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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon
< Lisbon, Portugal - 2012 | Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012 >

Monday, August 06, 2012

Porto, Portugal - 2012

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 06/08/2012 01:57:32
Updated by Joel Dixon at 08/10/2018 06:17:40

We continue our story with a slightly hung over EuroJoel sitting on a train travelling from Lisbon to Porto, in search of the fabled Francesinha.

While the motion of the train wasn't the nicest feeling on my stomach, I think I will enjoy having the train as my primary mode of transport across Europe. Seating is spacious and the train stations are much closer to the city than the airports. It also provides a good opportunity to type out my travel blogs and reflect on the city I am leaving with occasional glances out the window at the scenery. I was sat next to a Portuguese marine (special forces apparently), and although his English was basic we managed to have a good chat. He had actually been looking into jobs in Australia - the Portuguese job market isn't the best at the moment like a lot of Europe (or the world for that matter).

This bring up an interesting side note - even with the economy struggling in places like Portugal, I have only been approached by a lone beggar. This is in stark contrast to the experience I had in Canada, where beggars were as prevalent as the uncrupulous hashish vendors of Lisbon. I am interested to see whether this trend continues in countries such as Spain and Italy.

I arrived in Porto at around 2 pm and navigated the Metro to get to my hotel (I have become adept at quickly getting up to speed with the various local public transportation options) which was not too far from the centre. At first glance, Porto is a grittier city than Lisbon - even without beggars the difference in socio-economic conditions is pretty apparent. I also noticed that the knowledge of English was far less in Porto - but this is not a problem for me as I can point at menu items with the best of them (after committing pronunciation manslaughter with an initial attempt). I dumped my luggage in my hotel room and went for a quick walk to grab a small bite to eat.

I felt that the best time to try the highly anticipated Francesinha sandwich was lunch time - so dinner on my first night in Porto was going to be something non delicious sandwich based. I took the Metro out to Matosinhos which is known for the great restaurants next to the water. I only ended up getting out there at 7:30 pm - so I was a little worried that I might be cutting it a bit late. My ignorance was again displayed when I arrived at the restaurant of my choice when I was told it would open for dinner in around a half hour. I spent this time walking to the beach (2 minutes away) to stroll up and down the sand, a well-earned respite for my poor toes.

She Changes - a really cool sculpture of a net down by the beach. I am pretty sure this is a subtle homage to Divo's innovative design of head wear (which I further extrapolate was invented in Porto)

When I did eventually get to sit down for dinner (probably looking similar to a 6 year-old, sitting next to my stocking of presents from 3 am on Christmas morning) I ordered a satisfying meal of a hake entre and a steak main. I realised that I had yet to order dessert on this holiday - mostly because my main meals were all so filling. I decided that after this meal I would have to reduce the size of my mains to fit in dessert - or just suck it up and become an Oompa Loompa as a kind friend suggested on Facebook Not 30 minutes later my choice was made - and I enjoyed a milkshake from the nearby dodgy multi-lingual food vendor.

For some reason Porto believes that we shake our milk in a typically Australian manner, leading to the "Aussie Milkshake"

I woke up on my second day in Porto in hopeless anticipation, today was to be Francesinha-day. It was time to sample one of the top-ten sandwiches available on Earth. The Francesinha, or "little Frenchie" is clear validation of human race's ability to create a sandwich - a timely indication of how far we had come as a society. There was a brief moment of self-doubt on this morning - was I heaping too many expectations upon a sandwich that could never be met? Had my mind constructed a standard of sandwich that could not be achieved without the selling of a soul to the devil? Of course, this is nonsense and was quickly discounted as mere game-day nerves. With my true purpose as clear as ever I set off towards Bufet Fase - that Francesinha vendour that was historically awarded "Best Francesinha in Porto" by some dudes on the Internet. Upon my triumphant arrival I could not fail to notice that they were closed for holidays.

It appears disappointment can be translated into four languages. I can only presume the staff of Bufet Fase are currently traipsing around Australia in search of the best Vegemite sandwich

Much like an elite sportsman, I needed to recover quickly from this blow. I assure you that it is no hyperbole to suggest that I overcame this knock back in a similar fashion to Mario Lemieux's repeated returns to the NHL after bouts of Hodgkin's disease. Planning for such an outcome, I walked down the road to the Majestic Cafe, number two on the afore-mentioned list of "Best Fancesinha in Porto".

