Porto, Portugal is everything I’ve ever wanted Europe to be.
In my sick, obsessive, overly-romantic and idealist American point of view, Porto was everything I though living abroad was going to be like. Cheap, warm, sunny, beautiful, old, friendly, and next to the ocean.
I’m not saying that Edinburgh or Brighton aren’t cool cities, but in the broad spectrum of things that make me happy, Edinburgh and Brighton fall in the range of jokes I thought were funny when I was 10. They make me smile, but in a quiet way that implies how much I hate 5th grade me.
Porto though, was untainted by stupid tourists like me. The rental bikes for tourists are horribly uncomfortable (and if you get them from the place near the river, they may be rented to you by a very depressed South African who hates Portugal and everyone in it). The food is cheap and accessible and not a lot of people speak English, which is wonderful. There are enough stores to buy postcards that you don’t feel nervous, but not enough stores selling glass shot glasses with plastic tits glued on them to make you feel sad about the world.
Porto is colorful, but in an old way. Like the silk scarves ladies used to tie around their hair on a windy day. Or like wanting to touch a painting. The colors draw you in, like a magnet.
The city is warm too, the tiles retain their heat until long after the sun sets. The cobbled streets hug the bottom of your feet. And the river swirls dangerously like a hug from an ex you’re still in love with.
The city hasn’t been ruined, yet. The tiles are all still painted by hand and you can find little shops full of old broken bits of this and that, or a chapel by the sea if you’re curious. People still buy churning, dying fish straight off the boats, and people hang their laundry to dry by the side of the road.
Wait for me, Porto, with your long robes and creamy cakes. I’m coming back to you.