The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” exists for a reason. Our time in Portugal flew by so fast that I am just now sitting here in Barcelona writing and reminiscing about how magical Porto was. We had 23 days total in Portugal and finally found a much need ‘groove’ after bouncing around so much in South Africa. Let it be known that it is harder than anticipated to balance exploring a new city, working, sticking to a budget, exercise… oh and blogging.
We had decided on Porto as a home base after a lot of research that positioned it as a blue-collar city where the people are friendly, hard working and very proud of their city. A city with more grit than its shinier cousin, Lisbon, with an up and coming food scene that rivals it. Our AirBnB was actually across the river from Porto in a charming fishing village called Villa Nova de Gaia. We chose Gaia for a few reasons: a little cheaper, some of the best fresh seafood in Porto, and it was on the marina with great sunset views. Technically we were in Gaia’s quaint neighborhood of Afurada which was the kind of place where it was clear everyone knew everyone and there was a tangible pride and local culture. Since I somehow don’t have a picture, close your eyes and imagine:
…small narrow stone streets lined with modest yet beautifully tiled buildings, family run cafes every few feet, sweet grandmas with calf length skirts, tall wool socks and slippers ironing on the sidewalk, FC Porto flags and scarves hanging from the windows, stray cats sunbathing and lurking at every corner, kids playing and riding their bikes, old men smoking and yelling at the fútbol game on tv, drying laundry ruffling on the balconies bringing a clean scent to the air, and fresh fish continuously grilling on every corner.
Okay now open your eyes. Wasn’t it beautiful?
Let’s dive right into our highlight reel. Here are our favorite moments from our time in Portugal, in no particular order.
- Renting bikes for 3 weeks for $200 euro total. This not only made our commute much faster and cheaper but was passive exercise and allowed us to experience the city on a street level. Oh and the view along the boardwalk…. sigh
- Adam’s co-working space Porto i/o. Super friendly community, a stellar view, affordable, and good coffee.
- Adam’s fun and cheap lunches with co-workers
- Shopping at the neighborhood market than having a sunset picnic of cured meat, fresh bread, passion fruit, local cheese, and local wine. Oh and then a cute dog joined.
- Finding our way to Cervejaria Gazela, a local spot Anthony Bourdain visited on his trip to Porto. The food: cachorrinhos (cheese, hotdog-like meat, special sauce, and bread all panini’ed pressed to perfection. The drink: cold, ‘pressured’ (on tap) Superbock. We also met a friend here, Pedro, that I’m sure helped us because we looked lost. Pedro ordered for us, found us seats and promised to take us to explore “real” Porto… see #13
- A traditional Fado three-course dinner arranged by our AirBnB host. Fado happens during dinner when someone powerfully signs a stream of melancholy songs with a small group of musicians.
- Biking home from Matosinhos and discovering a truly perfect outdoor Hawaiian themed restaurant with lounge chairs on a platform right off the sand, with a view of the ocean and a bottle of vinho verde for $9 euro (young sparkling white wine). We had two and smuggled ½ of the second home 🙂
- A day cruise up the Douro River and train ride back
- A visit and tasting to the port winery Real Companhia Velha. We paid more for the tour and tasting than we typically would have, but it was well worth it with a private tour of the cellars, bonus tastings from our guide and a delicious cheese, olive, and nut board. We LOVED this.
- A weekend trip to Lisbon where we rented a car and drove down the coast
- Stopping in Nazare on the way to Lisbon to video my stepdad Art from the biggest wave in the world. The surf was choppy and kind of flat this particular day but still very cool and a perfectly cute town (so cute we stopped on our way back to Porto for lunch)
- A day trip to Braga with friends from the co-working space. One friend drove us all to this **MAGICAL** area by the river with volleyball courts, a bar, architectural relics, a beautiful bridge, and people enjoying every bit of it. This might have been one of our favorite days.
- Going out on the town with our friend Pedro and his buddy. They took us to an area with no tourists and we had a ball of a time until about 3am when we just got too tired for any more fun : )
- Watching a huge street racing event, cars were getting major air and the crowd (the entire city) was going wild
- Eating at Ramiro in Lisbon. We were (literally) crushing crab with hammers and eating WAY too much because it was. that. good. The entertainment of the servers reaching in a tank for lobsters was quite a sight too.
- Going to the Palace of Sintra and walking all around the city. We had some marvellous tapas and sangria at Tascantinga and got our vertical steps in for the day.
- Eating at Casa Guedes: where we randomly discovered while waiting for an uber what we believe to be the best pernil sandwich in all of Porto. Freshly carved marinated pork, local sheep’s cheese, wheat bun and a guy slapping them together barehanded and focused. About as local as it gets
- Adam’s euro haircut and fresh shave at Barbas Shop.
- Dancing the night away with Dutch friends we met in Lisbon
- Spending Adam’s 34th birthday in Porto! Pre-dinner cocktails sponsored by Matt and Julie Yung and a delicious dinner at Ar de Rio.
- Working at my comfy coffee shop for the bulk of my work days, 7groasters
- Traditional Portuguese food: fresh fish always grilled right outside, potatoes, onion + tomato + olive + lettuce salad, rice, a bottle of wine. Our favorite was right by our AirBnb called Armazem do Peixe.
- Pastel de nata! Heavenly Portuguese pastry
- Early morning sand volleyball workout and espressos on the beach
- Riding the boat taxi for $2 euro, $3 with your bike