After a refreshing pause in Madrid for a night in a wonderful luxurious hotel (from points of course), I got my shuttle to the airport for my morning flight to Porto, Portugal. The flight was easy and quick, and after landing, I headed outside to a tram stop that took you directly into the city. I found my way to the hostel, and checked in. George, the guy working the front desk, was one of the most pleasant, genuine workers I’ve encountered through my various stays at hotels and hostels during my journey. He even made a point remembering my name throughout the time of my stay. Since I was early, I simply left my stuff and headed out to a sandwich shop I’d found on a tourist map that was notated as ‘the best sandwich in Porto’.
Winding through the cobbled streets of Porto, the colorful buildings created tall walls for which only small roads were able to creep through. All roads leading to the water were down hill, so the entire town is on a slant. It gave a feel of San Francisco, with all the colors, architecture, cafes, and cool fresh breeze despite the warm sun. (OK, so SF only gets warm sun maybe 4 days a year).
I found my way to the tiny hole in the wall shop that had this cute hipster girl in the kitchen getting the prep ready for the day. She spoke English and when I saw the menu, I started to Salivate. Chicken sandwich with greens goat cheese and apple? SOLD. I was excited for what this sandwich sounded like.
After listening to a great soundtrack played by the girl, I sat watching out the front door and charging my phone. There was a breeze that came in and made such a comfortable atmosphere, completely uninterrupted by nasty smoke, loud noises, hoards of tourists or anything. What a little old man I’ve become. I really do enjoy the peace and quiet to soak up the beauty of the new surroundings.
That afternoon, I found that there was a free walking tour, so I got my stuff ready to go on this after checking into the hostel completely. I got my backpack sorted and my camera out and waited to join the 2pm tour of Porto led by Pedro. Of course.
Pedro took us around a lot of the sites inside the city, but also sites on the perimeter of the city that we may not necessarily visit. My favorite stop was the famous bookstore, noted as the 2nd most beautiful bookstore in the world, which was also the inspiration of the Harry Potter books, as JK Rowling spent a lot of time in Porto. The wooden inside with stained glass window above was gorgeous, and the books lining the shelves offsetting the wooden interior brought speckles of color through an otherwise dark dreary, yet beautiful curved and flowing lines of the stairs and railings. The only unfortunate thing is they were strict about not allowing photographs, which was a bit annoying, but I guess kept the flow of people moving some how–or so they think.
We continued a long walk around the various buildings throughout the city, and ended our tour at an overlook over the river. I’d met an Australian girl on the tour, and at the end, told her I was going to eat dinner at the river if she wanted to join. It seemed like she was questioning a little bit in the beginning, saying their was a BBQ at the hostel that she was thinking to go to, and when I encouraged her to go to that, she seemed to be more interested in just going ahead and eating. So we made our way down to the water to a place called Fish Pixe, and ordered a good meal. During our conversation, I knew she was young, but it wasn’t until towards the end when she said she was just 19, and I for the first time felt like a creepy old man with this young chick. I was quite impressed with her trip that she’s doing mostly alone, and around the world by herself seems quite a journey for someone so young. But it reminded me too, that we are a select few in this world that not only have journeyed to far off places, but also followed through with something that we sought to do. Many people talk or yearn to do this, but come up with every reason ‘not’ to follow through with the dream. I know even more now that ‘planning’ and ‘forward thinking’ are devils in my mind, but are the same devils that are responsible for propelling me forward, pushing me and rewarding me with results that far outweigh the anxiety or analysis that came along with it. I also realized even more that it is an asset that I shouldn’t be ashamed of, an asset that landed me ‘Most Dependable’ in high school, and in this ‘laid back’ society, I should be unapologetic of this trait, as there’s no ill intent.
The next morning, I did another walking tour, this time with Miguel (of course). This time we went to the more sites inside the city walls, and enjoyed talks of history and stories about Porto. After this, I went to a lunch at a place called Tapabento, and the server was so excited/nervous to speak in English, it was very endearing. I had a great lunch, with a filet of steak on some of the most delicious mashed potatoes I’ve ever had.
I then stopped by the train station to sort out my train to Lisbon for the next day. and enjoyed more wandering around the city at night. I found a great little tavern for dinner, and had a nice dinner late, and took a scenic route home, enjoying the night air.
The next morning, I was downstairs in the common area after checkout and started talking with a couple of Australians and George about various issues that were going on, including Gaza, the shoot down of the plane, and the US gun laws and how in awe everyone is about how ridiculous our law is to allow just anyone to buy a gun. It’s funny that every other industrialized nation can’t fathom this ‘right’, and it’s a right that definitely won’t be going away anytime soon, no matter how many people are affected negatively from it.