Porto, with a Friend

This weekend I did not see anything new in Barcelona – but don’t worry, adventures still occurred!

I took a flight early Saturday morning to Porto, the home of Port wine, in Portugal.  There I met Nicole Rudisill (a friend of mine from UW) and the adventures began!

We started by finding our way to the hostel, located up one winding street, and down another.  After checking in to our unexpectedly beautiful room, we decided to get lunch and make our way across the river for a Port wine tasting.  We walked around town for a while and found this cute hole-in-the-wall restaurant for lunch.  It was here I learned my favorite thing about Portugal: Every meal comes with potatoes.  We shared a chicken dish (with french fries) and a cod dish that came roasted with onions, peppers, and sliced potatoes, as well as Portuguese wine.  Cod is a specialty in Portugal, even though it isn’t locally caught.  After lunch, we began to really explore.  Nicole and I walked along the river searching for the bridge to cross it.  Apparently we walked the wrong direction.  But not all was lost, we did find a small museum dedicated to the history of Port wine.  After quite sometime, we stopped at a cafe.  Well rested, we continued back the direction from which we came.  There it was, about 100 meters from where we started:  The road to the bridge across.  

It was 6:30 by the time we crossed the bridge to where all of the wine cellars are located.  Many of the cellars close at 7:00, so there were no more tastings for the night.  We found one that was supposed to be open – but the locked doors told us otherwise.  We took a turn away from the river and found a winery that was bustling with people.  Inside the walls were adorned with facts about the Port wine process and the different types.  For 5 euro each, we got to sample three types of the wine: a white, a rose, and a tawny.  Neither Nicole nor I were too fond of any of them; the sweetness was overwhelming.  

After the tasting we made our way back across the bridge to the hostel, where we had signed up for dinner that night.  We sat with two travelers from Paris, and three hostel employees for a delicious dinner of traditional cabbage soup, vegetable and cod lasagna, and Port wine pears for dessert.  Everything was wonderful – and getting a home-cooked meal made it even better.  

We toured the streets for another couple hours after dinner, but found ourselves tired from the day’s travels and came back to the hostel for bed.  After a restful sleep, we would start over on Sunday.

Sunday morning began with a confusing attempt at the local contemporary art museum.  We were informed that the museum had no entry fee on Sunday mornings, so it seemed like a good idea to check it out.  We crossed the plaza near our hostel and witnessed a bird market.  Hundreds of colorful, squawking birds waiting to be purchased sat in their cages in the plaza.  We walked for hours, stopping only to try some traditional pastries at a local shop.  There was no museum in sight.  Giving up, and wet from the rain, we made out way back down to the river so that we could get oriented on where we were.  It turns out we had walked 10 kilometers in the direction opposite the town center.  (The museum was not in the center.)  We walked back, cold, wet, and very hungry.  As a gift to ourselves for making it a good part of the way back, we stopped in a small sports bar for a coffee to warm up.  Being somewhere warm felt delightful.

The walk continued until we found our way to the path that leads to the bridge we crossed the day before.  Here we stopped for tapas to ease our hunger and keep us upright.  We sat in a cozy room above a wine cellar and indulged ourselves with bread, cheese, olive oil, and tomatoes.  Sitting down felt great after about 5 hours of walking, and getting up to walk again was a difficult task.  But we did it.

After our snack we walked up a hill (and down a hill, and up another hill), to the main Cathedral.  It was a beautiful building with a view that could not be topped.  Everything inside the cathedral was gilded, and the main alter was a sight unlike anything we had seen thus far.  There were steps down from the cathedral platform that led to a network of small streets we had yet to see.  We walked the uneven cobblestone back to the center of town.  We made our way to the train station, a very large building in one of the town squares, where we met Alex, a friend of Nicole’s, who lived near Porto and could be our tour guide.  

So with Alex leading the way we walked some more.  It was raining again at this point, and there was no hope when it came to keeping dry.  

By 7:00pm we were exhausted (and hungry again).  We left Alex to make his way home and spent the better part of an our drying ourselves off in the hostel.  As I write this, Monday evening, my pants are still hanging up to dry.  At the front desk of the hostel we asked for a recommendation for dinner that was tasty, and more importantly in this weather, close by.  While we did not end up at one of the recommended places, walking in the direction we were given brought us to a cafe that was packed full of people.  There, we climbed inside and sat down.  After bread and soup and a small appetizer that the waiter brought to our table, as well as some Sangria, we were feeling so much better.  The rest of dinner was fantastic, and ended with Portuguese creme brûlée for dessert.  The meal was a perfect way to say goodbye to Porto after two days well spent.  

And really, that was it.  In the morning I got up at 4:30, and Nicole walked me to the plaza to catch the airport shuttle.  We said goodbye and I caught my flight back to Barcelona, where I jumped right into the workday.  It has been a very long day, but certainly well worthwhile.


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