This past weekend I went to Porto, Portugal. I have been to Lisbon before and I absolutely loved it and I’ve always considered making Portuguese the next language I learn, but after this trip I have come to a consensus. That I am IN love with Portugal and I will definitely be finding a way to learn Portuguese.
My friend Kara has been staying with me for two weeks now and since we knew she was coming out here, my buddy Kevin who is currently studying here decided to buy two plane tickets, one for him and one for her, to go to Porto. Of course I wanted to go too so I shortly thereafter purchased a ticket myself. From Madrid, flights are wicked inexpensive, and get this, I left Friday afternoon at 6:35, and with the 1-hour time difference, I landed there at 6:25, so I never lost any “time” traveling.
Upon arrival, I caught the metro from the airport and ended up chatting with some Spanish guy the entire time. He also sat next to me on the plane but we didn’t start talking until we were on our way into the city. The trip took about 30 minutes and only cost me 2 euros. Gotta love cheap European transportation. Then I hiked up this enormous hill, one that I’d hike up about 5o million more times that weekend, to my hostel where I’d be meeting up with Kevin and Kara (they left on Thursday, but I had to wait until Friday because of that stupid thing I do. Yeah, that work thing…). The hostel was inside some large house with an incredible courtyard and a really friendly vibe. This is the second time in Portugal that I’ve been incredibly satisfied with the hostel (if you want to know it’s name because you too are an avid traveler, it’s called The Yellow House, definitely recommendable). I checked in and finally found Kevin and Kara. Our first night was spent mostly wandering around the city, getting lost, and taking amazing photos of the countryside. Eventually we stopped for dinner in this quaint joint run by about two people. The man, our waiter and I believe our cook as well, was one of the goofiest people I think I’ve ever encountered. He knew a number of random English words and we were able to communicate through some strange form of English-Spanish-sign language. Overall, he was wonderful to us and very friendly. We loved the food, I got fish, typical of Portugal, and of course a few beers (this is a must. I’m on vacation!).
Later, we returned to the hostel and met some of the people there whom we’d later go out with. The night life in Porto is almost like the one in Madrid…except not at all. The only thing comparable is that all the people our age drink on the streets. We ended up going to their university area and found all these kids, or young adults I should say, making their own version of the Spanish botellón. Unfortunately, we had no alcohol so we asked a group of kids, who spoke good English, for some help. They pointed out this dive bar that sold 1-liter buckets of whatever alcohol you wanted for only 5 euros. SWEET! As for the rest of the night, it was quite enjoyable and we made new friends that also live in Madrid. I hope to see them here someday.
Saturday came around and it was my last full day, and my only full day in Porto. So this meant we had to do EVERYTHING in one day. We started off at a nice marketplace where we bought some delicious Kiwi-Mango (or Kivi Manga) jam. Then we wandered all over taking in the sights: churches, hillsides, bridges, fountains, and then stopping off for a cold beer since the sun was blazing hot. Kevin was already sunburnt and although we all put on sunscreen, I was nervous I’d end up as fried as him.
Later, we grabbed a quick lunch when we realized we only had about an hour left to get to the Bodegas, or Port Wine Vineyards. We crossed the river into the other side of the city and wandered through winding streets until we came across one that we were recommended: Croft. We went inside and they immediately gave us our sample of sweet Port wine. While sitting and waiting for the next English-speaking tour, someone all of a sudden asks me if I was from Colorado. I look up and it was this guy named Jay that I worked with at Swim and Fitness center in Westminster! I couldn’t believe it! The world is seriously creepily small. We chatted for a while, snapped a photo for evidence of our 1-in-a-million encounter, and then we finally got the tour. Mom and Dad would have really enjoyed it. Then afterward, we got to try a few more of their ports. And it all cost us absolutely nothing. That’s always been my favorite price :)
From there, we headed to the beach because it was insanely hot and the sun was still high in the sky, even though it was somewhere between 6 and 7 in the evening. It took us a long time to find the bus to get there and along the way, we saw a series of young adolescents literally jump off of the bridge into the river that divides Porto and Gaia. It looked like so much fun and Kevin and I were really tempted to give it a go, but in the end, we left (or wimped out, but I’m going to go with the latter).
Eventually we did make it to the beach and were able to bask in the sun and swim in the shallow waters for an hour or two before we headed home for dinner.
We got dinner at a lovely terrace-restaurant right beside the river. The sun finally went down and we got to see the city light up in its glowing charm. It was absolutely wonderful! We ate some Portuguese chorizo and sandwiches called Francesinhas. We sipped on beer, people-watched, and listened to the hum of the typical European fountain that lay at our backs. To say the least, it was breathtaking and it was one of those, holy-crap-look-where-we-are-this-is-amazing-the-world-is-so-complete-I’m-infinite kind of moments. You know what I mean?
Eventually, we meandered back to the hostel, exhausted (especially after climbing up that dreaded hill once again), changed our clothes, met up with our new-found friends in the hostel and went out. We however were on a certain mission. We didn’t pay for a second night in the hostel. They let us use it as our home base to store our stuff while we explored all-day Saturday, but we were not patrons there. This is because our flight was at 6:30am on Sunday so we decided we’d just party all night, which we did. We met this sweet French girl who had been living there as an erasmus student and we nominated her as our tour guide. We also brought along another girl who is studying in Madrid and is from Venezuela. We ended up going back to that same bar with the 5-euro buckets and just chilling with all the Portuguese people in the street.
I met some Portuguese guy who spoke perfect Spanish because he had lived in Sevilla for two years, and after we chatted it up for a while, his friends came over and asked if I was from Spain. I said no, and this guy I had been talking to the entire time all of sudden looks shocked and asks, “You’re not!?” I was very proud of myself at that moment, I love it when foreigner’s think I’m Spanish because that means I speak the language convincingly well. But I admitted to them I was American, and they were somewhat taken aback. Then one idiot, a typical Napoleon type, says to me, “I hate Americans” in English. I was just like…. laisjdflkajsdklfjalksjdflkaj
What do you say to that? So I ignored him, but fortunately, all his friends yelled at him for being an inconsiderate jerk and they all told me that they love America, think it’s the greatest country in the world and that they love (in order): 1. Obama, 2. South Park, 3. L.A. Lakers. I found this pretty funny, but these are really typical things that Europeans tell me, so no shocker there, but the guys were really nice, minus the ignorant Napoleon-complexed individual.
The guys left me to get back to my friends. We hit up a few of the dance bars (for free), and then we all headed home to drop off our friends at the hostel so that they could sleep and we grabbed our bags, caught a cab, and went to the airport. On Sunday, after arriving back home, I slept ALL day.
Anyway, that was Porto in a nutshell. Tomorrow, I’m calling in “sick” from my job (don’t worry, Mom, I told them I was ditching ahead of time) and I’m flying to Lyon, France to visit Erin Berg for four days! I’m really looking forward to it.
Write more later,