Our second destination after leaving Canada was Porto, Portugal. After spending a night in Lisbon (read about our first day in Lisbon) we were up bright and early to catch the train north to Portugal’s second largest city.
Travelling from Lisbon to Porto
We decided to take the train from Lisbon to Porto for a couple of reasons: Train travel is awesome and is a great way to see the spaces between the cities that you would miss if you were flying; and when compared to flying, it was significantly cheaper given that we were traveling with multiple bags each (packing to move abroad for a year is not easy, nor is it easily contained in one bag).
Travelling by train in Portugal was amazingly easy. The ticketing site for Comboios de Portugal (CP) was easy to navigate and quick to use; it was even easy to find discounts and promotions, which is how we ended up sitting in first class!
We arrived at Lisbon’s Santa Apolónia station early enough to grab a coffee, and before we knew it we were settled into our seats and on our way! The first leg of our journey flew by. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to look out the window and enjoy the different cities and towns that we went through.
With about an hour left in our 2:15 journey, the train unexpected came to a stop in the middle of nowhere. For nearly 30 minutes we sat there, as the train started to heat up, with no announcements as to what was going on. Finally, after an hour, someone came through to open the windows and explained that we were having mechanical issues.
It would be a while.
For over two hours we sat there with no news. Other passengers were getting antsy and many even started to call cabs so they could continue on with their journey. We just waited. When the train finally started to move again, I started to clap.
I was the only one. It wasn’t embarrassing at all.
We rolled into Porto just over two hours late, thankfully the city was beautiful so that softened the blow just a little.
We’d planned to walk from the train station to our AirBnB rental–it didn’t look that far on the map–but we were exhausted when we arrived so we hopped in a cab.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Not only did we get a mini tour of the city, but we saved our relationship. You see, Porto is essentially a series of hills, and our AirBnB was right smack dab in the middle of one. A big one. Had we tried to walk with three rolling suitcases I can assure you that that would have been the last trip Dave and I would ever take together.
After a terrifying cab ride — how they drive standard in that city is beyond me — we arrived at our flat. It was perfect–located right in the heart of historical Porto we were steps (up or down the hill) from all of the sites!
After getting settled into our AirBnB, our first task was to explore. We walked up the hill and quickly found ourselves in the centre of it all! We did a quick tour of the sights and then settled in for a night of indulging in Porto’s culinary offerings.
Our first full day in Porto was spent exploring, and our first stop was Igreja dos Clérigos and it’s famous (now infamous in my mind) Torre dos Clérigos. The tower hosts some of the best views of Porto and I was determined to see them.
So, we decided to climb it.
Or, at least we tried to.
About mid-way up, as the staircase started to narrow, I found my fear of heights kicking in big time–it really didn’t help that there were little windows with no barriers that gave me a direct view to the street below as I climbed. I tried to push on, but couldn’t make it and had to stop at the second to top tier (so close!). Thankfully Dave was able to make it to the top and took pictures of the fantastic view so I could enjoy them once we were back at sea level.
It wasn’t my finest moment, but I did what I had to do (and felt shame for it).
After sprinting back down to terra firma, we decided to wander throughout the historical city and then make our way towards to Douro River and beyond.
We hadn’t really intended to spend the afternoon sampling ports, but these things just kind of happen.
And we regret nothing.
We stumbled upon Sandemans when looking for a bathroom, and decided to stay awhile–we’d never sampled white port(s), so really we had no choice! One thing led to another and we spent the entire afternoon wandering the region in the sun, sampling the different local delights!
In all, we visited four cellars that afternoon: Taylors, Cockburns, Sandemans, and Croft. We tried to refine our palettes by sampling a variety: some old, some new, some sweet, and some sweeter. I think the highlight for us came at the end of the day as we sat inTaylors, sipping on our 30-year-old port–we really have never been classier!
Our time in Porto could definitely be classified as a gastronomical adventure. We ate everything. Given that we were only there for a couple of days, we decided to spend our nights trying as many different restaurants as possible. A few bites and a glass of wine here, a couple more bites and a beer there; we tried to bounce around the city as much as possible.
We had good food at every location (some standouts include pork cheeks, octopus, and of course, cheese!), but one restaurant was head and shoulders above the rest. Located conveniently close to our flat (e.g., right next door) was As 7 Maravilhas, an awesome eatery serving everything from brine eggs and currywurst to olives and spicy potatoes. It was amazing and we found ourselves there as often as they would let us.
Although we were only in Porto for a short time, we tried to make the most of it experiencing as much of the culture, the history, and the food as we could. It was an absolutely amazing start to our time in Europe–one that made me so happy that we had made the decision to cross the pond!
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