Porto, Portugal: Day 3

My last day in Porto began with visiting two local markets! The first market had more homemade items like earrings, necklaces, and art prints, while the second market had antique goods. On our way to market #2, Miriam and I passed by the outside of Steak n’ Shake. Isn’t the exterior beautiful?

Who knew Steak n’ Shake could look so pretty?

After the second market, I parted ways with Miriam to go to Clérigos Church and Tower.

Diego highly recommended going here because the tower provided fantastic aerial views of Porto. For 5 euros, you are given access to the museum, which provides some history of the church’s architect and construction, as well as iconoclasm and its role in Portugal.

I did not realize I would be able to go through the museum portion. All in all, I found the information and artifacts on display to be very interesting!

I will say Clérigos Church and Tower is EXTREMELY touristy! The stairway you must go through to reach the top of the tower is VERY narrow. If you are claustrophobic, I do no recommend visiting. For me, I almost feel I went to the top of the tower and snapped my photos and came back down. There were so many people that I could not focus and take in the view because there was not a whole lot of room to move around.

After I wrapped up at Clérigos Church and Tower, I met back up with Miriam and we walked to Church of São Francisco. This particular church is famous for its Baroque interior and exterior and catacombs. Additionally, Church of São Francisco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission is 7 euros, which includes entrance to the museum, catacombs, and church.

For the museum portion, information was given on the church’s history and some of the interior rooms.

This was my first time seeing any sort of catacombs and the whole experience can be summed up in one word: eerie. The tombs below Church of São Francisco are numbered with names and some have skulls on top. When walking around each area of the catacombs, the wood floor squeaks which adds to the whole experience. One portion of the floor had clear Plexiglas inserted which showed the bones and skulls below my feet! Due to legislation, people can no longer be buried in the catacombs.

Next, Miriam and I headed to the portion of Church of São Francisco where services are held. Now, no pictures were allowed. However, I decided to hide behind some pillars where the security guard couldn’t see me if she happened to peak her head inside; therefore, the pictures are not amazing nor do they adequately capture the amount of gold in Church of São Francisco.

After absorbing the beauty of Church of São Francisco, Miriam and I walked across the street to another church that had beautiful blue tiles. My dress matched pretty perfectly I will say!

Who doesn’t love blue tiles?!

Nearby the churches happened to be another market with locally produced clothing, jewelry, and art. Miriam and I ate our packed lunches on the grass listening to the music and enjoying the sunshine.

After lunch, we both walked around together exploring some more as we had checked off our big “to-do’s” for the day. The two of us stopped in a bar and antique store combo to look around. The exterior had these fabulous chairs attached to the wall.

Armazem

At this point, Miriam and I split up for the afternoon. I decided to walk across the Luís I Bridge, which connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. On this side of the river, I walked through another market and took in the view of Porto from the other side. I also wandered through some alleyways, which had some fantastic art and more local shops. Compared to the Porto side along the Douro River, Gaia seemed to have more restaurants and wine tasting opportunities.

After exploring, I headed back to our Airbnb where I met up with Miriam.

For our last night in Porto, we decided to go out and get tapas for dinner! I found a tapas bar on Yelp! called Tascö. The two of us lucked out because the restaurant had a table available until 9:00 pm. Most people eating here had made reservations.

Based on our waitresses recommendation, we ordered two different rices (not intentional, on accident, one had beans and the other tomatoes), pataniscas de bacalhau (codfish “pancake”), pantaniscas de polvo (octopus “pancake”), pico-pau (mixture of grilled meats) and sangria. Everything was delicious and we were stuffed at the end of our meal!

Tapas and sangria!

The following morning, Miriam and I Ubered to the airport at 4:00 am and said farewell to Porto and Portugal. Unfortunately, I ended up sick in the morning…I only put this on here because I want to remember the embarrassing moment of having to retch into the trashcan at the airport FOUR times! Haha! Cross my heart I was not hungover!

All in all, Porto, Portugal, made for the most perfect long weekend! After reflecting on my three days in Porto, I do believe this particular Portuguese city is made for relaxing. I do not think tourists visit the coastal town specifically to go to museums, not to say they are not fabulous! Rather, I think people vacation in Porto to do wine tours through the nearby Douro Valley and spend time at the beach.

Is Portugal on your bucket list now? I sure hope so!

That’s all for this week! See you back here on Monday! Obrigado (thank you), Portugal!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Porto, Portugal: Day 2

With sunshine and blue skies, Miriam and I decided Friday would be beach day in Porto!

We hopped on the tram and took it all the way to the end of the blue line to see Senhor de Matosinhos. Outside of the church was a beautiful courtyard with trees and flowers. Similar to Igreja dos Carmelitas, the interior contained lots of gold for decoration.

After Senhor de Matosinhos, Miriam and I got back onto the tram to head to the beach. There, we sunbathed for a few hours. I ended up sunburned, but feeling the sunshine on my skin was 100% worth the pain!

So much love for the sunshine and sand!

When Miriam and I had our fill of the beach, we decided to head back to to our Airbnb to eat an early dinner and watch the sunset. While walking back to the tram station, we took an alternate root through Porto City Park. For being in the city, I thought the park seemed really large! There were ponds with squawking birds, gorgeous flowers, and beautiful trees.

When riding back on the tram, some sweet, Portuguese vovós (grandmas) were overly concerned about Miriam and I getting off at the correct tram stop. At first, one of the three spoke to me in English, but I could not make out what she was saying as the tram was loud and crowded. Miriam replied in Spanish, however, she could not understand what the avó said either. Finally, another Portuguese woman asked us which stop we were getting off at which we told her. She translated in Portuguese to the vovós. Eventually, the woman explained the vovós wanted to help us get off at the correct tram stop because the screens displayed on the tram were not working. How sweet! Kind people are everywhere, friends!

After getting off at the correct tram stop and eating dinner, we set out to find a place in the city to watch the sunset over the Douro River. When walking through the streets, we happened to find an area overlooking the city and river. This happened to be a hot spot with lots of people, since it had a grassy area. Locals and tourists alike were drinking, smoking, and listening to music.

With all of the smoking, though, Miriam and I didn’t stay long and headed down towards the riverside quickly. In the nick of time, we caught the tail end of the sunset.

After sunset, Miriam and I stopped in some local shops to see some wares. I was on the hunt for an ornament, but struck out on Friday. Then, we both stopped to grab some gelato. I do not have a picture, but I had a traditional Portuguese cookie-flavored gelato. Yum!

That wraps up day two in Porto! Short and sweet compared to day one! Stop back tomorrow to read about my final day in Portugal.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Porto, Portugal: Day 1

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.

Miriam and I on train number two? Three? I can’t remember!

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.

Francesinha

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,

Sydney xo