Porto Study Week 2016
We have just arrived from a week long stay in Porto, where we have attended an intensive Portuguese language course during the mornings and engaged in some cultural activities in the afternoons and evenings.
Our group this year consisted of 12 participants, among them, the "veterans" Simon and Karen who had already participated in past Study Week trips with us. Students' language skills ranged from beginners to higher intermediate levels and this year we had even a native speaker, D. Raquel, from Basildon, who could make a dream come true: achieving her first certificate of Portuguese language!
In Porto, we attended classes at Fast Forward where we received a warm welcome by Sr Ernesto, the school principal. Sr. Ernesto showed us around the school and helped the teachers to run the placement tests, a necessary tool to better place students in the correct class level.
Picture: Sr. Ernesto welcomes our group and explains how their week will be like.
Fast Forward is located right on the High Street, Rua de Santa Catarina, so the students gathered around that area most of their times. The street is very pleasant and mostly pedestrianised, filled with independent and high street shops, some dating back to 1801!
Picture: Main reception room at Fast Forward.
Segunda-feira: our first lunch at ancient Majestic Café and a Walk tour!
On our first day, we had lunch at Majestic café, the restaurant/café place where J.K. Rowling used to go to for a cup of coffee, when she lived in Porto. It is believed that she has drafted some of her Harry Potter book whilst sipping a Portuguese coffee at this splendid Café.
Picture: Olivia, Eva and Karen enjoying a light lunch at Majestic Café
Picture: Majestic Café
After lunch, we joined a tailor-made tour designed and delivered by the excellent Porto Walkers.
Our guide, Nuno, delighted our students and their feedback was fantastic! We had a chance to know a little bit more about this enchanting city through the eyes and tales of a local. Thank you, Porto Walkers! If you want to find out more about this competent tour company, visit their website.
Picture: Exploring Porto's hidden quarters
Picture: On the magnificent bridge Luis I
Picture: Exploring downtown secret passages
We also visited the wonderful Lello Bookstore, a must-do while in the city. Our guide had already bought all the tickets and the students had some time to stroll inside this legendary building, considered the 3rd most beautiful bookshop in the world! What a privilege! - This incredible bookshop inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts.
Picture: Teens simply can't get enough of the "Harry Potter" Hogwarts library!
The building was inaugurated on January 13th, 1906. The facade is in a splendid neo-gothic style, adorned by two figures painted by José Bielman, representing the Science and the Art. The interior was designed by Xavier Esteves. Nuno stayed with us for a while inside the bookshop while students explored its interiors and even searched for a good Portuguese dictionary!
Picture: Simon listens attentively to Nuno, who explains that the library offers authentic touches, including the ancient wheelbarrow on tracks which was once used to carry heavy volumes between the main door and their homes on the shelves.
Picture: Lello houses around 120,000 tittles, covering all types of genres and there are some delightful touches to remind us of the store's long heritage.
Terça-feira: Time to explore the city in Portuguese!
On our third day, I called all Basic Level students for a special activity after their classes. They engaged in a type of "Treasure Hunt" around 2 central streets, where they would have a chance to explore and find out more about that area in Porto.
Picture: David and Karen formed a very successful pair in this activity, having finished all the tasks in record time! Congratulations!
Picture: At a given moment, they had to explore the art inside Santo Ildefonso Church. Here you can see another fun pair: Pauline and Paul!
Picture: Karen and Olivia were definitely really focused on their tasks. Both have started their courses back in England some months ago and, for the first time, had to follow directions entirely in Portuguese!
Picture: Here they had to find out more about the incredible facade of the mercearia Pérola do Bolhão, see below.
"A Pérola do Bolhão has its facade covered with decorative hand-painted tiles, depicting two women with flowers and feathers in their hair. One woman is holding a tea plant whilst the other is holding a coffee plant. Hence the word Cha (tea) and Cafe (coffee) on either side of the shop's name. This grocery has been open since 1917 so they have quite an experience in dealing with customers. They’re extremely nice, know their products, dive great suggestions and know the city very well. So if you go to Pérola do Bolhão and then don’t know where to go next, ask for a tip. They’ll surely help you discover Porto and it’s amazing spots". Source: Local Porto
Quarta-feira: Heritage and Splendour!
On our fourth day we gathered at Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange). The building is one of the most important historic monuments in Porto. It was built in the second half of the 19th century in the neoclassical style and was destined to become the headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association, which reflects the importance of this activity in the city’s history.
Picture: Students joined one of the daily English tours around the main rooms in the building.
One of the highlights is the celebrated Arabian Hall (below), said to have been inspired by the even more renowned Alhambra Palace in Granada. The room is a showcase of lush arabesques, fine woodwork and jaw-dropping stained-glass works. This room works as a reminder of the presence of the Moors who ruled Portugal during the Middle Ages and played a key influence in the making of Portugal.
Picture: The magnificent Arab Room, built between 1862 and 1880 by Gonçalves e Sousa. The room is used as reception hall for personalities and heads of state visiting Porto.
Picture: It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the splendour of the Arab Room
Picture: Paul and Eva at the granite stairway, built in 1868 by Gonçalves e Sousa.
Picture: Students learn about the paintings at the Court room, The room is done in the French Renaissance style, with the paintings referencing the importance of the port wine trade in Porto.
Quinta-feira: Time for Port!
On the fifth day we had our afternoon reserved to what Porto is best known for: the world famous Vinho do Porto!
We headed for W & J Graham’s magnificent 1890 Lodge, situated on a commanding ridge in Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River from Porto and only a few hundred metres from the river’s south bank. Graham’s is one of the very few working lodges still operational after 100 years!
In there, we joined an English speaking tour of the cellar, where we re told about the making of the Port Wine and the importance of the river Douro. We could also see the Symington’s private collection of ports from years gone by. It was very interesting to see bottles from the beginning of the 19th Century!
But the most awaited part was certainly the tasting session! :)
Picture: Students tasting a 10-Year Tawny, a Late Bottle Port and a glass of Six Grapes, which was my favourite!
The Last day...
On the last day students wrapped up their lessons at Fast Forward and everyone was awarded a certificate of participation during a very "simpática" ceremony promoted by the school:
Picture: Student Olivia shows off her very first certificate of Portuguese language!
Picture: the main reception room was transformed into a banquet room where students enjoyed a sip of Port wine and tried some delicious cakes!
Picture: Each student had their portrait displayed at a panel! How cool is that?
Picture: They have also got a small "prenda" from Sr Ernesto for their participation in the course!
After this fantastic farewell, we had a picnic under the vines at Cockburn's lodge, in Gaia. Absolutely fantastic!
Our Farewell Picnic!
Picture: The cellar organises picnic hampers from a local grocery store specialised in artisan produce. everything is washed down with quality wine, of course!
Final thoughts and... And an invitation!
All in all, this week has been a wonderful chance to get closer to the students and see them interact in Portuguese language in real situations! An invaluable opportunity for them to learn new words and immerse in Portuguese culture. One week may seem very little, however so much can be done and attained in this period of time! I witnessed my beginner students feeling more confident when speaking to the locals, even if what they were saying was entirely correct, their attitude is what counted. The locals were surprised and amused to find out we re a big group of Portuguese language enthusiasts and in some occasions, even the shiest students attempted to say "hello" to them.
If you liked what you saw in here and would like to participate in our next excursion (2017), please drop me a line. We still have no destination confirmed, but dates will be for sure on the first week of September.
Thanks for reading and please leave us a comment, if you can. :)