Since it’s a long story, I’ll make a quick summary at first. The best things about Porto (or Portugal in general):
- cheap wine (2-5 EUR a good bottle of wine)
- good cheese
- cheap prices (clothes, food etc)
- fresh fruit
- people are friendly and love to dance and sing
- almost nobody cares about things and money. They care about people, relationships and enjoying life.
I can’t point to any downside or bad experience in Porto – I am absolutely in love with this place and I could imagine myself living there for a couple of years (although I would miss snow). This was a short summary for people with regular today’s attention span of 2 seconds (no offense). Longer story to follow. ↓
As soon as I left Istanbul, I felt relieved. You can read in my previous post about Istanbul why exactly. I was immediately happy when we landed in Porto. You could feel the nice and friendly atmosphere there right away.
I took a tram/metro from the airport and found the hostel in the city center quickly. I used printed out google maps and also a city map of Porto which I got from the airport – no phone needed. In most of the cases, I used my inner direction, which hasn’t let me down so far.
In the hostel, I was staying in a room of 4 bunk beds and met an American girl Jesselle who I hung out with for the next 2 days. There were other 2 American girls as well, but they left the day after. Overall, I had about 12 roommates in 7 days and I paid 94 EUR for accommodation which included breakfast.
Me and Jesselle rented bikes the day after I arrived and we went for a lovely bike ride. We followed the river until the ocean (a 20 minute slow bike ride) and had a nice lunch in a local cafe. The fish there in general is quite good, but the one we got was a bit too salty and greasy. We decided to chill by the ocean and just have some deeper talks about humankind etc. (this always happens to me when I know the person for 2 hours or more… not sure why)
We then took a ferry to cross the river (it’s like a regular transport there – cost us 1.50 EUR with bikes) and ended up on the other side of Porto, which by the way is a different city! So we rode our bikes in Vila Nova De Gaia – a city that Porto had wars with until the 17th century (if I’m not mistaken) and it’s right across the river. That’s where most of the wine tasting places are as well, but I’ll get to that later. We decided to grab ice-cream and chill by the river once again (and that’s what I did mostly in Porto – wander around, chill and eat ice-cream).
One of the coolest part of trip was the pubcrawl, where we went in the evening. For 12 Euros you got 7 drinks and as usual, you went from pub to pub. I realized it there that blonde tall girls are quite a rare sight in Porto at least, and I got some really weird compliments, but almost none of them were offensive or obtrusive. We got home early in the morning, but no regrets, because we salsa’d all night and it was a really cool experience (really grateful for Liz who dragged me to salsa nights every now and then at USC, so I had the basic skills :D).
During our pub crawl, we also made friends with Daniela, who is a really lovely Portugese girl and she invited us to a dinner and a concert that took place at their (communal) house the next evening. We really didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a macro-biotic (read: superhyper healthy) tasty dinner with some girls and band people and a really cool spiritual/fun/different/lively concert in their cool historic house. And there I realized again how cool the Portugese people are – as soon as some energetic beats came on, the women started dancing with each other and they were all dancing like no-one was watching. They’re all so free, smiling constantly and just dancing and singing. Just watching their happiness made me happy. It was so nice to experience real Portugese culture so thank you Daniela for inviting!
I also did 2 city tours in Porto – each of them about 3 hours. I made some friends during the city tour and after the city tour we went to the wine tasting tour (!!). Ohhhhhh the wines…. We tasted 7 (small) glasses of nice port wine and then decided to go and enjoy more wine by the river. So we sat down in a restaurant, ate, drank wine (I also ordered a horrible sangria, that tasted like a toilet cleaner) and just talked. Completely strangers became friends 🙂 Once this was done, we decided to go for another pubcrawl with an Australian guy (Clay) and a Canadian guy (Sam). Again – a lot of salsa’ing, meeting cool people, laughing, dancing and living the regular Portugese life. There were many middle-aged couples as well who danced with us and everyone just had a blaaaaast!
Ramos Pinto! Wine, a lot of wine.
The next day I hung out with Clay – we went to the Majestic Cafe, where J.K Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book and we also visited the prettiest bookstore – Livaria Lello. Did you know that J.K. Rowling wrote his first Harry Potter book, got married, gave birth to a child and got divorced – and all of that in 3 years in Porto? (my city tour knowledge) I think I will make a separate post about Harry Potter references in Porto, because there are plenty!
You could breathe the history in this city – especially in Livaria Lello bookstore. Getting into the bookstore cost us 3 EUR. At first I was surprised that a bookstore has an entrance fee, but I later found out (on a city tour) that it has a fee because it used to be a major tourist attraction, but nobody bought books, so it had trouble making the ends meet.
Officially my favorite house.
That cake…. I have no words do describe this heavenly taste.
My next adventure was a train ride to Pinhao, which is in North East Portugal – an area where most of the wine in Portugal is made. The vineyards were gorgeous and the landscape was mountainous and exotic. I decided to go for a boat tour on Rio Douro, which is a River that runs all the way to Spain. I got a massive sunburn on this 2h boat ride with old couples and some Americans (they’re everywhere), but I was still happy. After the boat ride I decided to enjoy wine by the river in this small village of Pinhao. It was hot outside, so I sat in the shade, drank cold and quality wine and enjoyed life. All by myself 🙂 Oh, and the train ride from Porto to Pinhao was gorgeous! Half of the way the train tracks went right by Rio Douro, so you could see gorgeous vineyard views from the train.
So. much. wine.
Ampstükk helped me survive on my hikes through the vineyards and nights in the airport. My favorite travel food.
Our next adventure is coming up soon (in less than a month)! This time we’re going together again 🙂 Stay tuuuuuneeed!