My last stop on my Portugal adventure was Porto. I was super excited to arrive because coming to Porto was the main reason I wanted to make a trip to Portugal. It is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and famous for port wine. In fact, the city was built to export wine to Great Britain in the old days.
I arrived in the late afternoon and immediately went to my Airbnb to settle down. I was staying in an apartment close to the Rua de Santa Catarina, one of the biggest, most touristy shopping streets in Porto. My first stop after I dropped off my luggage was to the Majestic Cafe. It is this beautiful cafe right off the Rua de Santa Catarina. Everything about this cafe is majestic for lack of a better word. The decor transports you back to the past. I ordered the Francesinha and a glass of champagne. The Francesinha is the signature dish of Porto. It is literally a heart attack on a plate. The sandwich is made of two toasted pieces of bread and various meats, topped with melted cheese, slathered in a gravy sauce. Whew! When the waiter put this in front of me I started laughing, and I asked her how should I eat this. She replied “with a fork and knife.” How unhealthy and big does a sandwich have to be before you need a fork and knife to eat it? And does it even still qualify as a sandwich? Nevertheless, it was tasty, but I’m not sure I can eat more than 1 a month or ever… As this is a touristy place, you pay tourist prices. For a sandwich, dessert, and glass of champagne I paid 40 euro.
My next stop was the Sao Bento station. This was a must see for me. It was one of the most beautiful train stations I have ever seen. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with hand painted tiles. I just stood there and marveled at them for awhile. I then wandered around for an hour or so before heading back as it was getting late.
The next day was my first full day in Porto. My first stop was Livraria Lello or the prettiest bookstore in the world. It is rumored that JK Rowling got the inspiration for Harry Potter from this bookstore and the surrounding neighborhood. This is the main reason I went to Porto. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a huge booknerd and proud of it. The bookstore was definitely one of the most beautiful bookstores I had ever seen. It is a two story bookstore with vintage looking bookshelves and a red winding staircase. While it was beautiful, the wear and tear of tourist traffic has worn down everything including its signature red stairs. I still enjoyed my time here and even brought home a souvenir to remember my visit. 🙂
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and wandering around to various cathedrals and churches. I then headed down to the Douro River to check out the wineries and the shops on the river front. This river is gorgeous. I have never seen such a beautiful place before. I took a boat ride down the river which is in my opinion the best way to view the entirety of the city.
I visited 1 winery while in Porto. I went to the Graham Port Lodge which is this gorgeous winery situated right in the Vila Nova de Gaia. It was founded in 1890 by two Scottish businessmen and has since grown to become one of the biggest port producers in the region. The tasting room has gorgeous views overlooking the Douro river. I got a classic tasting which includes tastings of two port wines and 1 vintage port wine. I discovered that I don’t really like port wine. Port is very sweet because brandy is added to the wine in the distillation process. The high sugar content also means that port wines have a higher alcohol content. Normal wines are ~14% alcohol while port wines are ~20% alcohol so be careful when drinking port wine.
I was pretty sad when my time in Porto ended because that meant my Portugal adventure was over. Reflecting back on my trip, I have so many fond memories of the places I visited and especially of the people I met. I also learned a lot from my trip, and it really changed me for the better. All my learnings can really be boiled down to two things.
1. Love and the connections you have with other people are what make things worthwhile. I think my favorite city was Lisbon probably because I had so much fun getting to know my host and a few other people I met along the way. Learning about their cultures, where they came from, and how their viewed the world really changed how I viewed the world.
2. The universe will give you what you need. At the beginning of my trip, I had dinner with this old woman and she was telling me about how she got divorced and lost her job all in one year. She was of course pretty depressed, but she eventually realized that the world was trying to tell her that this was not her path and that she was meant to do something else. Now, she lives a fulfilled life spending time with her friends and family, meeting foreigners like me, and other random things. She told me that we all have a destiny and our job in life is to listen what the universe is trying to tell us. I was pretty skeptical at first, but I had this in the back of my mind throughout my trip. On one of my last days in Porto, there was a huge celebration going on that night in the city which was culminated by a huge fireworks show at midnight over the Douro River. I really wanted to see the fireworks show, but I wasn’t comfortable staying out that late by myself. I felt pretty bummed. Later that day, I was talking to the other guest at the Airbnb I was staying at and he invited me to have dinner with his friends and to see the firework show. This made me think back to what that woman told me at the beginning of my trip. I was just thinking about how bummed I was I couldn’t see the fireworks, and now I had someone to go with! It was crazy. This showed me that the universe does take care of you as long as you are open to it.