I’m a rebel just for kicks, now

Porto is one of those popular “digital nomad destinations” due to its European culture, nice weather, low cost of living. So I decided I’d go there for a bit. I’m actually staying in Vila Nova de Gaia, the city right across the Duoro River from Porto. It’s the side with all the wine on it, where I belong.

One struggle with living in a small Portuguese neighborhood is that I do not speak Portuguese. So I decided to learn it! It’s been a little more than a month and I know the words for bread, avocado, bag, and thank you. Pretty solid language learning if you ask me. It’s been more an exercise in trying not to slowly descend into madness in this apartment with weird dolls, drinking 2€ bottles of wine and playing “two truths and a lie” with the pretty, stray cats next door.

It’s a quaint suburb, and I’m about a 10 minute walk from the beach. So I run there some mornings, and I’ll wander down for the occasional sunset as well.

Beach in Vila Nova de Gaia
Also great for spotting old, shirtless Portuguese men

The houses that people live in here are extremely well kept. People love tiles and gardens here. And they all have white, stucco houses (occasionally with the tiled exteriors) and reddish roofs. They don’t care so much about the actual neighborhoods though – not exactly clean between the nice houses, and there are a number of available properties that are rather run-down. But it’s mostly pretty, with vine-covered archways and well-kept gardens galore.

When I’m not walking back and forth from the grocery store or working in the apartment, I’ll take the 40 minute bus ride into Porto to change things up. I’ll work from a coffee shop for a bit or just wander around, as it’s a nice little city.

It has a bookstore that frequently ranks among the “most beautiful in the world” so I figured I’d give it a go. It was actually quite small and a little underwhelming, but it is beautiful I guess. It’s crazy busy for what it is, and they make you pay 4€ to get in, which you can put towards books, but everything is incredibly over-priced so I didn’t even buy anything. The good news is they had these locker rentals for 1€, and a lot of tourists don’t realize you get your euro returned when you unlock the door, so I checked all the locker coin returns when I left and made 3€ back. Stupid tourists.

Anyways, it’s called Livaria Lello, and here’s a terrible picture of the inside of it.

Livraria Lello
How to beat Amazon: don’t actually sell books

The Duoro River separates Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia, so I crossed it a lot. The bridge is Ponte Luis I. It’s better to sit on the Gaia side and look at Porto, plus that’s where the wine is. And an incongruously placed Pizza Hut. Here are some pictures.

Duoro River overlooking Vila Nova de Gaia
Porto, looking at Gaia
Duoro River between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia
On the bridge, looking at another bridge
Duoro River overlooking Porto
Gaia looking at Porto
Porto is shortened from “portobello” and translates to “people of the toadstools”

Like much of the rest of Europe, Porto has these narrow city streets that look especially nice when adorned with basket gardens.

Narrow street in Porto
Not Hummer3-friendly

I also walked around the Jardim Botânico do Porto – the botanical gardens. Probably not as lush as they are in the summer, but still pretty good. And some random peacocks; what’s not to like?

Jardim Botânico do Porto
Jardim Botânico do Porto
Duoro River from the Botanical Gardens in Porto
Duoro River from the Botanical Gardens in Porto
Jardim Botânico do Porto
Are peacocks migratory?

I really didn’t go into Porto much, but when I did, I essentially frequented two different cafes. There weren’t exactly an abundance of worker-friendly coffee shops in the main part of the city that I found, but I didn’t work terribly hard at it (I’m sure there are a couple more). But the ones I’d recommend:

Moustache – Two floors, nice little desks to work, and no table service (which I prefer so I’m not bothered). Not far from the main area, and the coffee was pretty good too.

Costa Coffee – Say what you will about chains, but they had a big store in a nice location. Easy to hang out here for a while and work, so I did it often.

daTerra – Not a WiFi cafe recommendation, but a vegetarian one. They have a nice vegetarian buffet lunch with a lot of variety and takes on local cuisine (which generally isn’t very vegetarian friendly).

I also did a couple day trips outside Porto, although not as much as I would have liked. The first one was to Guimarães, which has a pretty old town area and a castle. I’ll go just about anywhere with a castle. It’s another one of those good “wander the streets” places.

Streets in Guimarães
If you keep your head still and focus straight ahead, it feels like you’re playing Goldeneye
Streets in Guimarães
I guess I liked these trees
Square in Guimarães
“Put a fountain in it” is the “put a bird on it” of Portuguese public spaces

And while the castle does look cool, it’s definitely no Scotland. The walls are nice, but the inside just takes a minute to walk around. It was 2 euros, which was about all it was worth.

Castle of Guimarães
Decidedly conquerable
Castle in Guimarães
Looking down at the plebes
Castle in Guimarães
This is what part of a castle looks like

It’s a UNESCO Heritage Site for being a “well-preserved medieval town” or something like that. Or “too lazy to modernize” so it has become a novelty. You pick.

Archway in Guimarães
I like this archway

And here is the cathedral in the old town center. It was closed due to a wedding, but I still snagged a cool picture of the gardens inside.

Cathedral in Guimarães
I cut off the bottom because there were tons of annoying wedding people
Cathedral Gardens in Guimarães
Ivy on things!

I guess I took this from a bad angle, or I’m just not good at it, or the light was wrong, but if you search for the town name you get a better picture of this. Or maybe just blow it up. Anyways, it’s gardens and stuff surrounded by streets leading to a tall, cool-looking thing.

Main street in Guimarães
And put a fountain on it

The other place I went was Braga. Lots of cool buildings here. It’s pretty close to the same area, and is one of the oldest settlements in Portugal. It has a similar old town area, and then a rather lengthy walk to the cathedral (most people take a bus, I guess).

Anyways, here is the Arco da Porta Nova that is the entrance of the old town area.

Gate in Braga
Also serves as a portal to another dimension

This is a church, or a hospital, or a nunnery. There’s no way of knowing. But it looks nice, and they have an able gardener.

Igreja do Populo Braga
Definitely haunted

This is Raio Palace. I don’t know what it’s for, but it looks kind of purple, which is cool.

Raio Palace
Took this from the road / almost died

And then I made the long trek to Bom Jesus do Monte. And once I got there, I made the long trek up. It’s a winding path, almost a hike, through some green areas, and then up a lot of steps to get to the actual cathedral.

Like many of these “I’m building a church on a mountain” situations, at every turn there is a small building depicting the series of events leading to, spoiler alert, the crucifixion. This was my favorite one, because Jesus looks like a teenager who is just, like, so over whatever they’re saying.

Statues of Jesus
“OMG guys, ya basic”

And then once you’re done with all those stairs, there are more stairs. These are prettier though, and there are lots of pictures of them, so I decided to also take a couple pictures of them.

Bom Jesus do Monte
Should have guessed “monte” meant mount or something with a lot of climbing
Bom Jesus do Monte
Ah yeah, I climbed a bunch of the stairs

The cathedral at the top was pretty cool, and also it was a lot of walking, so I decided to take a couple pictures of the things inside it.

Bom Jesus do Monte
Nothing like a painted roof
Bom Jesus do Monte
Jesus’ doll collection
Bom Jesus do Monte
Standard fare
Building in Braga
This is the outside of the cathedral
One nice thing about a primary tourist attraction like this is that there is gelato outside, so I got some. It was delicious, and almost made the trip all the way up there worth it. Too bad Jesus didn’t get gelato. Or maybe he did, we’ll never know.
Anyways, that was Porto. It moved at a slower pace and it was good to relax in one place and get some work done for a while. But I’ve had enough pastel de nata for a while, so it’s on to Lisbon and sightseeing a bit quicker.

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