A weekend in Porto, Portugal
My alarm fails to ring and my husband (let’s call him Bubbles) and I oversleep. We get up with barely enough time to grab our passports and luggage and head for the airport. Then, we arrive in Porto and I realise I forgot my DSLR. No wait, we arrive in Porto, I begin taking photos and accidentally drop my camera, breaking the glass to smithereens. The alarm rings.
Phew, it was a dream after all! Yet again. It seems to be a recurring dream every time a planned holiday nears. My fears manifest themselves in creative variations within my dream, but always centred on a common theme: my DSLR! As if that’s not bad enough, I start wondering on the way to the airport, ‘did I put the DSLR in the luggage?’ even though I checked ten times before leaving the house!
Anyway, dreams and delirium aside, we got to Porto drama-free last weekend. Upon reaching the hotel we noticed that there was a supermarket right next to it, so we immediately stocked up on munchies. I found some little cakes which reminded me of kuih bahulu in Malaysia! It also tasted almost like it, albeit a bit more oily. Little did I know that this was going to be the only nice tasting food I was going to have in Porto!
I’ve just read that Porto has some of the finest restaurants in Portugal and that their traditional dish, the “Francesinha” is one of the 10 best sandwiches in the world! I find this hard to believe as the food looked so unappetizing! Bubbles ordered a grilled turkey dish which was served with rice and salad. And no gravy. How do you eat rice without gravy?! I ordered a cheese omelette and it came with … rice! We didn’t order the “Francesinha” but a group of people on the next table ordered it and it didn’t look the least bit appetizing. It looked like someone had stacked four pieces of bread and poured loads of gravy over it. Apparently it is toast with layers of meat inside, covered with cheese and a spicy sauce.
The next day we went to another cafe and I looked around me for inspiration on what to order (you’d have thought I would have learnt my lesson after last night’s dinner). I saw a plate of salmon being served at the table next to ours. It was a salmon steak, skin intact, served with two halves of a large boiled potato. I almost gagged. You could argue that it might have tasted better than it looked, but I eat with all my senses and the food was just not visually stimulating.
Fortunately the port wine made up for what the food lacked. I can see why Porto is famous for its port wine and actually has a wine-making industry. The wine was lovely!
There is not a great deal to see in Porto, but it is a charming little city where the new exists alongside the old and the refurbished is interspersed with the dilapidated. One interesting feature is that some building façades are partially tiled with bright, colourful tiles. I can’t recall seeing this anywhere else in Europe. The architecture is otherwise quite homogeneous with other parts of Europe – a mix of neoclassical, baroque and modern styles. The Riviera overlooking the mouth of Douro river was the highlight of Porto. It is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it has a rich 2,000 year history.
Porto is a nice place to shop! Bubbles heard about Norte shopping centre being one of the biggest shopping malls in Porto, and so we went there since it was only a Metro ride away. Well, you know how each mall that comes along in the UK or Europe claims to be the biggest in UK or Europe but is nothing compared to Mid Valley in KL? This was like 10% of Mid Valley! The shops were not bad but the same shops were along St Catarina, so I wouldn’t recommend going all the way there.
Some websites and brochures on Porto say the locals are nice and friendly. What they failed to mention is that they are also hot! 🙂 Bubbles thought the chicks were one of the best looking he had seen in Europe. Me, I still like the chicks in Paris – elegantly dressed, understated beauties. But the men in Porto…*whistle*! They were hot! Well buffed up! I wish I had taken some photos, but we were sat quite close to some of them in the cafes so I couldn’t possibly have taken shots without getting caught in action! So, you’ll have to take my word for it until you see them for yourselves, ladies. (and some men!)
So, how would I sum up Porto? Great weather, good sights (landscape and lads), but lousy food! I’d say Porto is a bit like Venice, in the sense that there aren’t many specific tourist sites to see. The best way to see it is to just wander around, explore it in your own time and you are bound to find hidden gems tucked away in a corner you least expect.
Note: I still haven’t worked out the best way to display my photos on WordPress, so please head to my flickr account (click on flickr) for more photos of Porto. Thanks for viewing them.