In order to get the best tides to get out of Vianna do Castello and enter Porto we needed to have our first early start of the trip. We therefore had to leave by 6.45am BST. We had previously been unsure that we could get into Porto as the harbour entrance has a large sand bar and the beginning of the River Douro is quite shallow. However, we had been told by Hannu (our Finnish friend from sailing yacht Siiri) that there was now a new marina at Porto called the Douro Marina, just situated inside the river entrance, which had only opened in February. Hannu had gone to the trouble of phoning the marina in advance to enquire that we could in fact get in there, especially as Persephone's draft is 2.1m and all the charts showed depths of 1.0 m or less! The marina staff were very helpful and insisted that we would have no problem and then insisted that they would send out a pilot to meet us and guide us in for extra re-assurance. Duly escorted to our berth by a charming young man in a RIB, we realised that there would, in fact have been no problem for us as far as navigation was concerned as the whole area had now been dredged and the sand bar removed. The marina is still under construction with temporary showers and marina office but this didn't detract from the excellent reception we received and the helpfulness of the staff. We would definitely recommend a stop here for anybody travelling south and wishing to visit Porto. The reputation attributed to Leixoes - the alternative -is far less appealing. It was also a pleasant surprise to find each morning fresh rolls were delivered to our boat.
The city of Porto is an ancient, charming busy place with about 20% of the buildings now derelict. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the beautiful grand buildings around the city. The place is lively, colourful and the people are very welcoming. On the south side of the river is where all the famous port wine houses can be be found. We wandered up the steep city streets to visit "Taylors" port house at the very top of the hill and had a brief tour preceded with a tasting session - most enjoyable! (and all for 3 Euros!!) We enjoyed exploring Porto very much, especially the charm of the narrow lanes leading up from the river.
The previous evening and indeed that morning, we had walked to and from the marina along the river (the marina is situated about a 40 minutes walk from the city centre). However, for our journey back to the marina, on this occasion we opted to take the local tram car - a charming old trolley bus that offer a pleasant alternative to the more conventional 'bendy bus'.
We have now decided to take a flight from Porto tomorrow morning and head off to Toulouse to go and check a few things and spend a little time at our French house before heading further South.