I Hate Portals -=L.A.S.T.=-Pt.3: Porto

In this journal:

  • humble monks covered by gold;
  • McDonald’s with chandeliers;
  • a spontaneous dance party.


<— back to Madrid I

skip to Madrid II —>

Porto works, Braga Prays, Coimbra studies, and Lisbon gets the money.

— a local Porto saying

A City of Merchants

It would not be surprising to see the city which literally means “port” acts as the center of commerce in Portugal. In fact, this little place has influenced the country more than you would otherwise realize, as the very name of the country is derived from the Roman name Portus Cale, which means Celtic’s Port. Guess where that port was located? Damn right you are! At the entrance of the Duoro River into the Atlantic, exactly where our protagonist city sits upon nowadays.

overlooking the port

For my very first day in the city, it was the perfect opportunity to get familiarized with the layout, and frankly, it was rather easy. The entire area is divided by the Duoro River into north and south. The southern side, named Gaia, is home to all the storage warehouses of goods and the main docks. The northern side is home to all other supporting infrastructure as well as people’s homes. Steep hills rise dramatically over the river valley, making every house in town equipped with the best view ever. Well, that was at least what used to be.

CALEM’s wine storage houe in Gaia bank

Ya see, like me, Portugal was not exactly the powerhouse that it used to be many years ago. In the good ol’days, these banks would be teeming with sail ships preparing for or returning from trans-atlantic voyages, but now these have largely turned into wine display houses to showcase their products. On the other side, hundreds of restaurants gauge prices for tourists to take a sip of martini basking under the warm reflection of sun.

north bank on a weekend

Indeed, tourism has already taken over the city’s inner rings, and it was hard for me to escape the invisible hand of capitalism no matter how hard I tried. However, instead of fighting it, why not embrace it in my unique quirky ways? And here I am, proudly reporting to you that I have done it, digging up some of the most bizarre corners of this well-trotted city, amongst the dozens of ice-cream carts and souvenir stands. Buckle up, we are going on a different kind of tour around Porto, one that you will never see anywhere else. And that is a Young special guarantee.

Porto: city of merchants

That ONE Product…

And yes, you guessed right, the famed Port wine. Porto’s mercantile title is solely based upon this delicious godsend. Duoro Valley is one of the few traditional cultivation locations that have been growing grapes since Jesus Christ played hide and seek with his believers in a cave. Now, like the word Champagne, Port wine has carried the same connotation as a drink as the very location it was grown: it is illegal to sell any wine called Port if the grapes do not originate from the valley and are not aged in the barrels along the banks of Gaia.

barrels of wine during aging

I had to join one of the hourly wine tours done in the cellars, as a means to escape the afternoon heat already getting overwhelming in March, as well as the existential dread that I still managed to be the most-single bachlor of all the humans I have ever encountered at the sweet age of 24. This depressing fact made me sweat, and that called for some rehydrating alcohol. We began with a walk around the cellar, and learned about the difference between many kinds of Port wine varieties. For those who are not exactly alcoholics, get ready to learn. Good port wine is so special and relatively expensive because it is exceptionally tasty to the general public who find the snobbish connoisseurs repulsive. It has a very smooth taste and a super-sweet flavor, coupled with a fruity profile sometimes. Thus it s the Capri-sun of wines: the sophisticated might not like to mention it, but they sure as hell have a stockpile at home.

wine tastings time!

Three big kinds of Port wine is produced universally along this stretch of the river. First up is Ruby, an equivalent to weed as the gateway drug to the deep abyss of drinking. It is basic, fermented in large stainless steel or concrete barrels for just a handful of years. Fruity and cheap, most people have tried it and called it for their lifetime Port experience, yet they are dead wrong. White is just the white wine version of Ruby so I would not discuss in length, because our main showstopper is the type named Tawny. Ages in wooden barrels, these bottles of Christ blood taste more aged like oak or caramel, enriching your mouth with a heavier flavor profile. The color is lighter too, and sometimes the good ones can age for decades.