The Francesinha - I fear that I have not given enough indication that I was looking forward to eating this

The Francesinha is a recipe that alters greatly from vendor to vendor. In general, it is a multi-layered sandwich of meats, covered in cheese and sitting in a "special sauce", eaten along with chips. The special sauce is also vastly different and a closely guarded secret in each incarnation - but the general recipe calls for beer, tomato sauce and some form of chilli. The Magestic Cafe's Francesinha had ham, steak and sausage within the cheese-covered bread - and was certainly everything I had hoped for. When you received a bite that contained all three types of meat along with the cheese and sauce it was pure bliss. The Majectic Cafe's sauce was not as spicy as I would have preferred (it is said that the Bufet Fase's offering contains more of a kick) but I was certainly left satisfied. Remembering my previous vow, I finished my meal with Rabanada - which is a Brazilian version of French toast.

A slightly exploded view of the sandwich - kind of like food porn

Now that the sandwich-sized hole in my soul was filled, I was free to walk the city and take in the sights. Porto also contained many really cool statues and buildings, the cathedral looking particularly impressive. The scale of these constructions and the timeless beauty is something that I hope I do not grow tired of enjoying while on this trip.

Another horse falls victim to a sore hoof

On the way back to the hotel I found a Virgin Active Health Club, providing me the opportunity to fit in a quick workout (and attempt to abort the food baby that was quickening inside me). I notice the Virgin branding involved a lot of inspiring phrases written in English - so I figured language would not be a problem here. Nope - the girl at the counter didn't speak any English at all. It kind of made sense when I thought about it (the staff of a Melbourne Nando's are not able to magically understand Portuguese just because of the branding in use). After a pitiful attempt at a Fran (I have lost so much fitness since beginning this trip) I bought some lollies and headed back home.

Portugal's design of a lolly banana is strange and confuses me. I am not suggesting that they were not delicious however

After an afternoon planning the later destinations of my trip it was time for dinner (I left at a more reasonable 8:15 pm). I figured a meal of Portuguese chicken was called for and walked to Pedro dos Frangos, a much exulted dealer of Portuguese barbecue chicken. Yet again - I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the food and enjoyed every bite of the chicken that I covered with peri-peri sauce.

The blurry photo is probably the result of my hands shaking due to the delightful smells

This pretty much sums up my stay in Porto - and concludes my time in Portugal. A beautiful country filled with beautiful people and delicious foods. I struggled with the language far more than I ever did in Montreal or Quebec City - mainly because words seem to be more different than a similar French word would be (for example, "red" is "tinto" in Portuguese which is more difficult to guess than the French of "rouge"). Also, what's with the four syllable word of "abrigado" being used for "thank you"? Even when abbreviated to "brigado" it is still two syllables longer than "thanks" or "merci". While I'm on the subject of Portugal gripes - street signs are terrible here. Posted on only one corner and affixed to a building, they are often faded and difficult to read from any distance.

The street of my hotel - "24th of August" - was so named as it celebrates the first delivery of a "that's what she said" joke back in 1904

I am currently on the train back to Lisbon, and will catch an overnight train to Madrid for a few nights of tapas and (sensible) alcohol consumption

This is the 2nd in the EuroJoel - 2012 series
City 1 - Lisbon, Portugal - 2012City 2 - Porto, Portugal - 2012City 3 - Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012City 4 - Valencia, Spain - 2012City 5 - Barcelona, Spain - 2012City 6 - Naples, Italy - 2012City 7 - Rome and Vatican City, Italy - 2012City 8 - Florence and Pisa, Italy - 2012City 9 - Milan and Bologna, Italy - 2012City 10 - Venice, Italy - 2012City 11 - Prague, Czech Republic - 2012City 12 - Dresden, Germany - 2012City 13 - Berlin, Germany - 2012City 14 - Legoland, Denmark, 2012City 15 - Edinburgh, Scotland - 2012City 16 - Nice and Monte Carlo, France - 2012City 17 - Lyon, France - 2012City 18 - Dijon, France - 2012City 19 - Provins, France - 2012City 20 - Paris, France - 2012City 21 - Ireland - 2012City 22 - London, England - 2012City 23 - Killarney - Ireland, 2012City 24 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2012City 25 - Brussels and Bruges, Belgium - 2012City 26 - Warsaw, Poland - 2012City 27 - Krakow, Poland - 2012City 28 - Vienna, Austria - 2012City 29 - Budapest, Hungary - 2012City 30 - Bucharest, Romania - 2012City 31 - Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012City 32 - Cairo, Egypt - 2012 Back to Top

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