Porto - The Most Beautiful City
Brian Vegemite and I met around 930 in the morning so I could attempt to call a taxi and we could head to the train station in Caldas de Rainha. Peniche had no direct routes by train or bus to Porto. I was hoping the other girls would be up by then so I could say goodbye to them but they were out really late last night.
For the first time, I successfully got us a cab ride. As I sat in the van still asleep listening to the driver blast the Macarena, I paused the moment in my head and hoped it would not be the highlight of my day.
We arrived at the train station a bit early and saw a restaurant down the street. It was quaint and all in Portuguese but the woman working there was so warm and friendly. We looked lost when she spoke to us so she asked if we needed help. I said yes feeling a bit shy. She said no worries and offered to make us breakfast and give us coffee. She also made room in the front of the tiny store for us to rest our packs. I was still lugging around my beach bag so we had a lot of luggage.
In the Camino, usually when you get toast for breakfast, it’s literally a dried out piece of bread with nothing in it. So I was pleasantly surprised when the woman came out with thick slices a perfectly toasted bread with ham and cheese. So wonderful. I’ve been on a no sugar, super low carb diet for almost two years but I didn’t want to miss out on any Portuguese cuisine so I slowly introduced my body to carbs before getting here. I’m so glad I did so I could enjoy this sandwich
Former NH State Senator Peggy Gilmour and her husband read my book and hiked the Camino Frances a few months ago. We’ve gotten together to chat about our experiences a couple of times and realized we’d be hiking the Portuguese Camino around the same time. Peggy texted me this morning to wish me a Buen Camino. They’re already in Spain so we probably will not be able to catch up to them. Would be cool though.
The train ride to Porto was uneventful. We spent two hours going to Coimbra and then switched trains. Once in sports, it was very easy to catch an Uber to the post office. Being the second largest city in Portugal, it was automatically easier to get around than my time in Peniche.
I get a lot of questions about why I travel alone but this is why. When I’m with Brian, I barely have to think. Everything comes easily and smoothly to him and he figures things out much faster than me. So when he’s with me, I tend to fully trust that he’ll take good care of me. But it’s important to take responsibility for yourself sometimes. It’s how you grow and become more confident. That’s why my first Camino was so life altering for me. It’s also why I’ve been to other countries alone since. But this Camino will be very different with Brian by my side.
Haha! An hour later, I realized that I’m as helpful to brian as he is to me. He got us to the CTT which is the postal service here and they were not helpful at all. They said we required an application from online but would offer no other info. We asked the man to please help and while he spoke fluent English, he refused. He watched us through the glass as Brian and Vegemite stood outside searching online for a solid 20 minutes, but were unable to understand what the man meant. Brian was becoming increasingly frustrated. We contacted our Airbnb people to see if they could help but they weren’t useful either. While the guys searched online for answers, I began walking around and saw a Turismo sign and thought perhaps it was an information center. So I crossed the street and walked in. The people there were very friendly but didn’t know how to help at first. They suggested we go fo the airport and look for a DHL Center. That was enough of a lead for me and more info than the other man offered. With that, I thanked them, returned to the guys and Brian suggested we settle into our apartment so V wouldn’t have to follow us all day, drop off our stuff and then figure out what to do.
We found out apartment easily and it was a beautiful little flat with one bedroom, a living room with a bed, a small kitchen and a bathroom.
As Vegemite hand washed his clothes in the bathroom, I began going through my beach bag trying to decide if I could just carry the most important items and discard the rest. As it turns out, I’m an extremely efficient packer and I didn’t bring anything other than a few pairs of underwear I was willing to part with. Brian had reached his peak of frustration so I sat on the floor and began searching for DHL. Sure enough I found a full-service center near the airport. We said goodbye to V. and caught an Uber. As we were waiting for our ride, I told Brian that I realized I have done a lot more international travel than he has and know that these kinds of struggles are quite normal. Brian is so used to things working easily for him so when they don’t, the loses patience quickly. I reminded him that this is part of the experience and we don’t have anything else we have to do today so let’s just enjoy the ride through town and think of it as a tour of Porto. He followed my lead and quickly relaxed.
Porto is beautiful!! I’m not sure why but although Lisbon is the capital, all the country’s money seems to be funneled here. I’d love to spend another day here. It’s well maintained, there are cafes everywhere, cobblestone roads, rivers, carnival rides along the water, large fairy boats, and old world charm everywhere you look.
When we arrived at the DHL center they wouldn’t even let us in the building without our passports. Note to travelers, always have your passport on you and a photocopy of it and your drivers license in your wallet. once inside the man who helped us was extremely strict but very patient and helpful. For about $213USD I shipped all my stuff home and more importantly, I paid that much to not have to carry the additional 12 pounds. I did have to throw most of my liquids away which was fine but I decided to carry my bottle of Dry Hands on the camino rather than discarding it. It is a grip aid I use for poling and that stuff is like gold so I wasn’t willing to throw it away.
The guy made me laugh because I was just telling Brian whenever you tell people from other countries you’re from the US, they always ask about New York. I’ve tried to explain where I live in different ways. Boston, New Hampshire, New England. And every time, “oh New York?” Do when I told this guy I was shipping my box to Boston he was like “this is close to New York, yes?” Ugh. I give up.
Omg I LOVE Porto!!! I’ve never seen a city like this in my life. First, our Airbnb is right smack in the middle of everything. The three of us went down to dinner at a restaurant with outdoor seating right by the plaza our balcony overlooked. Turns out it’s one of the worst restaurants in town which is unfortunate since we’re in a culinary capitol! But we were hungry and it was a beautiful location. I was excited to try 10-year old Port while in Porto! After dinner, we strolled all around the city. Remember I said sardines are really popular here? There are stores with thousands of types of canned sardines and they had one for every year with famous people who were born that year. We also stopped to get ice cream which they made to look like beautiful flowers.
Guys, I won’t even try to describe it. I’ll just post as many pictures as possible. First, it’s the cleanest city I’ve ever seen and unlike most cities, it doesn’t stink of sewage and garbage. The sidewalks are made of beautiful tile and every building is fully decorated with fantastically overly dramatic artwork. It’s got a hip young vibe to it but everything is centuries old. This is also where Harry Potter was inspired by. We saw the university students walking around with their black cloaks and we got a picture of the famous Majestic Cafe that inspired J.K. Rawlings. The place was so popular there was a guard outside of the restaurant and we weren’t allowed to take pictures from the sidewalk. We did however cross the steer and sneak a picture from there.
We headed back to the room around 9. Since we didn’t sleep much last night, we’ll need to get lots of rest before our long walk tomorrow.