We Left Our Hearts in Porto.
Porto. It’s a great city with more character than Lisbon. Mainly because the city had survived the 1755 earthquake unlike Lisboa. The streets meander through narrow corridors, passing by many semi derelict (looking.. Maybe) houses with colourful tile facades. You can easily get lost in these alleys without worrying about your personal safety. On the quieter streets, you can smell home cooked meal and hear the sounds of plates clashing as the dining table is set. Away from the bustle in the Ribeira district, there’s a calm in the city that is comforting.
8 days in Porto was plenty of time to see all the sights. Most advised us it was more than enough, some even wondered why we were there for so long. I’ve gone through my picture catalogs and barely have anything to show for. Yet we felt that we’ve accomplished a lot in Porto. We’ve managed to do a few things one should do in Porto.
Enjoy the Food
Our hostel was only a short walk away from the center. We frequented this take-out spot nearby since their offerings were fresh, tasty and very affordable! The lady working there advised us that we should just get 1/2 dose (portion) of the picanha, a cut of beef that would be equivalent to a top-sirloin, so we listened to her advice. I was amazed at the fact that once we placed the order, the grilllmaster, simply opened up the display case, took the roast, cut and trimmed it in front of us before placing it on the grill – talk about fresh! It was lightly seasoned with salt then brushed with balsamic vinegar & oil, once it was done cooking. Our meal consisted of 5 x 3/4″ thick cuts of meat, bowl of beans, rice, fries and a few greens – we both were super stuffed for only 10eu for both. With food aside, our shtick in Porto basically was a 1liter tetra pack of boxed wine. You might be thinking why, for such a large wine producing country would we buy a cheap box. Let me tell you: 1. It’s dirt cheap. Yes, it was only 0.62eu cents for a liter! 2. It comes in a tetra pack. Not sure about you, but I found that pretty amazing. It became the topic of conversation which helped us meet a lot of great people, “Would you like to try some boxed wine?”
Try Port Wine
We didn’t walk in the cellars of the brand-name port wine places: Sandeman, Grahams, etc. No. We tried it at the hostel, on our first night maybe around 1am. Odd thing about Portugal is that a lot of things are closed past 10:30pm. So Vicki and Ronja walked over next door at a restaurant to buy a bottle of Port. Not sure how or why that restaurant was still open but we finished that bottle that night between 4 others sharing stories of hitchhiking, couchsurfing and the awkwardness of stereotypes.
Hit the beach
The next day we started our day pretty late (which was fairly consistent throughout our time in Porto). We were invited to join in by others in the hostel so we figured what why not. As we were getting ready, we invited Issaaf to join us. Issaaf had only arrived that night at 3 a.m. feeling around in the darkness, only to find Vicki already sleeping in her bunk. Vicki figured no one was in the bunk and switched. It was a nice icebreaker in the morning though, “Hi, I’m the person that stole your bunk! – Do you want to come with us to the beach?” We arrived at this beautiful, empty beach in Porto but as soon as we started to walk and find a spot to settle.. Wind. Wind so gusty it was as if we were walking through a sandstorm. Barely being able to see anything, we realized that all the locals were by the wall, sheltered from the wind.
Went for a night out
The only place we went to was the common room table of our hostel. After getting to know Lloyd, Connor, Wout and Derek, we all brought our drinks and snacks and placed them on the table. This went on for a couple of nights but each night topped the other. It would swing from having some intense conversations about life, society, and the world, to funny anecdotes about the comforting drizzle of Manchester’s dreary weather. We also learned some international drinking games – which to sum up, they’re all practically similar but with different names.
Enjoy Porto’s Music Scene
Out of randomness, Issaaf invited us to a jazz concert playing at Casa do Musica — the group was the Brandford Marsallis Band feat. Kurt Elling. She had put us 3 on a guestlist but Vicki and I decided to invite everyone also, even though we were unsure of the sold-out ticket situation. We decided to risk it and went on ahead. I picked up the tickets for the rest of the group and managed to snag a discount (how Asian of me) and gave it to everyone. We were all pretty scattered but managed to watch and enjoyed the show. I could not forget the sheer enjoyment everyone had after the show, especially when Issaaf had mentioned that she’s actually great friend’s with the drummer, Justin Faulkner, and that we could meet the quartet. It was a pretty awesome night.
Listened to Fado
Ok, this was supposed to be done in Lisboa but it just happened to be much better and seemed more authentic than the one’s we’ve been seeing in the Alfama. We only knew about it because Issaaf’s Airbnb host took her there. What’s the difference? Well, to start, the place only had locals. It was further from the city but only had 5 tourists… 3 of them were Vicki, Issaaf and myself; They were not professional singers; they were not wearing any outfits or traditional wear; you’re only to move, talk, order food / drink only when they take a break from singing; it was a small venue we were all stuffed in there like canned sardines and everyone knew the songs; There were no hawkers trying to get you into their adegas to listen to fado. It didn’t not run from 8pm until midnight and it only happens once a week on Tuesdays from 6:15 or whenever they feel like until 7:30pm. It was a great atmosphere.. Very lively.
There were a few other things but all in all, we’ve got a real feel of Porto. Initially, I wanted to call this post “the heartbreak in Porto” but I changed my mind. I’m sad about the fact that the great friends we met had come and gone – it’s probably the worse feeling from staying at hostels – But because of this fact, it made me realize that each moment should be treasured and remembered. Our bonds have not been severed; we have means to communicate so we’ll definitely take advantage of that. To us, Porto was awesome. Not because it was a beautiful city, or had majestic monuments. It was awesome because of the characteristics we discovered about the people we met: welcoming, quirky and genuine.