The alarm went off at 07h30. We can make the bedroom really dark and quiet which means that is really easy to sleep the morning away. The day was expected to be hot, so we decided to get an early start and go to Porto’s northern beach of Matosinhos, to visit the Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos and eat seafood as per our language instructor’s recommendation. I had read some articles and the scenic route was to ride the bus there.
Matosinhos is 8 km (5 mi) from central Porto and is served by both bus and metro services. We took the #500 bus from the Praça da Liberdade and it followed the Douro River around the Foz district to the metro/bus station in Matosinhos, which is just outside of the market. This route is indeed very scenic, and from the top floor of the double-decker bus, there are wonderful views of the Douro River. A single ticket purchased on board costs €2.
Our first destination was the market. We walked past the seafood stalls, pausing to admire the variety, Chris taking many photos of course. Then we went upstairs. There were chickens, ducks and rabbits, all live and in cages waiting for purchase, and lots of fruit and vegetable vendors as well.
Then we went outside to wander until lunch, looking for the shady sides of the streets. We stayed away from the beach side as it was sunny and hot; we’ll do that on a return trip when it is cooler.
As we turned left to walk further into town, a handwritten sign pointing to Restaurante Pires, advertising grilled sardines caught our attention. Intrigued, we thought we should go by to see what it looks like. A very short distance away, we could have easily missed it. Glancing at the menu, we caught a glimpse of the inside. It was small, simple with white walls — yes definitely a local place. Maybe this will be our lunch spot but it was too early to choose.
We made our way to the main road with numerous seafood restaurants, many of which we had reviewed on Tripadvisor and Google. They all seemed like nice places, but would be heavily touristic and more expensive.
Weaving shady side to shady side we stopped at a small café with tables in the shade. We each got a refreshing glass of fruit juice. We sat outside in the shade; ahh, time to watch the world go by. Shortly it was time to decide on where to eat lunch.
We prefer the off-the-beaten-path options, feeling that a local place is more likely going to have regular turnover of their fish, and to retain regular clients food has to be good. So we walked past the more upscale restaurants back to Restaurante Pires. They opened at 11:30 so our arrival at 11:55 was ok. We were greeted by the waiter and allowed to choose our table, but then, we were the first ones there!
It didn’t take long for us to decide on the grilled sardines (a national specialty), grilled squid, large salad (which turned out to be a large platter of sliced Bull’s Heart tomatoes, an heirloom variety, 1 to 2-pounds, pink fruit with few seeds and great taste, with sliced onions) some water and a bottle of vinho verde. Chris ordered using his best Portuguese, and the waiter seemed impressed/entertained!
A large dish of olives was brought, then a basket of bread (yes you pay as none of the nibbles are free but they’re very inexpensive). Next came the huge salad of tomatoes and onions. We then heard the sizzling of the sardines and squid on the grill and could see smoke in the kitchen. What a hot job! The bottle of wine was opened and then the platters of seafood arrived one by one.
Chris managed to ask the waiter how to best eat the sardines and he demonstrated the technique. We managed to do a respectable job and did not leave the table hungry! Over the course of our meal, the restaurant filled with individuals, couples and family and many plates of grilled sardines were served. It was a great lunch, and we heard no English. Oh, and we finished it all.
We then felt the need of rest, the effect of the wine, food, and the heat. So we walked to the metro, purchased our zone-3 tickets, and soon we were on our way home. Not as scenic, but probably a bit cooler than the bus.
Jeannie went directly for a rest and Chris started working on pictures, and the next blog.
Dinner will be very light tonight…