This post was written by Jenna, Duke University - Fall Semester Student in Lisbon
This weekend, our group went up to the north of Portugal, to visit a city called Porto. Porto is a stunningly beautiful city built right on the Douro River, with colorful apartments, gorgeous architecture, and an awesome culture.
Friday morning, we took a three-hour train ride into Porto and dropped our stuff off at our hostel, Dixo's Hostel.
After dropping our bags and changing (it was very hot), we headed out for a city tour. We walked down along the river, and then climbed up to the top of the city, where we had the most beautiful view. We could see the river, the churches, the bridges…everything!
Afterwards, we walked back down the hill and grabbed snacks to have a mini-picnic with in a park. We also went into Livraria Lello, a very famous bookstore where it's said that JK Rowling had some of her inspiration for Harry Potter. It's also one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and was ranked as the third best in the world by Lonely Planet in 2011. Totally stunning. We couldn't take pictures of the inside, but definitely search google images.
Dinner and Fado Show at Casa da Música
After our lovely tour, we returned to the hostel to get ready for the evening's festivities. We were lucky enough to get tickets for dinner and a Fado show at Casa da Música, a very famous building and concert space in Porto.
Fado is a very well-known type of Portuguese music, which traditionally has a very sad sound to it. We started off the evening with hor d'oeurves, and then had a lovely dinner while we watched the show. The last singer to perform was incredible. I think that we all had goosebumps. Her voice was so clear and incredibly moving.
Boat tour at Douro River
The next morning, we all had breakfast on the roof of our hostel, which had the most spectacular view. We could see the whole city.
After breakfast, we went on a boat tour of the Douro River. There are lots of beautiful bridges on the river, one even designed by Eiffel! The apartments and buildings along the river are beautiful, too. They're so colorful and really add to the aesthetic of the city.
Port wine tasting
Following lunch, we all went to a Port tasting that we had scheduled with Porto Cruz winery. They set up a private room for us, and we had the choice of trying the port with chocolate or cheese. I chose chocolate, since I have an out-of-control sweet tooth, and they matched white, milk, and dark chocolate pieces with different types of port. We tried a white port, a tawny, and a ruby.
They were all awesome. They were super sweet and flavorful, and the woman who worked there taught us how to really try wines (you swish it, chew it, and slurp it). Quite a few of us ended up buying bottles to bring back to our families and friends as souvenirs!
The typical "Francesinha"
That evening, after a much-needed nap, a couple of us went downtown to try a Porto specialty called Francesinha. A francesinha is an incredibly unhealthy, but wonderfully delicious, sandwich. It contains two types of sausage, mortadella, steak, and cheese. The entire sandwich is wrapped in cheese and has a fried egg on top. It then sits in a pool of some type of beer sauce, and is surrounded by french fries.
At first I did not think this sounded appealing. I decided to try it though, and oh man am I glad I did. It was delicious. I feel like I may have taken a few years off of my life, but so, so worth it.
The next morning, we took a bus to a park with a big contemporary art museum in it, called Serralves. The park was stunning and had a huge, art-deco style house in the middle of it, which we were able to walk through.
We had a delicious lunch at the museum (where Michaela accidentally tried pig ear) and then were able to wander around for a little on our own. Afterwards, we went back to our hostel to grab our bags and took the train back to Lisbon. I think we were all a little sad to leave Porto because there was still so much that we hadn't had the chance to explore. It was an absolutely gorgeous city and I know we're all hoping to have the opportunity to return in the next few months!
See you soon, Porto...