I arrived in Porto in the afternoon on Monday. I checked into my hostel, and took a nap. Upon waking, I decided to venture outside to explore the area to find that it was dark already. After strolling for a bit, I decided that the area felt a bit sketchy, and perhaps I’d do better staying in that night. I went to the market and bought food for dinner and a 6-pack, and returned to enjoy a night in. Upon realizing that I had managed to occupy several hours by talking to loved ones, decided to call it a night.
The next morning, Tuesday, I set off to explore. When I left it was raining slightly, and I had forgotten to bring an umbrella. I shrugged it off and figured that the rain would subside and I would be fine… how wrong I was. Within half an hour, I was wholly soaked. With every step I took, the insoles of my shoes oozed water, like a compressed sponge. Within forty-five minutes of my departure, I returned to the hostel. I changed my shoes and clothes and put my drenched outfit and to dry on the radiator. I cooked myself pasta with a mix of pesto and cheese sauce, which was actually very good and definitely hit the spot (look up etymology of this phrase- I find it suggestive). With warm food in my belly and warm clothes covering my body, I left once more to explore Porto. I headed towards the center of town in search of a pastry shop that the woman at the desk had suggested and referred to as “the best pastry shop in Porto, in my opinion.” I found it; it was called Padaria Ribeiro. I bought three miniature pastries, and they were, indeed, absolutely amazing. One was a mini cheesecake, one was a pastel de nata, and the other was a flakey, buttery filo type pastry with powdered sugar on top. After devouring said treats, I walked East, past a bookshop that I had also been told to go and check out. It was called Bookshop Lello. The building is very old, and features an equitably detailed double spiral staircase in the middle of the shop that leads to the second floor, and the ceiling features a stained glass mosaic. I wish I had pictures to show you, but the man working told me to put my camera away, which I found silly… it’s a bookshop. I looked around for a but, but they had a poor selection of English books, so I continued on my way. I ended up on Rua de Santa Catarina, which is the main shopping drag in Porto. I went to a shop called Stradivarius, which is a chain owned by Zara, and to my delight found a pair of jeans and a pair of black pair of pants that fit very well indeed. Then, at H&M, I bought a white shirt and a scarf. I was overjoyed with my successful shopping day; it’s been ages since I’ve found jeans I like. After shopping I returned home, showered and went to bed. It wasn’t until arriving in Barcelona and going to take a shower that I realized that I had left my towel in the bathroom here.
I was due to check out on Wednesday morning, so I did so and left my bag at reception. The train I needed to take to Barcelona was an overnight train, and I needed to leave the station in Porto just shy of 8PM. After eating breakfast, I went into town, intending to cross the river to go into Vila Nova de Gaia, which is a different city, separated from Porto by the Duoro River. Before going into Vila Nova de Gaia for lunch and a Port cellar tour, I wanted to reserve my spot on the trains for that night. I went to one station in town, and tried to take care of it there, but their computers were experiencing problems, so I had to travel to the station from which I would later have to depart to take care of my reservations. Once I had my tickets sorted, I headed for Vila Nova de Gaia, in search of food and then drink. By the time I arrived, it was just past 3PM, and the place where I had wanted to eat had shut! I walked the street, in search of a restaurant that would serve Francesinha, a dish that I was “not to leave Portugal without eating.” After attempting to eat at more than five different places, I finally was lucky enough to find a place that was still serving food and would make Francesinha for me. The dish consists of a layer of bread, then layer upon layer of different meats, topped with bread, and melted cheese. Mine was served in gravy and surrounded by French fries. It was delicious, filling, and wayyyy too much to eat. After lunch, I went to the Sandeman Port cellar for a cellar tour, which was really interesting. I am now far more educated in the ways of Port production. At the end of the tour, we got to taste some Ports! I went for the cheap tour, which meant that that I got to try two varieties. Had I gone for the more expensive tour, I would have gotten to try five types. We all got a glass of white Port, and one of tawny. They were both very good; the white was very sweet, with traces of citrus. I preferred the tawny, which is definitely the type that comes to mind when I envision Port. After the tour and tasting had concluded, I headed back to my hostel because I needed to gather my bags and head for the station… which ended up being quite a fun journey. There was a big football match that night, and the main train station is just a few stops short of the football stadium. I had to take the second train to the station because I couldn’t possibly squeeze onto the train with my giant backpack, when the people on the train were already playing sardines. Once on the train, all was well and I made my train without problems. I had to take a two hour train to another station, where I caught the overnight train for Barcelona!
And there you have it. You know what comes next: Pictures!
Mmmmm, pastries. I’ll have some more, please!
Porto! From Vila Nova de Gaia
And again… the various boats are all affiliated with the various Port companies that line the river, and I think you can do a Port tasting while cruising down the river.
Sandeman Port Cellars!
Our tour guide, dressed in a Portuguese student’s cape and sombrero, just like the logo
All in all, Porto was nice, but I didn’t feel it had the charm that Lisbon did. Lisbon was enchanting, and made me fall in love… while two days in Porto felt like plenty. After Porto, I was off to Barcelona. Hopefully I’ll get that update up soon, I’m trying to get caught up… slowly but surely. 🙂