Porto, Portugal… the home of Port, the fortified wine, Francesinha and its stately bridges. And what a beautiful place it is too!
After previously travelling alone to Lisbon, Portugal, I knew I loved Portugal but wanted to explore it a bit more. For some reason, this year I wasn’t looking forward to my birthday so much. Therefore, I decided it was time to pack my small carry-on suitcase and jump on a plane. But where to? It took me a while to work this one out. But Portugal was calling. It seemed silly to go back to Lisbon, even though my love for it had grown massively. However, the price of the flights helped make my mind up.
So the morning after my birthday, I headed to London Stansted to head for Porto. Having once been riddled with anxiety about travelling alone, flying alone and everything else that comes with it, I was excited!
A couple of days away, in one of my favourite countries filled with good food, lots of photos and perhaps a bit of Port sampling… what more could a girl want?
The day I arrived, the weather was beautiful! I left the airport and headed straight for the Metro. I won’t lie, trying to purchase the right train ticket was tough. The machine may have translated everything into English, but it did not help!
I purchased a ticket in the hope that I could get to where I needed to go. Then off I strolled, with my suitcase in tow to the nearest platform.
There’s only one direction from the station, however two trains with different destination names.
Was I getting on the right one?
Rather than making the same mistake I have in other locations, I decided to try and message my AirBnB host for some help. Unfortunately, he didn’t come back to me very quickly so I decided in the excitement of discovering a new place to hop on the train currently on the platform.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I could get pretty lost in Porto. Could be worse.
Luckily for me, I quickly worked out I was going in the right direction, and my punt would pay off.
I exited the train to switch lines, from the purple ‘E’ line to the yellow ‘D’ line, to head to my AirBnB for the evening. There were people tapping their cards on these yellow machines. I quickly realised that this was Porto’s version of gates or turnstiles.
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They’re obviously very trusting!
I tapped my card. RED. Whoops. I mean, colour coded language must be pretty universal right? I watched as the next lady tapped hers and the light went green. Oops. I’ve definitely bought the wrong thing.
As I’m a pretty decent human being, if I do say so myself… I ventured over to the nearest stocky man wearing a high-vis and tried to explain to him what I’d done in the hope he wasn’t going to fine me but help me.
I was in luck! The guy was very nice, if not a little patronising, but I had just spent half the price to get to where I was than most people.
After a bit of, what felt like a telling off, the gentleman walked me to the tourist office where I was able to purchase an Andante Tour Card. Its perfect for tourists and comes in two options;
- Andante Tour 1 – valid for 24 hours and costs 7EUR
- Andante Tour 3 – valid for 72 hours and costs 15EUR
I going to be in Portugal for 3 days so obviously opted for the latter. It covers you on most public transport including buses, metro light rail and urban trains.
I generally seem to walk everywhere when I travel solo, but I knew from that moment on I didn’t need to worry about my travel pass.
Just to add a real moment…
The lady behind the desk, as lovely as she was, made me feel like a right doughnut. And I walked out, phoned my parents and had a little cry. I felt like a complete knob. I was tired, I’d been travelling all morning. The anxiety of travelling alone was back and I just needed to realise it.
And then I was fine.
These days It’s so easy to only talk about the good things that happen, and forget the silly little things. Or the times we look stupid. We’re all human. It happens.
I headed straight to São Bento station, which is literally opposite my AirBnB. Result!
After being stood outside looking a little lost for 5 minutes, a very lovely lady approached me asking if I was Lorna. She had to be my host right? If not, man she was a good stalker! Ha!
She carried my case up the flight of stairs where I was greeted by this beautiful room.
I’d outdone myself with finding this place. It was beautiful; beautiful high ceilings with ornate mouldings, dreamy window shutters, a simple yet elegant interior and a wonderful view of the beautiful station architecture just across the street. Plus, the Airbnb host had kindly left a small bottle of locally produced Port which I would definitely try later! (I didn’t think I’d like Port, but I’m happy to report, I’m a fan!)
After unpacking my bag and freshening up I decided it was time to put my coat on and head for a walk to discover this beautiful city.
Porto is just… dreamy.
The hills down the famous River Douro were definitely going to give me a workout as my legs felt the burn walking down them. And luckily for me, the weather was lovely. It was 14 degrees and the sun was shining. With all the walking, I had to take my coat off. Obviously, the locals gave me weird looks.
But hey, I’m English. That was almost tropical for a girl like me!
When I left my apartment I headed left, and straight UP a hill. I turned left at the end of the street and was greeted with the beautiful Clérigos Church. Stupidly, I didn’t go up to the top there and then. Which I should have. The weather was perfect. Missed opportunity.
I continued walking. I came across the Porto sign, which obviously everyone was having their pictures taken.
After, I decided to head down the backstreets. From previous experience, that’s where I’ve always found the gems. Down the side turnings.
