04.05.2011 - 04.05.2011 21 °C
Our first impressions of Porto
We awoke bright and early this morning at the apparently very popular time of 6:30am. My alarm went off and all 8 of us in our bunks jolted up. Shane and I got right up as well us two other bunk mates, who appearently were using our start time for their own. We snuck quietly (we hope!) out of the room. We checked out and walked to the metro, from the metro we walked to the train station, we waited for half an hour for the train to the airport and stood with our packs (they were getting heavy at this point) during the 20 minute ride to the airport. We walked around looking for the ryanair check in desk, got told to get our passports checked, came back to the counter and finally dropped our packs. We were concerned about the weigh of our packs so we had shuffled everything heavier into the daypacks, like books, the laptop and converters. Our weights came in at 11 and 15kgs. So we done good.
We went through security with only a minor hiccup and then (FINALLY got some breakfast. I had a really good container of greek yogurt and we shared a chocolate doughnut we had seen all around the city. The doughnut hadn't looked that good to me, but I was intrigued as to why it was so prevalent. So we tried it and it was actually very good. Not your typical doughtnut texture, but nice and loaded with chocolate. Bonus!
This was our first expierence with budget airlines and we figured out why they are so cheap. NO SPACE. The plane is packed with as many seats as possible, I couldn't even cross my legs! They also try to sell you stuff all flight long, lottery tickets, smokeless cigarettes, high end cosmetics and perfume and overpriced food and drink (only one of which we fell prey to.) That said, it was a very good flight and well worth the $100CAD it cost us.
The view from our room
We arrived in Porto at 10:40 local time (we went back one time zone) we grabbed our bags and found the metro station. It should be said that for a city of only 220,000 people, the transit system and airport are superb! By any cities standards they are both extremely efficant and beautiful. On the metro we met two girls from Vancouver who had flown from Barcelona also. We split ways at our final stop. We buzzed our way up to our pension. We walked the four flights of stairs to our room, which wasn't ready, we had known we were to early. We got the keys and a map from our host Pedro, who said that the cheapest cafes were on the street behind the apartment.
We took his advice and, scared as we were (we understand NO Portugese) we sat down in an unsuspecting restaurant. The owner and server were very cool, first two glasses or Port were placed on our table "an apertif" he said with a smile. We were nervous, having read that in Portugal they bring the food to your table and if you touch it you pay. We accepted anyway, knowing the cost couldn't be that much. The server wrote out a translation on a piece of paper and brought it to our table. I selected a sausage dish, Shane got the roast chicken. The owner came back saying they had no sausage, so I ordered the chicken too. The locals started pouring in, each one obviously a friend, with a handshake, a laugh and a slap on the back. None of them got a glass of port, we were feeling pretty silly. They started ordering and quickly thereafter a yellow potato-y looking dish was placed on the table. We were intriged. I flagged the owner, "What is it called?" I asked pointing to the dish. "Bacalhau," he responded "You want some?" "So it's like potatoes and rice?" I inquired. "Pototaes, yes, fish" he replied. "Ohhh!" we said, we knew the fish, dried salt cod, delicious! "Yes, one please" we answered.
A few minutes later out came the chicken and the bachaluas. BEST CHICKEN OF OUR LIVES! There is no joke there, it was amazing. The half roasted chicken was rubbed in spices and served with freshly fried potaote chips (still warm) and a most amazing sauce, which tasted like mushroom, roasted chilis and CHICKEN. We couldn't help ourselves, we devoured it. If I didn't love Shane so much I would have stolen his piece of chicken out of his hands! We could have sworn we were going to get ripped off as tourists here. Shane asked how much I thought the bill would be. "Will be or should be?" I asked. I guessed 15 at the value and 25 at the bill. We waved over the owner and asked for the bill. He took out a pen and scribbled the totals down quickly on the paper table cloth. $5.5 for the bachalaus, $5 for the chicken $.80 for the water. 11.30 euros total. We couldn't beileve it ourselves. We hadn't been ripped off, we had been welcomed. We learned a lesson today, and we left 15 euros, what we thought the meal was worth.
We wandered the streets after lunch, our room wouldn't be ready. At 2pm we went back up the four flights of stairs, the room wasn't done. We sat in a cafe across the street for 30 minutes. Espresso at .60 euros! So cheap! The same espresso cost us 2.60 euros in Paris! Finally we got our room. We freshened up, sorted ourselves out and left. We wandered into the old town and stumbled into Avenida Dos Aliados a pretty sqaure with statues and fountians and old buildings. We wandered a little farther before we saw a beautiful sight, the Sé. Thats it's name, and all it needs oddly enough. It's a stunning church started in the early 1100's. Its undergone a few changes in it's day, but now includes a small museum, a treasury and other worship rooms coming off the central courtyard. It was well worth the 3 euros, there was hardly anyone there.
Finished with the the cathedral we walked down beautiful streets to the Douro river waterfront, chalked full of restaurants and cafes. We bought ourselves some icecream bars and swung our feet over the edge of the boardwalk. It was a very nice way to relax before we started uphill. Our walk brought us to a supermarket, we decided to get some food for both tonight (we are always hungary) and for breakfast. A bag of chips, a bottle of wine, a can of juice, 4 containers of yogurt and disposible cups...5 euros
Still looking for dinner we walked back to our room (away from the marked up prices.) Just down the street we found what we were looking for, a cafe. We ordered two ginger-ales and two savory-pastry-sandwich things. The service was AWESOME. We settled down to watch the begning of a football game. A few locals showed up, and we ordered some epsresso (to keep me awake blogging right now!) The total price, 6 euros. I don't mean to keep telling the price of everything here, but we are so impressed with how far our 75 euros got us today we can't help it!
Now we are drinking our vindo verde (a sparkeling rather sour lemon-y tasting wine) having showered (finally!) and are ready for our night's sleep. We are in love with Porto.