display of old Colheita wines

And this brings us to the crème de la crème, the king jewel of the Port industry, beautifully named Colheita, which means harvest. Unlike Tawny which is almost always a blend of different wines done by a professional, Colheita demands the single harvest of the same year aged together in the same barrel for a minimum of 7 years. Thus you get a clear indication of which year the grapes are from, unlike Tawny, which has an arbitrary age written on it because someone decided it tasted like that year’s sweet cat urine. On a good year of great harvest, blessed by perfect weather and picking season, the price of Colheita can shoot way up, and it can be stored indefinitely since it was not filtered. In the CALEM store, the golden green vintage from 1981 retails for about 200 Euros per bottle, yet the oldest ones, 1870 vintage with just a few bottles left, were never put on sale. The only person who got to enjoy it this decade was Queen Elizabeth who paid a visit!

chilling by the river

If you ever take a stroll by the tourist-infested waters down at sea level, you will inevitably encounter the row of little boats lined up along the shallow depths. These are the old-fashioned methods of transportation for the grapes and wine, before the advent of diesel engine and concrete highways. Nowadays, these boats were mere showpieces acting as both Instagram-whoring advertisements and seagull toilets.

Supporting Characters

by the sea

In order to make sure trades go through smoothly, a whole hodgepodge of other matters needed to be sorted, such as national defense. A coursing navigable river like Duoro holds significant strategic importance, so its entrance to the Atlantic Ocean, about 3km to the west of city center, had to be guarded well. Like the Tower of Lisbon I saw during my visit a few months prior, Castelo de Quejio, literally Cheese Castle, serves the same function as a military garrison and a part of the forewarn system.

I came all this way, and it’s NOT edible!?

The day when I visited the area, which is called Foz do Duoro, was fiercely windy. Huge waves raged unchecked across the entire open ocean, roaring down east until seconds before hitting the castle walls, crashing into the seaweed-covered base rocks like undulating Ford F150 pickup trucks. I was alone in the turmultuous weather, accompanied by seagulls barely managing to stay airbourne in the turbulent gales.

free hair blower
Felgueiras Lighthouse

A bit closer to the heart of the commotion is the Felgueiras Lighthouse, land’s last stand against the violent tides rushing into the protected harbor further inland. I ignored the barrier and warnings set up by the local communities admonishing against a potential “one last swim” and headed closer. Numerous waves towering over 5 floors had already soaked the jetway with ankle-deep salt water, yet I wanna go experience the force first hand. So I approached even closer.

so loud that my ears hurt

However, before I could even get to the door of the structure, a few rounds of earth-shattering explosions drenched me in water, forcing my DSLR camera to auto-shutdown. To protect my hopeless life, I chickened out and scurried back to dry safety.


The little old industrial age styled tram ferried me back downtown. Just as I was starting to get appreciative of the protection those concrete rebars offered the city, I was greeted by another piece of essential part of the trade environment: city hall. The 70 meter tall bell tower stands solemnly over the prominent Dos Aliados Avenue, signalling its 50+ years of service to this great city. 4 statues decorate the cardinal directions, each symbolizing one of the 4 greatest treasures bequeathed by god to northern Portugal: the sea, the land, the grapes, and the labor.

city hall
São Bento Station

Another crucial step of the establishment as a city is a way to connect inland, which is exactly what the central station São Bento is for. However, this ain’t your normal lame ass train station, oh no no no. This one is extra special. After the works of the station was completed in 1900, 17 years after King Carlos I laid down the first brick of the foundation, an artist by the name of Jorge Colaço started putting 20000 specially zinc-glazed ceramic tiles on the lobby walls. The style is a close copy of the Chinese 青花瓷/blue flower style, which only utilizes the crispy blue and pale white on porcelein. However, the Europeans definitely had their own ingenuity: making large art panels like a mosaic with these tiles is only an Iberian invention.

interior, bottom right is the depiction of Ceuta conquest

The styled azulejo tiles depict scenes of various turning points in Portuguese history, with a heavy focus on local events, such as the Conquest of Ceuta, the beginning of the Portuguese influence in Africa as Prince Henry the Navigator took over the Morrocan town important to the trans-Sudanese trade. Below is the panel depicting Battle of Valdevez, the bloody final conflict during Portugal’s first independence war. Every single tile had to be carefully crafted and manufactured since not one single panel is identical. Not surprisingly, it took over 5 years to finish them all.

