Praia da Luz, Avenida do Brasil, Porto

Davis finds a restaurant with a killer view and even better food at Praia da Luz…

Laid back vibe and people enjoy the view

The sun was shining, and it was 22 degrees. The perfect spring day! With an appetite, I took the #203 bus from Praca do Marques about 20 minutes to the Mercado da Foz bus stop and walked down Rua Diu 5 minutes until I hit the ocean. The views are spectacular cutting through this little section of Porto with the trees just starting to bloom and the street stacked with 19th century townhomes and shops. No two facades are alike. When you dead end into the beach, you’re immediately introduced to the “boardwalk” or Passadiço with hikers, runners and bicycles in abundance enjoying the boulder lined sand, the pier and lighthouse which leads you back to the Douro river and downtown. I learned later that this is actually part of the Porto leg of the Caminho de Santiago trek as it passes along this section of Portugal.

Following the boardwalk down toward the sea about 50 meters north of Rua Diu, I randomly came upon Praia da Luz restaurant and beach bar. It’s not visible from above, but just below street level the world changes. The vibe reminded me of St. Tropez for just a minute, but it’s more welcoming, down to earth, real and relaxed. At this point I was starving and walked inside the long narrow restaurant to white linen table clothes and the mirrored rear wall that brings the ocean inside…all directly on the beach. Fresh baked breads, homemade butter, tuna spread, tomato dip and Portuguese olives were accompanied by an amuse bouche. I didn’t ask, but it was fabulous and something from the sea. The menu is diverse though leans toward fish, so I ordered the seabass baked in sea salt and rosemary along with the fresh spinach and boiled potatoes…everything swimming in garlic and butter. Half a bottle of Portuguese Douro Valley white wine later and my planets were aligned. The service was flawless and the total bill, on the pricey side for Porto, including wine was about €25.

From inside the main restaurant with its wall of windows I could see the outdoor, more casual bar/restaurant which is part of the Praia da Luz facility and private beach. The main building also has a roof top section and outdoor bar to take in the spectacular ocean view. Outside, there are tables and white umbrellas as far as the eye can see along a large terraced wood deck with chaise lounge chairs beyond spilling into the sand. The outdoor menu is less expensive and more expansive with Portuguese tapas, ceviche, carpaccio, burgers, salads, pastas, various other local dishes, desserts and the like. 

I followed the live music outside, ordered my first Porto Tonico and settled into a sofa under the gigantic “sail” that shades the rear section of the outdoor bar. For context, the Portuguese Porto Tonico is white port wine, tonic water, a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. One glass alone is not possible. The man on a guitar was local and the music was chill. As the afternoon wore on and the drinks kicked in a “DJ” appeared. A barefoot, 60 something gentleman in white tee shirt and faded jeans looking like he literally lived on the beach with his dark tan and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The music changed to something more from the Hotel Costes in Paris suitable for dancing and the eclectic people watching.

Under normal circumstances I’d be embarrassed to say that I was now in my sixth hour at Praia da Luz. Did I nap at some point? I do recall multiple conversations throughout the day. The sun was lowering, the crowd now growing with an ever-changing mix of locals, tourists and those just passing through on the Camino. A dessert was in order. I asked for something that wasn’t heavy and fit with the beach. They brought their “cream of the universe”: lime mousse, lemon curd and merengue…you do the math! For some unexplained yet completely obvious reason they also brought me a shot of “cachaça” which is a Brazilian liqueur made from fermented sugarcane juice. Good, yet evil. To me it sort of tastes like a cross between Turkish raki and maybe tequila…it’s aggressive on the way down!

I grabbed an Uber and headed back downtown for home. The bus, the Metro or even walking were all completely inappropriate at this point. Praia da Luz is yet another example of what Porto has to offer with a unique setting on the beach, excellent food and service. Highly recommended. 


