PortoApril 8 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 14 °C
Leaving Spain for now, we know that we are reaching the natural border to Portugal when the river “Miño” (Spanish) becomes “Minho” (Portuguese) halfway across the bridge. Considering the not so great weather forecasted for the next few days it is the second time in our trip that we decide to skip a national park, Peneda-Gerês this time, and we head straight to the city Porto. In the city of Portugal’s most famous exports – Port wine – we can be sure that the forecasted rain won’t kill the mood so much.
Our camping site is somewhat outside of the city and is located directly next to a beach. The big waves give a beautiful sight from the entrance, however we soon come to realise that the view is perhaps one of the few good things this camping has to offer. Our main goal being traveling around we don’t mind the lesser scenic campgrounds (or even a camper parking if well secured for the night), but this one gets no more than two stars by our ranking – and we’re being generous. The campsites are very small so we are side to side to our Dutch and English neighbours, the facilities are old and dirty, the toilets don’t have seats, there’s no hot water for doing dishes and just when we think a hot shower can make up for it all… the shower only seems to work at 40+ degrees Celsius and is practically too hot to stand under. But, in the end, we got what we came for: a place to sleep.
On the day of our arrival we take transport the “Singaporean way” we came to enjoy so much in the tropics: we book a “Free Now” (something like Uber / Grab / Gojek) to save ourselves travel time to the city center. The driver of the Mercedes Benz C Class it obviously very well acquainted with the streets to and of Porto – while I squeeze my own hands and hope for the best, he races through the narrow streets and turns right or left without tiring his brakes. We do arrive safe and sound in the end, getting some tips for sightseeing and food from the guy before we (somewhat happily) get out. In Porto we quickly learn it’s useful to plan your route well to avoid walking up and down the long steep slopes of the city, we admire the cathedrals that are just as pretty as they are plenty, we are loving the colourful tiled facades of the houses, we are amazed about some of these houses still hosting residents as they look like they can fall apart at any moment, and we enjoy the sunshine popping through just when we need it for the day. I can see why Porto is such a loved city as it breathes strong “Burgundian” vibes and it looks absolutely beautiful. One of the highlights of today is the Sé de Porto (Cathedral of Porto) with its blue tiled decorations (and perhaps a little because we witness the spectacle of the police arresting a guy while searching his car just in front of us – although it doesn’t become clear what he’s arrested for). Another highlight is what we think is the bridge designed by Eiffel. While it indeed has strong resemblance to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, we are a little ashamed to admit that it was actually a bridge designed by a student of Eiffel and that it also strongly resemblances a bridge one kilometre to the east that was actually by Mr. Eiffel himself. I guess we’ll have to come back one day to make up for this little mistake. A mistake, by the way, we made BEFORE visiting one of the Port houses for a tour in the cellars and port tasting with live fado music (see video for an impression). We end the day again the “Singaporean way”: we heard of a very little and very good restaurant with local specialities in town and when we find it we have to join a queue of locals on the street waiting to enjoy the food. The Dutch in us tells us that the restaurant across the street – no queue – looks nice and warm, too, but the Singaporean in us provides us with the wisdom to wait and brave the cold of the night. About 45 minutes later we step inside and immerse ourselves in local delicacies (some kind of kale soup with chorizo, various tapas and the famous Francesinha: a Porto style sandwich that you should probably eat only once a year if you don’t want your heart to give up (Or maybe two days in a row, if you’re only two days in Porto anyways… We may or may not have risked the heart attack, either way we’re here to tell how the adventure went on!).
The next day we are less fortunate with the weather: we wake up to rain and it does not stop until the end of day. As we still have a lot of sightseeing to do, we do get around while taking shelter in more Cathedrals (I think every corner of Porto has one), local cafes serving fresh Pastel de Nata (Egg Tart), a beautiful bookshop that inspired J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter books (we didn’t know it was such a tourist attraction, luckily we bought tickets online to avoid a 30 meter long queue in the rain!), and other city highlights until even our waterproof shoes and bags decide it’s just too much rain for a day and we head home for our semi-warm bed and some well-deserved sleep.Read more