Actually it should read to buy Port because that’s what the specialty of Porto is.
We hadn’t planned on Portugal, it was always on our “wishlist” or what could otherwise be described as our “if we have time” list. We made time. Three nights to be exact – just in one place meaning we could really get to the heart of Porto without rushing.
We didn’t quite make it to Porto as it got dark quite quickly after crossing the border, so we opted for a free Aire, behind a restaurant, next to a lake in the Portuguese countryside instead. Arriving in the dark meant we missed it all sadly but we bought coffee in the morning to thank the restaurant owner for his hospitality. Doug asked for “a white coffee” before receiving his “black expresso shot” and then as he sat chatting to the owner, the guy proceeded to make 3 white coffees for his staff which made us laugh at the obvious language barrier.
The motorhome parking in Porto is right on the riverfront and only a 20 minute walk to the historic old centre, so whilst it was a bit rough around the edges, it was packed with other motorhomers and offered a great view of the riverboats.
Careful not to overdo things on the first afternoon, we stuck to the riverfront areas, which lie on either side of the river and are connected by a large bridge. As it’s a very hilly city, they have gondolas, boats and cable cars connecting the various areas so it’s a very easy place to navigate.
My top tip for Porto is to find a good seat and just take it all in. Make sure you look up, because the detail in the housing is exquisite. From the different designs of tiles to the decorated iron balconies to the wonderful array of freshly washed laundry hanging from the windows. Keep an eye out for the street performers too.
After using your eyes, listen with your ears to the many many different languages, to the buskers singing, to the piano accordion guy serenading the diners to the trumpet players and the violinists hoping for a hat full of pennies for their efforts.
It’s truly a place that is just an assault on your senses in a really good way.
We did start to call it a day early in the evening after a glass of local port however…
On the way home we were enticed by tables full of Port tastings for 5 € and let’s just say it didn’t take much to twist our arms because next minute….
We met a young couple from Norway that night, who had met at university. She had owned a yacht, her very own 34 ft yacht, and they had decided to sail to Portugal from Norway whilst studying and living off their student loans. Why study at home when you can study sailing the world right? Loved it.
The next morning after several panadol, we headed in the opposite direction toward the ocean end of the boardwalk and towards the Marina. There we found an array of handmade washing lines all higgelty piggelty across the seafront.
Then we spied these lovely old ladies dressed in their “pinnies” handwashing their clothes in an old fashioned bathhouse/wash house.
The photos around the walls had these ladies doing the washing with flowers between their teeth in a kind of washing ceremony so I googled it.
Afrurada is a very old fishing village and the people of this town choose to live the traditional way. I’m told nothing gets the mats cleaner than a good old scrubbing brush.
After buying a few groceries from the local market we headed into the village for a closer look, stopping at the local bakery for our first taste of a Portugal Tart, (that’s a custard filled pastry). What a step back in time that proved to be.
On one corner we had a few ladies selling woolen tights from the pavement where a bunch of old ladies dressed in their pinnies, scarves, woolen socks and slippers haggled over the price. On the other corner a man grilled capsicum on a charcoal barbecue in front of a restaurant and on the other a man sat in his car whilst a parade of old ladies came to pay money to him. Doug thought he was collecting “Rates”.
In the meantime, an endless array of bustling women carrying things on their heads past us on the street. It was like living in another century. We stayed glued to our seats, our coffees cold in their mugs, watching a scene from an olden day movie unfold before us.
Finally we dragged ourselves away and walked a couple of km’s up the road to another world where Zara and H&M sell the latest fashion from their thoroughly modern shopfronts.
We had the best coffee of our trip at another thoroughly modern cafe in the alleyways of Porto but just couldn’t drag our minds away from the old ladies down the road.
The historic town just up the hill from the riverfront is full of cobbled lane ways, tiled shopfronts , lots of eateries, port shops and Portuguese giftshops and it was a lovely way to end our afternoon.
All in all our time in Porto was really lovely and relaxing, we overindulged in coffee, Portuguese tarts, people watching and Port but I don’t regret a moment of the 500 km detour it took to achieve it. Definitely in my top city experiences.
As a footnote, if any of our readers in Auckland are heading away for Xmas holidays and need housesitters, we arrive back on the 2nd of January and our motorhome doesn’t arrive back in New Zealand until the 20th of January. We would love to housesit for you. 😀😀😀😀