I’ve always passed by Porto on route to someplace else further North, with the (silent) promise to myself that one day I had to stop at this 12th Century city and explore it properly. But, somehow, I never did. Until now. When we decided to attend Fantasporto, I knew I couldn’t (once more) not set aside some time to explore the city.
If we were asked to sum up our first impressions of Porto into postcard-perfect images, this would be our top four. What are yours?
The Weight Of The City
Maybe it’s my literary side, but I tend to see cities as people. It’s really easy to pinpoint one or two characteristics of a city that could describe a person. There’s a masculine sense to Porto, and it stands tall and firm, unshaken by other’s opinions or influences, it is what it is. All its History, color, architecture is right there for you to explore, without the need to dig deeper or to find hidden treasures around every corner. We decided to walk up from the Campanhã train station, and the minute we reached the Cathedral we were overwhelmed.
The Famous “Francesinha”
Usually, our travels don’t revolve around food (then again, they do revolve around culture and sometimes food makes up for a great part of it). But before we left, as I was reading about the city, one word constantly popped up: “francesinha”. I had read and heard a lot about them but never tried one before. I remember saying that I didn’t have to go to Porto to have one, but everyone insisted that it wouldn’t taste as great as it did in Porto. They claimed the sauce was the pièce de résistance. Immediately upon arrival, I sent out a tweet and we were flooded with more options than we could explore in, barely, three days (unless that’s what we would have for lunch and dinner). On our last night, we (finally!) had one at Lado B, a cafe near the coliseum (right next door to the famous, and constantly crowded, Café Santiago) that claims to have the best “francesinha” in the world! (I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s damn good). And on the plus side, they also serve a vegetarian option.
Before we left, friends and family advised us to dress for the extreme cold and the rain. We checked the weather in advance, and all we saw was the sunshine and average temperatures of 22°C for that week. Either something was wrong with this forecast, or Porto was dying to meet us. I’d rather think it was the last option, just because the day after we left the weather turned gray, cold and foggy (as it’s usual around this time of year, between Winter and Spring). While we were there, despite the predictable temperature drops early in the morning, and later in the evening, there was nothing but the sunshine and blue sky every day. Trust me, it was harder to leave Porto behind like that.
UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, Porto’s historic center is, what we humbly call, a live Art History lesson. This is where our geek side bursts out in awe of every single detail we would stumble upon around the city. My ultimate favorite were the two architecture periods, side by side: the Mannerism transitioning into early Baroque of the Carmelitas Church and the late Baroque transitioning into the Rococo style of the Carmo Church.
Have you been to Porto? Which postcard-perfect images would you choose to represent the city?