After buzzing around in London, I headed for Porto, one of the most famous Portuguese cities.
At this point, I need to admit that Portugal wasn’t on the list of countries I wanted to visit the most in Europe. I attribute this to a (wrong) idea that the place wouldn’t be as interesting as others due to its similarities with Brazil.
However, I included it after many friends had described Portugal as a wonderful place to set foot in. First, I decided to add Lisbon to my precious list. Later, I included Porto too. People said I wouldn’t be disappointed – and they were absolutely right.
After a trouble-free flight, I arrived at Porto in the evening, and the experience taught me how adventurous this choice can be.
I passed with no difficulties through the immigration – the guy just asked my address in the city and made a joke about our same mother tongue. The machine to buy underground tickets bothered me a little, but eventually, I could get mine. I finally took the train – a very old one – and then the drama started.
I simply copied the address of the WRONG hostel. The street’s name was right, but my underground directions were incorrect. I made a huge confusion because the names were disgracefully similar. I booked my bed at Cool Hostel, while the other one is called So Cool. To make matters worse, they weren’t near at all. It should be against the law two hostels with practically the same name because it’s just a hell for absent-minded people like me.
It was almost midnight and I didn’t know where to get off. I was trying to be calm, but it was quite impossible. In the end, some guys on the underground helped me to find out the station which would be more suitable to me. I wanted to reach the hostel quickly, so I tried to take a taxi. I tried, but the taxi driver refused to drive me there. He said it was too close and gave me some directions. He was sort of rude, what scared me and made me walk, even though I knew it could be dangerous at that time.
In addition, it was raining. What a nightmare. I was just wondering if my mom knew about that. She’d put a straight-jacket on me.
Fortunately, people speak Portuguese there
So relieved I was when I rang the bell. I apologised to the receptionist, who was very kind and showed me the hostel. The place was cool, colourful, with a friendly atmosphere. I was dead on my feet, so I would look at everything the next day. I just wanted a shower, a cosy bed and some sleep.
What an amazing Saturday when you wake up in Porto! Lots of slopes to be explored, and magnificent architecture to be appreciated. At breakfast, I met two guys, one from Australia and another from Germany. I don’t remember very well the Australian lad, but the German one, oh my God. Good-looking to say the least. Blonde, blue eyes, charming, marvellous smile, tall, I just wanted to visit Germany as soon as possible.
We had that normal small talk and it was fun. I ate a lot as the food was very good and I went to stroll around. The weather was gloomy, but it wasn’t raining.
It’s interesting when you visit London and, then, you go to Porto because it seems you go back in time about 200 years. Porto is way old. Its buildings, structures, monuments, atmosphere… Even the language for me, as our Brazilian Portuguese sounds to us much more modern in a certain way. I was delighted. Actually, I was visiting a country that was somehow the beginning of my country, at least according to the official history.
I went up and down on the slopes and I finally saw the river. I’d seen that image for ages and I was there at the end of the day.
I crossed the bridge, exactly when the rain came heavier. I had my blue raincoat, what I bought especially for that trip. It was windy too, what annoyed a bit me because of the pictures.
I got lost at the other part of Porto (I’d do the same in lots of places), but I found my way back very fast.
Something very funny happened at this time. I entered a sort of a cultural centre and the guy responsible for me place talked to me in English. Without realising, I answered in English too. It was ridiculous, but I was shy to tell him I could speak Portuguese, so I just pretended that I needed a lingua franca to communicate there.
Back to main Porto, I visited some more places before a break to have lunch. I learned how to appreciate Portuguese food in Brazil, because of the stepfather of an ex-boyfriend. In Portugal, of course, I wanted some fish. I was particularly keen on codfish. Choosing a restaurant to eat is always the most irritating part of my trips because I just cannot decide where to go. Many options, many people in all the places, pricey menus… At least in Portugal you’re not likely to be ripped off as in London, for instance, so there’s a clear advantage.
Eventually, I found a restaurant in the centre, away from the crowds, and with excellent prices. There was no codfish, but the waiter, a distinctive and polite guy, told me in that lovely Portuguese accent that they had a special dish with sardines. I gave it a try and it turned out to be perhaps the best meal I had during my whole time in Europe. Sardines with some potatoes, vegetables and delicious sauce. A glass of wine too, of course. It was out of this world. I’m writing this and I can feel the taste of that indescribable food, which cost less than 5 euros – the biggest bargain in the world.
In the afternoon, the same routine. Visiting places and stopping for a while in order to avoid the insisting rain. I had the impression that my camera wasn’t working properly, but I had the mobile too. I tried not to overthink about that.
Back to the hostel, I decided to see what was going on with the camera. In London, I went to a cybercafé (nice name for that awful place) and I copied all the pictures for one of my storage clouds. I intended to do the same in Porto, but the card didn’t want to open. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t access my gorgeous pictures from FOUR days of London and that one in Porto. I tried to open it in lots of ways and, eventually, I gave up. I had told a friend what happened and he promised to help me in Dublin in my return (I just could recover my pictures months later in Brazil)
The German guy from the hostel had invited me to have dinner with him in a restaurant famous for its francesinha, a kind of huge hamburger with an egg on top and chips. It seemed an excellent way to stop freaking out because of the pictures and have some craic with that stunning companion.
We queued up a little in front of the place and it wasn’t bad because the guy was so charming and so pleasant to talk with. We laughed about the differences between Brazilian and German cultures and the weird World Cup Match with its 7×1 (for them).
Our table was ready, and we finally order our francesinhas. When the dishes came we were quite surprised with the size. It’s enormous. I couldn’t help thinking how many calories and how much cholesterol there were in each of those sandwiches, but that didn’t stop me eating that appetising meal. It was so tasty! It was an enjoyable evening, and thank goodness I love travelling alone, otherwise it would be harder to have moments like that one when out of the blue you meet people and share a meal with them.
On Sunday, the guy headed for Lisbon, but as I’m an idiot I didn’t ask him any contact. He didn’t ask mine either. We said goodbye to each other when he left the hostel, I finished my breakfast and continued exploring the city. The weather was a bit better, so I went back to the river to take more pictures. I’m fascinated by picturesque places, and it was so nice to see and remember now each window and each door, as well small shops and restaurants, and people and their peculiar way of life, where nobody really seemed to hurry.
As many places I visited, I quickly discovered why so many people like Porto and Portugal. It seems there are treasures hidden all over the place. I remember that I saw a church close to the river and I decided to go into to see how it was. Outside, the building was not exceptional but inside… one of the most outstanding temples I’ve seen in my life. It was a mix of gold, saints and endless details. I just wonder how many places like that you can find in small Portuguese cities, for example.
On Monday it would be time to travel to Lisbon (€ 9,90, love ya Ryanair) very early, so I went to bed quite soon to have some sleep and enjoy those good feelings that only trips can produce on you.