Day Tripping in Porto, Portugal

Mrs. Itchyfeet in front of Pinhão city letters

You all know that when I go on any adventure, things don’t always go as planned. It’s kind of frustrating but also makes life more exciting! Well, I got to experience two such adventures in and around Porto a few weeks ago. This is fun because I’m back in Seattle now and trying to remember all the ridiculous details for you all. Wish me luck!

Friends up for a visit

Remember those friends I told you about in Peniche? Well, they came up to Porto for a visit. There is just a crap ton to do in Porto, but they were only staying for one full day. One day! How much could we actually see and do in only one day? So many churches and markets and gardens and port tastings! I got this.

Church at sunset
There are so many amazing views near my apartment in Porto.

The first evening they were in Porto, I took them out for some delightful Thai food. Thai food is great because it is mostly gluten-free. I can find loads of things to eat and all of it is delicious. They live in Portugal, so it’s not like I have to find them some Portuguese food to eat. That’s the great thing about massive cities; you can get most anything you want.

Bright and early the next day, after breakfast, we headed out to a fabulous fruit market. Mercado do Bolhão. It’s filled with fruit, veg, olives, cheeses, meats, fish, mushrooms, snacks, all kinds of things. We all really enjoyed walking around and checking things out. Next, we were off to the Asian-food market. Yes, please! This is the place to stock up on everything you need for some good quality cooking. Plus, it’s the only place in Porto where you can purchase edible distilled white-vinegar (for Haitian cabbage slaw!). After, we had to head back to my friends’ place to unload.

To the castle!

I decided to take my peeps out for some Hawaiian Poke for lunch. I wore my Hawaiian T-shirt just for the occasion. You really can find anything here. Now to the castle! Okay… it’s not really a castle. It’s a cathedral, but it really looks like a castle. It’s under construction and we didn’t want to wait in line to go inside, so we stuck with just viewing the magnificent outside… plus the views of the city.

Parque das Virtudes in Porto
One of my favorite parks in Porto, Parque das Virtudes! Look at that view!

After, it was time for some port tasting. They had already done the whole Gaia port tasting thing, so I decided on something different. Port and chocolate pairing on Flowers Street, Rua das Flores. Rua das Flores is really pretty and mostly pedestrian, so I highly recommend it. I found this lovely shop that offers four different ports to taste and pair with four different chocolates. You’re supposed to, like, take a bite of chocolate and a sip of the port and see how they go together. It’s fun and not that expensive.

Time for a snack. We headed up the massive hill to my place for some arepas. Venezuelan arepas with shredded chicken filling and Haitian pickled cabbage slaw are the best! I have them for just about every breakfast, and decided to have them twice today to show them off to my friends. Fed friends are happy-friends!

Park hopping time!

There are so many really lovely parks close to my place. We went to my two favorite ones. They terraced one with lovely art pieces throughout. Plus ponds with tadpoles! The other has the Super Bock Arena, beautiful gardens, and baby peacocks (plus adult peacocks). I was only going to take them to one park, but I couldn’t decide, so I took them to both. It was a lot of walking! Sorry, not sorry.

Now time for dinner. After loads of research on this one, I found this really cute Indian restaurant just a bit north of our location. Okay. Truth be told. A lot north of our location. Time for more walking and a few more hills. I’m glad the food was wonderful or my friends might have been upset with me. This particular restaurant specializes in Southern Indian. That means I get dosas! So, so good.

By the end of the day, we walked about 15 kilometers. That is a lot, but it was tons of fun and I’m really glad they made the long journey to visit me. I slept really well that night, for sure. The next day my friends caught the Metro and then the bus back to Peniche. Farewell, until we meet again!

Train or boat?

The next adventure I just have to tell you all about is along the Douro River Valley up into wine country. This particular wine valley is very famous for its delectable port wines. You can take a nine-hour boat tour up the river with port tasting along the way (costs about $100). I like the idea of the port tasting, but nine-hours! On a boat! Nope.

