July 11, 2013

My Past Week Pt. 1: Porto - What to Eat, Drink & Do

7:30pm at Gaia Beach, Porto / July 2013
I’m a couple thousand kilometers in the sky, mid-flight to Budapest - the past 8 days have been an absolute whirlwind and I have been way too busy immersing myself in European culture to try and find the time to update my blog - so today you get a double post.

Porto. What an incredible city. As soon as I stepped out of São Bento station I was mesmerised – the architecture is all very reminiscent of the Renaissance, and so colourful, as the buildings are adorned with gorgeous painted tiles which creates imagery like giant murals. The temperature lingered around the high 30s during our stay which is 'flourishing Bianca' weather - it added such a legitimate European Summer element to our evenings, where we would buy an icy 750ml cider for 3 euros in a little corridor-sized bar to join the couple of hundred people drinking on the street and in the park.The entire city is just like one huge old town, with it’s cobblestone streets (everywhere – suitcases beware), people-watching cafés and plazas.

A lot of the typical Portuguese dishes just weren’t my thing – if they weren’t full of meat, they were very greasy, covered in puff pastry or loaded with cream. In saying this, if you find any menu which serves brie baked in puff pastry with pumpkin jam, skip your entrée and eat your dessert before your main. My lactose intolerant self would eat 10 of these every day if I was given the chance. Amazing.

Maus Habitos – This is a little vegetarian canteen hidden on the fourth floor of a car park off the bustling Rua Santa Caterina. It is only open for lunch, from Monday – Friday with a different set menu each day. The food was DELICIOUS and all perfectly portioned so you ate a variety and were comfortable satiated at the end of the meal. For 7.50 euros, our meal consisted of unlimited iced green tea, a vegetable pastry, pumpkin soup, salad, pasta and crumbed tofu. I repeat, 7.50 euros. I wish I could eat here everyday - please, please, eat here on my behalf!!!

The bars in Porto are tiny and just house the bartenders and the drinks – the culture here is to buy your drink in the corridor bar and then drink out in the street.  The crowds start heading out around 11pm, make their way to the clubs around 1am and stumble home some time after sunrise. I wound up in a few really cool bars, however they were a little overpriced for my 'backpacker budget' and didn't stay open past about 1am, unlike the tourist clubs. 
Despite the endless love for the universe I hold and the general pos-good-vibes I wish to spread, I am an avid hater of tourist clubs - so here I present to you a much better venue to drink (and eat because that is my other favourite past time.) 

Bugo Art Burger – As the name suggests, this is a burger joint. However, not your typical burger joint - Bugo is located in the Porto art district and you need a reservation if you want to eat here. You want to eat here, but I promise, you especially want to drink here. Bugo serves a whole range of beers and incredible cocktails, but their sangria is some next level amazingness. If you had to choose between their sangria and no sex for a month, you would probably choose the sangria. The jugs are a good 1.5l each - so maybe don’t start drinking while you are waiting to be seated – you will be drunk before dinner and break your wine glass at the table. (I didn’t do that…..)

Ponte D. Luis I – We walked through some beautiful cobblestone streets and what seemed to be an infinite number of steps to arrive at Ponte D. Luis I. Local kids jump off the bridge into the Douro River, and from whichever level you cross the bridge there are spectacular views of Gaia and Porto. It's a lovely walk, and afterwards you can treat yourself to a drink and some shopping at the stalls in Praça da Ribeira, which forms the historical centre of the city.

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