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(my) Autumn Trip By The (charming) Douro Valley - Day 5

By Carlos Bernardo @ O Meu Escritório é lá fora | 22 December 2017

# Day 5 - 1872 RIVER HOUSE, PORTO

It was late in the morning and I arrived at Porto-Campanhã Station. The day was grey and cold, almost like a special microclimate, contrasting with the clean sky of the Douro Valley. As soon as I put my feet on the platform of the station, I quickly ask what the line is for the "transfer" to São Bento Station. It was line 2, the next train left in 2 minutes. Without difficulty (in other words, without the need to make a sprint, even for more loaded with suitcases), I enter the train, for a short trip to the heart of the city of PortoPorto and 1872 River House were waiting for me.

To get to São Bento Station, is to go straight into a period film. Even more with a grey day, which conferred a certain amount of melancholy, to reach its peak of charm. With more than 100 years of history, illuminated by Jorge Colaço's pictorial tiles, which do not leave anyone indifferent when passing through the lobby of the station. The station was full of people. Some to come, others to leave. Some tourists, other locals. It’s not even by the cameras or maps in fist that distinguish themselves. It is by the accelerated pace of the locals, probably late for work or picking up the child in school, compared to the leisurely pace of the tourists, who seeks to absorb all that new information. And Porto has definitely good information to absorb. This mix of "local vs tourist" is very funny to note. At that moment, I felt like an invisible element. Just watching the unfolding of the story. And often to imagine the history of each. But this is a craze of mine.

In a slow pace, I leave the station. In the midst of the noise of the city's agitation, among people talking, car horns, the glare of the train or flashes from cameras, I could already hear the goring of seagulls, indicating the proximity to Douro river. It was going to be where I would walk, toward the 1872 River House. Small hotel, glued to the river Douro, which would work based and connecting element to this my experience in Porto. Just over 700 meters away, separate the River House from the station. With calm, I walked by Mouzinho da Silveira, towards the Ribeira Square, later to follow parallel to Douro, to finally arrive at River House. It is not surprising the numerous awards, which have been awarded, consecutively, to the city of Porto. Walking through hundreds of buildings, where you feel that each of them has an interesting story to tell, and then face the river, which still carries the weight of the history, the size (of the total) of the rabelo boats that docked there, carrying barrels full of wine arrived from the (enchanted) Douro valley. This history, which cannot be forgotten, can be seen in the endless number of wine houses, which, like sanctuaries, are carefully aligned on the opposite shore on the bank of V.N. of Gaia. Not to mention the majestic D. Luís Bridge. Capable of appearing, without major problems, in a list with the most iconic bridges in the world. I arrive at the River House, half stunned with such visual and historical information. Of course, this is not the first time I have seen it all and I visit the city of Porto. But all this information reverses the concept of rationality. Each time, with each new look, this city impresses me most.

The 1872 River House follows the concept of the Porto city. It is not fleeting. It is melancholy, and almost a factory of stories and memories. It is a house, in the form of a pale pink palace, almost planted on the Douro River. In the past it was a restaurant and it passed for some time like spare space, until a fire consumed much of the infrastructure. Thankfully I've never seen this space like that. Today, since its inauguration in 2014, it is a guest house full of style and without forgetting the past. Starting at the entrance. An iron door upstairs connects to a walkway full of very pretty stained glass windows, not knowing how to adjective them, whether as a vintage or as something of the future, as good and present as they are. It is, without a doubt, an unforgettable entry. Enter through the iron door, which displays the "coat" of 1872 and then cross the bridge, with daylight penetrating the stained glass. Curiously, 1872, is the year of construction of the footbridge. After this solemn moment, it is entering into a dimension of receiving, and in my case, of being welcomed. The River House "only" has 8 rooms. And I write "only" (between quotes), because 8 is the right measure. The feeling we get is that we arrive at someone’s house who likes us and who is not receiving us in a hurry. The rooms are divided by several floors, with a common space, on the lower floor. In this common space, superbly decorated (as well as the whole River House), the river, through the carefully aligned windows, looks like a living painting, to be admired as we let time pass. And speaking of time, time, element so scarce and valuable these days, is one of the key words of the concept of River House. There is never a hurry or even a caring word from the people who make this place, starting with Teresa Aguiar, the owner and director of this space, who received me so well. There it is, as if receiving someone in your house. There is also no hurry, for example, to have breakfast. That can be taken by the early risers, at 8:00 am, or by those who wish to fully charge the battery at 12:00. There is no time limit for breakfast. So simple, so rare and so good. Between conversations, teas, chocolates and homemade muffins, I quickly felt at home. My room in this "house of mine", had a view facing the Douro river. Where the windows, "were placed at the end of a stone wall, so as not to forget the history of their past, are yet another living picture, that make me evoke, once again, the word "hurry." This time, to be in no hurry to leave (and wish silently that this was my room forever). This space is made of memories, as well as the return of our investment (both in time and money) in an experience, is made, above all, in memories and the stories we take to tell. The moment the sun fell, and the orange light from the sky took the place of the charming gray light of the day, where time seems to have paused, this moment, lived by me on the small balcony of my River House room. It will certainly linger in my memory for many good years, and it will certainly be the motto for many (and perhaps good) stories I will tell. I think it describes well what River House is, and what it represented in my experience, as a complement, to skim the perfect, the way I visit the city of Porto.

After that, what is the best way to get out of the River House Bridge and visit Porto? Throw away the map and get lost in the city streets. That's what I did. Believe that the surprise is always greater, when out of nowhere, we give away a (world-known) Lello Bookstore (yes, the one from Harry Potter) or a delicious (and unknown) Taberna das Flores. And another endless, of places, smells, people and moments, that often do not even need to have a name to figure in our memory, who knows, forever. I think this "true" Porto is a prodigy in those moments. If you have a map (google maps), be sure to tune in for the éclairs from Leitaria da Quinta do Paço. I only tell you this, I do not understand how they have not yet been considered as World Heritage.

The next day, after a late breakfast and with a heart full of memories, I made my way back to São Bento Station, this time in reverse. I went back walking by the stream and attend all the daily rituals of those who make Porto their home. I do not think they even realize it, but it's fantastic to watch them. I returned to admire the tilled murals of the station and to enter the first train towards Campanhã. Already on the train towards home, I thought, "well, it's easy to miss this." Laurence Sterne quoted (and well) said: "The most beautiful moment of a journey is the memory." I even felt with more information than I could take, because of the good moments of this trip were so many. So many memories. Sitting on a train bench, with the Douro river as a backdrop and among the usual trepidations of the train, which to me, they packed me in a very particular way, followed with me, among many others, the Vinha family from Solar Egas Moniz and the charismatic Adolfo from Farelo, also followed the wines from Quinta do Vallado and the whole history of Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, all this without forgetting the landscapes of Pinhão and all the charm of the streets from Porto. I believe that all this, will stay with me, perhaps, forever.