Sunday, March 12, 2006


I had thought that Portugal is like the dirty cousin of Spain but it is so not. Much of it is gorgeous, especially down by the Douro river. I went from freezing London weather to t-shirt weather, which was an immediate shock to the system, particularly the notion that I would have to return to coat-n-scarf weather. Porto is hillier than, say, San Francisco - now my ass hurts but I bet it looks fantastic from climbing mini mountains for 48 hours.

Since I don't speak Portuguese I spoke Spanish to most of the natives, hoping they would understand me. Most did, or at least pretended to. My hotel was amazing, and not as expensive as I'm used to paying while traveling around Europe. Portugal - at least Porto - is grossly inexpensive, I'm guessing because it doesn't have the overblown grandeur of other European cities, specifically Spanish cities like Barcelona or Madrid. Now I want to go to Lisbon and Faro, too.

I typically do not fly the cheaper UK airlines (i.e. Ryanair or Easyjet) and book myself nice hotel rooms because if I'm going to travel somewhere beautiful, I want to do it right, damn it. When flying across Europe, I'm a British Airways boy all the way. I want to feel like a little prince and not be depressed my entire trip because I can't sleep in a hotel full of loud college-aged tourists or something horribly unforseen and irritating. I never stayed in a hostel when I was in my early 20s, so at 27, it's not like I'm gonna start now. Since I made the mistake of flying on Ryanair (which ooo, I have tons of scary stories to report about them in a near-future post), my flight was three hours late, so I arrived at my Porto hotel nearing midnight on Tuesday. I hung out at my hotel bar with a youngish German guy - I still love hotel bar meetings with strangers.

The next morning I wandered around Old Town for a while, and then, after lunch (all the food I ate in Porto was strangely, unanimously phenomenal), I marched across the Douro River and did what I came to Porto to do: I went port wine tasting all afternoon. Pissed, all afternoon, for free. And damn good port it was. Fantastic. Gorgeous. Delish. I can still taste it. I started at Ferreira, and did a not-so-painful tour where they rewarded us with three kinds of free port at the tour's end. I am normally the last person who is even remotely able to survive the most minimal amount of tour time - I hate them! But when I know there is free alcohol at the end, I'll wait around. Once when my parents were visiting me in London, they wanted to do the tour of Windsor Castle. The precise second that the costumed British tourguide uttered his first asinine anecdote and a crowdful of American tourists belly-laughed, I literally took off running down the hill in the opposite direction, as far away as I could get. So. See? Hate 'em.

Anyway, at the second port lodge I went to, Burmester, I was chatting for quite some time to the English-speaking girl who worked there (I was the only guest there, so she just kept refilling my glasses to 'taste' more), when a heterosekshul Australian couple walked in and started tasting with us. After 1.5hrs of 'tasting' at Burmester, we thanked our host and the three of us wandered off to the Barros lodge. I spent the rest of the afternoon with these fun Aussies, and we impressively went to every port lodge except for Cockburn, which I suggested might be painful should the male Aussie and I go tasting there. I've never had herpes, and I sure as hell didn't want it from a port lodge.

After the lodges in the Foa do Douro, we headed over to the Batalha area of Porto and had a massive Portuguese dinner and then went to another wine bar. Since nothing goes better with food and alcohol than sex, the topic of sex became our conversation late in the night, and then the Australian couple asked if I wanted to return to their hotel room for a threesome. While this was a surprise (there was little flirtation leading up to the proposition), the proposal wasn't forceful, but rather, sweet in a way. I obviously declined. What is it with heterosekshul couples these days? I'm certainly not complaining about the open-minded desires of experimentation. This is not the first time I've been propositioned for a threesome from a straight couple. Hell, I 'dated' a male-female couple for a while back in Brooklyn. Awesome recently told me that he was indirectly propositioned for a threesome by a hetero couple in San Fran, too. And in Porto, if it weren't for my monogamous relationship with my beautiful 'Mexican,' I'm sure I would have gotten involved with the Aussies. They were both pretty, especially the fit guy. Those nutty Aussies - they don't know if they're straight, gay, bi, or dingo. But I thanked them for the compliment, stumbled back to my hotel in the misty rain with Jamiroquai blaring through my headphones, and passed out in my glorious room.

Thursday morning I awoke shockingly hangover-free (in my 'old age' I've learnt the importance of frequent hydration during a long day of drinking) and during breakfast I met a homo Asian guy from Canada. (It was like I was the conversational/social slut of Porto.) He was a bit boring, but we hung out much of the afternoon, stopping by a few touristy places like the Baroque Torre Dos Clerigos (big-ass cathedral with a tall tower featuring great views of the city) and the Se. I eventually broke away and wandered around the city on my own, and then caught my flight back to London late that evening (about which I have more obnoxious Ryanair tales).

The reason I've not written in so long is because so much has happened in just the past two days of being back in London, and I'm still really busy. More stories to come soon...

Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness. - Ray Bradbury