Where to Find the Best Street Art in Lisbon

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My absolute favourite European destination, so unique but so underrated!

Which is your favourite European capital?

Source: Where to Find the Best Street Art in Lisbon

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I have completed B1 Portuguese!

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Today I completed an 80-hour B1 Portuguese Language Course at A Universidade de Lisboa! This has been my main motive for coming to Lisbon this month, and now that it’s over, I will be flying back to the UK again on Friday.

I am pleased to have completed the course with a high grade, but what I am most impressed with, is how I managed to get up and into class for 9am every morning! Nevertheless, both this course and living in Lisbon in general for the last four and a half weeks, have helped put me in good stead with my Portuguese knowledge for when I start final year in September. I have brushed up on my tenses, improved speaking, writing and even learned some new grammatical points I didn’t know before,

We also focused on listening exercises (the horror). Fortunately, after having tuned my hearing quite a bit to European Portuguese in the classroom and on the streets of Lisbon, the voices on the audio recordings don’t scare me as much as they used to. Instead of going totally blank and pleading my teacher for the Brazilian audio equivilent (as the accent is easier to understand) when I was in second year, I can now pick up a lot more than I used to. And that, is progress.

After listening to the European accent more and more during my Year Abroad, especially during the Portuguese classes in Perpignan and Salamanca, I have lost any form of Brazilian accent I had originally picked up in Sheffield and I am now a true European Portuguese speaker, “shhhh”-ing and all. I still have a way to go with my language learning but this course was a great way to revise topics I already knew and move on from there.

There were some aspects of the course I didn’t enjoy; for example, there was no computer in the classroom, and most of our activities were based out of a grammar book which was extremely dull at times, yet still effective. The teacher made it clear she would rather have a room with a computer and projector to make our classes more interesting, so this was a problem concerning the organisation of the course and who assigned the classrooms. It was difficult to stay focused as the activities were not as varied as they could have been and I feel we could have improved more if we could have watched videos, read online articles etc. in class for discussion, instead of gap-filling pages upon pages of grammar sheets. Despite this, I still feel I benefited from the course but it’s something they need to improve upon for the future, especially with demanding such high course fees.

Another major factor was that there wasn’t much energy in the room; there was a general lack of interest from some people, which all in all gave off a negative vibe. Very few classmates seemed interested in contributing to discussions, which made some awkward silences at times. I would just sit there wishing someone else would speak up instead of the same 4 people. It is nice to hear varying opinons and voices once in a while as otherwise the 4 hours of classes just dragged.

Moreover, it was the final day of classes today, yet disappointingly only half the class had turned up. It was a shame more than anything as we didn’t all get to say goodbye before we went our seperate ways across the globe, but rather shocking too, as we all had individual assessed speaking presentations still to do, and this would have affected the absentees’ final grades (but that’s not my problem).

On a happier note, to celebrate finishing the course this evening, Sarah, Helen and I went to the Hard Rock Café for a meal. This was my first time at a Hard Rock café and I nearly fainted when our server decided to casually sit down at the table with us to ask us for our order. So American and I am so not used to this familiarity. I was such a confused and awkward Brit in that particular moment. The portions were absolutely huge, we admitted defeat and didn’t order dessert after sharing a platter of nachos to start and then I had the ‘fiesta burger’ which had the most amazing jalapeno/salsa/pico de gallo sauce. We could barely roll up the hill to Bairro Alto afterwards, where we met Susana at A Tasca do Chico to listen to some fado for an hour.

Tasca do Chico

Tasca do Chico

I went to A Tasca do Chico in February on my weekend visit to Lisbon on a Saturday night, as that was where our hostel recommended us to listen to fado. We learned the hard way, that their fado nights are exclusively on Mondays and Wednesdays. We ended up going somewhere else for a different experience which I blogged about here.

