Porto – love at first sight
In February this year I spent a mini-holiday in Porto, Portugal. I had been to Portugal before, but only to Lisbon, Cascais, and the surrounding areas. It was enough, though, to make me proclaim this country as one of my favourite in the world. Obviously, I wanted to discover more of it. This year, in February, I booked a trip to Porto for a long weekend.
It was love at first sight! I loved it even more than I loved Lisbon, which I didn’t think was possible. From the moment I stepped on the Dom Luís I bridge and looked over the Douro River and the city, I knew this was a special place to me. I was tired and needed a break away from my life in Amsterdam, and Porto was there, waiting for me. It felt like coming back home after a long trip. There it stood, the old city, with its tall colourful houses, arranged in terraces like a lego construction. The houses look as if they are tipping their heads to the the sun, or maybe trying to touch the seagulls that fly above.
The weather was extremely capricious, similar to Dutch weather, although the temperatures were higher. There was sun, but there was also rain – quite a lot of it. But, as a local told me: to really know Porto, you have to visit it when it’s raining. And he was totally right! Porto looks great in the sun, but it becomes even more romantic and cosy in the rain. And then there was the wind: so strong that it never seemed to stop, intensifying and whistling through my windows at night. The air smelled nice, probably from magnolias and camellias that were in full bloom. It was a strange mixture of spring and winter, green plants and trees with bare branches.
The streets are all heavily sloped, so it was as difficult to go up as it was to go down. My knees complained all day long. That didn’t stop me from walking kilometers every day, trying to see as much as possible, although I didn’t cover much ground and preferred to go to my favourite places over again – like Cais da Ribeira, the riverfront square, or Dom Luis I.
I spent my time mostly in the old city, with only a short visit to the newer part of Porto, which looks like a totally different city (but still pretty). I visited Vila Nova de Gaia, the city situated on the southern part of Douro river — for the wine caves, and Foz do Douro — for the beach and the big ocean waves. I ate good food and drank port and good coffee. I watched beautiful sunsets and fell asleep every night listening to the wind and the seagulls. When it was time to leave, I was sad to leave this beautiful place, but I was also happy I discovered it and that I can go back and visit again.