Last Wednesday after British Studies, my friend Miriam and I caught four different trains to the airport to fly to Porto, Portugal, for our second and final long weekend of the semester.
Originally, I had thought about traveling to Bratislava, Slovakia, and Vienna, Austria, for the long weekend. However, Miriam convinced me that going somewhere warm would be a better idea. After this weekend, I have to agree!
Portugal had been high on my “visit” list this semester. I had no idea if I would actually get there this semester, but here I am and can now check Portugal off of my bucket list!
Since my trip to Poland, I have been wearing a reusable medical mask on each flight because I have had four colds this semester. Through process of elimination, my mom and I determined the airplane air was most likely making me ill.
After getting comfortable in my seat to Portugal with my black medical mask strapped to my face, the woman next to me looked slightly puzzled. She eventually asked: “Why are you wearing a mask? Typically, I only see Asian people wear the masks to protect against germs and pollutants.” I only could laugh and explained I had fallen ill after each flight I have taken this semester. And…guess what? Since wearing one of my medical masks for each flight, I haven’t caught a single cold!
We landed in Porto, Portugal, around 11:30 pm. After passing through border control, Miriam and I decided we would try to figure out the metro system to get to our Airbnb.
Now, if you are visiting Porto, the metro system stops running after 1:00 am. Uber is available and is pretty inexpensive!
Both Miriam and I managed to “figure out” the metro ticket booth which was half in Portuguese. When we made our way to the platform, our confusion must have shown (or maybe it was the giant folding map of Porto we were holding) because a gentleman asked if we needed some help. He answered our questions and made sure Miriam and I knew where we were going. #bless
After riding quite a few metro stops, Miriam and I disembarked the metro and made our way to our Airbnb. At this point, the time was 1:00 am. Our host had indicated someone would meet us outside to let us into the apartment. However, Miriam and I waiting for 15 minutes and no one showed up! I tried calling the host to no avail.
Eventually, we decided to walk to the other address listed to see if we could get some assistance. Miriam and I lucked out and the owner happened to be at the other location. He reprimanded us and said, “My colleague is waiting for you. I tried contacting you and you didn’t respond.” To which Miriam responded, “He was not there.” After some back and forth and apologies, Miriam and I walked back to the apartment where Diego was waiting. He apologized profusely to us. Turns out we had missed him by a few minutes. Diego graciously gave us some recommendations of things to do, see, and eat in Porto. Around 2:00 am, Miriam and I finally fell into bed from exhaustion.
After some much needed rest, Miriam and I headed out to the city around 9:30 am. Our plan on our first day was to simply get a feel for the city and do the combined Port wine, train, and boat tour we had booked.
When traversing the streets, I repeatedly said over and over again, “Oh my gosh! The tile! It is so beautiful!” The weather was an absolute dream! 70 degrees, sunny, with clear, blue skies! Miriam and I came across this church and stopped for some photos.
After going inside the church, Miriam and I continued wandering in the direction of our tour. We stopped inside a few local stores selling handmade goods before eventually reaching our tour destination. At this point, neither of us had eaten any breakfast. We decided to do the wine tour anyways!
Miriam and I hopped onto a little train that drove us through the streets of Porto to the Port wine cellar. There, we watched an introductory video about the nearby Douro Valley where the grapes are harvested. After the video, our guide took us through the cellar and explained how the Port wine is blended, aged, and bottled.
When the tour wrapped up, Miriam and I went to the tasting room where we sampled a red Port wine and a white Port wine. Now, Port wine is a “dessert” wine of sorts. Typically, the wine is drunk after dinner and served with chocolate or cheese. Additionally, the alcohol content is pretty high. The red port wine we sampled was a 19% proof. I found the wine to be syrupy and pretty thick!
After drinking our samples, Miriam and I hopped back on the train. The train drove us through the streets of Porto where city highlights were pointed out. Eventually, the train took us back to where we started and Miriam and I set off to find some lunch near the river.
We happened to find a restaurant that was reasonably priced along the Douro river. Accordion music happened to be playing in the background while Miriam and I sat in the sunshine waiting for our food. An absolute dream! I settled on a Francesinha (recommended by Diego). This is a traditional sandwich of the country and I have to say that it is the only food this semester I would not order again. Maybe I had a bad one? To me, the sandwich did not have a whole lot of taste and the whole combo just was not working for me.
Miriam and I hung around the area for a while before boarding the boat for the river cruise!
I cannot recommend the combined tour Miriam and I did enough! In total, the combined tour rounded out to about $25 and I feel we were offered a different perspective of the city and knowledge of Port wine!
When the boat tour ended, Miriam and I decided to head towards the city center to check a few more items off of our “to-see” list.
We decided to head to Livraria Lello, which is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Additionally, the bookstore is well-known for the inspiration it offered J.K. Rowling when writing Harry Potter. For 5 Euros, you can enter the bookstore and see the beauty firsthand.
After Livraria Lello, Miriam and I walked to São Bento Railway Station, which is famous for the blue tiles found on the interior.
Once we had our fill of the blue tiles, Miriam and I decided to call it a day and headed back to our Airbnb. We stopped to grab some groceries and cooked our dinner.
Such a great first day! Stop back tomorrow for a recap of day two!
Leave a positive impression,