Sunday, February 2, 2014

Porto... Accio Passport!!

Hello dear friend,

Before we get started, I need to confess that I've been up since four o'clock this morning. In addition to that, you should probably know that I didn't sleep well between midnight and four. So, I'm writing this while seriously sleep deprived.

It's better to stay awake now and go to bed early. Hence, you get to hear all about Porto (please, try to hold your applause for the end).

Where to start?

We left for Porto bright and early on Friday morning. All was going well until the lady stamped the wrong copy of my boarding pass. I should have checked the ticket. Oops! Luckily, it was easy to print another copy at a business station by my gate. Problem solved.

The flight to Porto was easy. It was a quick flight, and it seemed even quicker due to the timezone difference (Portugal is an hour behind Spain [the timezone Spain should be on!!]). We were greeted by wind and rain. Thanks, Porto! I was thankful for my umbrella.

I'm always thankful for my umbrella. I love it.

Someone's ebay photo of the umbrella I have

Our hostel was really easy to find and really nice. If you're ever in Porto, Spot Hostel is pretty great! We stored our luggage, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and set off on a walking tour.

In. The Rain.

So much for cute photos.
My hair was straight and dry when I left Madrid. 

The tour started in the center, and then we went to an awe-inspiring bookstore. 

This picture doesn't do it justice. I loved this place (before I knew what I'm about to tell you)

Does this bookstore have a sense of familiarity? Feel like you've seen something like this place before? Something, say, magical? 

Don't quote me on this, but it's rumored that this was one of the places that inspired parts of the world of Harry Potter (Hogwarts or Flourish and Blotts, anyone??). J.K. Rowling was living in Porto (working as an English teacher- hurrah!) in the early nineties. She says on her website that she worked on the first Harry Potter book in her free time in Porto. The citizens of Porto claim it happened in this picturesque bookstore. 

Porto has several aspects that inspired things in Harry Potter. For example, the students at the university across the street traditionally wear black capes for certain student events (Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty, Hogwarts, teach us something please!!!). Furthermore, the former dictator of Portugal, Antonio Salazar, was inspiration for the founder of the Slytherin house: Salazar Sytherin. 

That made Porto for me. Forget the wine. Bring on Harry Potter. Cue "Hedwig's Theme"

Moving on to things that are more relevant to those who don't adore the wizarding world...

Porto is stunning, even in the pouring down rain.


One of many many churches

A steep and winding alley. I thought I was going to fall and break my face.

This part of Porto is quite poor. However, I find it lovely

Cobblestone is everywhere. Ah, Europe.

We walked across this bridge. From what our tour guide said, the company that built the Eiffel Tower designed this bridge. I haven't fact-checked yet.

After the tour, our tour group went to a small cafĂ© to eat lunch. Porto is known for a sandwich called Francesinha. I was given a description before I saw a photo. This sandwich is toasted with steak, sausage, bologna, and chorizo inside. It is then topped with an egg, covered in cheese, and doused in a spicy tomato soup (kind of). You eat it with fries. It was, well, interesting. I probably wouldn't eat it again. But anyone who knew me as a child, please note that I'm trying crazy foods over here. It's a big deal. 

Francesinha. When in Porto, I suppose... 

That evening, my friends went on a wine tour. Unfortunately, I don't like wine. I've tried a variety of wines. No luck. I decided to skip out and go shopping. 

While shopping, I came to a super cute store right down the street. The girl working there was incredibly sweet and friendly!! She helped me pick out clothes and we talked about traveling in each of our countries. It was fantastic. I adore meeting people while adventuring. 

The girl from the boutique. 

That night, we rested for a bit and then went out to a nearby restaurant to get pizza. The pizza greatly exceeded my expectations! However, it's possible that the waiter thought we were hitting on him. In the US, if you make eye contact with the waiter several times, he'll get the hint to come over. Not this one. He just blushed and smiled back. Oops. We had to wave him over to ask for the bill. 

Saturday morning, we were a bit slow to getting around. After getting ready and eating breakfast, we caught a bus to go to the shoreline. As we neared the beach, I thought there were tons of small boats in the water. Upon arrival, I realized that the "boats" were huge waves. I've never seen water so tumultuous in my life (granted, I don't frequently visit large bodies of water).

A calm shot

It was super windy. Also, I was freezing in this photo. I wanted a cute picture without my jacket.

I could have spent all day staring at the ocean. It was breathtaking. I walked with my head turned and my jaw dropped. I kept thinking about being from the continent on the other side and all the wonder that is between the two continents. It was nothing short of surreal. 

We did a bit of shopping after visiting the beach (for those who are curious, I finally found a red handbag that will double as a teacher bag... I've searched for months!!). We revisited the pizza place that night  (I know we should have found something super Portuguese, but we were exhausted). The plan was to go out for a little while after dinner and try to stay up until four o'clock in the morning to get ready to fly back at 6:30. No such thing happened. We decided to "rest" at nine o'clock and couldn't get out of bed after that! Rest is a good thing. 

It was tough to get ourselves to the airport by five in the morning, but we did it! We had a smooth flight back to Madrid. The last time I was asleep, I was in Portugal. When I was leaving the airport today, I saw a man with a dog in his pocket. Yes. A dog. 

A dog on the counter and a dog in his pocket... totally normal, right?

Today has been a long day. I'll leave you with some fun facts.

1. Spicy actually is a thing in Portugal
2. I ate spicy things in Porto
3. I have eaten more mushrooms in the past two days than I have in the past 365 combined (yum!!)
4. There's such thing as white sangria. It makes sense. I've just always seen red when I'm out in Madrid.
5. I had the most incredible mint ice cream last night, but I neglected to take a photo of it. 
6. I'm so ridiculously tired right now. It's not even funny... 
7. Some people use the name "potato bug" for a rolly pollie. 
8. Not everyone knows what "holler at y'all later" means. 
9. I speak Portuguese. Okay, not really. But I understood the majority of things that I heard and read. In fact, I had several conversations in which I spoke Spanish and the other person spoke Portuguese. I've always wanted to do that. Wish granted!
10. I finally met a Canadian who says "eh?" on a regular basis.
11. I wish I could be at a Super Bowl party in the USA tonight. I don't care much for the NFL, but I really enjoy Super Bowl Sunday. 

That's all for now!

Best wishes XOXO,

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