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Porto

March 27th to 29th

rain 14 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

So when we got to Lisbon we had to buy a ticket for Porto as we had decided to go there first. Forgetting the time difference we quickly jumped on what we thought was our 9.30am train. Fortunately someone else had the same seats and informed us this was actually a train to central Portugal, not North! So we quickly got out at the next stop, which again was very fortunate because the train to Porto also stopped there. Having an hour to kill in the station we went to the toilets and washed our faces and made ourselves feel slightly more alive. Then we tried to down a very hot cup of tea in about 5 minutes, wasn't all that pleasant! But at least it was cheap, like 0.75€!

When we got to Porto we didn't have accommodation sorted as we had no internet in Tours so we had to find an internet cafe and choose a hostel. After we got the metro into the city we must have looked completely lost because a lady who didn't speak English tried to help us and then found another girl who spoke English to lead us to where we were going. But really, we weren't lost, we just needed to find a street to get a sense of which direction was which.

So after we chose a hostel, I know, me in a hostel sounds too crazy to be true, but Carmen insisted so I decided to give it a shot. So Carmen lead us way past the hostel which I was not so happy about as hills and cobblestone streets and my bag do not mix! But we finally made it and could have a shower!

That afternoon we just wandered around Porto which is really a lovely city, although we did get a fair amount of rain while we were there which was a pain. There are two interesting things to note about Porto; firstly, every second shop is a pastry shop, and secondly, the houses in the centre of the town are actually the cheaper houses and some are very derelict.

We decided to cook for dinner so went to a butcher and got some kebabs, I think they were pork. They were definitely tasty. We also went and bought a local wine (apparently it is very famous, a 2010 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas) and to a grocer who was hilarious. I thought I only had 10€ left but we wanted to try some of the local cheese, Queijo de Ovelha Curado Amanteigado, which made it more, so he said he could just do it for 10. But then I realised I had 15€ but he said he would still do it for 10 and a promise that we would come back and buy some Port from him if we wanted some. Both the wine and the cheese were really very tasty. The cheese was so soft, the guy told us we had to cut a hole in the top and spoon it onto the bread because it was too soft to slice. We ended up just having the cheese on bread and wine for dinner the next day as well.

The next day we went on a walking tour of the city which showed us some of the main sites and some nice views across the harbour. Too bad it was too wet and foggy to see anything. He told us we had to eat the traditional sandwich of Porto, called Francesinha, which is pretty much bread, meat, meat, more meat, a bit more meat, bread, cheese, an egg and sauce. Also with fries. We gave it a shot with two girls, Canadian and American, Carmen had met on the pubcrawl the previous night (I was way too tired to go). I shared one with Therese, the American, as they were massive, and so glad I did. Even eating only half was too much, hence the cheese dinner. The girls were interesting though, the Canadian, Carly, was actually an engineer doing her Masters in tidal power through this course which let her study in Lisbon and Spain and probably lots of other places, sounded amazing!

After lunch the four of us headed across the harbour, where there is another town called Vila Nova de Gaia, to do a Port wine tasting. We went to a place called Taylors and they give you 3 ports to try and a tour of the facilities. I was like what? Paying for wine tasting! But apparently they do everywhere. It took us a while to find the place, we headed up, and further up towards it only to find there was a valley in the way and so we had to go back down and back up again. I definitely deserved my port by the time we got there! It was really nice actually, beautiful place with a view across to Porto and some lovely Port, including a white port which I have never tried before! And now I know more about Port than I ever needed to. It all sounded a little bit funny actually, I mean it is fair enough that they take their industry seriously, but you can't read about them trying to mechanically imitate the sensitive nature of treading the grapes with a straight face.

By this point it was definitely time for a pastry, which we has been wanting since lunch, but of course when you don't want one you see 50 places but when you do you can't find one! So about half an hour later, after walking in the pouring rain, we finally got our pastry and coffee. To be honest, not the best, although there was a grapefruit or some kind of citrus sponge cake which was rather nice.

The next day was our last and Carmen and I were leaving that night so we had the whole day still in Porto. We climbed a tower for a view over Porto which was lovely, and then went into the adjoining church and another one. The other church was almost 300 years old and needed refurbishment and they had tiles for the roof where you could write your name. So now my name and signature is going to be written on the top of a church in Porto which is pretty cool. When we came out the rain had cleared and Carmen thought it was because of my donation to the church.

As our last activity we decided to head a bit out the city to a beach, despite the cold. We had been told that at the end of the 500 bus line they grill you fresh fish on the side of the road. So I was pretty keen and we headed out. We found the fish market which had all sorts of fish, including stingrays, and also live chickens and rabbits so you could kill and eat your meat! That was a bit full on!

We went in hunt of these grilled fish but they didn't seem to be happening yet so when we found a lady who seemed to be setting her grill up we tried to ask her. We ended up eating seafood rice in the restaurant because no-one could understand us. But it was still good, particularly the tasty and fresh prawns! We saw a bakery as well and went in and managed to get like 6 pastries for 1.50€! If I remember correctly we had a very tasty egg pastry thing, a set egg custard kind of ball, a coconut cake, a large custard tart thing, some other layered pastry item and I am pretty sure something else I can't remember. Most of these were quite small by the way.

On our way to the beach we passed another bakery which had these odd looking carrot things in the window so we decided to try one, and also got other stuff of course. By this point though we suddenly realised how full we were and Carmen ate some later but I just could not stomach it. Although I did try the carrot thing which was quite bizarre, not my favourite food item, really just tasted like sugar with an odd texture.

Walking back along the beach it was ridiculously windy and I looked really attractive in the poncho I had bought that morning. People up on the road were looking at us like we were crazy but we had loads of fun! The water looked great as well because it was so windy. Then back on the bus and to the train for Faro, with a stop off at our favourite grocer to buy a bottle of Port!

Posted by Claire.Miller 03:34 Archived in Portugal

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