As I mentioned in my previous post about Lisbon and Coimbra, one of the great things about visiting Portugal is how you can see a lot of it in a short time frame due to its size. Travelling from Coimbra up to Porto was a matter of around 13 Euros and another couple of hours on the train.
We arrived on Christmas Eve to more great weather. Porto has a metro network making it very easy to get around. After checking in to our AirBnB, we figured we’d go and source a couple of vital supplies for our intended Christmas day beach trip.
Welcome to Portugal, where you can buy red wine in a milk container for less than a Euro. There is, of course, the option of getting it in a small juice carton for when you’re on the go.
Figuring everything would be closed on Christmas, we failed to do our research again and set out on Christmas Eve to find some nightlife and were disappointed yet again. You know the town’s dead when the local strip joint is closed.
Never to worry! Good thing a taxi costs pocket change around here.
Porto is known for being sided by a couple of nice beaches. Our plan all along was to spend Christmas day on the beach, a statement against the snow and sleet that hammers the rest of Europe around this time of year.
What none of us expected, however, was to be the only ones with this idea. I put it down to the locals being somewhat acclimatised in the sense that they must have considered 17 degrees without a cloud somewhat cold. The looks we, lounging on the beach in shorts, got from locals strolling along the road in winter jackets were somewhat amusing.
Oh, yea… the Portuguese aren’t the tallest people in Europe. See below for a photo of me sliding the key into a classic Portuguese door lock.
The centre of Porto, much like the rest of the country, has a very Roman feel to it.
We stopped in at a pretty famous local joint, aptly named the Majestic Cafe. There was a line outside and I think if we had ordered anything more than espressos and the renowned custard tarts (Pasteis De Nata) we may have required a loan.
Oh, these tarts by the way. Wowa wee wa. So good. They love their baking in this country, but they also have a thing with serving a lot of it cold which I found a bit strange. Rob asked them to heat up a meat roll once and was refused. Yet to figure that one out.
Now, it would be a cardinal sin to visit Porto and not check out the Port cellars and do some tasting, so that’s exactly what we did. In the photo below you see a lot of the cellars where you can do the tasting. Port is actually made in the Douro Valley but the cellars of the different companies are centred across the river in Porto.
Maarten trying to recreate the Beatle’s Abbey Road shot in Portugal.
During the busy time of the year you might have to book some of the tours around the cellars, but we just strolled in. Exploring the area is fun too, all the winding little roads and paths with shops and cellars hidden down them makes for a good way to pass an afternoon or evening. You can usually try around 3 different types of Port for around €5.
We went and hit up Croft, a reputed brand, for a bit of a tasting and also a tour. For around 10 Euros, we got to try 3 types of Port (which were sensational) and they also take you on a tour of the place and explain the differences between Port and Wine, what it means to have a vintage Port, and so on.
We figured it’d be rude to not try an aged vintages Port while we were there. Not sure I’d do that regularly though. I like it, but I don’t see myself becoming a connoisseur any time soon..
After spending the afternoon being upper class Port Wankers, there was one more crucial item to be ticked off the list. This delectable goodness pictured below is called Francesinha. It’s technically a sandwich, but is so much more than that.
It’s bread, with ham, one or two types of sausage, and steak, covered and enclosed with melted cheese and served with egg and chips in a special sauce. This has got to be one of the best ways to increase your chances of a heart attack. Awwww yes.
On the way back to Lisbon to catch our flight, we stopped in at a place named Aveiro for one night just to check out a town that’s off the beaten path. A cool place, and a lot flatter. We cycled around (they give you free bikes from this exchange place, cool) the whole town in about an hour, so it’s not very big!
Portugal is a place I’d definitely recommend to anyone wanting a cost effective visit in southern Europe. The people are friendly, and there is a lot to see and do without feeling the pressure of a big city. We were in Portugal for 9 days and felt pretty content with what we saw and did, but still did a lot of chilling out without running around. I’ll be back!
Thanks for reading!