Battle of Valdevez

You are gonna see a lot of similar tiles in this journal as the style is extremely popular around the region. You could also find a church decorated in such a style during my last visit with Beatrice in her hometown Sesimbra in Lisbon journal. In latter parts of this trip, I would explore even more places that contain this kind of ceramic works.

Stock Exchange Palace

Yet nothing is more important to the city than the majestic Palácio da Bolsa, the Stock Exchange Palace. This neoclassical masterpiece is the seat of the Porto Commercial Association, and now still hosts the meetings of various trade groups vital to the Porto economy. Built in the latter half of the 19th century, bits and pieces of extra decorations were added to the palace by various artists in different styles.

Nations Courtyard

The impressive courtyard is shielded from the elements by a large metallic dome fitted with glass panels for natural light. Every corner of the top was filled with the coats of arms of those countries that had a commercial relationship with Portugal, and now most of them no longer exist. However, nothing beats out the most famous feature of this entire building: the Arab Room.

the Arab Room

This Moorish Revival style hall is just beyond imagination. It took Gonçalves e Sousa 18 years to finish, and it shows the pinnacle of the peak of European fascination with the outside world, which went parallel to Chinoiserie discussed just in the last journal in Madrid. Intricate patterns twist and turn to intertwine with the corners of the halls, with Arabic written all over it such as “Allah bless us all”, or other simple sentences that they managed to copy. If you think carefully, that might be the 1860 equivalent of a white girl tattooing a Chinese character as her tramp stamp.

the window sill!

This will be the first out of hundreds of times you see Moorish palaces during this journal series, because this would become the norm once I start heading further south with my family, all the way to its origin, Morroco. In the south of Spain, such as Sevilla, the Arabic people held their kingdom for nearly half a millenia, so it was only the norm that decorations in the region heavily feature Middle Eastern and North African themes, and later all the way down in Marrakesh, we are going to go palace hopping around town in order to see many different social status’ take on their traditional style. Hint: you might just see one dome even larger than this hall made completely out of pure gold.

intricate patterns

One has to visit the palace via an organized tour costing just shy of 10 Euros, which was not a bad deal, and I made a friend with the tour guide who was a girl from the local music community. It turned out on the very day that I visited would be the annual classical music day in town, organized by the city commerce council and local musician associations. It was free, and held in the elegant Arab Room, so why would I even refuse the invitation? I put on my only jacket with a collar and went with nothing but my long-term partner, anxiety. The string quartet performed numerous famous pieces from Bach to Beethoven, and the music echoed in the majestic room, as well as my mind, even till today…

now that is a proper travel experience
Gustave Eiffel’s room

Other rooms also featured numerous chambers such as the all-wooden hall that holds the meetings, or the above simple habitation where Gustave Eiffel used to work. Yes, the one with the tower. He once proposed to build a bridge spanning the Duoro River. The steep banks make travelling around town quite taxing, as one would have to descend the steep slopes just to go back up again. In 1879, he came up with a single deck design using similar triangular structure as his tower that would be build later on, but was rejected due to increased demand for a double decker bridge. Thus, his protégé Théophile Seyrig came up with an improved version that would connect the two banks on different levels.

Dom Luís I Bridge

And that is the Dom Luís Bridge, the largest double decker metal arch bridge in the world. Nowadays, the bottom carries all the traffic between the two sides while the top is exclusive to the new electric tram system set up during the beginning of the millenia, as well as pedestrians.

tram going onto the bridge
view from the top

It would be an understatement if I say the view from the 85 meter top deck was breathtaking. This has to do with the brilliant, unique and coherent houses lining up both sides. The charming little structures mushroom from the steep hills, carrying red tiles as hats and white-washed walls as their beautiful dresses: it was like falling in love, if there was such a thing called love in this deep dark void full of muffled screams that is my life.


