Thursday, 31 October 2013

Porto, Portugal: A Short Visit to Portugal

After an amazing weekend with Olalla and a 2 hour bus ride I was in Porto, the 2nd largest city in Portugal. Porto is probably most famous for Port wine, although Nandos and Oporto chicken restaurants would be up there. I decided to head straight to a cafe/bar to enjoy a coffee and use WiFi to find a hostel for the night. I walked up to the counter and that's when I realised I didn't know how to speak Portuguese. Do I speak Spanish, feeling like a douche bag using a language that belongs to neither of us, knowing it is similar, order in English, or point? I didn't even know please or thank you in this language. That is poor form for someone that claims to be a traveller. As it turns out, to my surprise, the Portuguese speak really good English.

I found the address of a hostel and booked in person before meeting up with Taylor, an American girl temporarily living in Porto to improve her Portuguese. She took me on a quick tour of the city, a restaurant for dinner then a Moroccan bar for a couple of drinks. I was buggered so I called it an early night.

The next day I joined my first ever official tour. In many large cities you can find "free" tours, at the end you tip what you want (5 Euro is the norm). The group composed of a Korean girl, 8 Frenchies and I. It lasted about 2 hours and was very informative. The most intriguing thing learnt was Pedro, the first king of Brazil returned to Portugal to defeat his brother with the support of the Portuguese. After winning he said his heart will always remain in Portugal. When he died in Brazil years later that is exactly what happened. His heart was cut out and sent to Porto, where it still remains in a church, with his body still in Brazil... Overall it was a good and very informative tour but probably my first and last official tour. A personal tour from a local is not as informative but much more fun.

After the tour I enjoy a Francesinha (Little Frenchie), an enormous toasted sandwich that Porto is famous for. It contains thick slices steak, ham and chorizo on two pieces of toast with the entire thing coated in a layer of cheese and topped with an awesome sauce... a must have for a visit to Porto!

That night I ended up drinking with a couple from Lisbon before joining a pub crawl that passed through one of the bars. So many French in Porto. The night involved drinking, speaking Frenglish and a lot of dancing with French girls.

The next day I woke up feeling bit dusty. Over breakfast I had to make the decision of booking one more night, heading south to Lisbon or east to Salamanca to make better use of my Spanish. After few texts it was north back to Vigo to visit Olalla... I was expecting to see her again when I left but I thought I would last longer then 2 days!

Lessons Learnt:
Meeting locals that you want to meet is surprisingly harder in larger cities.
Study a few basic words and sentences before visiting any country.
Be willing to completely change your plans to visit someone or do something you want.
Portuguese people speak much better English than French and Spanish people.

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