25th June 2018
Being Portuguese and never having been to Porto (up in the north of Portugal) was eating me alive. I was dying to get to know more of my home country, so I set off to adventure this beautiful city, but also experience one of the most famous and traditional yearly parties of Porto - São João! You may be asking yourself, what that even is and well in short, the São João party occurs in midsummer on the night of 23rd June (lasting until the morning) in Porto where people pay tribute to Saint John the Baptist. Now, it used to be a religious with profane and sacred traditions but with the years it's turned into less of this and more of a massive party where strangers dance and hit each other with garlic flowers or soft inflated hammers on the head... we Portuguese are weird, I know. It's all about eating freshly barbecued sardines, caldo verde (possibly the best soup ever, may I add.) whilst drinking a lot of alcohol while appreciating the illuminated flame-propelled balloons over the beautiful river.
Now Lisbon to me has always been about the beautifully hand-made tiled floor everywhere you go, the smiles you get from strangers and the most amazing atmosphere from such a rich cultured country, but when I arrived in Porto, it was beyond me how beautiful this city actually was. One thing I remember vividly was trying to walk up these stupidly steep streets after having had a couple of glasses of Sangria... Alright, maybe a few. The steep streets were probably the bane of my life, yet probably my favourite. Standing from a high point from one side of the river you could see everything, it almost felt like I was on top of the world.
While walking through the streets of Porto, every brush stroke on the ruined and decaying buildings was unique. Every piece of graffiti was prominent, stood out and made the city the artistic place it is today. All the art contributed to the breath-taking architecture. And it was inspiring, so inspiring.
One of my favourite things to do is people watch. And I have to say, sitting by the coast while looking out to the deep blue sea, watching these two elderly ladies talking about the dry and hot summer while they gazed out to the same view, was ever so lovely. It's the typical conversations between the elderly that I never get tired of as the nostalgic memories are bought back to me.
I fell in love with each and every building, each and every piece of art, the cobble stones out of their place, all the strangers dancing together, sharing food and wine, the old and graffitied trams, the sunsets watched over the river and most of all, I fell in love with the atmosphere that possessed this beautifully diverse, cultural, both young and old city.
It's a small city but it's beautiful. I cannot say this enough. All the cheap yet mesmerising food it has, the punching-strong sangria, the laughter you share with people and the most amazing fresh, straight-out-of-the-oven-breakfast after a night of partying, wee-ing in every toilet possible... and accepting all the dances with the stranger you have bumped into whilst singing your lungs out with them. All of this made Porto such a grounding and breathtaking experience.