Greetings from Porto, Portugal!
As I alluded to in my last issue of life: examined, I would be writing to you from a new, albeit temporary, location. So, here I am, just 24 hours here, in a small studio apartment in Porto.
What the heck am I doing in Porto?
Great question, and believe me, I asked myself that same one numerous times after yesterday's adventures.
If you've been following the deconfinement plans in Portugal, you'll know that as of April 5, restrictions have eased. We can dine at restaurants and cafes, but only on the esplanada, with no more than 4 people at a table.
What a wild and liberating feeling it is to sit outside, sip a coffee with a friend, and marvel at this once such an everyday normal thing that we didn't even give it a thought. Now it feels positively revolutionary.
Since last summer, maybe even longer ago, Porto took hold in my psyche.
Initially, I rejected it as a place to live because the weather is too wet and cold for my liking. But there are aspects about it that keep me enchanted—namely the arts and culture scene, the architecture, the location on the Douro river—and it's also close to the sea.
Porto is a small city that feels more like a big town. The second-largest city in Portugal, like other second cities, it suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex. Yet, like other second cities, it's scrappy, bohemian, and artsy with a DIY and can-do ethic.
Those qualities are winning ones, to me. Compared to Lisbon, it's not as cosmopolitan (and not as self-absorbed), but certainly more sophisticated than Setúbal (not throwing shade on my town, I love it, still).
Porto has all the urban qualities that make city life satisfying, without the sheer glut of all the things, including tourists, that Lisbon has. No shade on Lisbon, either, I like Lisbon, but it's too on-the-radar for me.
Porto has an excellent metro and bus system, critical for a no-car walker like me, world-class architecture, new and old, and more than just one or two vegan options for dining. It feels like a happy medium between capital city amenities and provincial city (Setúbal) pace of life.
However, the flat where I'm staying is in the middle of downtown. I knew the location was near downtown, but wow, am I overwhelmed (It's not a fit for me)! To add to the surprise of the area was the wholly unacceptable condition of the apartment.
As soon as I arrived, I headed to the closest grocery store and bought an armful of cleaning supplies, then set about making the flat habitable. By 11pm, I finally had a relatively clean place, plus the added bonus of hot water and internet (which took a while and several texts to the owner, to figure out).
I tossed and turned all night, sure I'd wake to bedbugs, and I imaged throwing away everything I brought with me and heading home. Don't worry, that didn't happen, but I'm grateful to my friend Joana who brought clean sheets and towels for me to use while I'm here.
Part of coming to Porto is to close the circle of trauma when Milo went on his big escapade during my very brief stay here in October.
If you don't know, despite the virus and with a heap of trepidation, I came to Porto for a long weekend (the first time I traveled anywhere since December 2019), but turned around the following morning to attend to my pup's injuries. Check out this essay if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
So, I'd like this extended visit to fulfill what I think I see and what everyone tells me I'll find in Porto. I have a little fantasy about having a pied-à-terre, here. It’s a 3-hour train ride, but many miles away culturally and scenically. For now, that's an idea shoved to the back burner as I get my bearings and spend some time exploring as much as COVIDly possible.
With the weather forecast showing rain for the next seven days, wish me luck as I splash about making sense of this new town as a temporary resident.
What do you want to know about Porto? Where do you want me to go? Let me know and maybe I’ll go! Although no promises, because travel in COVID times is just weird.
p.s. My apartment's not empty, good friends are looking after it, and Milo is staying with his favorite people in Lisbon—but he'll be joining me soon. It's a good break for both of us.
p.p.s. thanks to all who recommended Ghost as the Substack alternative. This writer can’t afford it right now, although it is a platform I have considered—even before I started here.
Kill Your Gas Stove "Homes with gas stoves can contain approximately 50 to 400 percent higher concentrations of NO2 than homes with electric stoves, often resulting in levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors, according to a recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability think tank."
How to save coffee from climate change via Fast Company
Do you enjoy life: examined? If so, consider sharing and/or subscribing—and if you feel it, you can support me through Buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate it!