Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Trip to Porto

This past weekend was the CIEE trip to Porto. Porto is a beautiful city in Northwestern Portugal, known for its port wine (hence the word "port"). We arrived Saturday afternoon and stayed until around midday Sunday. We stayed in a hostel chosen by CIEE for the duration of our stay.

So one can get a sense of how beautiful Porto is:

The first thing we did when we arrived was go on the walking tour offered by the hostel. It was short but sweet and we got a sense of what the main area of Porto is like. After, I went to a cellar to taste port wine and then the guide gave us some restaurant recommendations so we all went to eat at a small cafe where I ate fried octopus (pretty tasty). That night everyone went on a pub "tour" but I was too sleepy so I was lazy and just went to sleep.
Some points of interest from the tour:

Can't see well but this is a cute picture of a guy with his dog sleeping with his head on his lap;

The tour guide told us a funny story about these churches: The one on the left is older.. it was getting a lot of people coming in and out of its doors every day which made the priests in another church located in a different part of the city jealous. So, they came to the priests of the church on the left with a story about how they wanted to build a hospital in the area. The priests of the left church thought it was a good idea so they gave them land to build. The jealous priests completed the hospital, however, the hospital "chapel" actually became a second church which was made extremely ornate in order to rival the original church next door. Now the jealous priests had the church they wanted, *but* the Vatican had a rule against having 2 working churches right next door to each other, so to solve that problem, a tiny sliver of a house was built in between the two (you can see the windows). Not sure how much of the story is true, as there is no mention of the story on the internet that I could find with a quick search, except that the tiny house was also created to make sure the nuns in one church would not have contact with the monks in the other. The churches are called Carmo and Carmelita.

Old monastery which later became São Bento train station:

The metro in Porto is really cool... it is not a normal train with a depressed track. Instead, it rides level with the ground more like a tram but it is very smooth and quiet. At the point shown in this picture it leaves the underground to go over this bridge. It receives electricity from aerial wires so it is ok to walk over the tracks:

Outside the Porto cathedral;

Hanging laundry and birdcages outside the old sailor district:

Down a small alley we came to a bakery called "Cozinha Doce". Inside, a woman makes chocolate desserts exclusively for restaurants. However, the woman giving the tour apparently had a deal with the woman to sell to outsiders:

Here is my friend eating some of the chocolate cake:

I got chocolate mousse. This was not like any mousse I had ever had. It was SO rich I could only finish about half. If marshmallow fluff had all its air removed so that it was just extremely thick and sticky, it would be about the same consistency of this stuff. It was, however, very good.

The creator of these desserts:

Immediately after the walking tour some of us went on a quick tour of one of the port cellars. Apparently they were almost all bought up by Englishmen at some point so they all have non-Portuguese names. For 6 euros we got a tour plus 2 glasses of port to taste:

I had a bit too much...

The next day in the morning we went on a boat tour up and down the river:

After lunch, my friend and I stopped at another port cellar after we got a free ticket for another tasting:

The funicular:

Finally at the top: 

Afterwards we went to a photography museum (Centro Português de Fotografia) which is housed in a building that used to be a prison. They had many old cameras on display including some really tiny ones that were really adorable:

Later that day CIEE brought us to a classical music concert at a place called "Casa da Musica". The place had very strange, modern architecture and decorations:

 At the end of the day, my friend and I went to a super expensive restaurant and proceeded the cheapest things off the menu, which ensured that we were completely ignored by the waiters:

It was really dumb but it was my last night and I wasn't going to get another chance so I ordered the "francesinha" which is a sandwich with a bunch of different types of meat in it (including 2 different types of sausage), the covered in melted cheese, and the drowned in gravy. It was a little spicy. It was also really gross and made feel feel sick. I feel like it could have been good but this restaurant just did not do a good job:

After dinner, my friend really wanted to go to a live show at this place called "Hotfive Jazz & Blues club". We showed up at 10 when it opened, but the music didn't start until 12. I know, waiting was horrible but my friend was really looking forward to it. I spent the time sucking down 2 (mine then hers when she didn't like it) super sugary mojitos. When the band finally did come on it was a blues band made up of 3 dudes in their 40s. They actually sounded pretty good! The only issue was that their lyrics were a little weird to me (in English but written by non-native speakers)

 The next day we went to a modern art museum, had a really fancy buffet lunch while their, and then got back on the bus for the 4 hour return journey to Lisbon.

Last thing: Ever since I can remember my parents have had some pottery pieces which they always said they had gotten when they visited Portugal years and years ago. They have 2 plates, a huge vase, plus they used to have a smaller vase but unfortunately it was broken by a friend when we were in 3rd grade. Anyways, these pieces have a floral design on them with small leaping deer. I just happened to walk into a shop in Porto and lo and behold, they were selling pottery with that exact pattern!!!! I got really excited and wanted to find a vase to replace the one that had been broken. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to look, and the only places I was able to go in were in super touristy areas where they were selling a smallish vase for 90 euros BUT *someday* (sorry mom and dad, love you)

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