For some reason, Portugal was not on my radar until recently.
I went on a whirlwind weekend trip to Lisbon and central Portugal in 2007 and hadn’t been back since. I don’t know if the allure of more distant European countries was stronger or the fact that Portugal was on my back door, but for the 3+ years I lived in Spain, I never felt the urge to return there until recently.
For years, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Porto, northern Portugal’s pride and joy, but the fact that it was “so close yet so far” kept me from making the journey there until this September. Porto is not well connected to Spain with trains and buses, leaving you to stomach a Ryanair flight or rent a car. You all know my feelings on Ryanair, so when TBU announced Porto as it’s 2012 fall destination, I knew I was going to be hoofing it there the long, hard way, the most memorable moment being when I almost got detained on the Portugal-Spain border.
When I finally made it to Porto, I quickly fell head over heels in love with this quirky, old-world city. Porto is Europe 100 years ago, characterized by tall, colorful narrow buildings, ramshackled together topped with bright copper roofs and chipped shutters. Super hilly, you definitely can get a workout in wandering around the old town, exploring the tapered streets, following the trails of imaginative graffiti up winding stairs and generally trying to soak up the lively, vibrant atmosphere. Porto definitely embodies the tranquila mediterranean lifestyle I have come to love while the living in Spain.
In fact, I loved Porto so much, I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye so I stuck around for an extra day, hanging out in cafes, wandering around both sides of the river, and getting tipsy on free Port wine tours. Seriously, that stuff is deadly.
Porto is an amazing European destination, an engaging city with a lot do, drink and see, it should definitely be on anyone’s radar looking for a fun weekend getaway. Walking around town, you literally step back through the centuries, watching old-fashioned trolley cars trundle up the steep hills or sitting at cafes that haven’t changed in 150 years. The paint crumbles on the buildings and the cobblestones are treacherous, Porto is nothing if not authentic. It’s gritty and alive, I loved it, and I am sure you all would too.
I can’t wait to go back one day and continue unfolding the magical layers of Porto, Portugal.
Have you ever been? Would you go to Porto or Portugal if you had the chance?