This evening, A Tasca do Chico was packed when we arrived at 9pm, but there was some space at the bar where we ordered ourselves glasses of vinho verde (green wine). It was so hot and packed and it was uncomfortable to stand after eating so much food. I couldn’t see the fadista sing from my position at the bar, but as ever, the music was beautiful and worth being there just to listen. I’m glad I had a second opportunity to listen to fado and I would recommend it to anyone coming to Lisbon; I’d also advise you not to get scammed into paying for an expensive meal to experience it. There are places in Lisbon, like A Tasca do Chico, where it is possible to listen to fado for free, and just pay for food and/or drinks, but I understand everyone is looking for different things.

Vinho verde (green wine)

Vinho verde (green wine)

Tomorrow is my final full day in Lisbon, but I haven’t decided what I am doing other than going out for lunch and packing my suitcase. I am making sure I consume at least one pastel de nata every day, because I don’t know how I am going to be able to cope without their deliciousness in my life back home.

Pastel de nata from my favourite fábrica, Manteigaria!

Pastel de nata from my favourite fábrica, Manteigaria!

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Essential Lisbon: Mercado da Ribeira

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A visit to the Mercado da RIbeira should be essential for any visit to Lisbon.

It’s not somewhere I had even considered on my first weekend trip to Lisbon, which I regret in hindsight. I had even left it until two weeks into my stay here this month to finally see what the fuss was all about. Now I have finally experienced it, I would say that the Mercado da Ribeira is a must if you would like to taste a variety of good quality food on low-medium budget.

The Mercado da Ribeira is Lisbon’s historic market hall. Since 2014, it has been run by Time Out who have totally revamped the market so that it now includes an indoor Food Court, home to 35 permanent stalls offering some of the best gastronomic delights that can be found in the city.

My first experience of the food court at the Mercado da Ribeira was last Thursday for lunch. It was James’ first day of his trip to visit me in Lisbon, and we went straight there after I got back from my language classes at 1pm. I had a class test that morning and it was something I was very much looking forward to in the afternoon.

We walked from my flat in Bairro Alto, which is only 10 minutes downhill to the market. You can alternatively get the metro or a bus there to Cais do Sodré, which is opposite the market hall.


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We loved the market so much, that we returned for lunch on the Friday AND the Sunday. It’s fair to say that I am a bit market-ed out now, and should probably cook from home for a few days before I consider eating out again!

It was great, especially because there was so much choice: from local Portuguese cuisine, to sushi, pizza and even places specialised in desserts. It is sometimes difficult to find a restaurant with a menu which we are both happy with (which I am happy with), so having plenty to choose from meant that I knew I was going to find something easily that I liked. On the Thursday, we both ate at Chef Miguel Castro e Silva, which specialises in Portuguese food. I opted for Time Out Lisbon magazine’s recommendation, the Iscas de bacalhau, fried cod pieces accompanied by tasty tomato rice, while James tried a Francesinha, a speciality from Porto.

(Read about my trip to Porto here!)

On Friday afternoon we both tried chicken dishes at Miguel Laffan – Chicken All Around, which as you may guess, is a stall offering everything chicken. I had the Chicken Ramen which was lovely, and James had the Piri Piri chicken which I also ended up having on the Sunday, because it looked and tasted that good! On Sunday, James had the Prato do dia (Plate of the day), which happened to be Veal with potatos AND rice, because all the carbs, at Chef Marlene Vieira.

Chicken Ramen

Chicken Ramen

When you order your meal, you pay first and are given an electronic buzzer, which will sound when your order is ready. All you have to do is find somewhere available to sit and wait 10-20 minutes for your food to be prepared. At busy periods, like weekends, it can be near impossible to find a table, so make it your priority to grab somewhere to sit and then get a friend to order the food, saving you hassle later.

What I like is that the market is more upmarket than street food. You are given proper cutlery and crockery to enjoy your meal and you are not left hanging around in a queue waiting for your meal to arrive. The way the chefs present the food on the plate makes it all the more worth your money. It’s quality.

