A VIP Pass to Two of Porto’s Famous Attractions

[By Rita Sabler, Symposium Correspondent, in Porto] On July 17 most of the Symposium instructors were settled in Porto and were treated to two exclusive sketching opportunities before the start of the symposium.

The view of Porto outside of the main Symposium hub, the Alfandega

Shortly after lunch a big tourist bus took all of the instructors to Porto Poças, an established port winery celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year. Portuguese port is a stronger sweeter fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley and usually served during desert.

Faculty during the tasting and the oldest barrel of port

Initially everybody assembled in a large dark room with stone walls and treated to some samples of port produced at Poças. One of the wine makers discussed the history of the winery, the distinctive characteristics of each wine, its aromas and the process of making famous Portuguese wine.

Poças philosophy is there are three main ingredients to each glass of splendid port–soil, grapes and people. It is noticeable how the family grown business is a source of pride and great care by all of the employees.

We learned that wine makers here are not allowed to make wine from grapes that are not Portuguese, say Pinot Noire. The two main types of port–Tawny and Ruby– produced here differ by their aging process and aging time. Poças family advice–you have to pick a side between the the two and can’t be a fan of both equally.

Later in the aging and filtering production room and cellar I got introduced to the oldest barrel of port at Poças. This centenarian beauty is hidden all the way in the darkest corner and sealed for safety to preserve it for future generations.

Filtration apparatus–one of the last steps in the process 

I also learned that bottles have to be aged for at least 15 years before they are available on the market. The oldest one on the market currently is 1960s bottle of Ruby.

After the tasting the instructors settled down to sketch giant barrels, wine, and the beautiful facilities of Poças. Thank you for the Tour!

Livraria Lello–Porto’s famous bookstore

This fixture is on the list of any visit to Porto. The bookstore is the oldest and most elaborate in Portugal. Typically during the day it is packed with tourists and shoppers who are not deterred by the entry fee and a long line to get in.

The instructors entered the bookstore late at night when it closed to regular visitors and were treated to two hours of sketching inside.

I sketched the handsome employee/ticket checker who was wearing a a leather vest with buckles–special uniform that he says he dislikes. He jokes that it looks like bondage wear. I make a mental note that it would make a good Urban sketching uniform as it is full of pencil pockets.

Johanna Krimmel and Inma Serrano (center) and Ketta keeping her boys occupied (center) 

Inside instructors quickly got to work. Lello bookstore is full of amazing details like lamp posts, elaborate stained glass lining the back wall and the ceiling. Just like with the rest of this amazing city it is hard to pick where to focus one’s attention.

Faculty sketching at Lello bookstore after hours

Most of the faculty went upstairs and gathered around the structural and visual centerpiece of this unique bookshop–a giant red staircase that looks like a cascading waterfall taken straight out of some magic kingdom Disney film. The great maestros of perspective Lapin, Rob Sketcherman, and Paul Heaston appreciated the challenge to flex their sketching muscle in drawing something so complex despite the late hour and fatigue. We finished at 11:30 and left this magical place very content.


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