What a weekend! We had our international excursion to Porto, Portugal which is about five hours by bus from Salamanca. I realized before we left that the trip would be my first experience in a country where the primary language was not English or Spanish, which was kind of a shock. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that kind of confusion reading signs or hearing conversations in the street. Our program director told us, however, that many Portugese people have some idea of English because English TV shows and movies are subtitled in Portugese instead of dubbed over, as it is in Spain. Even so, it was kind of an awkward guessing game for every interaction with a Portugese person for what language to use. Usually we started in English then tried Spanish or mumbled the only Portugese word we knew which is “Obrigada” (Obrigado if you are a man) and means “Thank you.” I still don’t really understand the pronunciation of written words (a lot of accent marks I’ve never seen before) but it was fun to hear and the Portugese people we interacted with were all very nice and friendly.
Porto is a city divided by a river and it is on the coast. The first night we were in Porto we walked around the city and down to the river which is breathtaking by night with the buildings, boats, and the impressive “Ponte Luiz I” which is one of the three bridges in town. I’m in love with the buildings and the river and the boats and just everything about Porto.
For dinner we found a restaurant on the river and I had bacalhau, which is cod. It was super salty, but still good as I was starving.
The next day was beach day! It was colder and windier than the other beaches we’ve been too, but still a nice day to enjoy the sun.
For lunch we found the best chicken sandwich ever plus a milkshake and the typical little pastry of Portugal, which is filled with custard and looks like this:
For dinner I had Francesinhas, which is a dish you can only find in Porto, apparently. It’s basically a bunch of meat (3 or 4 kinds, mine had pork, ham, and what looked like hot dog), toast, mucho cheese, and sauce which is like tomato sauce and beer. Basically. Oh and batatas fritas (fries). The triple meat part was a lot for someone who’s usually a vegetarian but it was an experience.
With our free time we went walking around to pretty much every souvenir shop in Porto (lots of tile, ceramic things, rooster themed things dish towels and table cloths) and crossed the river to look at little stands along the river. The view as the sun set made it extra awesome.
We also stopped in at the train station which is impressive because the walls are all blue tile and each wall is a different significant event in Portugal’s history. We went by ourselves, so we weren’t really sure what we were looking at, but it was pretty anyway:
On Sunday we went to El Palacio de la Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) in Porto and had a quick tour which was beautiful but no pictures were allowed. We then went to the Sandeman Winery. Porto is of course famous for it’s Port Wine, which we learned is wine that’s interrupted in the fermentation process essentially, and pure, tasteless, odorless brandy alcohol is added instead. We had a tour of the Sandeman building (tons of Port everywhere), then got to try it! Some of the vintage wines have been there since 1904! We learned a lot and it was exciting to see what is a big part of Porto’s history. We learned that the traditional boats on the river (in the picture above) are now basically just used for tourists but were once used to transport the wine from where it’s harvested in the Douro Valley to Porto where it is aged. Now the wine gets to Porto by truck.
On the tour: If you look on the left (sorry it’s dark) you can see our tour guide dressed in the hat and cape as in seen in the logo. Pretty sweet.
It was a great weekend and there will be lots of pictures of Porto to come. I’d definitely like to return to Portugal in the future.
Emma Lieuwen is from Western Washington University and studying with API in Salamanca Spain. She is a regular contributor to the API Tumblr Blog.