On the Friday, we shared a chocolate meringue cake from Nós é Mais Bolos which is both one of the most delicious and expensive slices of cake I have ever eaten. I would have taken a picture but it looked too tasty to simply look at. Maybe I should go back and get another one, you know, just for photographic purposes…

After a trip to the Mercado da Ribeira, walk along the waterfront to Praço do Comércio and enjoy this view:

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Have you been to the Mercado da Ribeira?

What is your favourite stall/dish there?

Até logo,

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Lisbon from Above: Guide to the BEST miradouros

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In Lisbon, everyone has their favorite miradouro (panoramic view). Locals and tourists alike, day and night, no one can resist stopping to admire the staggering views you can find dotted around the city built on seven hills.

You can discover a miradouro simply by chance, especially when wandering around the narrow, steep cobbled streets and staircases in the old neighbourhoods. The miradouro is one of the many aspects which makes Lisbon such a charming and romantic city. Sitting on a shaded bench in a hilltop location, sipping a refreshing freshly-squeezed lemonade all whilst marvelling at the historic monuments and the Tejo below… Welcome to Lisbon!

Below is a list of 9 miradouros where I have been able to enjoy Lisbon from above. Let’s start the countdown to my ultimate, personal favourite at number 1:

9. MIRADOURO DA GRAÇA

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This was in fact the first miradouro I experienced, during my first visit to Lisbon in March 2015. I went on the Chill-Out Lisbon Free Walking Tour which finished here. It is located right by the Graça Church and is easily accessed by the Tram 28. It has a great view over the Castelo de São Jorge and over central Lisbon.

8. MIRADOURO DE SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÂNTARA

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This is located at the top of Bairro Alto and right by the top of the Elevador da Glória, so is easily accessed by public transport. I stumbled across this whilst walking home on Sunday evening, I do love stumbling across a good miradouro…

Although a very popular miradouro with views over central Lisbon and the castle, it is a side view and there isn’t much to see for the River Tejo. Still, there are drinks available and even a little park/green area where you are welcome to sit and relax in. There is also a fountain which makes the viewpoint even nicer.

7. MIRADOURO DO ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA 

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This miradouro can be found at the top of the arch on Rua Augusta at the Praça do Comércio. This viewpoint is not free and costs 2.50€ for the priviledge of getting up there. There is a lift which takes you most of the way and then there is a flight of steps to take you up to the roof. The view shows central Lisbon in a way no other miradouro can show though, as it runs parallel down Rua Augusta and there is also a unique view onto the Praça do Comércio and the River Tejo. You can also see the castle, Convento do Carmo ruins and the Elevador Santa Justa not far away either. This miradouro is as central as you can get.

6. PARK

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PARK is the name of a rooftop bar located in Bairro Alto above a multi-storey car park. It gives great views over Lisbon and has a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy the view with some tasty refreshments in the afternoon and evening. Easy to get to by public transport (Tram 28 or Metro Baixa-Chiado).

5. MIRADOURO DA SANTA LUZIA

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During a trip on the Tram 28 through Alfama before going to the Castelo when my boyfriend was visiting, I spotted a terrace with tiles, foliage and a pond which looked very much like this miradouro I had seen online. We decided to hop off the tram earlier than we anticipated to check it out. Luckily the castle is not far to walk from here (less than 10 minutes uphill). The tiles are in somewhat of a disrepair which made them look a little sad, but I believe they are starting to fix them. There is a café here and a few nice places to sit and enjoy the view in the shade. Worth the nice detour.

4. MIRADOURO DO PARQUE EDUARDO VII (Marques de Pombal)

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This miradouro is located at the top of the hill of the Parque Eduardo VII. The easiest way to get here is by getting off the metro at Marques de Pombal and walking up the hill (5 mins walk).