With Greater Money, Comes…

With the humans’ inner desire to get intoxicated as the pillar of its economy, Porto does not have to worry about money since inception, so it is nearly mundane to see impressive places or buildings that would have become a key attraction elsewhere. Here, the rich was the norm.

Livraria Lello

One of such marvels is a bookstore named Livraria Lello, a stunning neo-Gothic house filled to the brink with books of all kinds, topped with a semi-translucent glass ceiling. Its curvaceous staircase is what makes it a place that you had to pre-book your ticket to enter nowadays. Besides its unique forking structure facing the momogram Decus in Labore, Honor in Work, next to the ceiling, it is also the rumored place where JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book. Thousands of Potterheads buzz around the bookstore taking photos of the staircase every day, but sadly the groundbreaking world of wizardry could not have possibly started here in this neat little store.

the beautiful stair case

JK Rowling did teach English in Porto, and was married to a Portuguese bloke before divorcing. She possibly visited this bookstore many times yet there was no place to sit down here, so there was no way that she finished her book while standing. I would prefer Edinburgh’s White Elephant as the origin, but it did not stop the library from turning into absolute insanity of an Instagram ego feeding ground. However, I would also like to believe this might be the inspiration of Flourish and Blotts, where Harry purchased his textbooks. I have no good photos to show you because it was physically difficult to move around, as hundreds of people cluttered the shop till the staircase was about to collapse.

Crystal Palace Gardens

One of the opulence symbols of the western world is gardens. The Crystal Palace Gardens stand on top of the little hills towards the west of center, overlooking the entire valley as well as Duoro’s entrance to the ocean. On a good day, peacocks flaunder their feathers underneath 7 kinds of palm trees imported from California as the sun sets directly into the mouth of the glistening gold river, while with my luck I saw gusts of winds blow away the last petals of the only flower I managed to find. Yet, it is not hard to imagine what kind of beauty one could behold should it be a better day.

overlooking the city
Palácio de São João Novo

Numerous smaller palaces dominate the skyline, yet many have fallen into disrepair because of the sheer number of competition. One of such examples is the above Palácio de São João Novo, which served defensive purposes during its heyday in 18th century. Nowadays, one cannot enter and is only served as a scenic backdrop for a good sunset.

but surely a welcomed background image!
exterior of Igreja de São Francisco

Yet such dilapidation is only an outlier, as most of the important historical buildings have been well-kempt thanks to the large amount of free cash floating around to dedicate to a rather noble cause, such as religion. In Igreja de São Francisco, just a few steps away from the Stock Exchange Palace, it is completely a world of its own. Sure, if you look at this exterior, it just looks like another of the thousands of baroque churches that have come across your, or my, mind. Some intricate stone carvings are nice and all, but I seriously doubt just this facade the size of my house would phase anyone given that in 2019, when Cambodian farmers have black diamond frequent flyer elite statuses. However, do not judge a book by its cover, just like a lot of people thinking that I am a stationary simpleton by judging my irredeemable complexion. This seemingly humble establishment is called the Gold Church for a good reason.


The place started with a completely different tone. Being a Franciscan establishment, this place was originally shunned by most of the local religious orders as the Franciscan is like that quiet kid who always just brings a banana in his lunchbox, and you might fear one day shoot up your advanced math class. They mostly practice friarship in minimalism: no outside possessions, no wives and no life other than dedicating it all to god. You can take a look of my Brno journal if you are interested in some of their bizarre traditions such as laying their dead brothers on a solitary brick as burial. However, it slowly changed as more and more prominent families started picking the Franciscan as their pantheon, and money started flooding into the humble worship place.

