As they say in Portugal, Muito obrigado por tudo which means Thank you very much for everything... which is how I felt when leaving the historic city of Porto, grateful for all their kindnesses during our visit and grateful for the enormous privilege of being able to travel...
Everything I saw and tasted and experienced in the port city exceeded my expectations, but what left the most indelible impression was the alluring stretch of ocean to its west and the local Portuguese, who were welcoming, kind, and so very gracious. I’ve not been able to shake the landscape and the warmth of its people from my mind since leaving. One morning I got lost wandering around and asked (well gestured really) an elderly gentleman to point me in the right direction; he not only told me where I was in relation to my destination, but walked me back to a place I was familiar with, and upon dropping me off headed off in the opposing direction, which meant he really did go out of his way for me. This is one example, but there are more... this made a wonderful visit even sweeter.
The research I did on Porto before leaving focused mainly on the historic city center, which alone can leave one in a constant state of awe (so many hilltop views of the colorful architectural landscape that spans centuries and styles, sizes and colors). The city can also rightfully boast about their world renowned port wine and abundant fresh seafood (grilled in front of you in some cases), delicious local pastries and chic cafés, and the beautiful bold tile work that meanders throughout narrow streets.
Then there’s the Duoro River that flows between the medieval Ribeiro district of Porto and the 18th century port houses in Villa Nova de Gaia, which eventually opens into the Atlantic Ocean. It's from here, many centuries ago, men looked out into the Outer Sea and envisioned sea dragons living just before the ocean dropped off! Thus sparked the Age of Discovery, the period of European global exploration beginning in the early 15th century. All that to say that when you sit at one of the waterfront terraces sipping sweet port, it is not only beautiful, calming and restorative looking out into the ocean, but it begs you to contemplate the mindset of fiercely brave explorers from long ago.
This western section of Porto called Foz do Duoro is where my family stayed, where we got to sleep to the sound of gentle crashing waves while only a 15-minute historic tram ride away from the city center. This made me never want to leave... and admittedly, part of me is still there.
If you’re thinking about visiting Porto, let me know and I’d be happy to send you tips and resources.