Porto —> Coimbra
The ‘come down’ after finishing the Camino lasted a lot longer than either of us expected. All of a sudden, after having a goal and a ‘purpose’ each day for 35 days, we found ourselves a little bit lost. The Camino provided us with milestones, time frames, something to do everyday and allowed us to concentrate on meeting our basic human needs whilst we took in the beauty of our surroundings.
In Santiago, at the end of our Camino, we were a bit lost in what to do as regular backpackers.
To escape the dreary weather we’d had in the last few weeks, we decided to head straight into Portugal. It was amazing to us that we just had to buy our bus tickets and 5 hours later we would be in another country. We had booked a double room in Porto since it had been over a month of staying in dorms with very little privacy. The hostel was beautiful and right in the centre of the city.
Adam discovered a Porto delicacy called the Franceshina. This heart-attack inducing sandwich consisted of steak, bacon, ham, salami, chorzo, pork fillet, fried egg and two pieces of toast covered in melted cheese and neapolitan sauce. It was a little too much for me so Adam kindly offered to eat half of mine as well.
The weather, however, was terrible and didn’t appear to have an expiration date. None the less, we persevered and saw all of the sights to see in Porto. It turns out J.K.Rowling was living in Porto when she first started writing Harry Potter and found a lot of inspiration from some of the architecture around Porto. The Majestic cafe and famous Libraria (a book store) were amazing inside and you could definitely ‘see’ some of Hogwarts in the ceiling and decorative statues.
Portugal is very different to Spain. The first thing we noticed was how much English was spoken. We would attempt to talk to shop owners and waiters in our very poor Portuguese but the conversation would quickly turn to English. We felt a bit spoilt but it also meant that a lot of the everyday language-struggle of being in a foreign country disappeared in Portugal.
Port-wine tours are a must in Porto. On the other side of the river are countless port-wineries and cellars that do tastings. We started at one of the more famous ones: ‘Taylor’s’ which was a considerable hike up a big hill. The tour was 5 euros and talked us through all of the processes in making port-wine. Who knew there were white ports and ruby ports as well? The tastings were generous (as in most places) and the views over Porto were spectacular.
Hilariously, Adam and I got a little over-excited by the prospect of tasting port wines all day and visited about 5 wineries/cellars in total. This resulted in a not-so-memorable stumble home to our hostel, followed by a port-induced slumber at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and ending with a two-day hangover. Sadly neither of us know if we will ever be able to drink port wine again.
In saying that, port wine is delicious (in small quantities) but you should never underestimate the alcohol content.
Next we visited Coimbra – a famous university town south of Porto for a few days. Highlights were the fountain of love which was in a beautiful 14th century garden that an old King devoted to his wife and a Fado concert. Fado is a portuguese type of music involving a singer, a fado guitar and a regular guitar. It was quite impressive.
Coimbra is a lovely old city. The history there is overwhelmingly rich and there are so many museums and old monuments to visit but the post Camino blues was something we were both finding quite hard to shake. It sounds so silly and we were disappointed in ourselves and our apparent lack of resilience. After all, we were on a once in a lifetime trip, in the middle of Portugal and here we were being sad-sacks. The weather seemed to be dictating our moods and staying in double rooms as opposed to dorms in hostels meant that we weren’t socialising with other travellers. After a few irritable moments, we decided to make some changes starting in Lisbon. We booked two bunks in a dorm room at a ‘party hostel’ and jumped on the bus in search of some sunnier weather.