As I look out the window dark clouds are gathering over the pristine sky. The weatherman says fall is here and heavy rains are imminent. And yet I don’t want to let go of the bright sun, the long, warm summer nights and of our walks to the ice cream parlor. Out of pure nostalgia I took out my phone and started to look at the photos we took during our vacation to Porto. It was a weird feeling. Weird, because it just happened, yet it seems so far away. Also, because it feels so foreign, and yet just like home.
Portugal is this strange mixture of something exotic, something that you cannot quite put your finger on, and yet something you instinctively understand. I can’t really put it into words – and not just because I don’t speak a squeak in Portuguese – because it is something you feel with your heart.
And yet, because I am as verbal as I am I thought I’d try to put it into words. I’ll attempt to share with you a couple of memories. Take it as a feeble attempt to describe quick snapshots that I took with an old school camera and which we are looking at together under a warm and comfy blanket with a cup of hot cocoa… I mean a glass of Port wine!
So here it goes, 12 things you should know before traveling to Porto.
- Drivers are calm, chilled and generally the nicest people on Earth.
- They will stoically watch the herd of tourists pass before their cars for long minutes without a frown on their foreheads, a honk, or a warm welcome extended towards my mother and extended family.
- The same cannot be said about the city tram drivers who will gladly do any or D., all of the above.
- Walking on the sidewalks is like diving head first into those airport smoking lounges: you can cut the smoke with a knife and there is no escaping it. And yet there are not cigarette butts (or trash) anywhere on the sidewalks…
- Porto is a walker’s paradise. Everything and anything can be reached on foot! However, be prepared with an assortment of foot cremes, soaks, magnesium tablets and sprays or a doting husband who will massage your aching feet even though he is already half asleep.
- People in Porto will generally tell you that they speak a foreign language and then continue the conversation in a mixture of Portuguese and sign language. But mostly Portuguese.
- However, when you moan in pleasure and let out a low guttural Hmmmmm.. over your sautéd octopus dish it will generally be understood.
- As are any references to FC Porto, Cristiano Ronaldo or football in general.
- Tourists outnumber Portuguese 2 to 1; while Spaniards outnumber Portuguese (at least!) 4 to 1. If you don’t pay attention you might think you are in Spain or in the middle of the Spanish reconquista.
- Seagulls are everywhere: in the sea, on the beach, on the street and generally watching you. You’ll never (ever) hear cawing the same way again!
- When in Porto be extremely careful! The city will knock on your door, get under your covers and crawl under your skin. Knock you flat out.
- If you’re not careful you’ll be likely to miss your flight back home because you feel just like you do at home.
OK, as a faithful reader of this blog you deserve the truth here, a little correction. The last statement was a lie. You feel much better then you do at home! OK, if still not convinced, then let’s put the words aside and let the heart sing. (exit stage right with loud sobbing sounds)