Well hello there gorgeous people, long time no post…
I know it’s been quiet in these Noir streets, but we are recharged, rejuvenated and back to the blogosphere ready to revive it all.
I am just back from a whirlwind last minute trip to Budapest in Hungary (read about the previous trip here) where we stayed for a couple of days before leaving for Porto in Portugal for another few days, coming back to Dublin via Lisbon. It was mostly a working trip but got enough time, particularly in Porto to indulge in a bit of tourist behaviour.
From speaking to friends that had been to Porto prior, I expected a pretty small place but was pleasantly surprised by the vastness of it. It is a beautiful coastal city famous for its bridges and of course port wine (which I happily indulged in ;-). The weather gods were with us as apparently it was the first week of good sunny weather they had had in a while, talk about perfect timing!!
Arrival on the first day was a bit of a shock to the system, according to google maps, the apartment was a 10 minute walk from the station, so we decided not to take a taxi. No problem there right???…wrong!! What we did not realise was that the apartment was situated uphill, and the only way we could get there from the train station was up what felt like a million and one steps. Lugging luggage up those steps under 30 degree heat was…quite an experience to say the least lol. So tip number one, pack comfortable walking shoes, it is a hilly city, your feet will thank you.
Dinner that evening was in a restaurant close by, Café Santiago which is famous for the Francessinha, they argue it is one of the top 10 sandwiches in the world. The locals are absolutely obsessed with this delicacy, it came highly recommended so of course I had to try it at least once. It is layers of bread stuffed with fine meats, sausages, covered in cheese with a secret sauce poured over, served with a fried egg and fries. If I am being honest, it was too rich for me, but I can see why it is as popular as it is.
A walk around the city after the heavy meal was warranted, strolling down to the river through unfamiliar medieval streets and small winding cobblestone alleyways of Ribeira and emerging by the famous Luis Bridge over the Douro River was remarkable. There is something beautiful about getting lost in new terrains only to find your way home somehow.
Normally trips abroad are well planned and activities researched in advance, but seeing as this was a last minute arrangement, It was a relief to have the help of Get Your Guide App and Airbnb Experiences. Between those two, I managed to catch a traditional Fado show in Casa Da Guitarra, a wonderful way to immerse yourself into some Portuguese culture, plus they serve you a glass of port wine which doesn’t hurt ;-). From Airbnb experiences I managed to engage the service of a tour guide who doubled as a photographer capturing the moments around the city to last a life time. An attempt was made to go into the Lello bookstore which legend has it, J.K Rowling used as an inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. The queue was way too long for my patience, the same for the renowned Majestic cafe. Hopefully there will be another trip to Porto, I would definitely love to see the inside of this award winning bookstore and famous Belle Époque cafe.
The train station, Sao Bento, believe it or not is also worth a visit. The walls with the beautiful tiles depict the history of Portugal and make for fantastic background to photographs day or night 😉
The Clerigos Church and Tower is another tourist favourite, views from the 75.6m high tower are magnificent. You have to climb 240 steps to the top of 6 floors in tight winding space, but the views when you emerge really do make it worthwhile.
We would have been remiss not to visit at least one of the many magnificent beaches along the coast. The closest option was Leca Beach in Matosinhos about a 15 minute drive from the centre. My only gripe is that, the Atlantic Ocean water is soooo cold in that area. Despite the hot weather you need to really brace yourself for a little dip in it.
I am a huge foodie and culinary delights are the one thing I always look forward to on trips abroad, luckily Porto has plenty to offer on this end. There is a great array of restaurants and cafes to indulge ones taste buds particularly on the waterfront of Cais de Ribeira. The whole place comes alive as the sun sets and the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants make for a buzzing nightlife. There is a multitude of restaurants along there and we opted for Restuarante Terra Nova, a perfect choice for some local cuisine with great views of the river and the lit up Luis Bridge, it is quite the romantic spot too 😉
As far as afterhours activities go, Galeria de Paris is the centre stage of Porto’s night life. The street is like a carnival on weekends, I can testify to that. The whole street was buzzing with activity, between live traditional bands and more modern bars, you could take your pick. We opted for a traditional take, in the Galeria were a Brazilian band was playing and the patrons dancing Samba. I have never seen anything like it, the movement, beat, rhythm absolutely mesmerising! Granted I failed at my attempt at Samba dancing and was happier watching, highly recommended 😉
Click the link to see some seriously impressive Samba Dancing
For a more relaxed take, Hot Five Blues and Jazz Club is a hot ticket for live jazz sounds. This was an after dinner find on the Friday before we headed to Galeria de Paris, an intimate space with seating around small tables and an upper balcony both fronting the stage. That was my first time in a Jazz Club in Portugal and I would be back given half a chance.
The flights from Portugal back to Dublin were from Lisbon and we had enough time to enjoy a last meal dining al fresco by the waterfront. A fitting end to the whirlwind jaunt.
The trip was short and busy but all in all most enjoyable.
Have you been to Porto? Let me know your favourite spots so I can keep them in mind for the next trip over.
Till next time