I love little trips, especially when they are too far away from home, it means we can go back often. Once again I spend a day in Porto, this is my third time in this amazing city and can not wait to go back again. Since the trips are so short I still have a lot to discover but I now can cross a few more off the list. This time we only had three things to do in the mean time we were there: see a Leonardo Da Vinci’s exhibition, go to Lello bookstore and eat a Francesinha, the best sandwich in the world and very typical.
We went by train from Coimbra and arrived at 11 am in Porto, Campanhã. I didn’t see much of the train station since we need to catch the next train to the center of Porto, São Bento. Now this second station I visit on my first trip and it wasn’t planned we just casually found it. Either way, from there we went directly to the Clerigos’s Tower to try and find the book store since it was one of the priorities on the list. Along the way we stopped at the biggest Tigger store I ever saw – probably there are bigger ones. This one had two floors and full of cute and funny things as Tigger always have. Once our curiosity was fulfilled we went back to our path route to stop at a store my friend recognized and I had no idea it even existed.
Amazéns Carmelitas is the perfect place to find typical Portuguese articles from books, music, food, and sculptures to old school bits and pieces that every Portuguese had at a point in his life. The most popular is the soup tureen in the shape of a cabbage. My parents still own one, it was never used for its original purpose only for decoration. The price in this place was a bit over for my wallet but is one of those stores to visit when coming to Portugal and want to know a bit of the history.
After this not-so-quick visit was time for lunch. One of the things always associated with Porto is his infamous sandwich: Francesinha. It crosses oceans, how delicious it is and a “must do” in the city. Just to have an idea how popular it is, I bet there ISN’T ONE city in the entire country that doesn’t have a restaurant serving this delicacy. I’ve eaten it enough times to know the recipe by memory. Although I’ve never tried a true Francesinha in Porto. After a quick search online one restaurant was always popping out claiming to have “The Best Francesinha of the World”, Lado B. We arrived around 2 o’clock and it was packed!! At that moment we for sure were in the right place. Luckily, they still had a table for two and we didn’t have to wait.
The launch was divine! The best Francesinha I ever had in my life. For sure a place to repeat and to attempt making the same sandwich at home. They kept the recipe really simple. The meat was a rose veal rump steak and it was so tender, it was melting inside my mouth. For sure the highest point of the meal. On top, has two types of sausages, one fresh and another spicy, probably made out of pork. Next was slices of ham and mortadella. To finish, the entire bread is covered with slices of cheese and the spicy and hot special sauce is poured all over the sandwich. If you enjoy spicy foods try a Francesinha is the best thing you will ever eat. It makes you see sandwiches at a different level!
Plus: around the middle of the course they bring more sauce for FREE!!
After lunch, we went to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition since it was the farthest away. I wanted to go but at the same time, I was afraid to don’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Kind of the high expectations thing. You think is going to be amazing and end up feeling disappointed. Well, I didn’t want for that to happen. In the end, it was a huge eye opening. The main focus was Leonardo’s inventions and it blows my mind how he came up or redesigned a few of it. 500 years ago there was one person that had the brilliant idea to create a diving suit with an oxygen bottle. It was creepy as HELL and perfect for a Hostel movie remake! It was showcased hundreds of ideas from Leonardo’s obsession to fly to military equipment and gear to help to build all sort of stuff.
The icing on top of the cake was his paintings – Yes! Mona Lisa was there. The most well-known part of his work. Since all the paintings were printed on canvas, so there wasn’t problems with touching. And I’m proud to say that I touched L’Ultima Cena (The Last Supper), it wasn’t the original but it still counts. A few weeks before, I was reading the Karen Essex’s book (Leonardo’s Swans) which made me recognized a few paintings and the story and persons behind those works. They aren’t by far my favorites pieces but at least I know that just reading a historical fiction book I was learning more about Leonardo Da Vinci’s life and Italian history than I imagined.
By the way, I recommend doing both things: reading the book and then seeing Leonardo’s painting exhibition.
By the end of the day, we went to Lello bookshop. The one that inspired J. K. Rowling for the Howart’s Library! It really is stunning but would be better if they let just a few amount of people come inside. I wonder if in the winter it is that packed as well, if not I’m for sure going back to fully enjoy the space. You have to pay 4€ if the voucher is bought on the store around the corner (they have directions and all) or 5,50€ if bought online (you have to specify a time though). Both vouchers are deductible when purchasing a book at your choice. This is just a way to help to pay the preservation of the building and to control how many people get in at the same time.
To finish of the day and before heading back home we went to the Costa coffee to drink something cold to relax after this exhausting trip. I believe a couple more of this one-day trips and I can do a post about the place you should visit in Porto featuring the very best. Can’t wait to go back again even if is just for few hours.