You will find yourself in one of the busiest round-abouts in the city and you wonder why you are here the first time, but I promise, it gets better. After walking all the way up, you turn around to face the park and Marques de Pombal below, and you find the most unique view of Lisbon, with the River Tejo in the distance and the castle on the left. I really, really loved this view and although it is out of the way of the historical center, I would recommend getting the metro and climbing up a hill especially for this. Did you know, Shakira filmed the video for the song Dare here?! #funfact

3. ELEVADOR DA SANTA JUSTA


This is not just a miradouro; the Elevador da Santa Justa, located in Baixa, is also one of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments. It is the last remaining elevator which is still in service in Lisbon and is therefore worth the visit for that in its own right! The architecture is Neo-Gothic and you can admire the lift as it transports you up to the top for the miradouro. Return trip (up and down), costs 5€ in cash, or as it is run by the CASSIS network, if you have a Viva Viagem card, you can swipe that which is cheaper. Better yet, if you are a local resident (like me) and you have a Lisboa Viva card with a monthly pass, the ride on the elevador is free! This definitely helped make me like this miradouro more!

In order to get to the roof which is the offical viewing deck, you have to pay 1.50€ to get up there. You can stay on the level of the elevator which is more or less the same, but the viewing deck is open-air and gives better opportunities for photography and allows you to appreciate the view more. We of course paid the 1.50€ for the privilege of climbing up to the viewing deck and we were not disappointed, it was indeed a fantastic view. I would very much recommend it, but I can understand it is one of the more “expensive” miradouros, but worth it if it is something you are interested in. The miradouro gives a glimpse of the castle in the distance, the ruins of the Convento do Carmo right next door and even a look down onto Rossio Square. There is also an Italian restaurant/café which you can enjoy on the level with the lift.

In order to make your visit to this miradouro more economical, you can actually bypass the elevator experience. Instead, walk up Calle Sacremento to Largo do Carmo and follow the bridge to access the viewing terrace.

2. MIRADOURO DO CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE 

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The Castle offers one of the most beautiful miradouros in the city, plus it also doubles as an important monument, so you’re hitting two birds with one stone here. The panoramic view stretches a long way around the castle, which means you can walk along the castle walls and climb the castle towers to find different angles to see Lisbon. There are many places to sit and relax and soak in the panoramic views on benches. There is a restaurant/café which boasts the view as well and even a vendor selling glasses of wine for you to sip whilst enjoying your visit around the ruins. The castle is definitely a must during any visit to Lisbon, but you have to pay to get in (5€/students).

1. MIRADOURO DA NOSSA SENHORA DO MONTE

Finally we have come to the final miradouro in this list which also my personal favourite!

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Nossa Senhora do Monte is perhaps one of the least visited miradouros – due to the fact it is not close to public transport links and is also the highest point in the entire city! The easiest way to get there is to walk up from Martim Moniz which you can get to by metro or the Tram 28. The walk is about 15 minutes uphill but what awaits at the top is definitely worth the climb.

There were several stalls offering fresh drinks to replenish our thirst, and we opted for a fresh lemonade whilst sitting on a bench and enjoying the magnificent views whilst we got our breath back!

On an old, forgotten wall to one side of the viewpoint are some tiles which reflect the country Portugal used to be: men going off to sea during the age of the Discoveries: “Boa viagem, Lisboa espera por ti” / Have a safe trip! Lisbon is waiting for you.

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It’s true that Lisbon is not lacking in dazzling panoramic views but the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte is by far my favourite.

Do you have a favourite miradouro in Lisbon? Is it not included on this list?

Are you going to be on the hunt for your favourite miradouro when you come to Lisbon?

Let me know in the comments!

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Sintra and the Pálacio da Pena at night

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Please click here for my first post, Sintra: An Enchanting World (March 2015)

I previously visited beautiful Sintra for a day-trip back in March, during my first visit to Lisbon. I loved it so much that I have been eager to return ever since! There is so much to see and do there: palaces, gardens, castles. Despite spending two days there now, I still have not seen everything and Sintra deserves time to be fully appreciated. I’m  intending to go back in two weeks time, when James comes to visit so I can finally see the Castel dos Mouros and return to my absolute favourite for him to appreciate too, Quinta da Regaleira.

