Man, it’s tough committing to blogging. I’ve got an injured pony (more on that in another post), an injured body (damn my chronically dislocating shoulder) and a lot going on…but damn it, I’m going to keep trying. If not for anyone else but my mother who persistently asks me where’s my next post. So here it is…which is some text, yes, but a whole lot of pictures. That’s what happens when you go on a girls trip with a bunch of photogenic gals, one of which is an actual photographer (Check out Christine Jackson Photography HERE and get excited because we’re having a family shoot in the fall with her). Needless to say, she wasn’t in most pictures but taking them…but if it’s just a shitty iphone pic it’s mine. I tried not to steal her gorgeous normal pictures but just ones of me cheesin’.
Can you believe this was my first ever girls trip? If you know me well, that’s actually not too surprising. I’ve never rolled deep with a posse of ladies but rather like to keep my friends separate (I’m an extroverted introvert and groups of people make me feel like I need to perform). We had a group of 6 ladies for a short weekend trip (though slightly adjusted a day because of flights) flying out of Edinburgh to Porto directly on Saturday evening, and getting back late Tuesday night (11pm arrival, and then the 2 hour+ ride home to Aberdeen). It was a good mix of ladies, 3 moms and 3 unspoiled by motherhood (ha!).
This was my second time to Portugal (see first time recap HERE) and I was excited to see another part of the country. I’m actually going for my 3rd trip to Portugal this fall with E and my mother back to Lisbon…there’s just a lot of love about this country so I’m not minding the duplicate trips at all! Porto as a city is just as hilly as Lisbon, and like Lisbon is against water (though the River Douro, not the Atlantic) and maintains a quaint feel with pedestrian only streets and tiled buildings.
This trip we had a secret weapon…Lillian, you might know her from The Smalls Abroad, who is actually Portuguese. Born in Canada, but her extended family is in Portugal she holds dual citizenship, and her parents still own a house there, and her fluency was so helpful! It’s just nice to feel like you aren’t getting ripped off for being a tourist when you have a native speaker with you. Which reminds me that this is actually the 2nd time I traveled with a secret weapon native speaker…but the last time I have YET to write about (2 years post)…our trip to Croatia. Alas…
Porto is obviously known for making Port wine. And while the port wine is made a bit further away from the city centre of Porto, planning in some winery tours is a must. We booked a private tour through EcoTours Portugal for 71 euros a person, which had one poor man drive our gaggle around, hitting up two wineries with lunch in between (lunch wasn’t included in the price but tours and tasting were). Even if you don’t like Port…you’ll learn a lot and the views are amazing.
I have to say, I wasn’t ever a fan of port before, but the trip changed my mind a bit. I think a combination of trying new things as well as a phenomenal dessert pairing helped. In the end, here’s what port I found I liked.
- Rose’ port – because I’m totally a #basicbitch. Rose’ and Slay all day!
- P&T – I’ll never abandon gin, but a white port and tonic is a refreshing drink.
- Graham’s 20-year port – Was it the dessert I had with it? Was it the 7 bottles of wine before it? We’ll never be sure, but I thought it was delicious.
Unfortunately for our little jaunt, we got in late Saturday night and because we didn’t know when we’d be checked in and all that, didn’t have a dinner reservation so unfortunately had to wind up eating at such a tourist trap of a place…. the food wasn’t awful but it was just meat and cheese and over priced sangria. Tip: If you’re in Porto, when go down to the main square on the river, while looking at the river, the places to your right tend to be more authentic (They are up on a ledge from the river) while to the left with their seating at river level are more touristy. Portugal has a great food culture but our only two dinners being on a Sunday and Monday night really limited where we could go eat, as those are the days most restaurants are closed. We even had a difficult time finding a little grocery store that was open on Sunday to get our breakfast essentials.
We ended up eating at Vinhas d’alhos on Sunday night after we had walked past it on Saturday night trying to find anywhere that would take us. Most nights (perhaps every) they do a live Fado. Now what’s Fado? The google tells me it’s popular folk music originated in Portugal. It’s included as a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Fado comes from the Latin word fatum (fate in English). It is most commonly performed over dinner and bounces between love and death and sadness…with silly little songs. A great experience to say the least.
Another reason I would recommend Vinhas d’alhos (specifically if you’re a group of ladies) is it seems they only hire cute male servers. I mean, they’re little men (I am a strict 6’3” or above type of gal) but when you’re sitting down you can’t really tell their height and they are all just so charming and cute. The food was good, not mind blowing, but they made great wine recommendations, you have a view of the river, and we got a welcome drink of Port and tonic.
Our last night we went across the river, which actually isn’t in Porto, but across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. In this area there are a lot of Port Cellars and while we originally planned a tour + tasting…bagged it and just went for the meal. It’s kind of like whisky distillery tours…once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen em all. I have to say, the food here is amazing, and the view is even better as you’re looking over Porto from high above. There is a big patio that hosts some couches for pre-dinner drinks, as well as has a glassed in section with tables for dinner. It got a bit cool at night, but I believe you could open up the doors/windows on a nice night and be practically eating al fresco. And to be fair, the interior it top notch…but since we’re stuck inside Aberdonians, we wanted out! This was a pricey (for Portugal) meal but I thought it was excellent…and even with about 5 bottles of wine, an appetizer, main and dessert (2 desserts for some as previously mentioned), AND port pairing with dessert, AND tip (which isn’t necessary in Portugal but for such good service we went with it) it was £70 a person.
And on the subject of food…make sure you try pasteis de nata for breakfast…or snack…or anytime you see them. A flakey shell with a sort of vanilla custard inside…drool.Other traditional foods to try:
Bacalhau (salted cod fish – can be served a 1,000 different ways)
Alheira – a smoked bread and meat sausage, when asked what kind of meats? The response was, “all”
To me the allure of Portugal is friendly people, warm climate, pretty cities built into hills against bodies of water, good food and wine…. and all that for SUPER CHEAP. I mean, I think I ate more on this trip than any other holiday (some people in our group might have even ordered two desserts on multiple occasions…) and we averaged 7 bottles of wine a day…. AND IT WAS CHEAP AF. And just reiterating, it was really good, fresh, seafood and yummy, local wines. What’s not to like? I’m already looking forward to my next trip.