PORTO PART I

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We arrived at around 10am on Wednesday morning after a very early flight out of Bristol. We had come across the cutest little garden house in the centre of Porto on Airbnb and upon arrival, we were amazed. The garden house was beautiful, a newly built apartment with traditional materials. Passion fruit growing above the terrace and a bottle of local Port wine waiting for us! Our host was so kind and genuine, something we found true to most locals we spoke to. This Airbnb was our best experience yet, it was everything we could have dreamed of.

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The second day of our stay in Porto was Michael’s birthday! Whenever we visit new places, we have made it our tradition to get a view from up high – so we decided to head straight for the Clerigos Tower to get a view of Porto from above. After a long and sticky wait, we finally made the climb up and up and up and were greeted with a wonderful view of the city. Terracota rooftops as far as the eye could see.

In the afternoon we wandered around the Crystal Palace Gardens and jumped on the old tram and headed down the seafront towards the urban beaches. The tram was a fun way to see some of the city and to get a rest from the heat.

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In celebration of Michael’s birthday, we went for dinner at a fancy restaurant we had spotted earlier in the day. We chose to sit in the room with traditional Portuguese singers (Fado), it was a great atmosphere and the food was delicious!

On Thursday, we strolled down to the Livraria Lello book shop to see what all the fuss was about. The original wooden craftsmanship was like nothing we had seen before, it was so elegant and beautiful. We enjoyed wandering through the different sections. Despite the amount of tourists and selfie sticks, it remained somewhat peaceful. Michael bought a great architecture book about the natural swimming pool that we had the chance to visit later in the week.

Next we made our way towards the Cathedral, appreciating the views and the glorious weather, and over the Pont Louis Bridge. The bridge offered some great views of the city but also of the landscape further inland.

We jumped in a cable car down to the riverside, booked ourselves onto a boat trip down the river for later in the day and went in search of some Port tasting at the various Cellars. Although we are not wine drinkers, the experience was so fun and we felt very sophisticated siting in a second floor window sipping wine and people watching below. Later we managed to get a free English tour of the Offley cellars, it was interesting to learn how the Port is made and how the cellars operate.

The day turned a bit chaotic when we attempted to grab some lunch an hour before our boat was set to leave. We figured that Portuguese timing is very different to British, and what we would told would take 15 minutes to prepare, took an hour! I managed to delay the boat and Michael hurried the waiters, grabbed our food and we legged it onto our boat. Stressful but so so funny.

Speaking of food, we ate some great and interesting local cuisines from octopus and salted cod to veil and goat! We also consumed a lot of calorific pastries, something that Porto does very well, we particularly enjoyed a treat or two of the traditional ‘Nata’.

I love being on water so I of course enjoyed the boat ride and found it very relaxing. Michael however, hasn’t got strong sea legs and so was a little grumpy (and hungry!).

The next day we got up early, grabbed some croissants from the local supermarket and made our way to the bus stop. Michael had read about Alvaro Siza’s natural swimming pool on the beach in Leca, a few miles out of Porto. I loved being able to see some more of the local neighbourhoods whilst on the bus and seeing the city from a local’s point of view. When we arrived at the pool, we were blown away by how blue the water was and the cute little, secluded private beach that accompanied it. Let’s just say the swimming pool was not as inviting as it looked, that thing was so cold it made your bones ache! The Atlantic ocean sure is refreshing!

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After a few hours relaxing, we made our way back to our apartment and wandered the local art district and the Casa De Musica. In the afternoon we had a tour of the Palacio da Bolsa and learnt a bit more about the history of Porto.

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On our last night, we walked across Pont Louis Bridge after dinner to see the city lit up in all its glory. We watched as the city buzzed of Saturday night life.

Sunday was our last day; we had a late evening flight back to Bristol so had time to hire some bicycles. We crossed the Douro River on a boat fit for bikes and cycled the coastline to the south of Porto. The beaches were very different to the urban beaches we had visited earlier in the week. Past the marina, and along the flat cycle path, the views were picturesque, the sand bright yellow and the ocean so inviting. We spent a couple of hours relaxing and braving the ice cold water before cycling back and saying goodbye to a city that we had fallen in love with.

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Hope to see you again soon, Porto!

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