Travel: City of Oporto

Oporto, is one of the oldest european centers known. It originated many centuries ago as an outpost of the Roman Empire, Today, it is best known for it’s port wine. When wine first emerged in Oporto, there was no method to ensure the quality of wine, as a result the flavor suffered at the hands of the english. The Marquis of Pombal counteracted this by demarcating the region to ensure the wine’s quality and set a standard for production. It was the first attempt within europe to control wine quality and production.

Interesting Fact: Only wines made in Oporto can bear the adage of being named a “Port.”

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On the way to one of the wine caves, we stopped by to visit the Sao Bento Railway Station. It was inaugurated in 1916 and is best known for its azulejo walls that depict moments in portuguese history. They are the work of Jorge Colaço and date from 1905 to 1916. The building itself is French Beaux-Arts architecture, which uses elements such as conservative sculptural decoration, noble spaces, and symmetry. It is still in regular use today.



We then stopped by the Calem Winery to savor some Port in Oporto!

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On our way to the last stop, we paused to enjoy a view of the Casa do Infante, a 14th century house, in which Prince Henry the Navigator was born in 1394.


Casa do Infante

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Palacio da Bolsa








We also passed by the Palacio Da Bolsa, an old stock exchange built-in the 19th century.

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Livraria Lello

Our final destination was to admire the staircase of the Lello & Irmão bookshop. It is speculated that inspiration for the staircases and caped uniforms of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels stemmed from her time living in Oporto, Portugal.  The art-nouveau of the staircase and the bookstore do indeed give me a sense that I stepped into the world of Hogwarts, but it can also be seen as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. However, there is no denying the similarities between the Hogwarts uniforms as depicted in the movies, and the traditional school dress for university students.


Travel: Dom Luis Bridge, Oporto

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve managed to haul my ass out of bed this early in the morning. Oporto is a 2-hour drive from my prior location of Fatima, and I wanted to get the sites in before retiring early for the night due to an early AM flight. Yes, Alas, the time has come for me to bid adieu to my short time in Portugal and move on to the next destination on my European Adventure.

Once again, the weather is not being agreeable, in the sunlight you could no doubt see the old world charm of this century old city. However, amidst the gray skies, damp air, and churning brown waters, the city itself seemed to be sighing in sorrow. Fortunately, for the most part, the skies were generous enough to withhold a downpour of rain, and we merely had to deal with the pitter-patter of irregular drizzling.

2013-04-10 05.32.04My first official view of Porto happened while I was still in a dreary state, our bus was crossing a bridge parallel to a well-known sign of the city. It was in this fuzzy mindset that I first witnessed the historic Dom Luis Bridge.

You’ll understand my fascination with this span when you consider my background (see About Me). I was just enthralled by the structure, and it was difficult to withhold the continuous stream of design considerations and analysis methods required from zip-lining through my head.

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The arched form of the bridge results in a degree of non-linearity when considering how the structural elements resist the applied loads. This is difficult to describe in a non-technical sense, but it simply means that as the structure deforms  (changes shape) the strength and capacity of the bridge actually increases, as opposed to the logical assumption that it’s carrying capacity would decrease.

For a brief historic background: The government held a competition for the design of this land connection between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia that would span the Douro river. Téophile Seyrig claimed this honor, and construction began in 1881, and the bridge officially opened in 1886. At the time, it was the longest bridge of its type at a span of 172 m.