From Lisbon we went north to Porto. It rained during most of our time there, but we still made the best of it. The ten days we spent in Porto was our time to relax a bit. We knew there wasn’t necessarily ten days of stuff to do in Porto, especially without a car. But we made sure to do most of the things in the town that we had read about.
The first was to eat francescinha, a regional sandwich made with 3 kinds of meat: steak, ham, and smoked sausage. The meat sandwich is then covered in cheese, heated (so the cheese gets melty) and then drenched in a beer, tomato, and piri-piri sauce. We knew we needed to try this dish, but I must admit I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I’m not big into sandwiches, and we had been eating so much meat that I kind of wanted a break. But try it we did, and I actually really liked it! My friend Caitlyn sometimes describes things as “gut bombs” when they’re particularly heavy or fatty and you know you’re going to be feeling it the next day. That’s exactly what this francescinha was. But it also kind of reminded me of the classic combination of a grilled cheese with tomato soup. It was warming and super flavorful. I’m just glad Jonah and I split one.
The other outing we knew we wanted to do was to go port wine tasting. You see, across the river from Porto, in Vila Nova de Gaia, all the big port houses sit nestled on the hill. Taylor’s Sandeman, Cálem, Kopke, etc. So on a rainy gray day, we crossed the bridge and tucked into Taylor’s, perhaps the biggest one, to do an audio guided tour through their port caves and a small tasting. I am a fan of port, but I haven’t had that much of it. My stepdad, David, likes tawny port, and that was pretty much the only kind I had tried. I discovered at Taylor’s that it’s also the kind I like the best. We tried some ruby port and a dry white port, and honestly, I didn’t particularly love either one. The ruby port was like drinking fortified grape juice – it was so sweet and jammy. The white was lighter and dry, but it had kind of a bizarre after taste. From Taylor’s we went to another port house called Croft, where we got a couple different tawny ports to try – a ten year and a twenty year. I of course liked the twenty year the best. We sat sipping them near the fireplace as the rain poured down outside.
In addition to the food focused activities, we toured around the city, visiting the São Bento train station, the old prison that now houses a photography museum, and doing an architecture tour with the Worst Tours. We ate huge plates of potatoes and steak and salmon, and tried the Portuguese version of risotto. All in all, Porto was a nice pause for us, a little time to recuperate before heading off on more involved adventures.