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Quinta da Regaleira when i visited in March

We arrived in Sintra at 3:30pm and bought some tasty queijadas (pastries from Sintra) from a pastry shop on the walk from the train station. We decided to go to the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra, the palace in the town center which is characterised by its two very big, white chimneys. We ideally wanted to go to the Castelo dos Mouros, but we would have had to go up the hill to the Castelo, come down for dinner and then go back up again for the Pálacio da Pena later on, so this plan seemed more ideal.

The Castelo dos Mouros on the hilltop

Sintra

Like almost everywhere it seems in Sintra, entry for the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra was not cheap (10€) and there was no student price. The Pálacio Nacional does not take long to look around and it would be a dissapointment to visit if you were to compare it to the likes of the Pálacio da Pena on the hill, which is simply magnificent. If you have only a short visit to Sintra, I would not include this on the itinerary, as Pena and Quinta da Regaleira are much more enjoyable.

Pálacio Nacional de Sintra

After our visit to the palace, it was time for an early dinner. Sintra is extremely touristy and there are plenty of places to eat. We opted for a small restaurant where I ate Bacalhau à Lagareiro, my favourite Portuguese cod dish, which has onions, garlic, potatos and which in this instance was swimming in olive oil!

So. much. olive. oil!

The main attraction of going to Sintra yesterday (04/07/15) was for a charity evening being run at the Pálacio da Pena for the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Sintra. Yesterday evening, the Pálacio da Pena was exceptionally open from 8pm-midnight in solidarity for this charity. The usual entrance fee of 14€ was waivered, instead tents were set up outside the entrance to the Palace which housed food banks and a donation of foodstuffs allowed you free entry!

I just handed over a can of chopped tomatos I had brought from my kitchen, but if you didn’t bring anything, you were able to give a donation of 3€.

Beautiful even in the fog

Thousands of people turned up for the event – thousands! We expected there to be a lot of people trying to get to the Palace, so instead of waiting until 8pm to get the free bus from the Train Station, we took a tuk tuk from the town center which climbed up the hair-raisingly steep and winding road. The traffic to get there was a nightmare, there were obviosully a lot of locals from the region who had come for the event and were trying to park near the palace. The event had been soley advertised in Portuguese, not English, and maybe this explains why we heard hardly anyone at all speak any language other than Portuguese all evening/saw any tourists.

By the time we reached near the palace, we noticed there was already a queue forming all the way up the road to get in! We jumped out of the tuk tuk and joined the queue which managed to move very quickly. It wasn’t long before we were inside the palace grounds, climbing up to the fairytale palace.

Me in the palace gardens

The weather turned out to be just as foggy as it had been as when I visited in March. The fog makes the park and palace seem to be surrounded in some magical mist…

Fog over the palace gardens!

Me at the Pálacio da Pena

We waited until sunset for the lights to go on, but we couldn’t really see the sunset as it was so foggy and cloudy. By this point, the grounds were heaving with people and it was difficult to move around. We ended up walking back down to catch a bus to the train statiion at 10pm. All the way down through the palace grounds, we went past the longest queue of people waiting to get inside! It was absolute madness. We found another queue for the free bus which came every 20 minutes, but there were already so many people waiting for it, we would have had to have waited at least an hour to get on one, and we were worried about missing the last train back to Lisbon.

Suddenly, another tuk tuk came around the corner and we managed to secure a ride before anyone could even think of getting the idea. We descended the winding road amongst loads of traffic. Some people were even walking down the road, without any street lights on! It was very dangerous, many even had small children and babies in push-chairs which was insane but, that’s Portugal for you, I guess?

Overall, I had a wonderful afternoon and evening exploring more of Sintra and I’m looking forward to returning very soon.

Até breve,

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Bem-vindo a Lisboa!

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Today I started my classes for the Curso de Verão da Lingua Portuguesa (Portuguese language summer school) at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon. The course is going to last for the next four weeks, every weekday 9am – 1pm.

I was surprised by how quick the journey took this morning, from my studio in Bairro Alto to the university campus which is on the other side of the city; it took 25 minutes, most of which is spent on the metro, and I am glad, as I am not used to such early starts!

