Porto, I have now made such good memories with you. I absolutely loved the city and I came home, after 4 days, with wonderful memories and I can honestly say that it was one of my most memorable trips ever. Ok, maybe I say that about all my holidays but Porto, you hold a special place in my heart.
Check the links in red at the end of this to see the amazing street art.
To recap, I went to Porto for a friend’s 40th Birthday. Prior to that, I have to honestly say that I had never heard of Porto before. Now all I talk about is Porto. When choosing a destination, I was disappointed at the choice, only because I had been to Portugal before and I wanted to visit a new country, but the birthday girl chose it as it was full of culture and history.
To my delight, I recently found a portuguese restaurant in Essex, family owned business and I even got to introduce port wine to my friend, who does not like wine, but now loves port wine.
I stayed at Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is about 20 mins by bus to the old town, which is the main area for the touristic places. I had a Porto travelcard, bought at the airport , which allowed me to use the bus and trains as much as I needed which was very convenient and a good value for money.
I got to the hotel by taking a train from the airport, and once I reached the destination I had to walk about 20 minutes to the hotel. That was why I took the bus for the next few days as the bus stop was just outside the hotel, therefore less to walk.
The people were generally very friendly and helpful. The ones that spoke English were the young ones mainly and they all helped with directions.
The hotel is not in a touristic part, therefore not many people spoke English. American tourists even came to us to ask for directions and help with the bus routes as they heard us speak English. We had communication trouble in a few restaurants, where they could not speak English or French, so we had to google translate everything we wanted to say. Very amusing situations. Now I know how to say butter, chicken, drink and so on in Portuguese.
At one point, we took a taxi, and the driver did not speak English, although he was eager to learn, and he learnt a few words from us. We ended up communicating with him via the concierge at the hotel. But he was the most helpful, friendly taxi driver I have ever met, despite the language barrier.
Last holiday, I went to Algarve in Portugal and I did not struggle with communication there as 95% of the staff spoke French, so I was in my element.
What is special about Porto?
- The River Douro
The river is one of the major ones of the Iberian Peninsula, starting near Soria Province, flowing through Spain and Porto before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It has been said that it is one of Europe’s most photogenic river.
I could not agree more.
- The food
Bacalhau is a must. It is the portuguese word for codfish and there are so many ways to prepare it ( grilling, boiling and baking ) so there are a lot of different bacalhau dishes to try.
Francesinha – This is a twist on a classic french sandwich, filled with meats, covered in cheese and sauce.
- It’s street art
Every corner I turned, there was something to look at, be it a tiled building, or simply art on the walls.
- It’s downhill, uphill alleyways
- Tiled buildings all over the place
- The port wine cellars
I learnt all about the making of port wine, visited the cellars and got to taste it too.
- Bookstore – Lello Livraria
Harry Potter fans, this is where J.K Rowling got her inspiration for her book. The setting of the library is similar to the setting of Hogwarts. It is also often said that Lello Livrairie is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
It is the bridge I needed to cross, to go from the old town to the port wine cellars. It is a double deck metal bridge, similar style to Eiffel Tower, since it was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel himself. I love bridges and this one is impressive as it is used for both pedestrians and the metro.
- Porto’s Old Tram
Another way to see the town is by taking the tram which has 3 regular routes. Two pass through the town while one goes along the river Douro.
- Sao Bento Station
One beautiful station. I would happily wait there for my train everyday and gaze at the art work.
Cathedrals and churches
There a lot of churches and cathedrals in Porto, some free and some with an entrance fee. The ones I visited were Palacio da Bolsa, Igreja de San Francisco, Igreja dos Carmelitas and Church of Sao Pedro dos Clerigos.
I even got to see a wedding, well guests of the wedding and a blushing bride.