(A portmanteau of Porto and Amsterdam, to continue the tradition of having blog titles that make no sense.)
(Also, I went to Porto, and I didn’t go to Amsterdam.)
(Also, why didn’t you go to Amsterdam when you said you would, and your blog title says Amsterdam in it, ya weirdo? the intrepid reader asks. Well, intrepid reader: my brother and his girlfran went to Amsterdam a few weeks before I was planning to go, and Brother said the food was gross and the air was gross, etc. etc., and while I don’t really believe him, and I’m sure Amsterdam has lots to recommend it, I figured I would only go to Porto and then stay in Switzerland and work instead. So I did.
But Porto was a really pleasant adventure, too, and I’ll just tell about that.
A list of Porto’s fine features:
- Houses and churches are covered with what look like pretty bathroom tiles. I don’t know why this is, but I think it’s very forward-thinking and hygienic, because this way you can just hose down your house or church when it’s looking shabby.
- Porto has a great graveyard that looks a bit like a city. I think I talked about this before on this blog, but graveyards are interesting places, and I highly recommend visiting one in every country you go to. They’re all different and yet the same, blabla, philosophical tangent about the universality of death, but mostly I just like to walk through the tombstones and look at the birth dates, and imagine who the people were when they were alive, and all the strange things they must have lived through. Sometimes I write down the names and google them later, and find interesting stories that way.
- I met Brazil’s minister of defence. I wish I were joking, but alas . . . He was downstairs in the lobby of the hotel I was staying in, together with a bunch of generals and important-looking people, and I didn’t know this, and by time I realised this, I had already slopped halfway across the lobby in sweatpants to get to the teeny tiny gym in the basement, and there was no turning back, and they all peered at me curiously. It was not my proudest moment.
(*Google tells me he was there for a conference. I didn’t stop to ask. I saw the welcome banner much too late to do me any good.)
- On the subject of meeting interesting people: there was an elderly gentleman who pulled me aside on the street and started talking to me at length, ignoring all my Awkward Shrugging in American, and in the end I just listened to him until he was finished. I’m still sad I have no idea what he said. I think it must have been very wise, though, and he probably told me the secret of all existence, and now I’m going to have to learn the hard way, when it probably would have been easier just to learn Portuguese.
- I was offered baggies of drugs four times, which is quite a lot for one trip, I thought. The cab driver warned me this was a thing, so it wasn’t really surprising, but it was funny for how often it happened. Basically, perfectly respectable-looking people size you up keenly as they pass, decide you look sad and prone to addiction, and then circle back, holding their hand palm-out, while going like:
And you’re like “AHAHAHA, *awkwardly slides past them, because you don’t want to get arrested*. I think they just offer it to anyone who looks foreign/young/and-or-male, which in their mind seems to equate stupid-enough-to-buy-baggies-of-unidentified-substances-in-broad-daylight-on-the-street-in-a-strange-land . . . which actually would be my plan of action, too, if I were a Portuguese drug-dealer.
But enough about drugs, this is off-brand, I write CHILDREN’S BOOKS.
- Portugal was really pretty. See how pretty?
- The food was great. There were lots of sardines, pastries, codfish, chocolate cake, and this sandwich called ‘Francesinha’, which is Porto’s famous dish, and is delicious. The picture I got of it didn’t do it justice, though, so here’s a burger I had instead.
- I have Instagram now. I don’t entirely know how to use it. Like, I can’t figure out how to import contacts, so I’m only following people when they pop up in my recommended box, but what if they DON’T POP UP? I’m such an old-person-confused-by-technology. Anyway, I’m not sure how much or little I’m going to end up using it, and it will probably take me a while to get the hang of, but there it is if you so please.