Sardine hunting in Matosinhos

Sardine hunting in Matosinhos

It wasn't exactly sunny on Saturday, but given the forecast for the next week was mostly rain, we were determined to make the most of Porto in the autumn light.  Our first stop was Porto Belo market, a Saturday morning market selling quirky gifts, books and food. Porto Belo means "beautiful Porto", but apparently the market gets it's name from London's Portobello Road market.

The market name might come from London, but I still think Porto is Belo!

Continuing the London theme, we walked a bit further West to the Crystal Palace gardens. The Palácio de Cristal was built as an exhibition hall in 1865, and was modeled on the Crystal Palace in London. Both have now been demolished, but the gardens remain. They offer pretty spectacular views of the city, as well as roaming chickens.

Crystal Palace gardens

By this point we had worked up an appetite, and we knew what we wanted for lunch. Sardines! The shops are full of tins of them, model ceramic ones, sardine soft toys, and yet after two weeks of being in the country, we still hadn't eaten any. However, we had heard of just the spot to fix this, and took a bus to Matosinhos.

Matosinhos is a port town to the north of Porto on the sea, and it's renowned for its seafood restaurants. As we headed towards the container port, we could smell the grilled fish in the air. The town was fairly quiet, but the restaurants were full of people chowing down on fresh seafood.

We chose a place called Casa da Boa Gente, based mainly on the delicious aromas that were wafting from within, and we weren't disappointed. There was no menu, just the daily catch, and the sardines were delicious and crispy. We finished the meal with a kind of eggy sponge cake, called "pao de lo de ovar", and some of the local firewater.

Ready for the Sardines

Sardines eaten, next stop was the beach. Matosinhos has a huge sandy beach, but it's right next to the massive container port and cruise ship terminal, which makes for an interesting backdrop. It is also a popular surf spot. We didn't see many people standing up on their surfboards, but there were a lot of surf schools out there teaching people, which was fun to watch.

Surfers warming up

At one end of the beach is the Forte de São Francisco Xavier. It's nickname is the Castle of the Cheese, due to the apparently cheese shaped rock it sits on (I couldn't see it).

Cheese castle

The most enormous waves were breaking on the rocks in front of the castle, so we spent a while watching and vainly trying to capture the size of them in photos.

Waves off cheese castle - much bigger in real life

Then we took the metro home, via a quick detour into the Parque da Cidade do Porto, a lovely calm spot in the twilight.

Parque da Cidade do Porto