My first visit to Porto was tainted by a scary experience.
I was exploring the city one morning as Ale worked nearby. I was excited to go off on my own– armed with my camera and a pocket map from our hotel. I slowly made my way up and down the windy hills of Porto center, leisurely heading towards the water. I crossed the famous Luis I Bridge and decided I would do a port wine tasting at one of the many wineries below.
It was midday, but I knew enough to stay safe. A large group of Spaniards were on a tour and walking right ahead of me. I figured I would follow them down the narrow streets to the wharf. As I tagged along with the group of teenagers, impossible to lose dressed in their matching red Spanish football shirts, I paused to take some photos of the street cats we passed along the way.
Suddenly, a middle aged man started talking to me in Portuguese. I tried to understand, as I do speak quite a bit of the language, but it couldn’t make out what he was saying. I smiled, apologetically and said não entendo— I don’t understand.
Then, before I could register why a human being would do such a thing, the nice looking man had his pants down and was shouting things at me. I panicked, I was nervous and had no idea if he was dangerous or not. I ran down the hill. Luckily, I was only a minute away from the crowded and touristy wharf and I scanned the crowd for a police officer.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone, so I ducked into a café for a glass of water to calm my nerves. I knew I was fine, but I was really freaked out and disgusted. I explained what had happened to the staff at the café and they kind of shrugged it off. The police won’t do anything, they explained.
Feeling a bit better, I headed immediately to the Sandeman Porto Cellars and took the next available tour to get my mind off of the morning events. I don’t even remember if it was in English or in Spanish, but I do recall that it was quite entertaining with plenty of tastings included at the end. It did the trick.
After the tour I wasn’t really in the mood to keep exploring. I made my way back to the hotel to wait for Ale to come back and go out to dinner. He was tired and we avoided the center, opting instead for dinner near the hotel.
Obviously, an experience like this one can happen anywhere in the world at any time of day. While it is important to protect yourself while traveling, some things just can’t be foreseen. Nonetheless, the experience definitely took away a lot of the charm Porto had to offer.
When I found out that the Travel Bloggers Unite conference was being held in Porto I was actually happy for the opportunity to go back and give the city a second chance. And this time, it didn’t disappoint. The Porto Convention Bureau treated us like royalty and offered us many ways to experience the beauty of the vibrant city.
I actually wish I’d had more time there because the days we spent in Porto were mostly spent inside of the Sheraton conference center. But I know I’ll be back to Porto soon to explore even more– it is so easy to get to from Madrid! My roundtrip flight with Ryanair cost 40€ and the flight time is only one hour.
Going back to Porto was the perfect example of why every city deserves a second chance. Our perceptions of a place are so influenced by factors beyond our control– the mood of our travel companions, the people we encounter on our visit, the food we try, etc. No two visits to a place will ever be the same. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to give Porto a second chance. We’ll see what I encounter on the third visit!
Have you ever had a tainted trip? Have you revisited a city and liked it more or less the second time?
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