I found out today as well that I had been placed in a B1 Level class which I am pleased with, as this is the level I was hoping to take. The content was just the right level for me which is a relief, especially after the horror of the terrible Spanish language classes I had to take for three weeks during my Erasmus placement in Salamanca. The teacher actually got to learn all our names in three hours, yet my teacher in Salamanca never even bothered to do such a thing even after three weeks of teaching us, so this I feel, is a good start.

Arrival

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

I arrived in Lisbon on Monday afternoon and stayed in Goodmorning Hostel located in Restauradores. I stayed at Goodmorning Hostel last time I was in Lisbon in March and I chose to stay here again as I really loved it – especially the breakfast! Once again, the staff were exceptional and go out of their way to make you feel welcome and give you loads of useful tips to enjoy Lisbon. I didn’t do any of their day trips but I did the Portuguese Tapas evening and the Cooking Class where we learned how to cook the Portuguese dish Bacalhau à Brás, which was delicious but very filling! Their day-trip to Sintra and Cabo da Roca looked really good though and I was disappointed I couldn’t join them for it.

During my time in the hostel, I didn’t feel compelled to visit places frantically like the other people staying in the hostel, as unlike them, I am lucky enough to stay here for a month and not just a few days, so I was happy to take things slowly! I did end up however visiting the Castelo de São Jorge on Tuesday, which has the most impressive miradouro (panoramic view) over Lisbon.

Castelo

Castelo de São Jorge

Wednesday, I ended up also going to the Oceanário de Lisboa, the aquarium, which is apparently the second largest in Europe, but after spending the most amazing day at the Oceanográfic in Valencia (Best in Europe), nothing can compare, and I left feeling very disappointed and thought the tickets were overpriced and would not recommend it.

I am quite proud as well to say I even sorted my “Lisboa Viva card,” so I now have a monthly metro pass in Lisbon.

My Lisboa Viva card

My Lisboa Viva card

This will come in handy as it will save me a lot of money as I will be using the metro every day. I managed to fill out all the forms and speak with the lady behind the desk all in Portuguese too, which felt like a good achievement. However it was a complete nightmare even to find the desk within Marquês de Pombal station as it is a big station and has many different exists – it is not all connected – why, why?!?!

The staff would not even allow me to borrow their pens as they just replied “they are MINE”, like I was some pen thief, so I had to find a newsagents sort of place and buy a Bic pen just to fill out my paperwork without having to go all the way back to my hostel (the one time I don’t carry a pen!)…

Really though, filling out the form was easy. All you need is:

  • Passport-style photograph
  • Passport
  • An address in Portugal (no need for proof of this)

Luckily I had all these things and I was able to return the next morning to collect my card. Usually it costs 6€ and will come in 10 working days, but I wanted it the following day which instead costs 12€. I was not able to pay by card as the machine only accepts Portuguese cards (I swear she was just trying to make things more difficult…), so I had to leave the queue to take out money from an ATM nearby.

On the way out of Marquês de Pombal metro station with my new Lisboa Viva card, I walked up to the miradouro nearby, and I must say that so far it is my favourite!

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Last night, I was finally able to move into my studio flat in Bairro Alto – I could not be more central, it is amazing and most importantly, it has air conditioning! Luckily, it is completely double-glazed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the noise from the bars below – I am living in the nightlife district of Lisbon!

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

I am pleased with living so centrally as I feel I will get a better experience exploring the old streets of Lisbon.

So far, Lisboa is holding up to its wonderful charm and I am looking forward to getting to know this city better!

Até logo,

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Highlights from Porto

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It’s been a whole three weeks since my trip to Porto and although I wrote a brief overview of my time there (Five days in Porto), I would like to share some of the best parts of my trip: seeing the city, meeting with friends, eating the most amazing food and staying in the best hostel I have ever stayed in!