Baby Carrier vs Stroller, How to Get It Right for Your Best Vacation

Olivia in the Osprey Poco Plus

“Does this smell?” I asked Jo about our Osprey carrier. From the other side of the room she responded “Yes.” Earlier in our trip we had walked for twelve days from Porto, Portugal to Compostela de Santiago, Spain, averaging 13 miles / 21k a day.  After a comfortable train ride back to Porto, we had to confront some hard truths.  The Osprey was in desperate need of a washing. Feeling inspired, I took the carrier into the shower, soaped it up, and rinsed.  I then carried the still dripping frame pack through the hotel room as my cleaning trophy.  I was proud of what I had done, both me and the carrier were fresh again.  But I was met with dismay.  Upon seeing me, Jo quickly asked,“what are we going to carry Olivia around in all day?” I had not thought that far ahead. And at my urging, we had left the stroller at home. But this moment was travel-gold disguised as wet, and admittedly, still musty nylon.  My impulsive shower wash forced us to find a new way to carry our daughter.  It also made us reflect again on one of the first family-travel questions I was ever asked. 

“It looks like you don’t take a stroller with you when you travel, would you recommend leaving it at home?” When I first heard that question, I was extremely biased, and responded with a resounding “yes!” Then, I had traveled exclusively with carriers, and I had always opted for the hands-free terrain-versatility that they offered.  But, I was speaking from my limited knowledge base; I had never experienced the back-saving advantages of a stroller. With the framed carrier sodden we came up with two solutions. The first one was to use the soft carrier with Olivia on our back.  That was merely a variation on the theme I knew well.  The second solution, however, was the game-changer.  I also went down to ask the hotel if they had a stroller that they lent out to guests, and as it turns out, they did. We now had a genuinely new option to try out in Porto. 

My first stop with the bright red umbrella stroller was the gym. Why? Because that’s  where the sterilization wipes, sprays, and unlimited amount of paper towels can be found. I sprayed and wiped the entire stroller down to a standard that even Jo was proud of. While I clumsily pushed the stroller through the hotel door Olivia took a look and exclaimed “oh, nice!” and started to climb in. Porto, Portugal and its steep cobbled sidewalks and streets combined with its availability of all types of public transport made it a perfect place for testing child transport superiority. With an unencumbered back, we rolled our daughter into a day of sightseeing. 

The stroller performed much better than expected over uneven cobble stone side walks. Olivia did not seem to mind the bumpy ride and it even helped put her to sleep at times. Taking the bus to the seaside with the stroller was not as easy as it would have been with one of the other hands-free baby haulers, but it did allow me to sit down on a bus for the first time in a while. The other huge advantage is how easily we could transfer responsibility of carting Olivia around. The responsibility of carrying Olivia in the outsized Osprey frame pack is exclusively mine. The soft carrier usually gets strapped to whatever parent Olivia choses as her mule at that moment, but then stays there. The stroller could easily be toggled from one parent to the other. 

There were some drawbacks to a stroller, especially in the storied cities, towns, and villages of the “Old World.” In Porto, many sidewalks taper to 2 feet across.  At times they completely disappear, and we tried our best to walk in single file, one shoulder to the wall.    Keeping the stroller out of traffic while avoiding oncoming pedestrians was a full time job. In crowds the stroller was also at a disadvantage.  Many Portuguese did not see our stroller, or pretended they didn’t.  As we jostled our way through the thick of humanity, we wondered if we were the only ones concerned for our little stroller.  We had by then affectionally dubbed it “Little Red,” and knew, objectively at least, it was easily visible. 

not sure if this was a sidewalk but we had to walk in the street

Portugal has recently been awarded the United Nations’ first award for being an Accessible Tourist Destination. What it took to get that appellation, however, was not clear to me.  Looking for ramps and elevators became a constant occupation. Overall, Little Red was a welcomed relief from the long days of carrying Olivia, and if nothing else, it forced us to look around more, and find a path we may not otherwise have taken. If we had to carry it between hotels or through airports, however, even my tepid support might be tamped down. Calling or emailing your hotel or vacation stay and finding out if they can provide one is the way to go. 