gold-covered panels

Suddenly, everything began to be coated by a thick layer of gold leaf. Dozens of famous wood carvers prepared hundreds of panels to be painted or embroiled, including the famous panel that features Jesus’s lineage. It did not take long to have the entire interior covered with over 400kg of gold, blindingly dazzly to any normal human eye, doubtlessly making Igreja de São Francisco the most prominent church in the entire region. Normally you are not allowed to take pictures, but I was just so impressed by the scale of thousands of figures that I completely forgot the rule. During Napoleon’s invasion, he wanted to show disrespect to the locals so he made this church a stable, and later during other wars, the church suffered multiple bombardments from primitive Moorish artillery to Nazi tanks. Yet, somehow, maybe by the grace of god, it survived relatively intact, so now you could pay a fee to gain entrance.

the catacombs

In a stark juxtaposition, just one level beneath, are the austere and solemn catacombs. By Franciscan tradition, anyone who follows the order shall be buried as simply as possible, regardless how many tons of gold was lined above surface. The rich ones got individually numbered crypts with names on them to await judgement day, but the more dedicated folks get mass-buried along with others at a secret corner of the subterranean lobby. Through a grated window, one could gaze upon the hundreds of skeletons arranged eerily below his or her shoes.

love is just chemicals in the brain, and death is just the end of such emission
Carmo and Carmelitas

Yet the religious oddity contrasts do not just end there, as you would be hard pressed to miss this church by the city university. It is actually two churches, Carmo and Carmelitas, separated by a tiny, 1m wide house at the place of the light pole in the above picture. The place of worship on the left is built for Carmelite nuns, and the one to the right is for Carmelite monks, so a rumor circulated that this tiny house of barely 2 people-wide was installed to prevent them from getting too cozy.

interior of Carmo church

However, the place was largely unknown for hundreds of years probably due to its extreme narrowness. Thus, it was constantly resided by many different church-employed families during different eras, and was used as a secret gathering place during the Napoleonic wars, Liberalism movement, Porto Seige and the proclamation of the Republic. The churches’ interiors are nothing to scoff at either, as there was also gold everywhere, but it is definitely not as grandiose as the overpowering Franciscan chapter down the hills.

Clérigos tower

If you thought the onslaught of the magnificent churches was finally coming to an end, I have terrible news for you. This is the Clérigos Church, belonging to another group of religious workers called the Brotherhood of Clergies. However, I would spare you the pain of looking at another interior filled to the brink with white marble statues and Jesus winking at you in his all-gold splendor, and just talk about its famous tower. As the first properly eliptical Baroque church in town, it constrcuted Torre dos Clérigos as the typical designs required. 75 meters of pre-industrial hard work pierces the sky, visible from almost every corner of the city, thanks to its highground position. Now it is possible to climb the 240 steps up top during nightfall, as it is possibly one of the best places to watch sunsets in this ever-so-charming city. I was thoroughly impressed, minus the fact that there should be someone watching it beside me, as the sun slowly sinks below the ocean in its romantic orange hue.

single sunset #25506


Being a generally rich region, Porto is overflowing with great foods. However, I will start with something as quirky as me, before I introduce you to the more traditional delicacies that plagued my mind since the visit. Behold!

yes, this is not a joke

You are looking at the fanciest McDonald’s in the world, as unque as the airplane one in Taupo. Once the city-famous Imperial cafe during the 1930s, it was finally put to pasture by modern globalism as McDonald’s took over in 1995. However, for some unknown reason, the conglomerate decided to not eradicate a piece of local history by selling Big Macs in another well-standardized room, but to keep the original Art-Nouveau embellishments, including large chandeliers, ornate ceilings, and the stained glass wall, which now serves as the punishment corner for broken ice-cream machines. Now that is what I call McCrazy!

fanciest McChicken you shall obtain

I was recommended by the local Palace guide to pay a visit to a small fancy restaurant, which surprisingly had 2 Michelin stars under the belt. However, I was not scared that I was carrying 15 Euros in my broken jeans’ pockets, since the lunch meal deal was only 12 Euros. Now that is what I call affordable famous cuisine, just like Tim Ho Wen from Hong Kong!

