Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Vacation Yet! (Part 1- Porto)

Cody and I had the most wonderful time hoping around Europe!

We started our trip in Porto, Portugal… 

What a gem! 

We spent our first day wandering around and trying the local cuisine. First on the menu was a Francesinha and local beer from a diner near our B&B. The name Francesinha is way prettier than the sandwich itself, but the layers of toasted bread, assorted meats, cheese, and beer sauce make for a dish unlike any I've ever tried. I'm actually shocked it wasn't invented in America! With advice from our endlessly-helpful host, we managed to see a ton of sights in our first afternoon, including the main square, the beautiful tile-filled train station, a few ornate large cathedrals, and even one church completely gilded in gold. We were constantly shocked by beautiful architecture and views around every turn. We made our way up and down the hills of the city until we made it to the Douro River; luckily, there was a wonderful wine bar and restaurant for us to rest our legs and fill our bellies. On our way home we stopped in a small bar to grab a drink and watch some soccer, only to join in with the four Irish cyclists at the next table for hours of drinks and food. Not only were they a ton of fun, but they wouldn't let us pay for barely a thing! We were so spoiled- and so drunk! I couldn't have planned a better first day if I tried!

The next day in Porto was a bit more relaxing, as our legs were sore from all the trekking around the city, and we were still hungover from our partying the night before. We managed to catch a bus to the Foz (the area where ocean meets river) and check out the beach before heading to the other side of the river for our tour of Graham's. The history of port wine is truly remarkable, and I felt privileged to see behind-the-scenes where the famous port is aged- not to mention the fact that we each tasted four ports and enjoyed the tour for a total of 15 euro! After checking out the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, and eating a surprisingly delicious Italian meal, we headed back into the city, only to crash before 7pm. Thats what we get for going non-stop the day before and staying out all night!

 We had one last day to see anything we had missed, and so we started our third day by searching out the Majestic Cafe- a beautiful place with a long history, including being one of the favorite writing places of J.K. Rowling. We may have walked in 4 circles to get there, but the delicious cappuccino and lovely setting truly was worth it. We decided to carry-on with our mini-Harry Potter-tour and visit a bookstore, Livario Lello, that supposedly inspired sections of the famous novels. Across from the bookstore is the famous Clerigos Tower, where for a small fee, you can take one hundred steps up for a never-ending view of Porto and beyond. Once we had been to the highest point in town (and tackled 200 steps on sore-legs) we went back to the river where we enjoyed a somewhat-boring boat tour; but at least we got off our feet! We struggled to find the perfect place to eat, as the restaurants along the river seemed to all be the same and cost a bit too much (which in this city, is still not very much at all) and so we pushed our hangry selves up the hills once again before landing at a small Cafeteria.  The food looked incredible, the outdoor tables were filled with locals eating comfort-food, and the location was perfect for people watching. We ended up spending the rest of our afternoon sipping beer (mine was pink?) and enjoying yummy meals for three euros a pop!

Porto was a complete mystery for both of us when we decided to visit, and while it falls behind Lisbon on most tourists' lists of places to go in Portugal, we couldn't recommend it more! You wouldn't regret taking the time to check-out this beautiful and friendly European city!

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