The next day, with the Osprey frame pack still not completely dried, we used our Lilly Complete. Generally, we only put Olivia in this carrier to get through busy areas such as airports, train stations.  We’ve also adapted it to be our on-the-go sleeper. We have traveled so much that it is now her preferred place to sleep. As an all day carrier, however, we were uncertain.  We were trying a new back position which would bring her flush against my back, and we would attempt to keep Olivia in it all day. The biggest concern was overheating, for all parties involved.  The close-to-the-body position turned out to be optimal for shopping in the small shops around Porto. With the large frame pack, I am always afraid that I will turn and knock something over.  And despite its moniker, “Little Red” always felt in the way. Jo also felt much more comfortable carrying Olivia in the Lilly Complete over the Osprey. Jo feels unbalanced while using the Osprey, which makes sense.  It is optimized for me, 100 lbs bigger, and a full foot taller. The Lilly Complete also kept our hands free as the Osprey would, but with a soft exterior, allowed easy storage when Olivia wanted to walk around. The biggest draw back was encountered at snack time.  Because Olivia is flush to our body there wasn’t a lot of room for her to eat or drink while we were carrying her. 

everyone seemed to enjoy this option

Osprey Poco Plus has been our go to child transport system since Olivia has had the neck strength to hold her head up. It allows us to go on hikes and walk all day with her.   It also has some great built in storage that frees up the hands of both parents. The optional rain cover has never failed to keep Olivia dry allowing us a full day of exploring no matter what the forecast is. On almost all of our vacations we go on some type of hike and this is the only system we could travel with that would lend itself to a day in the woods as well as an amble around town. This is also the carrier that Olivia will remain seated the longest without asking to walk herself. In Porto, we did find some draw backs. The radius needed to turn is rather large, so in stores and on public transport people and or things often get hit. While it does fold into itself when the child is not in the seat, if you have items stored in the pack it will not completely collapse. While it did not get the best overall marks on our test, it is our only option if we plan to do any hiking on the trip.

Overall the best advice would be to take the soft carrier, unless you are planing a hike, and contact hotels before booking to find one that has a stroller. 

Osprey Poco PlusLilly Complete Hotel Stroller “Little Red”
Crowded areas 452
Public transportation  453
Perceived comfort of Olivia 544
Vicente’s enjoyment of use443
Jo’s enjoyment of use145
Olivia snack and drink time425
Ease of nap time553
Ease of cleaning while traveling 353
Ease of transporting from country to country 453
Ease for parent  while Olivia is walking  354
Energy conservation for parent using435
Total 445243

Tortas de Polvo e Companhia

Tortas de Polvo e Companhia, go now before the world finds out and you won’t get a seat. Read Davis McKinney’s full review….

My Girlfriend and I were early for a brunch with friends and killing time one Saturday when we stumbled upon a tiny place with an octopus on the sign outside. We thought we would stop in for a quick snack and glass of wine before the brunch…we were starving. Who knew? Tortas de polvo & Companhia is at the top of the last little side street (Rua Conde São Salvador 52) near the port in Matosinhos. Parallel to the Rio Leca and generally between Brito Capelo and Mercado Metro stations it is easy access via Metro from downtown Porto.

Inside, the small bar and kitchen dominate the space with only 3 tables and a small counter along the side wall next to the kitchen. It’s adorable! The woman managing the customers while taking orders and “translating” for the kitchen spoke some hybrid of French, Portuguese and English. She was as charming as she was attentive to everyone’s needs. 

We started with a glass of perfectly dry Portuguese house white wine from the Douro valley while checking out the menu. The miniature blackboard in the window had a torta de polvo (octopus pie or tart) for €3.50. This is what originally pulled us in and was to be our snack! We miscommunicated the order somewhere between the Portuguese and the French exchange and ended up with two Tortas. What could go wrong? Wrapped in the crust was what appeared to be ground octopus with tomato and mushrooms. The dough was light, warm and both sweet and spicy at the same time. It was a sort of brick red in color. Alongside the torta was a fresh mixed salad of greens, onions and carrots. It was a meal vs. a snack, but we slammed them both down knowing at this point our pending brunch with friends would be reduced to liquids and conversation. With our second glass of wine we also successfully split the “tres polvos” plate which was, as you may have guessed, three different tapas size octopus tastings. One was similar to a ratatouille, another grilled and the third mixed with potatoes and onion and served cold in a perfect cylinder shape. All excellent. Since we were this far in…we went for the dessert. A coffee tasting crème drizzled over the top of thinly sliced white cake of unknown ingredients. We didn’t ask, but it was warm and fresh and similarly sensational. The total bill was just shy of €20 for both of us. 

As we were getting close to the meeting time for brunch we walked around the corner to meet our friends and had another glass of wine while explaining why we were not going to eat! Tortas de polvo & Companhia…it is not to be missed!