Our stay in Lisbon was quite active so we did not really have time to look for accommodation in Porto. I sent some requests on Couchsurfing, which were refused, but we did not get worried about it. “We’ll find something anyway” that was our motto during the whole week. What could go wrong?
As the train left from the train station of Lisbon, we were glad to see that the strength of the wifi was relatively good, so the hostel hunt has started. We have checked the usual booking sites to find our modest home in Porto. (We both work in the tourism sector supplemented with some work experience at an online booking portal) After a few minutes, our initial confidence started to decrease because of the search results: 0 available bed on Hostelword, refused Airbnb and Couchsurf booking requests, and fully booked hotels on all major OTAs (online travel agency). With the drastically reduced supply, our willingness to pay increased highly, but there was literally nothing to book. Well during Easter, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reserve something in advance. We were already at the cafeteria near the railway station in Porto, drinking the usual bad-tasting coffee in exchange for the wifi password, when finally my friend’s face brightened:
– I found something! A 3 star hotel close to the downtown. 3 times more expensive than the ones we spent for accommodation until now.
There was nothing to do, we booked it quickly and called a taxi. The receptionist told us that we were really lucky, as it was their last room to book, as someone cancelled the reservation in the last minute. Even the old hotel building, the broken curtain and the poor breakfast looked like a luxury thing for us after the hostels, especially because we had our own bathroom in the room.
By closing the accommodation-issue, we could finally start to discover the last and the most promising station of our spontaneous trip in Portugal: Porto. The weather was less kind to us than in Faro and Lisbon, but this city warmed the most our heart with its charming and friendly atmosphere. In Portugal, things seem to be a little bit upside down than the rest of Europe, where as much south you go the more open and friendly people you meet. We found the Mediterranean center of this country in the north, in Porto.
The city was full with tourists, but we did not feel uncomfortably crowded as we did in Lisbon at certain places. You can find a special building, tiled house, church at almost every corner. We collected some energy for sightseeing, at the square in front of St. Ildefonz Church, and by checking recommendation for a dinner on Tripadvisor, we found the best restaurant in the town.
We discovered the nearby area, where a beautiful church monastery or chapel waits you in almost every street. Before this trip I thought my orientation skill is fine but Porto proved the opposite of that. Thanks to my dear friend, we did not get lost, on the contrary we visited the chosen restaurant and got a taste of local delicacies. We could not make a reservation for the same evening, but fortunately it was possible to do for the following day.
We were lucky to have our dinner in the best restaurant of the city, named Taberna Santo Antonio. Don’t you believe? Check it out yourself! Small family restaurant where the daily menu depends on what can they get freshly from the market. The prices are really on budget, fresh dishes are guaranteed, and we’ve got best service there during our trip. Guests are changing at each table hourly, so there is a huge spin, but you won’t be threaten as a good on a factory’s conveyor belt, thanks to the enthusiastic hosts working in the restaurant. We stayed until the closing hours, by then we learned a lot about the restaurant’s past and got some of the local brandy. If you go to Porto, make sure that you visit here, just do not forget to make a reservation a day or two in advance.
Franceshina: Let’s clarify something in the beginning: I’m not picky or squeamish, but this food drove me crazy. It’s like terribly stuffed toast with a large amount of the grazy of a sticky stew. Porto’s famous food, they are proud of it, so we set aside our prejudices based on pictures like the one below and asked for a dose of two. We ate our portion, and started to have a stomach ache even before we reached the exit door. We sat on the stairs of the first entrance door nearby to take an “after franceshina selfie” which ended up in laud, crazy laughing for long minutes. What the hell was that ?! Actually we were not hungry until the middle of the next day so at least it saved up some money for us.
The next day we visited the Cathedral then crossed Ponte Luís to admire Porto from the southern shore Douro River, called Vila Nova de Gaia. The city is well-known for its wineries, the home of the famous Porto wine. Of course, we tasted it, and got a bottle to home as well.
We have met more friendly people here in two days and had more positive experiences than we did during the whole trip before. Cute streets, fine wines, welcoming locals, and franceshina will stay in our heart forever. I decided to return to Porto again for sure on the train next morning. Our plane departed in the evening, so we made a quick visit to the beach of Faro to say goodbye to the ocean.
Thank you Portugal! We are now richer with wonderful experiences.