Douro River Valley
Look at these beautiful wine fields along the Douro River Valley.

I opted for the faster train ride ($26) with my wine from the grocery store ($3). The train is the old kind with no air con, but with windows that open wide enough for you to crawl out if you really needed to. You can stick your head out and see what is happening up and down the tracks. Make sure you sit on the starboard side so you get river views. Very cool indeed!

After checking the weather report to make sure it wouldn’t rain on me, I realized it would be quite warm in the central valley. Nothing too crazy. Around 90 degrees for my North American folks (31 for everyone else). Tank top time! I miss the hot tropics so I was excited. Porto is about room temp all the time, which is slightly cold to me.

To Pinhão!

I decided to only go as far as Pinhão because the town looks super cute and the train ride is only a couple of hours, which is as long as I am willing to take for a day trip. The people watching on the train was really fun. Plus, along the way, we all spotted these fire-fighting planes dipping into the river and flying off again to drop their water loads on some nearby forest fire. That only made me slightly nervous.

Fire fighting plane picking up water
From the train, we saw several of these planes picking up water and flying off to parts unknown.

Once arriving in the correct town, I made my way to the restaurant I was excited about. I really wanted to sit outside, but it was getting increasingly warm. I still enjoyed the gorgeous views of the river with a lovely glass of very local wine. The food was wonderful as well. After, I was determined to wander around town to get some amazing pictures for you all.

Well, let me tell you. It was hot. I’ve been around the tropics. I know hot. This was a hot that I have never felt before. Ever! How could 31 degrees feel this hot? People were taking their shoes off and going into the river near the boats. Not the cleanest area, but I was in. I took off my shoes and my sun-shirt and dunked it and my hat to get them wet. It was so crazy hot.

Why is it so hot?

Turns out, Europe got a large heat dome that migrated unexpectedly over to the area. It wasn’t 31 degrees. It was 44 degrees (111 Fahrenheit)! That is insane heat. I don’t think I have ever been that hot. I said no more and headed back to the train station to get tickets home. Tickets purchased, I stopped at a port shop for the A/C.

Mrs. ItchyFeet on the train along the Douro River
You are correct. I am getting sunburnt but the views are worth it!

The fancy port shop was selling lemon sorbet covered in this delightful white port. It was so good and really hit the spot in that heat. Afterwards, I jumped on the train and quickly realized that the old train really does not have A/C. Luckily, I still had the best time because I sat next to this woman from Brazil who told me all about her crazy day.

She works as a photographer on one of those nine-hour boat tours I told you about earlier. The air con broke on the boat and little old ladies were passing out left and right from the heat. I completely understand as I also fall into that demographic (lol). She called her boss and asked to get off early so she could head back to temperate Porto. She could not believe how hot it got, as this was not usual. Along the train route, a bunch of very drunk humans got on and were speaking loudly in Portuguese.

Douro River Valley
The Douro River Valley is so pretty. This is from the train.

Now for some entertainment

Soon enough, the drunk humans were getting into a very heated argument with the ticket-checker. This was the second ticket-checker to pass by and I guess that is unusual. The woman gave me the full lowdown of what was being said. Sounds like one guy tossed his ticket after the first checker stopped by (don’t do that). The second ticket-checker was now fining him 100 euros for not having a ticket. Dude was pissed (in more ways than one).

This fiasco went on for almost an hour. I really thought the guy would get kicked off. All the while, the train lumbered past beautiful countryside with grape farms galore. It was a fun trip, despite the heat. I would recommend it to anyone in the area. Remember for river views, you want starboard on the way there and port side on the way back. It’s an Adventure!

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  1. so much fun walking, eating and drinking our way through Porto. You were the best guide!

  2. I forgot to mention that cold white port on lemon gelato is my favorite dessert after visiting Pinhoa!

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