at night, when most of the tourists have returned to the centre of Porto and the main language in the many great restaurants is Portuguese. And when Porto also wins the national football championship that evening…..you can imagine how things remained turbulent for quite a while after that!
Duas Portas is a wonderful find, and my new home away from home in Porto!