I made it all the way down to the river.
After a quick FaceTime with the parents to show them the river and some of the amazing street art or Porto, which looked an uncanny resemblance with my Nan, I decided to stroll back towards my apartment.
Obviously, I stopped an snapped some pictures on the way up.
I came across one small side turning, not big enough to fit a car down. I decided to explore. The hill was so steep… if there had been any water on that street, I definitely would’ve fallen over! Thank god there wasn’t!
But to my amazement, look what was around the corner…
Not all those who wander are lost – J. R. R. Tolkien
I strolled down towards the beautiful church, my jaw hitting the floor.
The picture does it no justice whatsoever.
It was beautiful. To the right of it was a viewing ledge which looked out over the river.
I was planning on popping inside the church, however, a quick peek in made me realise that someone was in the middle of getting married. It was a lovely moment, I won’t lie.
To the left of the church was some, extremely steep steps.
I’m not joking kids if you’re heading to Porto and plan on going on… please make sure you can handle these steps. I started to head up, wondering why the hell I hadn’t bought my bottle of water. Damn, I was unfit. And my god was I going to feel this in the morning! Haha! But when I got to the top… Ahhhh! It was worth it.
I was greeted with Porto Cathedral.
Alongside a bunch of tourists taking photos, I was happy to take a seat (after all those bloody stairs) and remove my headphones to listen to the busker playing beautiful jazz music on his saxophone and just admire the view as the sunset.
I wanted to head back to my apartment to freshen up before finding somewhere for dinner this evening. So I popped my apartment location into my iPhone maps and realised that I was literally around the corner. Great!
After getting back to my flat, a quick shower and change and I was ready for my dinner!
I headed back towards Clérigos Church but instead turned right onto Liberdade Square which had many restaurants lining the streets. I quickly chose a restaurant, and even though it wasn’t even spring weather yet, decided to sit outside under the heaters.
This was the part I’ve always hated the most.
Eating dinner alone. I don’t know. Just sitting in a restaurant by myself – I’ve never really liked it. I knew as it’d been a while since travelling alone this was the hardest part. But once I’d ordered and had a joke with the waiter, I was fine. I had my glass of vinho in hand, and steak on the way.
Within twenty-or-so minutes, I heard an English accent behind me. A Mancunian accent. After a bit of banter, I said rather than us both looking like doughnuts he could share my table if he’d like. His name was Ashton. After dinner, we decided to head to a bar, where, obviously, Lorna that’s had one drink will talk to anyone… made some new friends!
I’ve found that travelling alone makes you more cautious of the world.
Therefore, under no circumstances do I get drunk. I know my limits and I definitely reached them. But it’s always good to know when to stop. We ended up going to a club with our new friend.
Clubbing in Porto, was very different from clubbing in Cambridge, let me tell you that! But a fun night none the less! And, I’m happy to say I still speak to two of the people I met that night.
See, you can make friends when you travel alone! I’m just upset that Antonio keeps sending me beautiful pictures of Porto and I just want to go back – haha!
Unfortunately, the next two days did not go to plan. I woke up during the night by my stomach turning. I continued to vomit for the majority of the following day. My only full day in Porto. I was absolutely gutted, but I was sick, there was nothing I could do.
I finally stopped being sick later afternoon. And to be fair, it’d been raining all day. The thought of the hills I’d climbed the previous day and the rain… I was alright with staying indoors.
I’d been cooped up in my little bedsit all day. I was anxious, but I needed some fresh air, to possibly see a pharmacist and to try and get some dry boring food. It took me a good two hours to get showered and pluck up the courage to go out. I was scared I was going to be sick in the street. But I’m happy to say…
I was not sick on the streets of Porto!
I found a small supermarket tucked away down a side street. I grabbed a tub of original Pringles and a carton of apple juice. It was super cold out. I wanted to get as much fresh air as I could, but I still feel great, so I headed straight back to my room.
Turns out I was pretty hungry. I devoured the tub of Pringles pretty quickly. But headed straight for bed.
Given that I’d spent so long in bed, I slept like a baby. I packed my bags and headed out for a quick walk on Sunday morning. I’m glad I did but I can’t help but think of everything I missed.
My flight wasn’t until later that evening and even though there were luggage lockers at São Bento station, just across the street, something just didn’t feel right about them. So I decided to head straight the airport after checking out and chilling there for a good 8 hours.
I got a lot of work done and just chilled.
So there you have it… you know there will be another post about Porto at some point. I had basically a total of a day exploring. I have to go back. But sickness happens… there’s not a lot we can do about it. Maybe it was something I ate, maybe not. That’s why I tend to eat steak when I’m away. But… Porto isn’t going anywhere, and I will definitely be back!
Have you visited Porto, Portugal? What did you love the most? What should I add to my list to see next time?
Until next time,