15 Apr Miraculous Porto, part II
Well hello there for all, that were patient enough to wait till my second part. This time I will share about what I’ve done, seen and experienced in the first half of my journey in Porto. If you missed the first part, find it HERE.
Let me start from my long-awaited city visiting on the first day. Why “long awaited”? Because I knew I will have a chance to have a meal. And I like to eat. Despite me being hungry, it took a lot of time and desicions to find a place for my first lunch here and turned out to be more difficult than you would ever expect while being hungry. It seemed like “Wow, it’s THE place, there are some interesting, tasty meals in the menu, location is perfect, free tables, but.. maybe I will just quickly check another restaurant over there. Just to be sure. And if it’s worse I am coming back here immediately, at the same minute, I am sure.”. And just guess next to how many restaurants I told those words? I have no idea, but it took me to stroll over half of Vila Nova de Gaia until I gave up. And where did I end my epopee? In a small cafe just next to Duero river, that separate Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia. Sights were wonderful, prices not bad, but ordered food – disappointing. Steak with potatoes (which sounded promising) tasted like a rubber and spoiled name of all proper steaks. What’s worth mentioning here is that portugese put scrambled egg on everything. Yes, also on the steak. But wait, there is even more to this story. There was a waiter, that kindly asked me if dish was tasty, if I need an extra salt, or maybe sugar, or maybe tea, would I like a dessert and if nothing is missing. Meanwhile my companion was sitting there with his half of the table empty waiting for his orders. For some reason waiter didn’t see him. Maybe he was sitting in the Porto triangle (something like a Bermuda triangle looking from some angles), so noone except me could see him? I will never know, but we got our meal and drinks at the end and I could keep functioning while sightseeing. Maybe it is just our experience with poor food, but I am talking about cafe, that was on the first corner down the hill when leaving Dom Luis I bridge behind (I don’t know the name). Let it be a little review.
Cozy even though b&w
Since I was in the center, I couldn’t miss visiting a local celebrity – Dom Luis I bridge (Ponte Luis I). This object was inviting us from far away. “Bridge, pfff” – you say, “Double deck” – I answer and you get crazy. This is something special, isn’t it? The first floor is mostly occupied by cars and busses, there is also a pedestrian path, second floor is occupied mostly by tourists and a metro tram, that passes by from time to time, wind plays in hair and blows away people, that weight the least (so be sure to have some extra objects to carry with you there if you are not sure about your weight). 😀 You can see main streets, walking ants above and farthest horizons of Duero river. Bridge separates Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia, so you can notice some contrast between cities as well, from the other side of the bridge – his opponent is clearly seen- Ponte Dona Maria, that was designed by Gustav Eiffel (yes, this Eiffel). Only one kilometer devides rivals, so they are commonly confused. To be clear, the fundamental difference her is – Ponte Dona Maria has one deck and almost no tourists on it *abandoned and sad*
Such a typical view, remarkable Dom Luis I bridge in the background
I MUST mention the well-known Lello & Irmão bookstore. It was selected as the third most beautiful bookstore in the world. Facade of the bookstore is made in neo-gothic style and some magic atmosphere takes your whole attention after you made the first step inside. Place reminds of Harry Potter movies and this is not a coincidence. J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter series, lived in Porto for 10 years in 1990s. Lello & Irmão was one of those places she visited often and spended quite a lot of time reading and drinking coffee on the second floor of the store. It is told, that this place inspired author while creating series. It is also believed that the Hogwarts’ costume was inspired by the costumes of college students in Portugal, so Porto plays quite a role in this epic (already) book series.
Due to a huge interest in a bookstore, entrance is not free anymore (3 euros). Anyway, you can exchange your ticket into a 3 euro discount if buying a book (more tickets – bigger discount), so if you are planning to buy a book, you don’t loose anything. A lot of tourists visit the place just to see the inside, so you can constantly hear clicks of cameras, people are moving and it is almost impossible to take a good picture in a rush hour. One time there is someone’s head in the picture, another time someone climbs down or up the stairs, pushes you and makes it almost impossible to take a proper photo with no open mouth of a stranger.
Enchantment of a bookstore and strangers with no open mouths, thankfully
One more thing that took my attention were walls of random buildings. Some of them are covered in from few to few hundread thousand of tiles. Building tiles are the real portugese herritage, so you can always find people, selling only a few of them in the small markets- this is how sure they are about lasting value of the tiles. You will find many walls covered in them, but the most popular place to take a look is a Porto train station. Vestibule is decorated with about 20,000 tiles, that show extracts form history of Portugal, some landscapes and atnographic scenes.
Not the station, but not bad
Porto is a hilly place, so my suggestion here – comfortable shoes. Downgrades and uphills all over the place, houses inclined dangerously, some streets are stony, stones are slippery (so you risk to break your legs, teeth, arms and nose with slingbacks or sandal shoes, that have slippery sole); I can’t even remember if I saw someone riding a bicycle in the city center. Also – wind. A lot of wind. Wind tousles unknotted hair like crazy, so you risk to eat half of them by accident. If heat made you take your sweater off, wind will make you take it on again in a few minutes (that’s what I was doing – taking my jacket on and off every few minutes). So you need a sweater there. Don’t forget about it. That’s the essence of surviving.
That’s it for this part. In the next, and at the same time the last one, I will systemize what else is worth knowing, tell more about days when I rode a bike, visited an ocean. I’ll share what’s worth doing while next to the Atlantic and where we found a place that gave us this
Don’t miss it!