23 August 2014
I woke up at 8:15am and had breakfast provided by the hostel. I walked to the meeting place for the free walking tour at Praça de Gomes Teixeira by the Fonte dos Leões (Fountain of Lions). Our guide was Eugenia of Porto Free Walking Tour. The tour itself is free and at the end you can leave the guide a tip according to what you think the tour experience was worth. They have great reviews on TripAdvisor so I e-mailed them the day before to confirm my spot on one of their daily English tours starting at 9:30am.
My tour group consisted of a couple from the United States, a couple from Spain, a couple from Scotland, and a couple from Australia. There was one other couple that didn’t show up.But basically our group was our guide, four couples, and me, lol. :|
One of our first stops was a commercial strip/plaza called Passeio dos Clérigos near the Torre dos Clérigos (Clergy Tower). Very interestingly, the Jardim das Oliveiras (Olive Tree Garden), was placed right on top of the commercial buildings. I had walked past this area the day before but didn’t really appreciate its aesthetic or the history behind the old olive trees being planted there. There were a number of people taking naps in this park – perfect place to re-energize in the middle of the city before wandering all over again.
My absolutely favourite thing about Porto is the Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world (third, according to Lonely Planet). It’s absolutely breathtaking. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside (unfortunately it looks like they get more tourists than book-buyers crowding up the space in their store), but you can view a few here and here. The staircase in this bookstore is allegedly also the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s staircases in Hogwarts. Additionally, the students’ uniforms from the University of Porto, consisting of black capes, also provided the inspiration for the Hogwarts student uniforms. But because it was summertime, I didn’t see any of these caped students around the university or rest of the city.
We had a lot of other stops, making the tour last a good 3.5 hours. We also learned a lot about the history of Portugal and specifically Porto’s role and relationship to the rest of the country.
We walked on top of one of the bridges linking Porto to Gaia.
The São Bento railway station is beautiful.
We also visited the former-Café-Imperial-turned McDonald’s (The Imperial McDonald’s, I guess?), which is definitely the most high-end McDonald’s restaurant I’ve ever been to, with stained glass windows, chandeliers and all. Basically this once famous and treasured coffee house was going out of business and ended up being bought by McDonald’s, which kept a lot of the building’s beautiful features.
We also went inside the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral), which I took pictures in front of the other day. There was a baptism just finishing up at the time. We finished in the riverfront Ribeira district. Here are some pictures I took throughout the tour. Can you spot the hanging wood? Spoiler alert: I mean penis.
It was definitely lunch time after the tour. On the tour, we learned that people from Porto are nicknamed “tripe-eaters” because the city had provided the Portuguese fleet with meat by choosing to live off of tripe soup instead. It’s a source of pride in this city!
I’m really not a fan of tripe but decided I needed to try it here anyway. Like the francesinha I had yesterday, tripe is a specialty of this city. So, I ordered a sangria and tripas á moda (white beans cooked with meat and tripe and rice).
I have quickly learned that meals in the city are just really heavy. This took me a long time to try and finish! I actually really enjoyed the stew and rice and basically everything but the tripe itself, haha. I had all of the smaller pieces but ended up leaving most of the larger chunks.
After lunch, I backtracked and went up the Torre dos Clérigos (Clergy Tower) to check out the view. It costs €1.
I then decided to head back to the hostel to work for the rest of the afternoon. I was in the kitchen to work where other guests mostly kept to themselves or just said hi. This was by far the quietest hostel I had ever been to, so I actually felt less awful for just having to work, and quite peacefully and productively, too!
I went out again for dinner and stumbled on a restaurant called Casa de Pasto Ribatejo Restaurante. It was definitely fancier-looking than what had been my usual food fare the past week and had a TripAdvisor certificate on its window. I’d have to look it up later. I decided to go here for my last night in Portugal.
I think it was around 7pm so it wasn’t very busy yet. There were two other tables; one was English-speaking and the other, French-speaking. The server went from table to table to kitchen transitioning from English to French to Portuguese and back again with incredible ease. I was super impressed.
I had white Porto wine and ordered the old fashioned duck rice with cheese as my main. The wine was actually a little stronger than I had anticipated, haha. I absolutely LOVED this Portuguese duck rice and completely cleaned it up. I was stuffed but really wanted to have dessert and got the miminhos (almond and cooked pumpkin pulp cakes). I’m not normally a fan of flaky-type pastries, but this was delicious and light – perfect to end the evening! :)
This was definitely a great find! My last meal in Porto definitely left a good taste in my mouth :P
My last day in Portugal ended up being a great balance between work and play. It sucked to have to work since it also meant I didn’t even try to get to know my dorm mates or check out the port wine cellars, photography museum, and any nightlife (both Rita and Arnao had told me nightlife was supposed to be really exciting in Porto); otherwise it seemed like two days would have been a perfect length of stay here. There are tons of other things to see and do listed over the Wikitravel page for Porto. I feel like Porto is increasingly a layover city so maybe I’ll get to do all those things the next time I find myself in Europe and staying here. :)
In the meantime, I had a little bit more MRP work to do and would have to prepare for my flight the next day to Valencia, Spain! Goodbye and obrigado, Portugal! :D