Where Are We Now: Porto, Portugal
Escaped from: Chicago, IL
Voyaged to: Porto, Portugal
Winter, Summer, Spring, or Fall: Spring – May 2016
Climate: Sunny and warm, a beautiful contrast from Chicago
Plane, Train, or Automobile: Plane
Transfer Time: ORD à EWR: 2 Hours, EWR à OPO: 7 Hours
Evening Headquarters: AirBnB Rental – I’m a very budget-conscious traveler.
Favorite Local Flavor(s):
- Eat: Francesinha – Literally translated, it means “Little French Girl”. I still have no idea why it’s called this, but needless to say, this is delicious although when reading its ingredients online, it should come with a defibrillator on the side. The best one is served at Café Santiago – get it with an egg on top and savor every bite.
- Couvert– A friendly traveler’s tip: in all Portuguese restaurants, they have what is called a “couvert”. The couvert typically consists of olives, cheese, bread and a fish spread. These items are automatically brought to the table when you sit down and you have to request not to have them. In the event they make it to your table, there will be an automatic charge of 8-10 euro added to your bill.
- Lello-Livararia – This bookstore was the inspiration for the Hogwarts moving staircases, Ollivander’s wand shop and numerous other place in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Rowling was married to a Portuguese man and lived in Porto when she started creating the world of Harry Potter so you’ll find a lot of Harry Potter inspiration while walking around Porto. For example, the university students in Porto wear the exact uniform (cape included) as the Hogwarts students, so if you see what appears to be hordes of Harry Potter aficionados walking around – fret not, they’re just students.
- Braga – This is a beautiful city for a day trip from Porto. It costs 6 euro round trip on the train and is about one hour outside the city. Braga is known for its many churches and religious art, but the true reason for our visit was the Bom Jesus do Monte Church. To get to the church, you have to catch the bus headed to Bom Jesus, which is an additional 1.60 euro each way. Once you get there, you can choose to take the funicular or stairs up to the church – however, you do not get the full experience without walking up the stairs. It’s truly breath-taking and one of the most unique arrival experiences I’ve ever seen.
- Free Walking Tours – I always take a free walking tour in every European city I visit. These tours last 2-5 hours and are run on a tip-only basis so you simply tip the guide however much you feel comfortable with (typically 3-5 euro per person ). We took the free walking tour from Pancho Tours and absolutely loved it. These tours do such a great job telling the historical, cultural and social stories of the city and the tour guides are always quick to offer great local tips, customs and recommendations.
- Ponte Luis I Bridge – This bridge connects the cities of Porto and Gaia and offers a postcard-worthy view of Porto’s riverfront. The upper level of the bridge is reserved for pedestrians and the metro train. The bridge itself was built by one of Gustav Eiffel’s students and was the longest iron arch bridge in the world when it was finished in 1886.