Sunday, December 30, 2012

Porto Travelogue

Our flight to Lisbon was uneventful, despite having the entire German under-18 rugby team on board. We met up with my husband's parents there, then hopped in the rental car they'd already picked up and headed up to Porto!

We'd booked an apartment near the cathedral, where the roads are a little confusing - we were supposed to drive into what looks like private cathedral grounds to get there. We messed up and the GPS panicked a little, leading us onto narrower and narrower alleys until we finally reached a corner which was physically impossible to navigate in a car. A guy in a car and a woman on a stoop both tried desperately - and pretty nicely - to help us, but of course we didn't speak the same language! Eventually we just drove out wherever we could fit, pulled over, and called the apartment owner, who came to fetch us and lead us up there with his own car.

The apartment was amazing, with views over the Douro and Dom Luis Bridge which are probably among the best views of anything in Europe that I've seen. Our time in Porto might have been successful even if all of it had been spent in those windows looking over the city. We did manage to tear ourselves away and explore, though!

We had dinner at a touristy but decent restaurant not too far from the apartment, where we tried the ox and dealt with the awkwardness of having a bottle of wine brought out that they were unable to open! The following morning we had breakfast in the sun at a cafe on the river. Like the helpful people on the street the previous evening, they didn't speak any English. This is when it started to dawn on us that the people who said "everyone there speaks English" maybe weren't entirely correct. For the rest of the trip we got by in these situations on a mix of D & I's combined shaky knowledge of French, Spanish, and Italian and a few Portuguese words we picked up. His parents, however, were not completely comfortable with navigating things this way and we often ended up eating at more-touristy (read: English-speaking) places in order to make communication less anxiety-inducing for everyone.

We split up from the 'rents and spent the day wandering the narrow streets and stairways of the north side of the river, stopping occasionally for pastries, peeks into gaudy churches, and paper cones of chestnuts. We also stopped at Livraria Lello, a beautiful tiny bookshop which has, apparently much to the chagrin of its employees, become a massively popular tourist attraction. No photos allowed, and they didn't have the Portuguese name dictionary that I was hoping to take home as a souvenir.  (In fact, no bookstore I tried had one and I came home without...first time that's happened!!)  At the end of the day we all met back up for some port in the apartment, then had dinner at Ora Viva.  The service was very nice and the decor fun to look over, but I wasn't as into the food as everyone else was.  They liked it enough that we went again the next night (after some day trips which will be in my next post).  The second night we found out by talking to some other North Americans at the restaurant (honestly it was pretty much entirely North Americans) that it was recommended by Rick Steves.  They went on to tell us how amazing Rick Steves is and how he is never wrong, and that if you mention him to the waiter you get a free drink.  So we did, and then the waiter also gushed about what an amazing human being Rick Steves is.  It was an interesting experience.

But you're just here for the pictures, right? :)
Porto Okt 2012
TL; DR: Porto is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen and you might as well skip all the wordy bits and go straight to the pics.


  1. Okay, so it's not quite the same as buying one there, but...



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