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Porto: A Drive Through Time

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Image courtesy of Clássico Porto.

                                                                  Image courtesy of Clássico Porto.

 

While the rest of metropolitan Europe seems to sweep through a prescribed pattern of development, Porto has managed to follow a slower, more crooked path. Here, trendy bars and restaurants have creatively repurposed everything from Art Deco theatres to 1950s diners. Drive farther inland and you’ll come across the stark straight lines of the highly acclaimed contemporary Casa da Música. Porto is essentially an eclectic time capsule that has preserved and built on the remnants of decades past.

The modern world has developed at such an exponential speed that the past is now the pinnacle of luxury. Mass-manufactured shoes are commonplace when there’s a clog maker still tapping away on the streets of Vitoria and Miragaia.

Likewise, sinking into the hand-sewn faded leather seats while manually rolling down the windows seems the only appropriate way to watch the multi-colored shopfronts of Ribeira blur past. Through the windows of a classic car, the city’s multi-layered past comes to life.

As you speed over the Dom Luis I, a double-decked metal arched bridge, a lung full of salty air blows in from the ocean beyond evoking the city’s etymology and its origins as a Roman port. The massive bridge casts its silhouette on the murky green Douro River, and you may as well be in the thirteenth century with the barcos rabelos still bobbing along, shipping barrels full of port.

Chugging up and down the riverfront hills in your classic car, you heighten the nostalgia as the distinct aroma of petrol starts to fill the air. Passersby flash delighted smiles and knowing nods. Even those with no particular penchant for motors can appreciate the allure of the elegant design reminiscent of a time gone by. Modern cars are faster, safer, and specifically designed for convenience, yet the classic car market is still steadily on the rise. Just this year, a 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti sold at auction in Paris for a cool $35.7 million.

When you travel by classic car, you choose more than a mode of transport; you opt for an experience. The hand-welded doors that shut with a tin clang and the worn leather steering wheel evoke the post-war period, the “jet-set generation,” and the glamour of the not-too-distant past. The classic car is an agent of its time, reserved for those who can appreciate its value.

Like the Church of São Francisco, whose modes exterior gives way to a baroque masterpiece, dripping in Brazilian gold, intricate wood carvings, and columns adorned with cherubs, the classic car offers a new perspective on the world.

Image courtesy of Clássico Porto.

Image courtesy of Clássico Porto.

Peering out the glass windscreen, Porto unfolds with its exotic allure.

From the neoclassical Palácio da Bolsa to the baroque Torre dos Clérigos that rises above the cityscape, every venue is a testament to Porto’s history of mixing cultures and people. The famed tile murals in the São Bento Railway Station, the azulejos, are the Portuguese derivative of Delft tiles.

You can fully appreciate the mastery behind the intricate craftsmanship when you are mastering an art of your own: adjusting the air/fuel ratio with the choke, engaging the stiff gears, and grappling with non-power steering. Behind that wheel, the intangible past becomes visceral.

When you drive out of the gates of the 200 year old Palacio das Cardosas, now home to the InterContinental Porto, and the medieval city of Porto extends before you, you may as well be travelling through time. The reality of the present fades away, and only the charm and curiosity of another world remain. Experiment with the many miradouros (viewpoints) of the city because after all, a ride in a classic car is not about the destination; it is simply about living in the ever elusive “moment.”

Watch historic Porto come to life from the seat of a classic car when you reserve the Insider Experience at InterContinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas.

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