fish cakes

I also tried out another locally acclaimed restaurant, Adega Figueiroa, which features a whole list of rotating, fresh and cheap meals. I was the only non-neighborhood eater at the place, yet I was warmly received by the kind waitor, who supplied me with ungodly amounts of Port wine. He recommended a strange local dish that has a fish biting its own tail, along with the cod fish cakes that is famous a world over.

now this is the strangest fish dish ever
tripe stew

Yet the most widespread food you might find on local menus are not steaks or fish, but this kind of large tripe stew. Porto residents are known in the Portuguese-speaking world as tripeiros, which means tripe eaters. This stems from the Battle of Ceuta, when the entire city had to supply the outgoing fleet with beef and other meats, so they only had tripes left and ate it for a solid month. It is full of tomatoes, real beef meat (thankfully), and beans. If you fancy a different kind of local monstrocity, feel free to try one Tripas à moda do Porto.


Yet the city icon is this abomination: francesinha. For its namesake as “the little Frenchie”, this sandiwch would also leave you on the bed unable to move, if you catch my drifts. An enormous slice of steak, tons of ham, multiple layers of linguiça, a kind of Portuguese sausage, sit between two honkers of bread, grilled to perfection with melted cheese, topped with a secret spicy sauce and a bucket of fries. This was invented by Daniel David da Silva, who fled to France during the António Salazar’s dictatorship, and based it upon the classic French croque monseiur to remember those “spicy” French girls he encountered. For decades after its invention, francesinha was considered too decadent for any women to eat it!


Yet it was not surprising for me to try nata again here in Portugal, since it is basically the most addictive thing one can possibly get without breaking the bank. If you wanna know more about this interesting snack’s origins involving monks and coffee, pay a visit to my Lisbon journal written for the EuroHop 2019 journey.

Bolinhos de bacalhau

This is bolinhos de bacalhau, literally codfish cakes. Famous for its crunchy outside and creamy inside, this little snack is infused with the essense of salted codfish, probably the national cuisine fish of the entire country. Everywhere you go, you can hear people recommending you codfish cakes, grills, chops and soup. It is to Portuguese basically like the potato for the Irish: whatever you cook, just gotta add some to it!

yummy in progress!
now that is my kind of drink

Yet not one single mouth-watering experience could beat mine in Taberna Santo Antonio, a tiny hole-in-the-wall next to the steep cliffs of Duoro. Run by a family of local guys, it is likely the best place to soak up on some good sunset before heading inside for some delicious local treats. It had made itself widely-known amongst both tourists and locals, so I had to line up with a variety mix of people during lunchtime to reserve a seat for dinner. Yes, it is THAT popular, and for a good reason.

pork knuckle

The manager, a 40-year-old-looking chef with great English, French, Spanish and Portuguese capabilities was more than happy to introduce me to his fellow workmates as well as the variety of alcohols on display. The menu swaps every meal, base upon freshly delivered ingredients, featuring a wide variety of delicious yet home made style delicacies. Furthermore, their chocolate mousse is the best in the country, hands down. It feels good when you are dining and get to watch waves of people being turned away because this 20-seat establishment was reserved for the rest of the day; it feels even better when I told the manager that I could eat faster to let the queue die down a bit, and he said:”Don’t. You reserved with us and that means you truly like and deserve to be in our place. They did not and they can wait.” Now that is why I became a daily regular to this cheap, happy, and familiar home.

sauced octopus

Those Romantic Streets…

layers of paths going through a garden
an alley

Ahhh, yes, those great days of just wandering about, not thinking about anything particular, with a tummy full of salted codfish and an abnormally large grin on my face: these are the days of exploring Porto. Downtown is usually not suitable for any wheeled vehicles, as the narrow cobble-stoned alleys were not particularly friendly to anything that cannot hop around. The steep slopes always resulted in many beautiful perspectives that make you wonder if you are actually heading towards the right direction or not. They say Porto is like a Portuguese girl, who may not be the prettiest or the tallest in Europe, but she rewards those who is willing to invest time to discover her, and I cannot agree more.