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, behind Lisbon the capital. Porto has a very different vibe and identity to Lisbon and I loved exploring a new city and region of Portugal. Just like everywhere else in Portugal it seems, Porto is very hilly! My five days spent there was a great work out for my legs and I am glad I took comfortable trainers, I don’t know how these other travellers walk up and down those hills in flip-flops!

Ponte Dom Luis I

View from Miradouro da Victória

View from Miradouro da Victória

This is by far the most essential thing to do in Porto; walk along the top level of the Ponte Dom Luis I, which gives great views over Porto from Gaia (the city on the other side of the river), especially at sunset. The walk back from Ribeira (the area on the riverbank) back to my hostel was the must brutal climb ever.

I also stumbled across the Miradouro da Victória which was a gem and gives views of the bridge, Gaia and the wine caves and Sé cathedral.

Estação de São Bento

Interior of São Bento train station

Interior of São Bento train station

This train station is absolutely beautiful and you will fall in love with it if you appreciate azulejos (that’s those blue tiles which the Portuguese adorn everywhere on their buildings).

Many tourists come to the station simply to admire the artwork on the walls but the station also has trains (shocker, I know) with destinations to nearby towns of interest. I hopped on trains to Guimarães (the birthplace of Portugal) and Aveiro (the Venice of the North) during my trip, but there are also trains to Braga too. There are so many tour companies which offer day trips to these places, but they are usually no less than 40€ each. Train tickets are a mere 7€ return for a one hour journey each way (rough estimate), and the towns are small enough to visit without a guide, just maps from the local tourist offices, which saved me a lot of money.

Torre dos Clérigos

View of the Torre dos Clérigos in the distance

View of the Torre dos Clérigos in the distance

The Clérigos tower was the first thing I did on my day of arrival and it’s a great place to climb to get a view over the city of Porto. It’s 3€ entry and there are exhibitions in the tower to look at and you can also enter the ajoining church.

Nearby is also the Livraria Lello, a famous bookshop known for inspiring the library in Hogwart’s for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s very touristy and difficult to get a picture without people getting in the way which can be frustrating, but it is worth the stop as it is indeed a very pretty bookshop. It was interesting to learn that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto in the 1990s and that her time here gave inspiration for many aspects in the novels; from the Hogwart’s uniforms, to the library and the house at Grimmauld Place. It’s something not much talked about so it was really interesting to learn something new about Harry Potter.

Jardins do Palacio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

View from Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

View from Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

The Gardens of the Crystal Palace were a short five minute walk from my hostel. Although, I probably would not have gone there if it were not so close, it turned out to be one of the highlights during my time in Porto. The gardens, although unfortunately surrounded by the ugly “Crystal Palace” building that is falling apart and deserves levelling off, are absolutely beautiful and when exploring you come across spectacular views of Porto and the River Douro too. Personally, these gardens deserve a visit to anyone visiting the city. I’d recommend visiting in the morning as the gardens are quieter and more opportunities to get photos.

Year Abroad perks

What I have loved about the Year Abroad is that my coursemates and I are scattered across Europe (some more further afield), and it has been in many cases an opportunity to visit both somewhere new and also catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a few months. As my friend Nathan has been living and studying in Porto this semester, I promised I would come to visit, as it isn’t all that far away from Salamanca!

Although his mum was visiting that weekend as well, we met up and walked along the Ponte Dom Luis I, which was obligatory during my time in Porto before having an Italian meal (I am amazed at how cheap the food is in Portugal still!).

The weekend I was visiting coincided with a music festival at Serralves called “Serralves em festa.” Serralves, as far as I understand, is a Contemporary Art Museum in a massive park (it is huuuuge), which happens to be the most visited museum in Portugal and a short bus ride from Porto’s city center. The festival is a 40 hour nonstop thing all weekend but we ended up going on the Saturday night to see what it was all about. We caught the free bus from the Casa da Musica Interface and met up with some of his friends. We managed to stay until 3am, which for me was quite an achievement as I had been climbing up and down hills all day without even a siesta. The music was totally bizarre, there were no lyrics, but the park was littered with people, so some people must have liked it. It was difficult to see as there was hardly any lighting and walking around was a safety hazard. We stayed until 3am as we were waiting for the “Brazilian music” to start, but it wasn’t what we were hoping for so we caught a taxi back.

