For those not following me on Twitter, I’ve spent the last week on holiday in Porto, Portugal. You may remember we visited Lisbon last year and Portugal is fast become one of my favourite countries. Like Lisbon you need a comfortable pair of shoes, a sun hat and some sturdy legs for walking the hills. I’ll admit it was tough going at times and my love of chocolate was ever telling when I puffed my way up the steepest staircase.
For us, Porto was all about the views, architecture and cafe culture. The Ribeira is the oldest part of the city with the Douro River and Ponte D. Luis I bridge being the focal point. If the bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower it’s because it has connections back to the same engineering company. As you would expect there are several companies running city tours. We opted for a 2 day pass on the Blue Bus including a river cruise and Port tasting. For the remainder of our trip we rode the trams. Although there are only 3 routes, you can still cover a fair amount of the city. The beaches are within easy reach if you fancy an afternoon away from the centre and feel the sand between your toes.
The busiest attraction on the tourist trail might surprise you. The Livraria Lello bookshop was heaving with people wanting to see the decorative staircase. This beautiful building is caught up in Harry Potter madness as JK Rowling spent time in Portugal and visited the shop. It is said that the description of Flourish & Blotts Bookshop is very similar to Livraria Lello.
Thanks to the new EU allergy regs I noticed a big difference when food shopping, it is surprising how welcoming the highlighted allergens are on labelling. It was easier for me to spot the allergens in Portuguese when an English translation wasn’t available. We visited El Cortes Ingles and I was excited to see a huge Free From section. As in the UK, restaurants should be providing allergen information but I’ll admit I wasn’t asking for them. Portugal is a fish and meat eating country, Vegetarian options were available (although typically omelette, salad and pizza). The local dish is Francesinha, a toasted sandwich filled with meats, topped with cheese and covered in a special sauce/gravy. Not for the faint hearted and according to the guide book veggie versions are available. The best restaurant we ate at was Aurora and it happened to be round the corner to our Hotel. They even had allergy advice on the menu and were so friendly and welcoming. My next favourite was on the river and called Barris Do Douro. I did not find any dairy free ice cream but I managed to sniff out the cutest little ice cream parlour, La Copa and “forced” my better half to indulge in waffles and gelato that looked amazing.
Over the past few years I have found the website happycow.net a handy resource for locating Vegetarian/Vegan cafes/restaurants. The problem we have with Vegan places is they are always in the oddest parts of town and don’t keep typical opening hours. I did eat fish whilst in Porto, sadly it was a decision I had to make on this occasion.
I’ll give a brief mention about our hotel, Moov Hotel Porto Centro and a random mention to my favourite shop, Ale-Hop. The Hotel was clean, modern and budget friendly. It just lacked decent towels, a safe and hairdryer in the room. In terms of location, it was a 10 minute walk from the Metro, on the line direct from airport and the tram and tourist buses stopped at end of the road. It was a bit of a trek down to the river and the uphill climb was less appealing at the end of the day. As for Ale-Hop, it's like the Tiger of Europe, I’ve visited a few stores on my travels and you can find the best “tut” for your Euros! Cheap and tacky but I totally love browsing and occasionally buying random crap, I really did need the Wonder Woman keyring in my life, honest!
I had a lovely trip and it was over too quickly. The only downside has been I managed to pick up a sore throat which turned into an ear infection. My ears are blocked from the flight and I feel like I’m under water. No amount of blowing my nose has managed to pop them so I’m feeling a little miserable.