Anyways, I’ll try to catch up on everything we’ve done this past week and then some. Where I left off was the festival of Sao Joao in Figuerio. Let’s just say that we were a little to hyped up for the festivities of that small town. We should’ve known better. Around 11:30pm we walked into town and we could hear the stage music as we were approaching. There was an extremely loud Portuguese DJ rapping and the whole town out watching him. The best way to describe the whole situation in Scott’s words, “weird vibes.” Everyone was just standing, not dancing, and watching the stage. Weird for a concert. So we tried to watch for a bit, but decided our time was better spent eating a kebab with unknown delicious toppings, to head home and get a churro. Scott had already purchased a churro from this stand three times, so the girl behind the counter laughed as he came up for a fourth.
The next day we took a charter bus back into Porto. Winding roads, erratic bus driving, and odd smells made it seem especially long, but we were excited to get back to a big city. We were also arriving for the last day of Sao Joao and this was supposed to be the actual big celebration. As we hopped off the bus and headed to our Air bnb it seemed that everyone was out on the streets. Something we learned about the festival is everyone is supposed to get a plastic hammer and hit people on the head as they walk by. I have yet to find the significance of it, but you best believe we got hammers and played along.
After we dropped our stuff we headed to the part of town that our Portuguese friend suggested for the evening. A small neighborhood called Ribeira hosted most of the drinking, eating, and overall celebrating. Large tables were laid out with families eating sardines, bread, and other delicacies. Beer and wine booths were everywhere and all the bars were serving right out the front door. It was loud. There were several stages blasting music and it seemed like everyone was moving in every direction. We grabbed a drink and headed toward the water because at midnight that’s where the fireworks were supposed to take off. We made sure to arrive early to get a good view of the water and while we waited we had the entertainment of groups of men singing top hits and people successfully and unsuccessfully lighting lanterns into the sky. There was a point where we even saw a man climb a tree to free a lantern that had gotten stuck (also a fire hazard). The sights over the water were amazing, hundreds of lanterns lit up in the sky, the bridge and other monuments lit up, and tons of people “oohing and ahhing” at the fireworks. It was a pretty cool experience to be a part of, but we have to say that America does fireworks better.
Our Air bnb in Porto was on the other side of the water from the main downtown, but we had the most beautiful view of Porto, the bridges, and the river from our bedroom. Our hosts were incredibly quiet and very nice. We had easy access to pretty much anything and the public transport was convenient from their apartment.
The next few days of our experience in Porto consisted of a lot of walking around, eating, and getting some brief sight seeing in. Our friend from the Camino, Luis, wanted to meet up with us the day after the festival for a beer. He showed us the town center, a famous train station, and we got to catch up a bit and hear about the end of his Camino. It was SO nice to see him. He told us that the Norte was by far the hardest Camino he had done (he has done several) so that made us feel better about ourselves. We got some great suggestions from him and he even left us with a small parting gift of little handmade figurines his friend makes. A very sweet gesture.
A small thing that we did that didn’t involve food was go to the famous book store in Porto called Lello Library. This bookstore is said to be the place where JK Rowling was inspired for Harry Potter and even wrote a bit of the books inside. It is obviously overrun by tourists now, you even have to get a ticket to go inside. But it was one of those things you had to see in Porto. We went quickly through the store, took in some of the beauty of the famous staircase and intricate architecture, but some of the experience was ruined by the 40 other people trying to take photos.
We had a lot of different experiences with food while in Porto. Overall, I would say that the food there is very good and well priced. A big mistake we made was eating at a sushi buffet. We got a lot of food, and it was alright, but I think we could’ve done better. It was a desperate time, we were hungry, and our craving of Asian food got the best of us. Let me just put this out there, in no place is it really a good idea to eat at a sushi buffet. Those two things just don’t go together.
There were a lot of pastas, frozen pizzas, yogurts, and baked goods we ate. We even ate some decent Indian food, snuck in a Mcdonald’s trip, and ate a really mushy hot dog. The dessert that was the best of the best for us though was called Nata de Pastel, or egg custard tarts. They are a well known dessert in Porto. We sampled them from grocery stores, bakeries, basically anywhere we could find them but then we found the best ones at a place called Manteigaria. A whole restaurant that specializes in these small tarts. They are flaky and buttery on the bottom with sweet, warm vanilla custard. To top of them off you had a sprinkle of cinnamon and you are in absolute heaven. We indulged in these everyday, multiple times a day.
Another thing that we tried that was known in Porto was Port wine. There are cellars that line both sides of the river, claiming best port wine in Porto. First off what makes a port wine (I wish I knew this before we went and tasted), it is made from grapes that are only in the Duoro Valley and there is alcohol mixed in to stop the fermentation. This puts it’s alcohol content at 16-22%. I went into the wine tasting excited. Being from the Willamette Valley, I love a good red or white wine from really any part of the valley. This was very different. It smelled like nail polish remover, and tasted like whiskey. Both of which I am NOT a fan off. Scott was indifferent about it, but I had much stronger negative feelings towards it. Definitely glad we got the experience, but not something I’ll be purchasing again.
The rest our time we spent walking over the bridge and catching pretty sunsets. It was relaxing and definitely my favorite European city thus far. Scott even said that it might be one of the most beautiful European cities he’s visited, which means a lot considering he’s spent a much more expansive time in Europe.
We had a quick stop in Vigo, Spain for an overnight and now we are about to get on a plane to Barcelona for a week. Very excited for some good tapas and nice beaches. Bring it on, European heat wave!
Best of Porto:
Dessert Place: Maneigaria
Grocery store: Pingo Doce
Cafe: Calma Cafe
Sunset spot: Luis Bridge
**** Quickly uploaded before our flight, will spell/grammar check after*****