- “Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” -Jodi Picoult
I’m back from my first trip outside of Spain! Last weekend, I went to Porto, Portugal. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and is situated along the Atlantic. Despite a rough early morning journey by bus, metro, plane, and more metro (so rough that my motion sickness kicked in :P), we made it and checked into our beautiful hostel with a full day left to explore and enjoy the city. We made our way to the river for a boat cruise and lunch. We traveled along the river and saw the Atlantic Ocean. We even waved to our friends and family back in the US since it’s probably the closest we’ll be to home in a while. That night, we had an authentic three course Portuguese dinner at our hostel. We ate with other travelers from Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. It was great to interact with people outside our group and eat a nice Portuguese meal. If you’re in Porto anytime soon, I can definitely offer a great recommendation on where to stay!
Every time we are on a trip together, my friend Becca asks each of us what our favorite part of the day was. This weekend, we all agreed that the definite highlight was a Segway tour of the city. We had a great guide, Angelo, who showed us all around the city and taught us how to “become one” with the Segway. We all were very nervous to start (well, mostly me!), but Angelo assured us that before too long, the machine would become an extension of our bodies. Sure enough, after some practice, we were Segway pros! We crossed the river on a bridge designed by Eiffel’s favorite student (another bridge in Porto is designed by Eiffel himself!), we weaved our way through some of the busiest streets in the city, and climbed tall hills to the cathedral. Angelo told us to be prepared to feel like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt; everyone smiles, waves, and stares, making you feel like the Segway riding celebrities of the city. It was the best 25 euros I’ve ever spent!
Porto also has a lot of surprises that we learned about on our tour. This one is for my Harry Potter loving friends: Believe it or not, Porto inspired the series! While teaching English in Porto for two years, JK Rowling was inspired by a bookstore with an intricate staircase and the uniforms of school children there. She wrote down her first ideas about the Harry Potter series on a napkin at the Majestic Cafe.
Throughout the weekend, we were amazed that every Portuguese person we spoke to could speak either Spanish or English or both, which was a blessing because Portuguese sounds like a jumble of French, German, Spanish and who knows what else! Most people knew at least two languages other than Portuguese. Portuguese citizens working in the tourism industry can switch from one language to another, to another all day. Jobs that would be entry-level in the US require the employee to be tri-lingual or more. We all felt behind only learning one additional language and felt a little ashamed that the US doesn’t stress the importance of other languages like some countries in Europe do.
In Porto, I unfortunately did have to say a final goodbye to my camera. If anyone knows anything about Canon lens errors, help a girl out! Thankfully I have friends who take great pictures. Most of the pictures in this post are from Bri and her nice and functioning camera. Thanks Bri!
- View from our hostel and last picture from my living camera 😦 RIP
Despite the motion sickness and death of my camera, I had a great weekend exploring a new country. After a long and busy weekend, we were thrilled to return to Spain where we could understand everyone a little better, people use a little more deodorant, and where Sangria is more popular than Port Wine (yuck!). Like the quote I used for this post mentions, maybe I had to leave Spain in order to understand how much I should appreciate it.
Next weekend I’ll be staying in Spain and traveling to Barcelona! Check back next week for updates. ¡Besos!