I think an important part of being a Girl boss is what you do when you are not working, what you do outside of work to see the rest of the world, experience other cultures, learn new things, and generally keep making yourself a more well-rounded person.
My latest out of office experience was a week long holiday to Porto in Portugal. Here are my top ten things to do in this lovely little city!
1. Don’t fly Ryanair
As much as I hate to start on a negative, thanks to corporate greedmonster Ryanair, our holiday did. Seemingly since around May this year, Ryanair’s seat allocation process at check-in has changed to the effect that if you do not pay an extra £4 per person, per flight, to choose a seat next to the person or people you’re travelling with, they will DELIBERATELY seat you separately from them… On both the outward and return flight we were both in middle seats, about ten rows apart. There were loads of seats together available (to pay for) when we checked in four days before both flights. Since our experience there have been multiple articles on sites like Money Saving Expert about this change (which Ryanair strongly deny), and it was featured this week on the BBC’s Watchdog.
Unfortunately, Ryanair do have a monopoly on cheap flights to lots of destinations, but if you can avoid it, I feel like we should not encourage this kind of behaviour.
I did manage to get an nice sunset picture just as we were coming into Portugal though.
2. Go on a Porto Walkers walking tour
We always like to start our holiday off with a walking tour if a good one is available. It helps you get a real sense of the place and pick up some tips for the rest of the holiday. Porto Walkers is the main walking tour group in Porto. They were well organised, with an advanced booking system and coordination of several groups of people at the meeting point. They run a morning and and afternoon tour, each focusing on different parts of the city, split up so they are a manageable length, which I thought was wise, as each tour was still a hefty three hours or so! Having been on five hour long walking tours in the past, I appreciated Porto Walkers’ tours being spilt into two, with the option to do both in one day, or come back on a different day (after a rest!). Porto Walkers follow the ‘pay what you feel was deserved’ model, and at the end of our morning tour everyone paid generously as the tour was been very good quality.
3. Cross the Dom Luis bridge – top and bottom!
The Porto Walkers tour took us across the top of the Dom Luis bridge, but they also explained a bit about the bridge’s interesting and often mistold history with Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer who designed and oversaw construction of, you guessed it, the Eiffel Tower. The top level carries the Porto Metro, with pavements either side for pedestrians, and our Porto Walkers guide suggested we take a walk along the bottom vehicle level, much closer to the river, which takes you over to neighbouring sister town Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge is beautiful, as are the views from both levels!
4. Eat at Costume Bistro
Costume was one of our favourite restaurants from the beginning half of our week in Porto. Tucked away in a little alleyway with a few other restaurants, you can sit outside in the evening and enjoy relaxed but good quality service. We both had fondants for pudding as there were two different kinds on the menu. Honestly they were probably the best fondants I have ever eaten. Just look at that ooze! The main courses were also great, featuring Portuguese Alheira sausage croquettes and elegantly plated seabass.
5. Just walk around
Porto has some really beautiful buildings and facades, with lots of the ‘ordinary’ street buildings decorated with gorgeous tiles and colourful designs. For those of you who like a bit of ‘shabby chic’, Porto’s style definitely offers lots of Instagram moments.
6. Take a trip to Pinhão
Just a two hour scenic country train journey away from Porto is the vineyard town of Pinhão. Pinhão is where many of Portugal’s famous port wines come from. The town is surrounded by rolling hills covered in rows of vines and big ‘Quinta’ estate buildings used for port production. We stayed in the absolutely fabulous Vintage House hotel, with views over the river and of the vineyards full of grapes. Be warned though, Pinhão is HOT. We had temperatures in the 40’s in the couple of days we were there, but nothing a cold drink and a dip in the pool couldn’t fix.
7. Go on a wine tour (and tasting!)
While in Pinhão, you’ve got to try some of the local produce… port! We had a really interesting and well put together tour of the Quinta do Bomfim, one of the biggest family owned port producing estates. It ended with a port tasting, which was *hic* delicious! You choose your ports before the tour, and they come in groups of three glasses. We went for one ‘classic’ tasting set, and one set of ‘vintage’ ports. We discovered that six glasses of port (before dinner) is quite a lot… but it made for a very enjoyable evening! Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and managed to get even us port novices smelling the different fruits and chatting away about ‘notes of caramel’.
8. Eat at Jimao and Tapabento
Jimao had a great selection of Portuguese themed tapas, including a dish with tiny little eels (yes, eels!) which my husband tried out and said was very nice… It’s a very small intimate restaurant, which is open onto one of the squares full of bars and restaurants so that you can soak up the bustling evening atmosphere and hear the (sometimes slightly dodgy) music of the riverside buskers.
Tapabento was a bit more tucked away near the train station, but it was clear why it was popular with both tourists and locals – the food was amazing! They had a real range of tapas, from tuna and caviar to cheese and tomato fondue. Delish! I also had some of Portugal’s famous ‘green’ wine or ‘vino verde’, which is a young, naturally slightly sparkling white wine.
Book ahead though! They are so good that they are often fully booked for two sittings every night (7pm and 9pm), so if you want to experience their yummy Portuguese tapas you need to plan ahead.
9. Take a day trip to Foz
Foz is a little seaside town just a few miles from Porto. It’s about 20 minutes on the slightly rickety tourist tram. There are some gorgeous beaches, as well as a harbour with pretty lighthouses, and lots of greenery and palm trees. There isn’t a whole lot to do other than eat and sunbathe, but that was fine by us!
10. Watch the sunset over the river from Avenida dos Aliados
Another tip we got from a local (this time from our AirBnB host) was to go and watch the run setting over the Douro river from Avenida dos Aliados. So on our last night we took a wander up after dinner. We weren’t sure if we were in the right place, until we saw a big group of people sprawled out across a patch of grass, drinking beer and watching the sunset. It was a really lovely way to spend our last evening in Porto.