04 Feb Porto, O’Porto!
The cheapest way to Porto from Sarajevo included a Wizzair flight to Budapest, where we had to spend a night in a cheap motel located in a shady neighborhood. The worst thing is that our flight was delayed because of the storm that hit Budapest, it was so devastating that trees were broken and electricity network shut down. So we had to walk from our bus stop to the hotel through dark streets.
Finally Porto! When we exited out of a train on Sao Bento we were welcomed by the sun, colorful buildings and cobbled streets. As usual, we’ve rented an Airbnb, a small apartment with amazing view of Ponte de Dom Luís I or Dom Luis I Bridge (and we recommend this place, contact us for more information, this is in no way a paid advertisement). The bridge could have been built by Gustave Eiffel but his single deck bridge idea was rejected. But on the other call for proposals the Eiffel’s student Théophile Seyrig’s double deck bridge was chosen as it was able to connect two floors of the town, ships could go under, pedestrians and cars on the lower and electric trams on the top deck.
On our first day here we decided to take a walk along the Douro river form Dom Luis Bridge to Foz do Douro. We crossed to the Vila Nova de Gaia and walked up to the wineries searching for the trash rabbit. It is apparently called Half rabbit, the sculpture made of trash by a street artist Bordalo II.
From Vila Nova de Gaia we walked to Matosinhos to arrange for surfing lessons. When we came close to the Foz some sort of mist appeared and it was a bit apocalyptic looking at people sunbathing.
After the long walk we went back with a bus and bought Porto cards. We weren’t delighted with those, I mean nothing can compare to Bratislava card. But needless to say we used this card to the fullest.
Second day started with us exploring the old part of Porto. We started from the Church of Saint Ildefonso at Sao Bento station along the Dos Aliados Avenue for Town Hall Building. This area is the perfect example of colonial architecture and shows us how powerful Portugal once was.
Unfortunately for us, but a great thing for the Porto and its citizens, we weren’t able to visit the Bolhao market as it is being renovated. They are temporarily relocated. But Sao Bento Station was there in all its beauty.
Next stop: Livraria Lello! Oh lord have I loved it. It is said that J.K. Rowling got the inspiration for Hogwarts library and uniforms based on Lello and Porto school uniforms. It is true you can see the resemblance, but until Rowling herself doesn’t confirm I’ll just say it is an urban legend that brings a lot of tourists to this archaic bookshop. I mean the place is charming and it sure looks like it came straight from the Harry Potter world but it is crowded, you really can’t enjoy the place with a hundred people around you. There are two options to get in: you can wait in line and enter for free or you can go behind to the back entrance and buy a 5 EUR ticket. With the ticket you enter right away, no waiting in line and those 5 euros are deducted from your book purchase.
Then we hit the museums and galleries that are free with the Porto card: Casa Do Infante, Guerra Junqueiro and Marta Ortigão Sampaio. If you are staying in Porto for more than 3 days we recommend you to visit these museums, as always the best collections are in the national museums in capital cities, but these small collections can tell you a lot about people and their lives here in Porto.
All that walking and learning was exhausted, so we took a tea break in the Rota Do Cha, the tea place with a backyard Zen garden.If you are walking along the Rua de Santa Catarina, and you probably, there is no way you can miss a beautiful azulejos tile church, the Church of Souls.
The next day we went to the Real Companhia Velha for some wine tasting. Samir was so excited with the tour, the specific wine making process they use and a big wooden barrels filled with wine. Of course we tasted the wine it was amazing and of course we bought a bottle or two.
The Romantic museum is actually a house where the Carlos Alberto of Savoy, King of Sardinia and Prince of Piedmont came in exile to rest and eventually die. The museum shows the rooms as they were in that time and is located just next to The Crystal Palace Gardens. These vivid gardens offered us same shade and a scenic view over the Douro.
Walking in the heat around this huge garden has made us, mostly me, hungry and nervous, so we went to the restaurant to try francesinha. Again, it was me who ate that, since Samir is not keen to experiment with food, while I am like a Dumpster and can eat mostly anything you give me. I must say I wasn’t blown away with the taste, it had too much meat and not enough of the bread. But let me tell you about the Pastel de Nata! These custard tarts have my heart. Just the right amount of custard and crunchy dough to feed your soul. Mmm!
In the evening we went for dinner in the restaurant with live Fado music. We loved the food and fell in love with the Fado. This was an experience we will remember forever.
The next day we took a bus to the Matosinhos for our surfing lessons, sunbathing and visit to the Sea life aquarium. Unfortunately, we didn’t take pictures with our surfing boards, I presume we were so exhausted after the class that we just wanted to lay down on the warm sand and relax. The day after the lesson we couldn’t feel our arms. Who knew hitting the waves was this hard.
Today we went to the Clerigos Tower, but it was crowded, so we decided to take our books, coffee, and a blanket to the urban park Passeio Dos Clérigos and wait for the crowd to go away. The park is located just between the Livraria Lello and Clerigos Tower. As any tower a lot of narrow stairs and amazing views.
This was our time in Porto the town with colonial history, the town that saw the best and worst. With the economic crises affecting the development and reconstructions. We are grateful for the opportunity to visit Porto at the time of reconstruction, and we truly hope that they will use all the benefits of mass tourism and reject all the negatives that come with it. People here are kind and helpful, and we hope that one day you will be able to visit Portugal.