Porto, Portugal

After I restless night on the train from Bilbao, I arrived in Porto, hopped on the metro and ended up at Oporto Sky Hostel, which might be my favourite hostel. The staff were great, other guests were fabulous (including three teachers from Peterborough), the location was perfect and the hostel itself was spotless, well organized and included a terrific kitchen, common room and computers. George, one of the proprietors, was also one of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered. His energy, enthusiasm and joie de vivre was pretty contagious, and rubbed off on most of the guests. The hostel kind of became like a large family home, bustling with activity. Leaving Greece was hard for me because it was so absolutely gorgeous (and the weather was superb), but leaving Porto was difficult because I felt like I was walking away from a warm and generous family.

In Porto, I of course sampled many different port at the excellent Calem wine lodge. On many occasions, I’ve drunk ruby and tawny ports, but I’d never tried a white port until I toured Calem. I tried several of the white ports and found all but the driest of them to be cloyingly sweet. They would probably go nicely with a tart apple pie or something similar, but alone, they were too syrupy. In a way, they reminded me of the Canadian ice wines that I’ve had.

The weather in Porto was quite pleasant: mildly, breeze and with scattered clouds. It was perfect weather for running, so after my breakfast settled, I set out for a monster run. The scenery was so pretty, that I just kept running for about 90 minutes before I decided that I should probably make my way back to the hostel because it was getting hot and I’d long-since run out of water.

Nights at the hostel were filled with flowing conversation, the escapades of a minor irritant from Seattle (who got so drunk he fell into the river with his iPhone) and an expansive sampling of Portuguese alcohol. It’s surprising how nice a wine you can get for 3 Euros. Or maybe after the first few glasses of decent wine, 3 Euro wine starts tasting surprisingly good. Whatever. It was fun.

Participating in the drinking shenanigans were a trio of teachers from Peterborough, though two of them now live in Toronto. They were all great fun, but one of them got to be a bit of a histrionic nutter after a couple of drinks – or maybe she was always like that, but it became more pronounced when encouraged by several glasses of merlot. Anyway, after a fun couple of days in Porto, I was ready to see something new and hopped on the train to Lisbon.