My summer holidays officially started last week but no time to waste waiting for results of my exams: I’ve got to travel! So Portugal was high up on my list of places to visit as it remains one of the main European countries I have never seen yet. Just one thing is needed to start the trip: a crazily cheap Ryanair flight. I booked a 34.99 euros for one way to Porto. The rest, I just arranged quite last minute. Porto (or Oporto) is the second-largest city in Portugal and its worth visiting even for a small gateway!
I was lucky to find a nice place to stay in Porto very last minute. And it was a great choice actually! I stayed at Porta Azul, a family-run guest house well located within the colourful city of Porto. It is actually 8-10 mins walk to the main attractions. But on the same street there is the National Museum Soares dos Reis and the famous Crystal Palace.
Marta is the owner and it seems like she is doing everything and everything so well. She was the one to welcome me and she delivered a stunning presentation of Porto and things to visit, I was really amazed and I directly wished I could stayed longer in Porto. She gave me some nice tips from her position as a local and resident of the city. After a quick rest, I went out to explore what she has suggested to see!
The guest house is very bright which is really important in my opinion, even when sun sets the melting of blue and white colours of the wall and accessories deliver a nice and relaxing atmosphere. The room where I stayed had a direct access to the garden which is shared between all guests who wish to get some tan while bouncing on the hammock. The room was quite big and well representative of the Portuguese style, conformable and cosy. However, one major deficiency was the wifi signal which was very low from the room but worked perfectly at the reception. Breakfast is served every morning with an exclusive feature: a cake done by Marta’s 91 year-old grand mother. I’m sure not even one single hotel could deliver such traditional care to its guests.
My first time in Portugal was rich with new discoveries including culinary discoveries! I had so much food there especially in Porto where most places around the guest house Porta Azul were tourist-free. Just 30 seconds walk, I found an awesome place to eat a traditional peri chicken with rice and french fries. The menu comes with a vegetable soup that I tried too. I also tried on another occasion the most famous dish from Porto, the Francesinha. And Portugal’s most famous dessert the Pastel de Nata.
Following my lunch, I visited the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal). I don’t see anything special about the palace from outside to be honest but I loved the garden and the stunning view points over Porto and its surroundings. It’s worth a walk around it to hear the birds singing, watch a beautiful sunset or witness how people from Porto use it. Some schools bring their pupils to do sport activities around the building or have fun at the playground. Adults prefer to use it to run or use it as a sneaky romantic spot in the city!
Porto is famous for its 6 bridges from which there is the Dom Luis I Bridge which dominates the city as a major link between north and south of the River Douro. This bridge has also been constructed by a partner of Gustave Eiffel, hence, the similarities with Eiffel Tower. Anyway, I crossed the bridge back and forth on foot and I simply loved the experience. I took some pictures around but it was time to move on and see something else. Well, I only had one night in Porto…
I loved getting lost in the city between the little streets but at some point it was time to go straight to the point to find treasures like the Harry Potter styled bookshop or known as its original name Livraria Lello. I never liked getting inside libraries or bookstores until this one… Well, I didn’t even look at the books. I actually forgot about everything else surrounding me even the ton of tourists squeezing in this tiny space. This bookshop is simply amazing and stunning. A must-see even if it means almost missing my train to Lisbon… Yes, it almost happened!
Right next to it, there is a beautiful church with a very long name: Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo das Carmelitas which reminds me of those I have seen in Goa. The church is not very silent which I found disrespectful from all visitors and there are beggars at its door but it’s not a problem once you see all its breathtaking architecture and style. Portuguese sure know how to build churches!
In total, I stayed 3 nights in Portugal. On a another article, I will write about my adventures in Lisbon and how I survived after getting stranded with all my money stolen from my credit card… Oh and one last thing. Make sure you see the train station Sao Bento, it’s a piece of art!