The final VIP event for Flight Club 2019 was held from 20 – 23 Sep 2019 in the beautiful city of Porto, Portugal. Everyone arrived in one piece after the long voyage around the world from Australia. Some of the students experienced their premier maiden flights in First Class on elite airlines like Etihad Airways and Qantas.
A jam packed itinerary over the 4 days with site visits, tours, and local culinary experiences. We all stayed at the Hotel Dom Henrique very close to the Trinidade Metro station in central Porto. A convenient location if you arrive into Porto via the airport as the Metro connects directly to the central CBD for the ritzy price of €2.45.
Never losing a day for an opportunity to learn our first day in Porto was welcomed with an immersion morning session in the Portuguese language. Feeling inspired but perhaps slightly embarrassed with our imperfect Portuguese nasal diphthongs we hit the cobble stones of Porto.
Lunch was taken in the Restaurant Abadia do Porto located in the historic part of the ‘Invicta’ city. The name originated in the abbeys, where the pilgrims, who demanded of Santiago de Compostela, rested for a few hours, sleeping and eating before embarking on another stage of the caminho (a long walk with a religious purpose).
VIP event afternoons remain culturally focused. We visited some wonderful baroque landmarks and climbed the 240 steps to the top of the Clérigos Tower, visited the azulejo tiled São Bento train station, and witnessed the stunning architecture of the 114 year old bookshop Livraria Lello known for its inspiration for J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books.
Staggering back to the hotel we stopped by Fábrica de Nata to savour, every internationals favourite, the pasteis de nata (Portuguese tarts), while sipping cholate quente (hot chocolate). Weary but not defeated we spent a culinary evening with two inspirational Portuguese chefs who not only drowned us with white port wine tonic spritzers and wine but taught us how to really cook mussels and devour authentic Portuguese fare.
There is very little time for rest on these VIP Flight Club events and we commenced early the second morning with an advanced flight and hotel planning session before visiting the nearby Chocolataria Equador (a well planned visit). We headed over the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia. A hub of the port wine industry Vila Nova de Gaia is peppered with cellars offering tours and tastings.
Taylor, Fladgate, & Yeatman (simply Taylor Fladgate or Taylor’s) is one of the largest and oldest port wine houses in Vila Nova de Gaia. Founded in 1692 it owns the brands of Fonesca, Fonesca-Guimaraens, Taylor, Krohn, and Croft. The house ships all types of port including vintage, tawny, ruby, late-bottled vintage, and white (great with tonic, lime, and mint in Summer). Taylor Fladgate’s vintage ports are some of the most sought-after and expensive ports in the world. With this mind we toured and sampled port wines paired to our specially purchased chocolates from the morning’s visit.
Not distracted by Portuguese precipitation we transited back over the Douro River to enjoy the company of the Internations Group ‘Porto Sustainable Life’ at OpenBox (Associação Cultural e Artística). We met local Portuguese and friendly expats from other nations and immersed ourselves in music, art, and good times. The Porto Art District participates in art openings in Miguel Bombarda where one afternoon, 6 times a year, all contemporary art galleries present simultaneous exhibitions and the surrounding streets become full of life with performances, DJ’s, concerts, and lots of revelry. We were in luck to visit at one of these times.