Waking up to hear the birds chirping and a slight drizzle, I slowly opened my eyes and was reminded I was in Porto, Portugal. We made the long journey the day before from Lisbon to Sintra, where we explored palaces, fortresses and hidden wells then back to Lisbon to Porto, our new destination. Now we were in a new unexplored territory, ready to see it in the daylight.
As we woke up and made some espresso shots, we were excited to set out and explore. Outside our window music had drawn our attention. As I sat on the windowsill, I listened closely to Portuguese Christmas music. I sipped my coffee and was serenaded by the music below. It was a special way to start off the day and as we finished getting ready, we headed down to the streets below. There they were, a group of students who looked like they were in middle school singing! They had a large group surrounding them and they were caroling away between Portugese and English. We slowed our stroll but continued to moved forward to see the sites of Porto. The first stop was Sao Bento Station. As we walked inside we were mystified by the azeulejo tiles surrounding the halls of the railway station. They were large paintings of historical events of Portuguese history. The artist, Jorge Colaço placed the first tiles on August 13, 1905 and it took him 11 years to finish the large and elaborate tile work. He finished with approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles surrounding the vestibule. As you look from a far then walk closer to each and every tile laid, you understand the craft and care he put into each and every one.
The next destination I was exceptionally excited for was the Livraria Lello, a bookstore that is widely known all over the world. It is said that JK Rowlings found inspiration writing her Harry Potter series when she frequently visited it while she was in Porto teaching English. The library itself is filled with magic and wonder. All around you see books stacked high with ladders to reach the books above. The signature statement of this library is the staircase. As I walked up it was confusing and brilliant at the same time. While I was there, I had to get mini books of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Pinocchio to take home. It is a gift to myself and my sister, that I look forward to sharing with my children and pass it down to them to share a little adventure I had many years ago.
From the library, we could see a spectacular large azulejo-covered church. As we got closer it was exquisite, done in 1912 by artist Silvestro Silvestri. He painted scenes of the founding of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel. Then we found out that it was not just one church but two next to each other only a hair separating each one. The church with the mural is the monks of Igreja do Carmo, while 1 meter over is the church of the nuns, the Igrejd dos Carmelitas. Fascinating that without knowing, they look as though it is completely one as a union with no separation. We headed to get a light bite and a little more coffee to get a bit of energy to carry out our day.
We stopped at our little apartment and dropped off the books and decided to head down to see the river. As we made our way down, we stopped at an adorable chocolate truffle store. They had an assortment of all types of rich chocolate truffles, my kind of place! I absolutely love chocolate. My eyes grew big with a vast option, I start making my choices two raspberry chocolates, two orange chocolates, and two coconut chocolates. I let Kevin choose the next few which he went for a rum chocolate and a surprise chocolate. It was fun walking down the hill and tasting each one guessing its flavor. As we saw little peeks of the water below I was getting more excited with each step forward.
We made it to the Douro River. It was astonishing seeing the color pop from the buildings even though it was a gray day. There were river boats headed back and forth, a gondola bringing people from one end to the other, and the large stunning bridge. As we walked along the side of the river, surrounded by the beauty of Porto, we decided to stop and enjoy a glass of red wine and a Portuguese beer. We sat at Cafe do Cais looking out to the river, we took in the moment being in such a lovely place. We finished our drinks and moved on to take a closer look at the bridge. Looking up at the bridge it was amazing how large the structure actually was. The first level, cars and pedestrians went across and then way above the trams and pedestrians crossed. As the sun was setting, and the evening was coming we walked back to our apartment stopping to get some bottles of wine. I was ready for a delicious meal which we missed out on the previous night. As we walked up the mountainous hill to the historic part of Porto, we passed a fountain that was overfilling with bubbles. It looked like someone poured detergent into the fountain and it was a huge foam party. Children were having a blast with huge bubbles and foam all around. It was entertaining to watch.
We went to All in Porto and we had the best dinner I have ever had. The restaurant had tables that were covered with napkin notes from people all over the world. It was fun to see where people were visiting from. We started with a bottle of red Portuguese wine and regional pressed olive oil and fresh bread. We ordered the best charcuterie plate in the world. It was filled with 7 types of cheeses ranging from hard and sharp to creamy and stinky. It was served with salami, pepperoni and prosciutto with a side of jelly and assorted olives sprinkled with blueberries and raspberries throughout. We were getting filled with cheese and bread that we decided to share an entree. We had the most tender veal short ribs with potatoes and green beans. The gravy they served beside it just made everything melt together. It was a memorable dinner that I will never forget, Kevin and. Between the food, the atmosphere and the company I was in heaven.
We got back to the apartment and decided to go out and check out the city’s nightlife. With no real direction, we went to the main plaza and checked out the lit up tree and Porto sign. As we walked around, I was astonished there was a gentleman in his art gallery. He was painting a gorgeous masterpiece, doing little touches with care and precision. It was one of those moments where you could pull up a chair and watch him. However we were on a mission to find some fun in Porto. We walked in a direction we thought would have a little night life. It was still a little early for Europeans going out to the clubs so we thought we would check out a bar that seemed crowded. We walked in to an atmosphere that was energetic and lively. That night was karaoke night for the locals. Everyone was with their group of friends purchasing beer towers. Kevin and I got two beers and went to a table to enjoy the music around us. They were singing Portuguese karaoke, it was amazing to watch people around the bar jamming out, singing along. After an hour of enjoying the people and the songs, we had no idea what they were saying, they sang one song in English which I naturally knew. I sang along and knew that was the only song they dedicated to sing in English. We finished up our second round and went to explore. We stumbled upon a street that was alive with people. We found the nightlife! People were outside and inside clubs, and we had quite the selection. I heard my favorite song, and dragged Kevin along with me. We went inside and I immediately started dancing along with “This Girl” by Kungs & Cookin’ on 3 Burners. Then “I Follow Rivers” by Lykke Li came on and I knew I was in the right place. We were having fun swaying with the music and watching the people around us. After a drink we decided to check out another bar next door. They were playing music from the 80’s such as “Wake Me Up before You Go-Go” and “I wanna dance with somebody.” We were having a ball, dancing and singing along. The whole crowd was rocking out and so were we. After a great night we called it for the evening. As we were walking back to get some Gyros we passed a sign, “I’ve never made friends drinking milk”. We had a great laugh and laughed our ways all the way to some food. We both got gyros which is my favorite late night snack. It was great until I put the same hot sauce as Kevin and died. It was so extreme with the heat I immediately started hiccuping. I definitely got all the workers at the gyro restaurant laughing. Which I could not help to laugh along too. Once we got back to the apartment we looked forward to what another day in Porto would bring us!
“Feliz Navidad” – Students singing
Laughing next to a guy who wished no one would walk through his photos – it was inevitable!
Live Well and Run Xox