chilling with mates
a cafe waiting for a customer

A few of the people I talked to during my years on the road said they were not particularly fond of Porto. And unsurprisingly, whenever you ask them about how long they stayed in town, they inevitably spits out a number smaller than 3. Porto does not have huge towers that beams light, or a collection of the most delicious foods worldwide, but it has a unique charm that lies within the cats taking a siesta on sunny afternoons, locals who are willing to drag you into a dance by the river, and hidden restaurants that have their own rotating menus regardless of the tourists’ demands for hot dogs and sushi. The city has retained a mid-1950s feel despite the fact that its economy structure had changed greatly, and that is extremely rare nowadays.

just, just look at that girl in the back!
streets wide enough for 2 tables, and only 2 tables

And yes, I was actually dragged into a dance battle by a few local women selling souvenirs on the river bank. I guess it was a slow afternoon and the blasting music was the only thing keeping them from falling asleep, so they were dancing amongst themselves as a distraction, as I just watched on the side. Suddenly, a few girls behind me dragged me into the circle and started swinging me around like a prehistoric caveman practicing with his newly obtained bone club. Then more and more joined, we all laughing maniacally as we got caught in the hysteria that I sure hoped to never end. They tossed me around like a gentrified salad shop in middle-Brooklyn, and numerous women hopped onto my back to hitch a ride on my shoulders, which was apparently a dance move for them. After enough time to tire out my every muscle, everyone gathered and gestured me to take a selfie, seen above. And that was the moment I realized that I was the only guy in the entire area, surrounded by almost a dozen females. Wait, what!?

guarding duty
church down the street

Of all these sights and attractions this charming city has to offer, I think none of them can even compare to the normal alleys you encounter while on a pleasant stroll. Sure wine and cellars are intoxicating, but not as intoxicating as discovering a little church hidden at the end of a steep walkway. The bridge designed by Eiffel is impressive, but it will never stand a chance against the hours upon hours you get lost in the winding hills. The Potterhead bookstore is all sophisticated and chic, yet it cannot even hold a candle against a small cafe’s local jazz music slowly oozing out of the door sills and flowing downhill. Porto is ultimately not about a single attraction or a list of must-sees: Porto is about its vibes.

a bunny at a street corner
an artist?

One of those “feels” that one cannot find on guide books is this guy, with his top hat, a large mechanical music box, oh, and his two ultra-fluffy chicken. Yes, those two balls of fur are a kind of chicken that grows so much feather that their eyes become obscured, so are their feet. And this street “artist” also feeds a lot of random papers punched with holes to produce music by running them through a mechanical agitator. Needless to say he has the coolest job ever in the world, and do not ask me about the reason of the existence of that gnome.


A Portal to Heaven

Yet it was impossible to stay in this beautiful city forever. It was time to leave and continue my journey, for the sake of my sanity and body fat percentage. I have said everything about Porto, from charming humans, to brilliant architecture, to mesmerizing wine culture, to mouth-watering foods, to eye-blinding cathedrals, to quirky McDonald’s. It is not a city for a fledgling traveller since it has too many layers to discover. Yet like an onion, it will make you weep tears of joy (and hunger) as you peel them away right down to its very core.

Porto, a city of portals

Porto is like a portal, an omnipotent one. It can transport you to an 18th century warring Europe, a 13th century Moorish empire, the 2nd century winery kingdom, the 19th century industrial age, and our 21st century modern metropolis. It is very disorienting sometimes to fit so much excellence into such a small area, but I have a belief that Porto is more than a mere portal. Its very existence is proof of multi-faceted brilliance, regardless of how many different eras it can show you. Just for it being a window to see the greater world this Portuguese city had lived through, it has been more than extraordinary.

And as I agree with the greatest monster-slayer in the world:

I hate portals.

Geralt of Rivia


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