It has been a bit of a whirlwind — I left my home in San Francisco on Friday evening, rushing to the airport to take the night flight to Munich. I am not sure why – maybe because I was polite or maybe I have too many miles – the ladies at the counter upgraded me and that meant a great night’s sleep on the plane. Of course upon landing, it was another seven hours and two flights before I reached my final destination — Porto. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, and it is way more scenic (in my opinion than Lisbon) though it is much smaller in size and scope. It is well known for Port wine — big port brands such as Dow’s, Taylor’s and Graham’s like the Duoro River, right across from the old city of Porto. It is also home to world’s first large scale vehicular mesh network, thanks to Veniam, a company cofounder by João Barros. It won’t be long before the world will know Porto for Veniam and its technologies.
I was in Porto for a Veniam board meeting, our first after the company’s recent $25 million series B round of funding led by Verizon Ventures along with strategic investors such as Cisco, Orange, Liberty Global and Yamaha Motors. True along with previous investors Cane Investments and Union Square Ventures also participated in this round. Veniam is everything I like in a startup – a charismatic but grounded founder, defensible technology and an innovative application of cloud, data and properitary alogrithms that solve real world problems.
This was an intensely short visit – I landed at almost midnight on Saturday and left on Tuesday, with two action packed days. On Sunday, I traveled to Viana do Castelo and Guiamares, the later being the capital of the old old Portugal. I was amazed by the elegance of the churches, the beautiful buildings, well preserved despite their age. You can see why Portugese make good architects — it’s in their blood, though there are some buildings that leave you thinking — what the hell!
It was quite a day — good sea food and great lessons in history of the country which at one time was a pinnacle of power. Interestingly, I learned about the king (Henry the First ) and how he funded intensive amount of research into seafaring technologies. It was the emergent technology of its times and that allowed Portugese to discover new worlds and develop trade relations with other parts of the world. I joked with João, that he was the venture capitalist of his era, mostly because he was the guy with the most amount of money.
After a long day, we had dinner with João and his family and I thought after a long day, I would be able to rest and relax and get some sleep. Unfortunately, jet lag, compounded by too much coffee during the day meant that I couldn’t sleep and did nothing but tossed and turned. It is weird that sometimes I can handle jetlag without a problem and sometimes I struggle mightily with it. Monday, however was a busy day – we went to the Port of Porto to see Veniam at work, and then later to meet the team Veniam. But I had to suck out for about two hours to catch a nap otherwise i would have fallen asleep during the board meeting.
And just like that the day ended and it wasn’t long before I was back at the airport and on my way to Zurich for a day before heading home tomorrow. I am bummed that I didn’t get to spend much time walking around Porto, for this is a great city for making photos. The history stares at you in every corner. The sun and shadows do a slow tango all day long. I had my camera but I didn’t use it much. My Leica B&W isn’t for landscapes — it is more for street and atmospheric photography. Maybe next time!
Porto, is inexpensive and in my opinion, one of the must visit tourist destinations. You can find very affordable and magnificent Airbnbs, but the hotels aren’t too expensive either. All of the established ones are great — The Yeatman is in a class of its own. I stayed at the Pasteno Hotel, right on the Duoro River. It is three old apartment buildings stitched together into a nice heritage hotel. Great views, great bar and great staff will add up to a great vacation. Intercontinental is another amazing hotel. I think the city is great for walking and enjoying food and wine. While I favor Tuscan and Sicilian wines, I have been blown away by the Portugese wines and how soulful they are. I like Portugese reds, preferably on the younger side.
I couldn’t really go to many places for food and wine this time, due to crammed schedule and jet lag, but my friend Andy spent five weeks in Porto and has a list of recommendations. I hope you enjoy them! I plan on revisiting Porto later this year, and much like Andy spending a few weeks exploring the city and Northern Portugal.
Porto, Portugal. March 1, 2016
Some of (Andy’s) Porto Recommendations:
- ODE Wine Bar
- Wine Quay
- Restaurante Cafina
- Cufra for the local breakfast or lunch special dish called the Francheschina.
- Pedro Lemos – awesome tasting menu and wine pairing.
- OPaparico, for the best meal year in and out.
- Cantinho do Alvillez — the Porto chapter of one of Lisbon’s best chefs. This is more bistro but is it ever good.
- The Gin House —great late at night.
- A really local place is Oporto GT Baixa
- Tasca Caseira-wonderful lunch spot, of really local cooking in a nice upscale Tasca.
- Reitoria-steak house that’s awesome.
- Andor Violeta-modern, healthy, classy.
- Tito2 and also Tito seafood that’s freshest in town, down by the ocean port.
- Graham’s Vinum Restaurant to this list – the dinner was spectacular and service was amazing. Om