As an expat, I think I travel a little differently than others. Not the actual traveling process, but the getting acquainted with the new place. I look at the place Iím visiting as if I were planning on living there. When I visit places in the countries I know well, like the US, Italy, and France, I want to understand other facets to them. However, when I travel to a new place, Iím eager to find out about the placeís core: the cityís energy, the people, the language and the culture. Itís almost as if Iím interviewing the city to decide if I want to live there even though Iím certainly not looking to live somewhere else.
In a new place, like Porto, I donít just want to see the ďtopĒ places; I want to experience them in order to understand how the city works. Iíd like to know how the city affects me and if it stays with me even after Iíve gone. I believe that to know a place, you have to dive into it. For me, that is through speaking with the locals. Unfortunately as a tourist, I can only meet those who doing service-oriented jobs, like waiters, waitresses, hotel staff, etc. But, I do enjoy interacting with the locals to see how they treat foreigners/tourists (and especially those who donít speak the language).
I believe that each town, city, and village is like a person. You can visit many places, just like you can meet hundreds if not thousands of people, but not everyone becomes a part of your life. You can share great experiences with them, enjoy their company, but not desire to build a relationship with them. The same is true with cities. You canít live everywhere and I personally love to figure out if the city Iím visiting is one that I can live in.
I loved my stay in Porto even though it only lasted for three days. I found Porto charming with its colorful buildings, lovely churches, boats along the river, lively markets, and streetcars. I also got a peek behind the cityís smile, but that only made me appreciate it even more. Above the busy streets were many abandoned buildings. It didnít affect our touring of the city, but I did wonder a lot about where these people went and how it happened. There were a few poorer sections of town, but that only made it feel richer in a human way. The city wasnít trying to put up a faÁade or show me what it wasnít. Sometimes the reality is not always rosy.
I found the locals friendly and open without being invasive. They appeared sincere when they smiled at us especially when we tried out the few Portuguese words we learned. No matter where I went, I got the feeling that they wanted us to enjoy our time in Porto. I never felt like the pesky tourist they are eager to see leave their city.
I must admit that I absolutely love any city that has a river run through it or a large body of water near it. And Porto not only has the Rio Duoro, but also the Atlantic Ocean. It was almost as if we visited two places: the lovely city split in two by a river and the seaside town with long, sandy beaches.
Iíd love to return to Porto one day and stay just a little bit longer. I enjoy connecting with the rhythm of the city to see where it takes me. I would also love to experience Porto in a different season as well to see when it is at its best. I was especially happy to have spent my birthday in Porto. I am very particular about where I spend my day. Itís almost as if that day sets the tone for the year. And for me, this year might be one filled with great discoveries and new adventures. I was incredibly fortunate to have celebrated my birthday with lunch on the beach, feeling the wind on our faces and hearing the waves crashing along the shore. Who knows what this year in my life will bring, but I am sure that I started it off perfectly in Porto.
Note: If you want to see any of the photos I took in Porto, you can look at them on Instagram.
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