Despite having just booked one-way tickets to Colombia, Andrew and I have been talking a lot lately about finding a future base in Europe. As much as we love our freedom, we know that after our South American adventures we’ll need to find a base in Europe where we can hang up our backpacks, work and save for the years ahead, but where could that base possibly be? Well, I think we found our answer when we rocked up in Porto.
Falling for Porto
I’ve never been to a city like Porto. Picture a valley with a river snaking along its bottom, bisected periodically by huge iron bridges. Imagine a riverfront lined with colourful, red-roofed houses that stretch up the hill, dotted with church spires and cathedral domes. In Porto, you can spend hours wandering steep narrow streets full of old townhouses, exploring squares featuring tiled churches and clock towers, or sipping port in a riverside bar.
It was while watching the sunset from across the vertigo-inducing Dom Luis I bridge that we really fell in love with Porto. We’d just spent a lovely afternoon with our friends Patti and Abi weaving through the city. After lunch at their temporary apartment, they’d taken us to the ramshackle market where locals sell fish and sardine-themed souvenirs. We’d popped into ornate churches and drunk tea in a café while students wearing their signature black cloaks busked in the street below.
It had been a perfect afternoon, and as the fading sunlight cast a golden light over the city, seagulls cawed and boats made snail-trails along the water, Andrew and I turned to each other and remarked that Porto was a city we could definitely live in.
A month in Porto
Our feelings only strengthened during the month we spent in a village just outside of Porto. Day-to-day life was quiet and peaceful, full of work and walks along the nearby boardwalk in Espinho. Although our trips into Porto itself were infrequent, we never tired of soaking in the city’s laid-back charm, of climbing the steep streets and strolling along the riverfront.
One of the things I loved about Porto was that there weren’t a lot of ‘sights’ to see. Unlike our visit to Lisbon, we didn’t cram our days with museum visit and tours of historic buildings. It was enough to simply wander around Porto and absorb daily life.
We did, however, take a boat trip along the river, past old warehouses that were once used to store port. We also visited ‘The World’s Most Beautiful (and probably most touristy) Bookshop’, which has a distinctive spiral staircase that is said to have inspired JK Rowling when she was dreaming up visions of Hogwarts. We also climbed the Clerigos Tower, one of the city’s most famous buildings, to marvel at night-time views over the city. We even discovered a delicious vegan restaurant.
While we can’t guarantee what the years ahead of us hold, when our travels in South America come to a close, we’re hopeful that Porto could become our European base. Brexit depending, of course, there are schools for Andrew to teach in, cheap apartments to rent and endless blue skies and sunshine. What’s not to love?
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Have you been to Porto? What’s your dream European base?