Our trip to Porto was a fast, easy 2.5 hour train ride from Lisbon. The picturesque approach into the city over the river had us hooked, and so far we’ve been loving Porto.
We are staying this week at the Passenger Hostel, inside the São Bento train station. The train station was once a convent, and the story we’re told is that the ghost of the last nun to live in the convent (it was closed when she died) still haunts the station at night.
The hostel is much nicer than any I stayed in during my university backpacking days. It’s beautiful, the staff is super helpful and kind, and a trained chef offers a fun dinner each night in the communal kitchen.
I was a little unsure how the boys would weather a three-hour guided walk, but the hostel had suggested Porto Walkers, and we wanted to get a feel for the city center. It turned out to be just the right blend of historic information and intriguing tidbits about the current life of Porto residents, and we all enjoyed it. Henry stayed right up in front the whole time so he could hear what David, our guide, was saying. It didn’t hurt that we stopped halfway through the tour at a tiny shop called Cozinha Doce for a slice of chocolate cake and a serving of Natas do Ceu (Approx. translation – “cream from heaven”).
I visited the Livraria Lello (considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and said to be an inspiration for Hogwarts) with Henry, who thought the hour long wait to enter was a bit much. Upon entering, however, he was duly impressed and would have liked to stay, “if there was anywhere to just sit and read.”
We all climbed the Torre dos Clerigos for a magnificent sunset.
On Saturday we took the 500 bus to Matosinhos. The bus, part of the regular public transit system, is a double decker, and if you sit up top right in the front it’s just as good as the hop on / hop off tours, minus the pithy commentary. While we were waiting for the bus, we noticed a garbage truck lifting a huge bin out of the ground to empty it. The bin sits just under a very small (bottomless) trash can. Henry watched the whole process until they returned the bin to the ground and closed the cover with the “fake” trash can on top. He turned to us and deadpanned, “My whole life is a lie.”
Max has made a list of things he would like to do in Porto, and the Piscina das Marés in Matosinhos was second on the list. It did not disappoint – the pool is beautiful, the people watching is quite entertaining, and the free water aerobics class that Kyle joined was a delightfully funny bonus.
Number one on Max’s list, unsurprisingly, was Jumpers – a trampoline place. Kyle took them to do that on our second day here. Not exactly on the tourist circuit, they were the only non-Portuguese kids there. Max mentioned that he had a funny experience with one boy who tried to talk with him. He says he tried to tell him he didn’t speak Portuguese (Eu não falo português), but realized only after the boy walked away with a very confused look on his face that he had been earnestly telling him “Eu não falo ingles.”
We have spend a fair amount of time just walking. Every corner turned reveals something beautiful or surprising.