I’d been dreaming of moving to Spain ever since I got home from my university exchange in 2006. So naturally the first long weekend I got when I finally did move to Madrid, you’d imagine I’d spend it somewhere in Spain, right? Wrong. Thanks to some cheap Ryanair flights, a little bit of arm twisting (to me, not by me) and before I knew it, I was off to Porto for a weekend.
Porto is famous for rain and lots of it, and it certainly didn’t disappoint our expectations. From mist to showers to cloudbursts, we saw it all. But that didn’t stop us getting out and walking round this little city which is beautiful in spite of living up to its reputation.
But when the sun does come out, Porto is so, so pretty.
Especially if you cross the river and look back at the city.
You may recognise the name Porto because it’s famous for Port (although it should be more famous for some of its other delightful wines too). Not that I’d been lacking good wines in Spain, but the mention of wines from the Douro Valley had been part of the arm twisting that got me to Porto. So, after a decent afternoon walking, we decided we’d worked up a thirst and deserved a trip to a cellar to get a sample of the good stuff. Fortunately for me, for €5 you can sample four different ports. My problem was that I liked all of them, leaving me trying to decide which mini-bottles I would buy to stuff into my tiny liquids bag. Oh the joy of flying budget airlines.
But back to wandering around Porto. It’s impossible not to see the street art on corners, doors and even taking over the footpaths.
But if you’re after some more traditional art, you need go no further than the tiles covering churches and buildings, making patterns or telling stories.
Part of the attraction of Porto for me is that it does something so well that few other places can do: it’s broken but beautiful, old but loved, falling down and being rebuilt. It’s part of the charm that keeps you walking up hills, looking up, going a few steps further to see what you’ll find around the corner and letting this old-world city transport you back in time.
My proud Portuguese friend told me I couldn’t leave Porto without trying their famous francesinha, a sandwich of meat upon meat upon another type of meat, served with a secret recipe of gravy and a side of fries.
But the meat beat me and made it difficult to leave for our flight.
Well maybe more difficult. Even without stuffing myself I probably would have wanted to spend a little longer exploring this city. I left with high hopes of another long weekend escape to Portugal — after spending a little more time getting to know Spain better that is.