Happy Decaying Buildings

“Quiere marihuana?” he said, and it was a whole new take on hospitality.

Oporto 0
a handwritten boarding pass

We arrived in Porto, Portugal after getting our very “home-made” tickets at the RyanAir counter, and having a short, smooth flight. Having only learned 3 phrases in Portuguese, we emerged from the São Bento metro stop, and instantly loved the city. I LOVE the first time you come out of the subway in a place you’ve never been, and get shocked by beauty. It’s a shot of adrenaline and wonder that keeps me addicted to travel. There was so much color against so much gray: happy decaying buildings.

We were looking for our hostel when a man offered us pot, showing us a neat display sort of discretely.

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drug dealing corner

“No, thank you,” I said. The next day we would learn that too often, the police get complaints because they’re actually selling oregano, and other fake drugs. Like J.Lo would sing, “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got.”

We carefully read the directions for our hostel, looking for a church on a hill. But there were SO MANY churches, and they were ALL on hills, and the map did not show all the street names. After wandering for what could have been a good hour, we decided to eat first. Our backpacks were heavy, and our attention span was fading with each stomach growl. We entered a café/bar/restaurant with many flags on the window, a sign outside suggesting they spoke English. Perhaps not the most local meals, but we NEEDED FOOD. Christy ordered an omelette, and I ordered spaghetti with delicious ground beef. I also ordered a glass of wine, forgetting it was still morning. But in Europe, wine ain’t got no schedule, hun. You drink that glass up at 11:00 am if you wish. Judgment is for fools 😉

Getting friendly with the staff, who obviously enjoyed the tourism, we were rightfully guided to our hostel: Yes! Porto, which we had passed on our way up some hill. We were not in a rush to sightsee. We knew we’d get to visit many wonderful places, but we also wanted the vacation to feel relaxing. After our hike the day before, a poor night rest, and carrying our backpacks up many hills…We shamelessly took a long, well deserved nap after killing half hour with a short walk, where we bumped into this view:

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nap in Porto
photo credit: Smac&Tosh

Rejuvenated by our nap, and the handsome hostel lobby staff with a beautiful accent…- wait….I lost my train of thought…Oh right, we just walked around the rest of the evening, and soon ended up walking down a poor lit, sketchy looking, empty alley. But something I’ve learned in Europe is that just because it looks old, doesn’t mean it’s a dangerous part of town. Our doubts were clarified the next day when our walking tour guide told us, “Don’t walk here alone at night.” Lessons learned, bridges burned.

For dinner I ordered the traditional francesinha, which is a BOMB DISH. It is a sandwich, packed with all kinds of meat until it is too thick to bite it (so you need a fork and knife). Then they put a fried egg on top and cover the thing in layers of swiss cheese, which melts. Then that is completely drenched in this orange, thick, beer sauce, which tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before. “I think I’m going,” I mumbled.

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I did not get a picture of the francesinha, but this gets pretty close to the real scene.

“Where are you going?” Christy asked. “I don’t know. The other side.” I was feeling so full, and so heavy, it was like my soul was lifting from my body as it sank on the metal chair. The hostel staff had strictly recommended we only eat the francesinha for lunch because we would certainly be sick if we ate it and went to bed. A detail I had forgotten, distracted by the guy’s overall charm and beautiful face. “Come on. We need to walk this off.” Christy said, forcing me out of my chair. I could not help but feel this was my “walk of shame.” Who has a francesinha before bed?! -_- Despite this, it was a unique culinary experience, and I am glad I was open minded to try something new.

 

Going to sleep that night was easy. Our hostel was nice, clean, comfortable, and with a beautiful view. I was struck by the frequent sound of seagulls, even during the night. It was the sound of Porto. A vacation sound. A beautiful sound.

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