Here I am, sitting in my garden, after cleaning it all day. I’ve put some benches, made myself a coffee and sat outside. Time to reflect. It’s been almost three months since I visited Porto, so I think now would be a good time to write about it, before the memories fade.
After Peniche and the whole surfing experience, it was time to see a bit more of Portugal. So, I’ve sent a few couchsurfing requests and one guy replied that afternoon saying how I can come to his place the next day. So I bought a bus ticket. And the next morning I was on my way to Porto.
After a few stops in between and a few hours later, I arrived at the bus station. You know how crowded the stations can be. But somehow when I looked up, I saw this guy smiling and I knew it was him. He was wearing a motorcycle suit and I thought to myself: ‘Oh no, he didn’t?!’ But he sure did. We came outside and there it was. His motorcycle. He came on the motorcycle!
And I had a suitcase, a backpack and my photo gear. How on earth is all that going to fit on his bike? Don’t ask me how, but he managed to put it all on the motorcycle, including me. And we were on our way. The streets on that side of Porto were not flat but hilly and there was a red traffic light every few meters. We were so heavy that the bike wouldn’t stop immediately. I was scared we might bump into someone. And I was scared because he would speed up and I still kind of wanted to live. But what an adrenaline and what a cool experience that was. Riding on a motorcycle in Porto.
I remember crossing the Ponto de Luis bridge which is my favourite place in Porto and a few minutes after, he stopped to show me the view. It was amazing. The orange roofs of Porto and the Douro river.
We finally got to his place and his friend was waiting for us. They’ve decided to make a barbecue and sangria. I couldn’t believe it, here I am, in Porto, having drinks and barbecue on the roof terrace with people I’ve just met. As I would say, life can be really funny sometimes.
The next morning I went exploring Porto by myself. And of course I got lost. I mean I actually didn’t get that lost, I just ended up taking a longer, but viewwise, nicer route. From Canidelo towards the ocean, then passed Douro Marina, all the way down the Douro river to Ponte de Luis. Almost 10 km. I have no idea how I didn’t die along the way, because it was so hot and sunny along this road and it took me a few hours.
I even thought of hitchhiking but I was a bit shy to just take out my hand and stop a car.
While walking, I saw such cute streets and houses and since it was Sunday, everybody was out, sitting in front of their porches, in the caffes, walking around, mingling. It was amazing. I loved the architecture and the old feel to it.
Slowly, I was approaching Ponte de Luis bridge.
And when I got there, there were so many people and so many restaurants. It was a beautiful sunny day. Just below the bridge I saw a group of people looking at something and cheering. When all of a sudden, 2 boys standing on the bridge preparing to jump. They were showing off, some of the tourists were giving them money to jump. Later on I read somewhere that it’s a tradition for kids to jump.
Ponte de Luis is a metal arch bridge that’s connecting Porto and Vila Nova De Gaia. It has two decks and it’s 85 m high. Crossing the bridge on a Sunday during the season is a bit of a challenge since there are so many people and so many vehicles.
The view from the bridge or from any side of the bridge is amazing. When you cross it, you enter the Ribeira district, full of caffes, street markets, cute narrow medieval streets and alleys. It’s just full of charm.
Check out Ribeira
After I enjoyed the beautiful afternoon in Porto, it was time to go home. But hey, I don’t know where I live and my phone just died. That’s why you should always have a spare battery or a battery charger. And always have the address written on the piece of paper. You never know. Luckily I remembered the name of the street.
So I waited for a bus I considered to be the right one for me. I remembered that there was Lidl store close to the apartment, so I said that to the driver. And when he consulted a guy in a bus he said he knew where it was. So he dropped me off and explained how to get to Lidl. I still had around 20 min walking to it. And as I was walking I had absolutely no idea where I was going, nothing looked familiar. I saw a big shopping mall so I went to take a rest inside and grabbed something to eat. And continued towards Lidl.
But when I got to Lidl, I couldn’t believe it. That wasn’t the Lidl I was looking for. That wasn’t even my neighbourhood. I was completely lost and desperate. So I went inside Lidl and bought some sweets to comfort myself. When I got out I saw a gas station across the road and I went in to ask for Rua do Viso street. People start discussing amongst each other to see where it might be and all of a sudden a girl that was waiting in a queue said: ‘I know where it is, my parents live close to it, I’ll take you there’. So I hopped into her car, we put my phone to charging to see the exact address and she took me home. And let me tell you, it was about 10 min by car. Not so close and I would have never found it. I left her some of my sweets for a thank you and gave her a hug. What a savier!
And what a day.
The day after, my host took me for a bit of sightseeing. And what really cought my eye, was an extraordinary railway station Sao Bento, built in 19 st. on a place of a former Benedictine convent Sao Bento de Ave Maria. The walls are made with tiles that tell a story about battles and rural life.
We walked around town, visited markets and went for a real Portugese lunch. I’ve decided for Francesinha. I don’t even know why I’ve ordered it. It’s a meal made of toast and heaps of meat inside it, covered on top with cheese and egg. It’s fair to say it’s one of the worst meals of my life. If you’re not a meat person, please don’t order it. If you are a meat person, still don’t order it.
That was my last day in Porto and I ended up having a goodbye dinner with my host and his friend at the apartment. With our hats on. I probably forgot to mention that they had a tradition of having funny hats on our heads while eating.
I packed my bags and left this beautiful town the next morning, with my eyes set on new places. See you next time, Porto. And thank you for hosting me, Joao.
You can check out more photos in the Portugal gallery