Last week I went to Porto. Because I’m me, I couldn’t resist turning the trip into a blog post, so here’s a little summary of some of the things we got up to, alongside a few of my favourite snaps.
Above is one of my favourite photos, and now I get to see it every day as the wallpaper on my phone. I just love all the colourful, narrow, slightly haphazard-looking houses and I think it really encapsulates the city. If you carried on walking to the right of the shot, you’d soon come to the Douro River and the row of restaurants and bars, offering a lovely view of the Luis I Bridge, but whose prices are aimed at gullible tourists (like me). Carry on to the left, and every other shop would be selling identical, tacky, but also slightly charming souvenirs (I can call them tacky because I purchased things from several), typically Portuguese grocery stores overflowing with brightly coloured fruit and veg and bottles of port labelled up with fluorescent price tags, and our Airbnb.
Here I am looking wistfully out across the street below, complete with picturesque roadworks and parked cars. Caught unawares, of course. If anyone has read my blog before, they’ll know that one of my (minor) life goals is to live in a house/flat with a balcony. Much to my delight, I got to live out my dreams for a full four days in our Airbnb. Think a glass of port on arrival, white linen, fresh flowers in each room, long, white curtains billowing in the breeze and soft, fluffy towels. It’s the little things.
A glass of wine and a lovely view. What more could you want? This was one of the (slightly) less touristy drinking spots along by the river. It was up on the walls so was away from the hustle and bustle of the harbour side. The perfect spot for a pre-dinner vino, we assumed we would be back here every evening. In fact, we only went once, which I think demonstrates excellent self-control.
Coffee: a huge part of every holiday. Thankfully, we sampled some delicious cups, even if they were about a quarter of the size of my usual morning caffeine fix. There’s something about sitting in a cobbled street, with the sun beaming down, surrounded by people speaking French, German, Portuguese, anything but English, with an espresso cup of hot, milky coffee that is hard to beat.
We couldn’t really go to Porto and not visit the port cellars. Not only did we learn that port can’t be called port unless it’s come from the Douro valley and has been made right across the river from where we were staying, but we also got to sample some port. (I promise that wasn’t the only reason we did the tour and we did actually want to learn things.) During the tasting, we got chatting to some women from the States and ended up having a heated discussion about Trump. All we needed was some cheese and it would have been a very civilised affair.
This is the bookshop in which J.K. Rowling sat and started writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Cue streams of tourists paying £5 at the door. I was, of course, one such tourist. I could hardly call myself a bookworm without visiting the most famous bookshop in Porto. Also, if you buy a book, you get your £5 back, so it would be criminal not to really. I bought a beautiful copy of Dracula to add to my ever-growing pile and waited in line for a photo on the winding oak staircase. It was a little distressing, the majority of the bookshop being essentially locked to me, but it’s not very often you go into a shop and see the same book on the shelves in five different languages.
I did my fair share of reading while we were away, from the map of the city to the latest page-turner by Clare Mackintosh. On our last full day, the map wasn’t needed, as we went on a 3 hour walking tour with an enthusiastic and slightly eccentric Portuguese guide, taking in all the major landmarks, as well as some of the less well-known sights of the city. We went to São Bento station, with its beautifully tiled walls telling the history of Porto in pictures, as well as visited the area our guide called “Porto’s Porto”, where all the best bars, cafés and restaurants are located. He told us not to bother with an open top bus tour, which we’d already bothered with, and were told the best place to go for one of Porto’s infamous Francesinhas, which obviously my Mum had already tried elsewhere the day before. I would still say it was a successful tour, even if 3 hours is rather a long time to be outside in only a thin jacket when the weather is decidedly cooler than anticipated.
And now we’re home; plonked back into reality. And it’s Monday. Great. I think that being a working gal has made me appreciate my holidays much more than I did as a student. Even a long weekend away feels like a much needed break. Although, after that tour and all those glasses of port, I think I need a holiday.