The funniest moment

On the way to the festival, I met Nathan’s Brazilian friend Julio and he later promised us that before I left Porto, he would cook us a Brazilian beef stroganoff. This was set for the Monday evening after Nathan’s language class, and I was looking forward to some good food – although of course, nothing went to plan. After getting all the ingredients, we forgot to get rice (oops) but it’s okay, it got sorted, until the glass jar of rice broke on the floor. Then, when cooking the beef, the plate that was on top of the pan keeping the heat in, shattered under the pressure of the heat and landed in the meat in tiny pieces, making it unedible. We couldn’t really believe it for a few moments but we accepted the inevitable. It was already quite late, 11pm more or less, so we tidied up what we could before ending up in a kebab shop eating falafel kebabs, or as the Spanish say “Kebaps” but that is a different story…

Disaster

I’ll hopefully get some of this famous stroganoff without the plate bits someday.

My final evening in Porto was rounded off just how it should be; I really wanted eat somewhere which served cod because no trip to Portugal is complete without consuming cod – this is a fact. I ended up having Bacalhau à Braga, fried cod, surrounded by half chips half crisps (I still am amazed how they manage to do this) with onions and lots of olive oil and peppers. It was a good moment. I would really recommend this dish but I still uphold my love for Bacalhau à Lagareiro which I had in Lisbon in March.

We then walked along the RIver Douro at sunset until it went fully dark and then walked back to Ribeira. It was a lovely walk and the views were stunning as there was even a full moon that evening! By the time we reached Ribeira I was already exhausted but then I remembered there was still the massive hill to climb back to my hostel, so that was something!

Me, Nathan and Julio, full moon on the River Douro. Perfeito!!

Although I love Spain for its tapas culture, the pintxos I had in Bilbao, the tortilla… Portugal’s cuisine is much more accessible to me; Spanish cuisine is heavy on pork and seafood dishes, foods I don’t eat. I have therefore been limited in sampling my region’s specialities such as hornazo amongst other national dishes. Portugal however is very fond of cod and chicken and there is always an option for me at a restaurant in Portugal, something less common in Spain, so my experiences at finding somewhere I can eat has been more positive there. Plus, there are pastéis de nata, enough said.

Pastéis de nata = perfection

During my five night stay, I stayed at Gallery Hostel in the art district. It was rated number one on TripAdvisor in Porto and I am so, so pleased I stayed there! Unfortunately, I now have extremely high expectations for every hostel I stay in, yet none can comapre to Gallery Hostel *cries inside*: from my room, to the comfy mattress, to the lack of noise levels, to the in-room bathroom, to the delicious breakfasts, the exceptional evening meals, the fact that they wash up your dishes for you and make your bed every morning… the quality of this hostel is superb and there was nothing I could fault. It was like staying in a hotel but sharing a rooom with 5 other travellers at the price of any other hostel.

Rua Miguel Bombarda (art district)

Rua Miguel Bombarda (art district)

Overall, I had a fantastic visit to Porto, it’s a beautiful city, some great memories were made and it was also good to practice speaking plenty of Portuguese in context outside the classroom.

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I wasn’t too sad to leave Porto on my return to Salamanca because I already knew it would not be long before I was back in the country! I was anticipating my return to Spain as my time there was more limited as I don’t know when I will next be going back… I fly to Lisbon in 11 days for 4 weeks, it has come around so fast! Some prefer Porto, but I am still whole-heartedly in love with Lisbon, it’s just got that something.

I have already blogged about my return trip to Hammam Al Ándalus in Madrid, but I’ll be blogging next about my visit to the city in general. Madrid really surprised me as I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I couldn’t be more wrong, as I absolutely loved it! I had been putting off going for so long. I don’t regret leaving it until now but I am so glad I gave it a chance while I could!

Hasta luego (from cold Northern England – for now)

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