Portugal: Porto

With just a quick hour and a half flight Portugal is extremely accessible from almost any part in Spain. Although locals say that Portugal resembles nothing to Spain I found the two quite comparable.

We set off on our journey arriving late at night on Saturday. The airport is about an hour from the city by metro and our hostel just 15 minutes from the metro. Upon arriving at our hostel I soon realized this was by far the best hostel I have stayed at in Europe. It had everything a hostel should, a rooftop terrace, a free breakfast, comfy beds, attentive staff and was even centrally located! I would highly recommend Tattva Design Hostel!

After a GREAT sleep in the hostel bed (honestly every hostel should have a full curtain over the bed and a comforter instead of blankets) we went to the free breakfast. When Kim and I travel, we have the ability to plan absolutely nothing so our first activity was to go find wine and sit in a park in a hammock. Knowing that we would soon be embarking on an expensive trip to Iceland we tried to do Portugal under 100 euros. After purchasing some local wine, cheese and cold cuts we walked to the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. It was a beautiful park with lots of locals sitting around and enjoying the not-too-hot day.

IMG_0848

After having a little too much Portuguese wine we decided it was time to go eat. WORD TO THE WISE* (places in Europe are very commonly closed on Sunday) so it was a little difficult to find authentic Portuguese food the first night. We settled on some pasta instead. Then we went back to the hostel to engage with other tourists traveling in Porto.

The best way to travel is to allow yourself to get completely lost in a place and see what cool things you happen to come upon. In our case, without even realizing we saw the Clerigos Church, the six bridges of Porto, the Duoro River, Cais de Riberia and many local restaurants specializing in Porto wine.

The most difficult thing about Porto was you felt like you were still in Spain. We were advised though that locals are very proud of their Portuguese language so it not usually appropriate to speak in Spanish. Everyone we encountered though was extremely friendly and always happy to help out tourists.

The second day we explored the river and ate some more local cheese and walked around the various little streets. We watched a great performer play on a violin and ate gelato. It was a beautiful 75 degree day so we tried to enjoy the sun as much as we could. We decided into doing a boat cruise through the river to allow us to see what Porto is famous four, their 6 bridges.

Later in the evening we stumbled upon a cute little restaurant in a side street. Our goal was to find some sort of seafood considering we were in a town near the beach. After looking at a few places we found a nice little restaurant (I swear I need to get better at remembering names) and had some great shrimp and a sort of cod/potato/ cheese dish.

Now let me tell you, Porto is essentially built into a mountain because every time you’re walking around you are walking at a 90 degree angle. My apple watch though was quite happy with our step count! I would recommend Porto to any traveler that’s looking to sit back, relax and just enjoy their time walking around!

 

 

 

Sisterhood of the Traveling Backpacks

After graduating from college there’s a certain time period that I knew I would certainly miss. Unfortunately, your job doesn’t consider spring break a holiday anymore so your ability to take a week vacation is gone. Luckily for us spring break was back! A 10-day long trip through 6 countries, multiple cities and loads of new adventures. First stop…

Milan, Italy! 

If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that I hate not knowing the local language. It doesn’t keep me from going though, it just makes me feel terrible every time I need to re-explain myself and expect the other person to understand. This makes traveling to Italy such a joy for me since I have long studied it and truly enjoy practicing every chance I get. I didn’t get a chance to make it to Milan while I studied abroad so this was a long desire of mine. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect though, from everything I’ve heard Milan is the “fashion capital” but that’s about it.

Milan was pretty much what I anticipated, very industrial with a multitude of shops from Gucci to Versace. The Cathedral was pretty but some parts of it were under construction (a theme that continued on the trip). The food of course was excellent but I was surprised with how underwhelming the scenery was. We walked through the city which was easily done in a day and saw some various highlights of Milan. We walked through the Galeria and outside of the Sforza Castle. We searched for a place to try some Italian wines and ended up at Signorvino, probably my favorite part of the trip. We tried different cheeses, wines, snacks and more wines. Our goal was to be as un-american as possible and sit and truly enjoy our time there… which turned out to be a 5 hour stay.

I would recommend visiting Milan but it was possible to do in about a day. Our second day (with thanks to the sun) we simply revisited all the previous monuments so we weren’t constantly searching for shelter from the rain. It was still a great trip though and my anticipation started kicking in for what was to come…

Athens, Greece!

Athens was probably my favorite time spent on this trip. It had nothing to do with all the cool ancient buildings we saw but more about the people and the culture. Everyone was so friendly to us and we had the absolute best airbnb host. Shout out to George! Having studied Western Civilization I arrived in Athens realizing I remembered nothing I had studied about Western Civilization. I knew the Olympics originated there and people used to run track naked and I knew about the old buildings with all the pillars but that was about it. (Sorry to whatever teacher I had during this class)

When you’re young and able you realize just about every city can be done in a day. I think each day we at least clocked in over 10 miles and saw more than people come and see in a week. Since we didn’t know what we were looking at the time our helpful tour guide google gave us small history lessons. We started at the Acropolis which we now know is the center to many ancient buildings such as The Parthenon and The Erechtheum. Like Milan, there were scaffoldings covering some of The Parthenon and ropes that wouldn’t let you get too close. It was a cool sight to see, but didn’t quite meet the “wow factor” I had in mind. What did meet the wow factor was the food. Just about everything I ate while in Athens was delicious. From the Tzatziki sauce to the gyros to the baklava I was amazed with how much I fell in love with Greek food. The weather was absolutely perfect as well which made for such a great time in Athens! It felt like summer until we reached our next location…

Sofia, Bulgaria

Due to our tiredness and the amount of rain in Sofia this seemed to be a quieter part of our trip. We were able to walk around on the first day seeking out all the old churches, cathedrals and mosques that decorated the city. It was a vastly spread out city that reminded me of the images I had in my head of Russia. The cyrillic letters on top of buildings made it feel significantly more foreign than Western Europe. It didn’t appear to be tourist season either as we were also closely approaching orthodox Easter. The food was just as good as Athens and even cheaper which came as a relief to all of us. We went inside many of the churches and realized that unlike Athens many of the buildings were not kept up with. Inside the Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski many of the murals on the wall had turned black.

Sofia, which was plagued by communism and war had seemingly pulled itself completely back from the worst. The people were still friendly although slightly colder than those in Athens, but for good reason. We walked though one main street that led to the National Palace of Culture which was quite impressive. Lined with fountains, hotels and giant advertisements you could see how much rebuilding must have been done. Regardless of our tiredness from 8 days of traveling we were pretty excited for what was next…

Amsterdam, Netherlands 

Known for it’s wild nightlife and legal ability to smoke marijuana Amsterdam is a twenty-somethings dream. Surrounded by canals and people… oh so many people Amsterdam by far is the coolest city I’ve been to. It can feel like you’ve only been walking for a little while and realize you’ve been walking over 10 miles. Even in such a short amount of time we were able to see so much of the city and what it’s famous for. We ventured through the canals in a boat tour, seeing some dancing houses and old factories. We walked past the Ann Frank house and got a taste of history. We went through the red light district which provided quite an interesting experience. It reminded me a lot of Moulin Rouge, one of those places where you go to see it once but don’t intend on going back.

Amsterdam provided everything that a traveler could want, entertainment, historical sites, great food and good beer. It was a privilege to see it through a locals eyes (Thanks Layla!) and get a true feeling of all that Amsterdam has to offer.

Till next trip!