This past weekend was my very first puente since working in Spain! “Puente” is what Spaniards call their long weekends because it literally means “bridge”, so the holiday is connected to the weekend like a bridge. We were given off of work on Friday for All Saint’s Day. In order to take advantage of this long weekend, my friends Kristen, Erin, Kelly, and I decided to take our first international trip to Porto, Portugal!
Porto is the 2nd largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, located in the north of the country, and is an easy 1 hour flight from Madrid. I traveled to Lisbon 2 years ago when I studied abroad and loved it! And this past summer when I came across pictures of Porto, I knew I had to go at some point this year. I was reunited with the infamous budget airline, Ryanair, which is notorious for being a horrible experience. However, I noticed that their customer service has greatly improved! The employees were so nice and actually smiled! It was so different from how I remembered them. Their strict baggage allowance was still in tact but luckily I packed very lightly this trip and fit it all into my backpack. We arrived to Porto on Thursday night and got settled into our awesome hostel. We stayed in the Pilot hostel and I highly recommend it if you ever go to Porto.
The next morning we woke up to some unpleasant rain. And it proceeded to rain the entire weekend. It’s ok because we made the most of it and didn’t let it stop us from exploring the city and having fun! As a way to stay out of the rain, we signed up for a great tour bus deal: for 15 euros we were given access to 2 tour buses that took us all around the city for both days. We were also able to use the buses as our form of transportation all weekend.
Our first stop was the beach! Fortunately it stopped raining when we got there so we walked on the beach. The waves were crazy!! One of my favorite parts of the weekend was when Kristen sat on a rock for a really nice picture. Erin, Kelly, and I were all taking pictures of her and saying, “We love it! We all have to take one just like this!” Then out of nowhere a GIANT wave came up and attacked her! We all started screaming and running like lunatics. Kristen was DRENCHED but luckily made it out alive! Afterwards while we were walking, another wave came up and my boots got soaked 😦 But I suppose I had nothing to complain about after what happened to Kristen!
After the beach, we got some delicious seafood for lunch. I had salmon for the first time in 2 months! (It’s one of my favorite foods to eat at home so I was obviously very happy). We walked around after lunch and came across a random castle that we explored for a little bit. Then Kristen and I went to the river which was my favorite area in Porto. It was so picturesque! We took a fun cable car ride to the top of the bridge that looks down upon the river and colorful houses. That night we had a traditional Portuguese dinner at the hostel (cod and rice) and then went out to a Mexican restaurant for amazing blue margaritas and nachos! Mmmm
It was raining even harder the next day so we hopped on the tour bus for a couple of hours. Even though it was raining, Kristen and I still thought it would be fun to ride on the uncovered roof of the double-decker bus. It was a blast! A lot of Portuguese people walking around seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of waving to us from below. We were soaked by the end of it so it was definitely time for some coffee and hot soup! That evening, Kristen and I explored one of Porto’s wine “caves” (that’s what they call their wineries but they’re actually just buildings). Porto is most known for its Porto wine, a very sweet and thick wine. We bought some mini bottles to taste-test and I really liked it! The cave was also so much fun! There was a woman walking around singing songs in Portuguese and the crowd was clapping along and having a good time. She came over to us and wanted us to sing along with her into the microphone. After saying no a couple of times, I finally just caved in and did it. Since I don’t know Portuguese, I tried to just follow her rhythm but it didn’t work out too well haha so the entire place could hear my Portuguese singing fail.
Since our flight was at 6:30 am on Sunday, we called a cab for 4:15 am. Our original plan was to stay out all night but I wasn’t feeling well and we were all just so tired that we decided to sleep a couple hours instead. It was miserable being at the airport that early but the flight was a lot cheaper and it also gave us a full day of recovery in Madrid which was much-appreciated.
After having traveled to Portugal twice so far, I’ve noticed that it tends to be an interesting experience because it’s so similar to Spain, yet so different. Portugal seems quieter and more “untouched” by tourists, perhaps because it seems to be the forgotten country of the EU. The language barrier is also a bit difficult to overcome. Since Portugal feels so much like Spain, we just kept wanting to speak Spanish! But then we would realize that we weren’t in Spain and would therefore just not say anything at all. We definitely experienced some culture shock traveling from Spain to Portugal. As much as I loved Porto, I was excited to return to Madrid, something familiar and a language that I understand. Overall it was a really fun trip! It sort of sucks that we had such crappy weather but I’m glad that we didn’t let it ruin our fun!