Porto | So Many Hills, So Many Tiles

On The Move

After a late last night in Lisbon, it was difficult getting up, packed and to the train station in time for my morning train to Porto. Thankfully I could just chill out on the three and a half hour train to Porto, even with the guy next to me manspreading most of the way. After a quick change at Porto Campanhã to make the final few minutes of the journey to Sao Bento, I then had a short walk through the city centre to my apartment.

One of the perks of being early for check in is being able to scout out a local cafe for a coffee and snack, so of course I did just that while I waited to be able to check in to my apartment. I saw signs of the famous francesinha that I’d been told I just HAD to have while I was in the north, but I resisted until dinner time as it looked like a heavy kind of meal. Before long it was time to check in to the apartment, and after a quick FaceTime with my parents I fell asleep. Waking up in the dark, I felt so under the weather that the best I could do was venture to a nearby supermarket to get supplies before heading back for dinner in bed and an early night. 

A Downhill Day

A good sleep can work wonders, and after sorting out a few bits back home I was out and on the hunt for the famous bookshop Livraria Lello. I’m quite easily distracted, and on my way to the bookshop got sidetracked by Torre de Clerigos. Of course I had to stop in for a tour of the church, behind the scenes rooms and to climb the tower. As I trekked up the steps of the tower, I could see through the gaps in the stone to the staircase below. Choosing to not ponder what that could mean for too long, I enjoyed the view before completely forgetting about the library and instead heading to Porto Cathedral. 

View from tower of Torre de Clerigos

Although not quite what I’d been expecting for a city cathedral, I absolutely loved the blue tiles that Porto is so famous for, and after a quick tour of the cathedral I soaked up the stunning view from the square out front. Spotting a smaller square lower down, I wandered a bit further and found another amazing viewpoint. There were just a handful of other people at this one, and we all stood for a few minutes just taking in the sights before hearing the not so subtle sounds of a local woman singing at the top of her voice from one of the nearby houses. It was loud. It was funny. But it was so, so entertaining. We all stood and listened for a bit before venturing down the charming, winding, cobble stoned lanes. I had no idea where I’d end up, but as I was going downhill I was hoping it’d be in the direction of the river and that I wouldn’t have to trek back up the steep hills. 

Stopping off briefly at the market that turned out to be more of a craft fair than a market, I carried on downhill to the riverside. It was a pretty cloudy day, so although there were people milling about it wasn’t buzzing. I made my way to the bridge with the intention of crossing to the other side of the river and checking out the port cellars. 

One thing I always think about as I take a nice easy stroll downhill is that I’m going to at some point have to climb back up that hill. Thankfully, as I pondered this at the base of the bridge, I spotted the funicular. Win!! A few euros and a much more enjoyable trip up to the top layer of the bridge, I grabbed a quick coffee to refuel and then crossed over. The views from the bridge were great, but it was of a dreary, moody Porto. 

Once on the other side of the river, I followed what I hope was a road to the riverside, and completely forgetting my plan to visit the port cellars I ended up wandering along the riverside, checking out the boats full of barrels and market. Again faced with climbing back up the hill, I had two choices – climb the hill or jump in a cable car. This was the battle of being lazy and sitting in a cable car which I am actually scared of, or trekking up the hill. Turns out I must be super lazy because I paid for the cable car and endured the ride up, before heading back to the apartment to have a bit of dinner and get an early night. 

Escaping Porto

My third day in Porto was actually spent venturing out to the nearby town of Braga. I’d never heard of it until recently when I met someone who lived there and constantly told me how it was the best place ever. I had to see what the fuss was about, and when I was so close it seemed silly not to make a day of it going there!

Sunshine and Some Smiles

The sun finally made an appearance in Porto on my last day, and I was determined to get as much out of the day as possible before leaving for Coimbra in the evening. All packed up, I made my way to station to leave my bag in a luggage locker, only to find they were all full. Ah, that hadn’t occurred to me. Going to a nearby shop that Google listed as luggage store, I found it closed and was nearing the end of my tether – my backpack is ok to carry but I also had two other bags that I wanted to leave in the locker and it was a bit heavy to be lugging it around. Eventually spotting a tourist information place, I followed their directions to a place ’5 minutes away’. Let me tell you, it was not 5 minutes away. It was at least 15 minutes’ walk, including up a hill that should be renamed Everest. I was not happy by the time I arrived, and after having to pay €16 to leave my bag there for a few hours, I was even more annoyed. 

There was nothing for it, I went straight to the nearest bar and sat for a while with a drink in the sun, reading my book to chill out a bit. A couple of hours later I was much happier, and finally made my way to Livraria Lello, the bookshop I’d forgotten about a couple of days before. Ticket bought, I joined the queue and quickly found myself in the stunning but cramped bookshop. The impressive staircase was more of a queue of people trying to take photos without other people in them, and after a look around at the charming bookshop, I made my way back outside. 

The plan for today was to pretty much retrace my steps from the previous Porto day to enjoy the city in the sunshine. Passing the cathedral, I wandered down the same narrow lanes, this time sadly without singing Portuguese ladies. Coming across a charming little square, I decided the heat warranted a quick drink to refuel. Although I intended to stop for just a short time, I ended up chatting to an older couple who had come to Porto for a week and sat enjoying the sun for a while before carrying on to the riverside. 

What had been a quiet area just days before was now a lively hub of activity. There were people swimming in the river, riding jet skis or just milling about in the numerous cafes that were spilling into the streets and courtyards. After enjoying the atmosphere for a while, I again jumped on the funicular and took some photos from the bridge before walking to Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. It’s quite a trek there, I was super tired and in need of some food, and when I got there found that the gardens were mostly under renovation. 

Trying to make the most of the effort it took to get there, I enjoyed the view from a pretty viewpoint before calling it quits and heading back to collect my bag. By now, I had noticed that my legs were glowing from a day in the sun, I was absolutely shattered and in serious need of some food. Once I’d collected my bag and made the trek back to the top of the hill, I realised I’d left my sunglasses and a few other things at the luggage store. The thought of going back down the hill and then having to trek up it again nearly made me cry, and I decided the things I’d left behind were to be sacrificed.

A thankfully short walk took me back to the train station, where I took a quick transfer back to Porto Campanhã to catch the train to Coimbra. Although I was absolutely sun burnt, shattered and unable to feel my legs from all the hills, I absolutely loved Porto. As I pulled away and saw the view from the train, I knew I’d be back soon. 

< Lisbon | #11 | Braga >

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