Porto, Portugal in a Nutshell: the Great, the Good, & the Bad
I already mentioned this in my last post but from only 2.5 short days in Porto, I absolutely feel in love with the city, the people, and the atmosphere. I guess I also really lucked out because the weather was warm and sunny all three days so I couldn't help but be outside.
I'm going to start with the best parts about the trip because who would want to hear about the little misfortune that happened to me.
Meet some cool people (+ free lunch & dinner)
On my last day in Porto, I went to a random restaurant to have lunch before my 4 hour port wine tour. These two guys, one from Porto and the other from Italy, started talking to me. They were super cool! We talked for awhile until I had to get going to meet for my tour. I had asked for the check awhile back but it was never brought out to me so I went inside to ask for it and the server said "I didn't forget about your check. Those guys paid for you." What a good way to start my day! That really came out of nowhere! I thanked them and told them I had to leave. They invited me to dinner because they were going to a city next door that is known for having really delicious and fresh seafood, Matosinhos. I said why not!
I guess in hindsight, this could have gone terribly wrong. These guys could be ex-cons or running some sort of sex slavery business and this was how they lured in women. It did cross my mind to cancel but I had a really good feeling about them. I think trusting your gut feeling in these situations is the best judge and I did not get any weird or sketchy vibes from them. They seemed very nice and genuine people. However, I did take some precautions. I asked my tour guide at the end of the tour if there have stories about kidnapping or dangerous things happening but she said no. A couple on the tour was also heading to the area for dinner so I got their information just in case I needed an escape.
I got picked up around 8:15pm and headed about 20 minutes outside of the city center to this area with a ton of small restaurants that big grills in front and sold delicious seafood. The best part was that I was getting shown around by a local so he knew all the best places and ordered the best food. We went to a place called Tito 2. Ate squid, calamari, and octopus cooked in 3 different ways. We also shared a bottle of white wine, starters, and dessert. It was the best meal I've had in a long time. Then after we went to a bar right on the beach and had a few cocktails. The weather was still pretty nice, not too chilly, so we spent a good amount of time there. To end the night, they drove me around the city to different viewpoints and I learned more about the city than the 6 hours I spent doing walking tours the day before.
Besides being treated to food and drinks, it was such a great night overall with sharing stories and about our lives. It was really refreshing to strike up conversation with people from such different backgrounds and age groups. It gave me a greater appreciation for why I travel and why I love meeting different people everywhere I go. I know if I'm ever back in Porto or in Venice, I have a friend who can show me around. Thanks so much J & M! You guys definitely made a lasting impression on me and made my trip to Porto, 10 times better.
Port Wine Tour
I normally don't want to spend a lot of money on different tours when I'm in a new city unless it's a city specialty and in this case, I couldn't go to Porto without tasting port wine. I booked it with a local tour group and it had great reviews. For 20 euros, I had a guide to 3 different wineries to taste 7 different wines in a span of 4 hours. I thought it was a pretty good deal! I learned a ton about the different types of port wine: Tawny, Blanco, Ruby, and *Rose. Within Ruby, there are two different types depending on how long the wine was aged in the barrel and the type of grapes that were used - Vintage and Late Bottled Vintage (LBV). In general, port wines are a lot sweeter than other types of wine plus it has a alcohol content of between 19 - 22% which is a lot more than most other wines. Here's a little fact sheet about each type (from what I can remember):
- Blanco: Aged very briefly and can range from crisp dry to dessert sweet
- Tawny: The most popular type and different from ruby ports in that they are aged in smaller barrels to give it a "tawny" or copper, brownish-goldish color. The grapes used are from different years but you get the average to give the age of the wine. Since they have already been oxidize in the smaller barrels, they can be kept after opening for much longer than ruby since
- Ruby: This type is the most produced and usually in large barrels.The large barrels prevent the wine from becoming oxidized so they retain the rich, dark red color which is so often associated with port.
- Vintage: Made from the very best grapes of a single year. The wines are kept for just two years in wood and then bottled unfiltered. Great vintages can be kept for years, even decades.
