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“She doesn’t know”, “I don’t know”, “She really doesn’t know?”. My friends were shocked, on arrival in Porto, to find that I, their reliably prepared friend, had no idea what to do that weekend. I am that person – the one who finds the flights, fusses over hotels, and researches what to do. I’m the organiser – but this time, in Porto, between preparing for TBU and being at TBU, I just hadn’t done it. I’d got as far as finding a hostel, but beyond that all I knew was that there was port to drink and the stunning Lello bookstore to be visited.
Most surprising of all, I didn’t care that I didn’t know. Perhaps, after six months on the move, I’ve chilled out a bit. I’m getting better at letting things happen, rather than trying to control what happens. There are so, so many things that Steve and I could have done on this journey that we didn’t. We could have gone to the end of the world at Ushuaia, arrived in Rio earlier for the carnival or biked along Bolivia’s death road. Whether it be because of bad timing, lack of money or a weighing up of priorities, it’s impossible to do everything. This is true in life but, when travelling, I think there’s even more of a pressure to ‘make the most’ of everything – meaning do as much as you can. My idea of ‘making the most’ has changed. I don’t want to do and see everything. I want to enjoy and appreciate the things I do do and let go of the things I can’t.
No plans, best plans
That weekend in Porto, I had one single priority: to spend time with Lou and Em, two of my best friends from London who had come out to visit me between TBU and TBEX. I hadn’t seen them for six months, and wouldn’t see them for another six. This was going to be our time to chat, chat and chat. And that’s exactly what we did – but something else happened too. Despite no planning whatsoever, it turned out we were in Porto for one of the city’s most exciting weekends of the year, featuring both the Musica Viva festival and the Port Wine festival. We couldn’t have planned it better.
Porto market and festivals in photos
Here’s our visit in photos including the awesome Porto market…
Firstly, Porto is gorgeous. This is the view from the Dom Luís Bridge, looking out onto the old town. I hadn’t really considered Porto as a destination before. It was the place Emily went on work trips and got bored in lonely hotel rooms. Without TBU, I may never have visited.
Our first strike of luck was being in Porto on the day of the monthly flea market, which was a beautiful display of antique goods and trendy young people. I took lots of photos…
…while Em and Lou shopped (sadly no space in the backpack for me to join). If I ever return to Europe, I’ll be seeking out this Porto market again.
Two minutes before we saw this stall, I had been describing some tiny little Brazillian truffles that I missed. We turned the corner and there in front of us was a whole tray of the exact delights. It was the cake seller’s debut in the market. I think they should call themselves serendipity.
Opposite the flea market, there was a stage with Jazz performers providing the perfect background music for the bargain hunters. The stage was one of around 30 scattered around the city for a two-day music festival.
We initially walked past Canastra Azul, but something drew us back and it turned out to be one of our best finds in the city. The owners have designed the restaurant to be like dining in a friend’s home. There is no menu; you simply say what you can’t eat and they bring you whatever they see fit. At the end you pay as much as you think it was worth. The design was perfectly charming and the food delicious, including the fruity salad plate above. I also had a vegetable stack, some soup, wine, bread, dips and a creamy caramel desert. If you’re in Porto, don’t miss it.
Later in the day, we visited the Porto Port Wine Festival – an event we’d only found out about the day before. We paid 5 euros, which included 5 glasses of port and a cooking demonstration. There were around 30 different stalls lining the river, offering port and various accompanying delicacies, and the setting was gorgeous with plenty of seats to lounge around on.
Port wine has become one of my favourite drinks, especially port and tonic, which is refreshingly delicious on a hot day. Em and Lou became fans too.
In the evening, we went to the music festival. DJs were playing from balconies and clubs were transformed into live music venues for the night. Galeria de Paris and the roads around were definitely the places to be, packed to the brim with crowds.
So that’s our time in Porto in pictures. As you can see, a series of fortunate events meant that my no plans turned out to be the best plans.
How much do you plan your travels? Flying in the breeze, or printed itineraries? We’d love to know your thoughts.
Useful information on Porto
I stayed in the Tattva Design Hostel, which is beautifully put together. The best parts are the gorgeous roof terrace, and the beds, which are incredibly comfortable and come with curtains, a light, power socket and fan. They offer daily meals, always with a vegetarian option, and the cookie desert is amazing. For eating out, I recommend Essencia, which is a brilliant gourmet vegetarian restaurant. Maus Habitos, which is part of an art space on top of a multi-storey carpark, is also good for lunch. I didn’t go in the evening, but I hear it holds good events.