The best thing to do in Porto is to walk. Though I think the best thing to do in most cities is to walk. But Porto is one of those cities exceptionally well equipped for bipedal meandering.
And I do mean just walk. Walk aimlessly, without intention, sans agenda, absent of a checklist of activities to say you've "seen the city." Just a walk. It doesn't matter where; pick a direction and put one foot in front of the other. Continuously.
On your walk, you'll inevitably come across a sign that looks something like this, at which point you'll have found happiness.
Porto is an old, stubbornly soulful city. When I visited this past January, it didn't feel any different than when I first went five years ago. I don't think Porto's residents are keen on the city changing much, anyway. This is a good thing.
Maybe the Portuguese word saudade can characterize some of that stubbornness. There isn't a direct translation in English, but sometimes it's defined as a "sense of nostalgia or longing for a time that never existed in the first place." However, that still doesn't quite capture the true definition of saudade.
The first time I went to Porto, I went to Livraria Lello. It's a famous bookstore in Porto where J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote, or at least got some inspiration for, the Harry Potter series. It is beautiful inside, even though it's probably not worth the enormous line it usually demands. Anyway, while there, I picked up The Book of Disquiet by Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. It's an intensely brooding book I only recommend reading after midnight with a stiff fucking drink in hand. But Pessoa might be the king of saudade:
“The most painful feelings, the most piercing emotions, are also the most absurd ones - the longing for impossible things precisely because they are impossible, the nostalgia for what never was, the desire for what might have been, one's bitterness that one is not someone else, or one's dissatisfaction with the very existence of the world. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create a raw landscape within us, a sun eternally setting on what we are."
- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
I have been awful at making videos recently. With the absolute dumpster fire that is social media (and media writ large), and the unbearable weight of having to be everywhere all the time, I have a tremendously hard time figuring out where to focus my creative energy. Plus, I've been more focused on photography lately and haven't wanted to do the whole vlog thing in a while.
But this past week, I had some time to sit down and go through some footage that Steph and I shot in Porto back in January. It was my second time in Porto, but this time around, I had one goal in mind: the francesinha.
If you're not familiar with the francesinha, it is a monstrosity of a sandwich, originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausages like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese, and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce.
In this video, Steph and I attempt to eat as many francesinhas humanly possible in one day. Spoiler alert: it's not that many.
I hate Youtube thumbnails...
After making that video, I figured it would be a good time to put together a guide for Porto. These are just a handful of places, annotations, and notes for the city that I found helpful. But remember, my guides don't substitute for a local's knowledge - the best thing to do is talk to strangers and ask for suggestions while you're there.
And as a reminder, by signing up for this newsletter, you can access all the City Guides in the repertoire. I recently just went through and updated them all (this is a writer's "tech debt" for all my engineering friends out there) and will be adding more from our travels over the past few months.
And if you are going or have gone to any of these cities, feel free to comment on the guide and ask some questions or make some of your own suggestions. My dream of these types of guides is for them to turn into living, breathing documents that we can all collaborate on.
Heads up - next week's email may be delayed. We're visiting a remote village in Guatemala this week, and internet access will likely be nonexistent.