Just a few weeks after my trips to London and Chiemsee, it was time to get out the Ryanair-approved overnight bag once more and prepare for a trip to see a good friend in Porto. She moved there for an overseas university semester, and was always guaranteed a visit from me. It wasn’t the best season to be skipping over to the usually-warm Portugal but I was sure we’d make the most of it.
The first day we were incredibly lucky with the weather – the sun was shining and the locals appeared to be out and about taking advantage of what they thought might be the last day like this for a while. We wandered the markets by the river, caught the bus to the beach and took in the scenery, and had ice cream on the docks before taking a cable car up to the top of the bridge for a brilliant view of the city.
From the churches to the train stations and the winding streets, Porto is every bit as beautiful as I imagined – a stop here for a glass of port and a stop there for some tapas made the day a wonderful one. We finished it off by heading to the Estadio do Dragao to watch Porto FC in action against Nacional. It wasn’t a massive crowd but was every bit the European football match full of great supporters you’d expect.
The next day the rain came, and as a result we abandoned plans to go to Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal, and went for Braga instead. It was pouring from the heavens by the time our train arrived and we had to run for the nearest café for the next couple of hours. I ordered a hot chocolate and the waitress knew little English, and signalled to me a spoon. I answered yes, and apparently in Portugal this means it’s a hot chocolate mousse rather than a hot chocolate drink. And a delightful one at that.
We walked around Braga as the sun poked through the clouds and it was every bit as beautiful as Porto and completely deserted because of the weather.
Over to the next day, the rain was falling hard – apparently this is the case in Porto for most of the winter – and so we decided port tasting would be a great wet-weather activity.
We chose a tour at Calems for 5 euro and as it didn’t start for three hours we got considerably tipsy at a tavern nearby on port-sangria. The tapas were equally delicious – by now I was seriously in love with the food, which is so cheap and offering such a big range – and it was turning out to be a very affordable holiday as a result. We had been told about the Portuguese music ‘Fado’ and heard of some tourist spots to head to catch some. But in our small tavern, the head waitress was singing it the way the locals do – spontaneously while her friends joined in. As nighttime came around we went to the hostel I was staying at – called Rivoli and cinema-themed – and made pizza and played Wii. It was a great three days, I felt like I had seen everything necessary in the city and there were enough wet-weather activities to make the terrible weather ok.
Coming back, I was aware of how busy things will become in the lead-up to Christmas. There are trips to Liverpool, Paris and Finland planned before we embark on South Africa and a free weekend will be hard to come by now. But Portugal was so relaxing, I feel prepared for everything that is to come.