An ode to Porto
This is going to be a completely different blogpost than the last one. Like I previously said, I recently went to Porto for 3 days and I wanted to share my experience here! This isn’t going to be a typical, touristic resume of all the places I went to or the must see attractions. I traveled to Porto without any expectations. I didn’t look up anything beforehand and had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that it was a 2,5 hour flight from Brussels (which would probably get a delay, which it did), the sun would be shining and I could use some of the Portuguese I learned in Brazil. I was kind of counting on my Brazilian friend (who had been to Porto before) to be our guide and just enjoy the adventure as it comes. I feel like this mindset has brought me more of an authentic experience in a new city than being fixed on an agenda and on a certain idea of how the weekend should look like.
I can tell you now, the weekend was better than I could have ever imagined. The first day, I already fell in love with Porto. In the last couple of years, I mostly travelled to huge metropolitan cities or to the nature where you wouldn’t meet another soul for hours (or days if you got lucky). I hadn’t been able to find a city that resembles the one I currently live in (Gent) and had all the things you find in a bigger city. In the three days (and awesome nights) I stayed in Porto, I learned that the city has everything. With around 230.000 inhabitants, Porto is a rather small city and I instantly got the sensation I could feel at home here. At the same time the city feels alive; there are a lot of young people and music and laughter in the streets. There is a diversity of things to do and see, little areas to explore and even the beach is only an old tram ride away.
The things that annoy me in bigger European cities like Paris or Berlin or American cities like Los Angeles or even San Francisco, weren’t present here. I’m talking about traffic jams everywhere, wide streets and tall buildings, an impersonal atmosphere where everybody’s in a rush and no overview of the city. Porto has small, wobbly streets.
You can walk everywhere, get lost and somehow still end up where you intended to
go. You can ask random people in the streets a question and they will go out of their way to make you feel at home. For me, this was the perfect combination of the right city and the right people.
I feel like the mindset of just enjoying the adventure as it comes has brought me more of an authentic experience in a new city than being fixed on an agenda and on a certain idea of how the weekend should look like.
Even though Portugal only lists on the 94th place in the World Happiness (WH) Report of 2016 (while Belgium ranked 18th), I felt so much openness and positivity in the city. The WH index is based on the real GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption, calculated across the whole country. From what I learned this weekend, Portugal isn’t perfect and this index isn’t presentable of the life in a developed, young city like Porto. As I’ve heard, the people in Porto are already completely different than the ones in Lisbon, let alone the more rural areas. Even after taking these side notes into consideration, I didn’t believe this index did the Portugal I got to meet justice. So I went a little further on the internet and found a survey that put forward some evidence for my experience. In 2014 the World Economic Forum published a list of 140 countries rated on friendliness. In this list Belgium was the 19th friendliest country, while Portugal was placed 7th. This survey addressed how welcome foreign visitors are in a particular country and doesn’t necessarily need to be in line with the happiness index from the previous discussed research. While Portugal is ranked really low (for such a developed country) on the World Happiness Report, it’s stated that the Portuguese actually take pride in their “sad and melancholic culture“. I haven’t experienced this side of the Portuguese people yet so please let me know if you recognize this!
People aren’t in a hurry, they enjoy their walk, they don’t do groceries last minutes and they don’t get bothered by slow people.
What I do have noticed is that life goes quite slow and relaxed in Porto. People aren’t in a hurry, they enjoy their walk, they don’t do groceries last minutes and they don’t get bothered by slow people. This is a big adjustment for me, one I had to deal with in Brazil too. I’m a very efficient, fast person. I want to get to a goal and get it done, as fast and good as possible. When on vacation, I always have the feeling I have to get up early, move quickly, see everything. I have a fear of missing out, a topic I will cover in a later post. Somehow a miracle happened this weekend though. I could let go of this constant agitated drive for just a little bit. And maybe, that’s what made me love Porto so much.
The funny thing is that this blogpost kind of turned into an ode to Porto. At least I warned you that it wouldn’t be the most normal travel journey! I want to end this post with some of my favorite moments of the trip and pictures of my favorite places. Just click here and the internet will do its magic. (Un)fortunately I wasn’t focused on taking pictures too much, so forgive me my not so professional photographs. I believe I’ll be back in Porto soon to make up for it!