22.09.2016 - 25.09.2016 25 °C
We woke up in our floral haven one last time on Thursday, finished off our cornflakes and set off for the train. Belinda and Pat headed to the city for some last minute sight seeing, and we stayed on the train, waving sadly to them as we continued on towards the airport. It was back to just the two of us... *sigh*
But not for long! We found Steph at the airport and caught up on news from Camperdown over weisswurst, bratwurst, pretzels and beer. There were even blokes standing around in cheap lederhosen, so it felt like our own mini-Oktoberfest. It was then time to farewell Bavaria, and say ola to Porto!
From the minute we landed, the Portuguese people set out to break the record for World's Most Friendly Country. We were handed a free map, and then the man at the ticket machine helped us buy a train ticket, find the train AND gave us a crash course in speaking Portuguese. We checked in to our respective apartments for the night (confusing both sets of hosts as to the planned sleeping arrangements) and then found somewhere for dinner. The waiter could not have been nicer - and the food was pretty gosh darned good too. Since we were in Porto, we felt it would be rude not to sample some port, and we discovered that the acceptable serving size was considerably larger than in Australia. Our week in Portugal was definitely off to a good start.
The next morning we checked in to our next apartment - an amazingly open-plan house that would have benefitted from fewer suspicious artworks and more 'you are here' maps. Alex, Gemma and Hermione arrived not long after us and they came armed with vinho verde which was apparently a Portuguese specialty. It was at that point that we discovered that our apartment was severely lacking in the corkscrew department, but it was nothing that a bit of googling and a wooden spoon couldn't fix.
We had toasted sandwiches for lunch - definitely a regular feature on the local menus, along with cheese and eggs. 'Finesse' beer was served in a champagne glass and cost one euro, which we loved - except that Simon was told he couldn't have one. Blatant sexism - apparently men have to drink a minimum of 330ml of beer in one sitting. Next we completed some rigorous quality control of sangria porto and sangria espumante (both highly satisfactory beverages, for the record) before purchasing some essentials at the fishy smelling supermarket on the way back to the apartment.
We headed to a highly recommended vego restaurant for dinner, only to discover that no reservation means no food. We were given vague directions to another restaurant with the caveat of "but you probably won't find it". That turned out to be true, and I still have my doubts about whether or not the restaurant even existed. So we embarked on a walking tour of the lesser known streets of Porto, eventually ending up at a burger bar that agreed to feed us.
It was a short walk home from there - but we had learned a valuable lesson about the need to plan ahead for our evening meals in Porto.
On Saturday we made our way into the parts of Porto more commonly frequented by tourists. Alex, Hermione and Gemma scoped out the Harry Potter bookstore while Steph, Simon and I bought train tickets at Sao Bento while admiring the tile work. We found an hipster spot for lunch, where the waiters wore overalls, transparent shirts and black eyes with effortless coolness. Simon had the francesinha - a multi-meat sandwich with truckloads of cheese and a weird beery sauce - because, well, SOMEONE had to try it. We strolled along the Douro River and enjoyed views of the Ponte de Dom Luis I, simultaneously enjoying the worst service possible from the cafe staff.
From 3pm, the true Porto experience began. We had booked ourselves on a port wine tour and it turned out to be an excellent decision. We crossed into Vila Nova de Gaia and toured a port museum and visited two other port cellars. We learned that Port technically has nothing to do with Porto, except for its consumption. We learned about the shocking and controversial marketing strategies employed by Ramos Pinto. We learned that there is such thing as rosé port, although we learned that we didn't like it all that much. From our fellow tourers, we learned that Switzerland is boring and Hong Kong is for single people, and that people from Cambridge really do talk like that. Maximum banter. We finished up in a professional tasting room where we swirled port and held port up to the light and generally acted like we knew what we were doing. Things got a little strange when the sommelier took a shine to Hermione, but it gave us plenty to laugh about as we drank our vintage port up at the rooftop bar, looking over the Porto area. Wonderful.
We headed home for some pre-dinner cheese, and then set off to our reserved table at "Em Carne Viva", an oddly named but highly recommended vegetarian/vegan restaurant. At this point, Porto decided to rain on our parade - quite literally - but we sang our way to the restaurant, inspired by the Evanescence album we'd heard blasting from a small green car earlier in the day. The restaurant let us in, even though we were soggy, and we had a meal that was posher AND cheaper than we would be able to have in our respective home countries. We had heated debates about the big issues in life (Crocs, mostly) and by the time we were ready to leave, the rain eased up - perfect timing. By the time we were less than a block away from the restaurant, the rain resumed with great enthusiasm. It did stop completely before we made it home, but that victory was very short-lived as we had a gutter overflow and dump its contents on us just as we had been about to celebrate the reduction in precipitation. Perfect timing.
The next morning we packed up our goods and chattels and took ourselves to Base - an outdoor bar that was perfect for enjoying the sunshine with some sangria espumante while having our suitcases scattered around us. We had a lovely little picnic - Simon even managed to convince everyone except Steph and I that the veggie mouse lollies were an acceptable foodstuff.
From there we went our separate ways - Alex, Hermione and Gemma headed to the airport, and Steph, Simon and I were on a train bound for Lisbon. Or so we hoped.