Spanish Road Trip – Day 3: Porto and Santiago

Posted by jswt | Posted in Portugal - Porto, Spain - Santiago de Compostela | Posted on 07-12-2011

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On the third day of our road trip, we woke up in Porto, Portugal being made breakfast in the fabulous home of our friends M&M. We caffeinated our day, freshened up and then went out and wandered around getting a fantastic locals tour from M (he grew up in Porto and knew a lot about it).

We’d spent 2 weeks in Lisbon a couple years back, and we couldn’t help noticing that Porto doesn’t have the same sense of desperation and disrepair, but learned that’s a recent development. Porto has a lot of intense rent controls, and there’s a lot of old city apartments that are still being rented for 30 euros a month and the landlords aren’t making enough to pay to maintain the building, so the city was falling apart and as many are UNESCO heritage buildings, they were important to preserve. Rather than having all the buildings crumble, the city passed a law that requires the building to be maintained to a certain standard, or else it would be bought by the city, redeveloped and renovated, and then rented back out (at normal costs). This has caused a *huge* boom in construction in the city, and gives the sense that if they keep going in that direction, Porto is going to be a seriously hot place in about 5 years.

We bounced around the city, saw some amazing old architecture (including the nicest McDonalds in the world), tromped around pedestrian streets, did a little shopping, and stopped at an amazing old cafe for Francesinhas – essentially they’re a Portugese specialty sandwich that’s french toast filled with massive amounts of meat, smothered in melted cheese, and soaked in booze infused gravy! Not the healthiest thing ever invented, but insanely delicious and filling.

Some after lunch snacks and patio coffees left us with the sense that we needed to get moving, so we said fond farewells to M&M (who were *amazing* hosts) and loaded back in the car, cranked up the happy hardcore on the stereo, hit the highway and zipped along at 200kmh northward towards Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


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We arrived in Santiago late afternoon, checked into our hotel, freshened up and went off to meet our friend C who was in town with the show she manages. Chris and her have been great friends for ages, I adore her sassyfunk, and we hadn’t seen her in ages so it was fantastic to see her again. We had dinner with her in the backstage catering and saw some other familiar faces, and then went out to catch the show (which was stunning! Fire spinners, hell yeah!). Afterwards, we had a backstage tour, C finished up her work, and then we bounced back to the hotel and popped a couple bottles of champagne to wash down a surprise birthday cake. Many giggles later, we realized it’s spain and that going out for more drinks at 2am was the obvious next step in the evening, so we wandered into the old town, drank red wine, met the town drunk, and rubbed shoulders with locals drinking in the street out front of the bars. Late night stumblings back to the hotel, and more drinks in C’s room, but I was falling asleep so I went back to the room to let C and Chris catch up while I fell asleep in an instant.

A note of reflection: We’d been through Santiago de Compostela back in 2010 (see post here), and I realized that with all the forward momentum, this was the first city that I’ve returned to in our travels. It was interesting coming back to a place with a couple years of euro-travelling under my belt, and integrating the initial novelty of the place with a more diverse view of cultures. Also interesting to be standing back somewhere you’ve stood once before and putting the time in perspective: what’s changed, personal growth, experiences, parties, losses, and all the evolutions in constant flux. It’s cool that our minds can time travel.

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