- LBV: Came much later than vintage but also from one harvest. It stays in the barrels for much longer, 4 to 6 years, and is cheaper than regular vintage port wines.
- Rose: this isn't always considered a port wine, most people will tell you the main three. However, you make rose by removing the grape skins.
Another fun fact is that port wine isn't made in Porto. It is made in a city across the river called Gaia. The vineyards are much more north. It got its name from being shipping out of Porto and the barrels would have "Porto" stamped on the outside and so got the name port wine.
Anyway, all three wineries I went to were completely different from one another. One was a lot older with a ton of history, the last one was really modern with a cool rooftop bar. We had 7 different tastings of wine. In the last stop, they taught us the proper way to taste wine: left right gargle, up down gargle, and then suck in air before swallowing. Your mouth and chest completely burns after. It took some time to get used to. I liked the white and rose the most since they were lighter. Ruby and Tawny were much denser and heavier.
While we were in the workshop, a friend who I met the day before started speaking to the worker in Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French. He was really impressed and jokingly said "you should work here!" But he was half serious and they exchanged information because was really interested in an internship there and he said they were hiring. How cool is that?
Things in Porto were very well priced! Everything was relatively cheap so my low-budget backpacking self did invisible flips. There was a bar right next to my hostel that sold 1/2 liter cups for only 1.5 euros. I got my sangria refilled for only 1 euro. Meals would range from 2 - 7 euros depending on where you went.
Most people spoke English, and a lot spoke really good English. I hate to admit this because I want every country to have its own identity and culture but when a place speaks English, it makes my experience a bit better since I'm able to get around better and communicate with locals. I don't want to be labeled as an American who thinks English is superior to every other language because that's not me at all. I mean I'm living in Spain right now trying to learn Spanish.
People are so friendly, easy going, and happy. They also have a very really relaxed culture so everything is about enjoying life and having fun - true keys to a happy life.
If you didn't know, a lot of Harry Potter was inspired by Porto because J.K. Rowling lived there for awhile. For example, the Hogwarts uniform is the same one that is worn in Porto so you will see huge groups of students in black attire and long coats.
Everywhere you turn, you are surrounded by beautiful and unique buildings. I will post pictures once I am done editing them. I could walk around the entire city and never get bored. They are always renovating so a nicer building will appear every few weeks. They are doing a lot to clean up the city since about 10 years ago, it was completely abandoned. The city also has beautiful parks, churches, etc. I know it's not architecture but it does add to the picturesque city. I just loved that not one street or area looked like another. They all had their own unique flair.
I'm a bit biased since I lucked out with the days I was in the city with awesome weather. I was told that during this time, I would normally be raining pretty hard. Although it doesn't rain as frequently here, when it does rain, it RAINS. That's a sucky part but if it's not raining, the weather is pretty warm and doesn't get that cold, or cold enough to snow or need thick winter jackets. That's definitely a win-win for me!
The creator of this hostel definitely thought about what backpackers and young travelers want in a hostel experience. Really clean beds, rooms, bathrooms, and common areas + a 24 hour bar + a outdoor patio + many different tours (walking and pub crawl) + free shot at 10pm. It was a really great open space for people to hangout and meet others. The staff were all really fun and helpful! They were so great that a friend got too fucked up and ended up in the hospital. He's completely fine so it's hilarious to talk about now. This Aussie also let this chick taser him in the butt hahaha that was pretty funny! On a Tuesday night, we were able to gather around 25 people to go out for a pub crawl. It was a good time. I would highly recommend Pilot One Hostel!
All the other times I've traveled, I was so good at keeping things secured and not losing anything but this time, I lost my drivers license. I know it's not super important, Thank God, but some places I go to require that I show an ID and I don't want to bring my passport around. In my room, I got my leather jacket stolen which was such an annoyance. I was pretty bummed about losing both but what can you do now. Just move on... I'll find a cheap leather jacket in Spain.