April: Porto, Dublin, London, Galicia

Beautiful blue skies over Avenida de los Aliados, the central plaza of Porto. The statue is of Dom Pedro IV, the founder of the Empire of Brazil and (briefly) the King of Portugal. Apparently, Dom Pedro once said that although he wasn’t a native of the city, his “heart would always remain in Porto”. The tripeiros* took this quite literally, and in a comically morbid move cut their hero open after he died and stuffed his heart in a jar that is still kept in Porto’s Ingreja da Lapa. *Tripeiros is the nickname taken by the people of Porto from the storied Age of Discoveries. Ships built in Porto would be stocked with meat, leaving the citizens to subsist on offal — giving birth to the delicious “tripas à moda da Porto”.
The first thing I did once I arrived at my hostel was inquire after the best place to buy a hot francesinha. I had been told (by a Romanian guy I met in a hostel in Sevilla) that these caloric bombs were life-changing. I mean, just look at the construction of that sandwich, if you can even call it that. White bread, mortadella sausage, spicy & savory sausages, beef, a layer of ham & cheese, more white bread, a runny egg and another slab of melted cheese, all covered in a flood of tangy tomato gravy. In case your heart wasn’t palpitating enough at the sandwich, all open space in the plate is covered in fries swimming in more of the delicious gravy.
This francesinha was my first meal of the day, washed down with the Porto’s reigning champ of beers: Super Bock. Truly life-changing. I was to learn later about a really contentious beer rivalry between Lisbon and Porto, Sagres (“piss from the south” and Super Bock. Many restaurants in Porto seem to serve both, but it’s completely sacrilegious to even consider ordering a Sagres in Porto territory, and vice versa. Kind of hilarious to know when you realize that, as corporate Iberian light beers, the qualitative difference between the two is laughably negligible.
Post-francesinha (my life is now divided into BF and AF eras) visit to the symbol of Porto: Torre dos Clérigos.
240 steps later, and I’m looking out over the red roofs of Porto, slanting steeply toward the Rio Douro (not particularly golden at this hour). The rain clouds tumbling across the sky make the scene that much more Porto.
Cool plaques around the (very narrow, very crowded) perimeter of the viewing deck showing the Torre’s height in comparison with recognizable structures from various countries. Definitely glad the Burj Khalifa has elevators.
Certain things I find funny.
Livrario Lello & Irmão, the only bookstore I ever paid to enter.
Interior woodwork of the bookstore and the double helix staircase that apparently inspired J.K. Rowling’s descriptions in Harry Potter, from when she taught English in Porto.
Ingreja do Carmo, featuring beautiful azulejo tilework.
Old communal laundry washing basins overlooking the Rio Douro. Found this thanks to one of the better hostel-provided tourist maps that I’ve come across. Another destination on the map was an “ilha bairro” or island neighborhood of Porto –small, isolated areas within the city center full of narrow alleys and single story homes.
Another gem from the tourist map was this sunset viewpoint along Passeio das Virtudes, where young people gathered to drink bottles of Super Bock and watch the Rio Douro live up to its namesake. The dome at the right of the photo is the Palacio de Cristal, a giant glass structure previously used for exhibitions.
I walked over to the Crystal Palace’s beautiful gardens to get this dusk photo. I somehow managed to not save a photo of the giant peacocks wandering freely around the gardens, despite spending a good 15 mins chasing them around for Snapchat.
Porto by night
Deliciouis bifana (spicy beef sandwich) for dinner. Imperative that these are eaten right when served, as the sauce that the beef is dipped in is the opposite of viscous, and soaks right into the fresh bread. If this sits for more than a minute, it has the potential to turn into a soupy mess.
And here’s the reason why. Two roiling vats of liquid – one clear broth to boil the thinly-sliced beef, and another bright red broth that the meat is dipped quickly into in order to season. So good that I came back the next day before heading directly to the airport.
Cool viewpoint that we were taken to during the free city walking tour of Porto.
These classic London phone booths are scattered all around Porto’s historic city center. The English and the people of Porto have had a long history due to the manufacture of port wine, and these telephone booths were a gift from England. They are now decorated with all sorts of funky street art.
Cool & very Portuguese skyline along the Rio Douro.
This little old lady selling produce in the corner of a market had decades of FC Porto posters up in her shop, which I thought was pretty cool and old-timey.
Back in the main square of Avenida de los Aliados, I ducked quickly into what is apparently the “most beautiful McDonald’s in the world”. Definitely the first McDonald’s I’ve seen boast a stained glass window, chandeliers and bas-relief sculptures along every wall.
Sampling Porto’s famous “pasteis de nata”, or egg custard pastries. Taste just like Chinese egg tarts (really good).
Crossing from Porto into Gaia via the Ponte de Dom Luís I. This side is where Porto’s historically significant wine industry lives, and the dozens of buildings proudly bear their winemakers’ names in large white letters. Apparently, this bank of the Douro has the distinction of having the highest concentration of alcohol per square meter of any place in the world.
Looking back across Ponte Dom Luís I toward Porto.
A few days at “school”, and then I find myself in Dublin with my good buddy Nick, who has been studying at LSE all year. Shamefully, our first meal is at a Mexican restaurant. It was ok, though, because we were both in terrible condition and have crippling weaknesses for latin food.
My kind of tourism
Group photo after getting a lesson in pouring “the perfect pint” and generally behaving very poorly at the awesome Guinness storehouse factory.
Crazy hallway that led to…
…a Willy-Wonka style smelling room, with vapors of hop, malt, and barley smells wafting from white basins. Like I said, the Guinness storehouse is awesome.
The lads chopped free pints
Gravity Bar on the top floor of the Guinness storehouse (which, by the way, is shaped like a massive Guinness pint glass) features 360 degree glass walls, panoramic views of an uncharacteristically sunny Dublin, and plenty of “the black stuff” on unending tap.
Morning pass through St. Stephen’s Green
A real proper English breakfast that undoubtedly took a few years off my life. Who know black pudding had a evil twin brother named white pudding?
How I feel like most of downtown Dublin looked. I was very surprised by how cosmopolitan the city was, and how many different types of trendy and ethnic restaurants were to be found. The food in Dublin did not once disappoint.
The Dublin Spire from Grafton Street
The old Jameson Distillery. Time for a tour.
Triple distilled
Whiskey tasting between Johnny Walker, Jameson, and Jack Daniels. Still prefer Jameson.
Obligatory photo of the original Temple Bar
Pre-flight visit to the Malahide Castle in classic rainy Dublin weather. Living in a castle back in the day was definitely not glamorous, and I would much prefer being broke today than being some noble heir of yesteryear.
Back to Madrid for a bit
Cool little visit to the Museo del Romanticismo
Where the Rey would rest his royal behind while performing certain kingly duties. That’s right, it’s a cushioned toilet throne.
I learned about this painting during my fall semester back at Georgetown. Sátira del suicidio romántico by Alenza: still find this piece so clever.
And, before I knew it, I was sitting on a stoop in Southwark looking up at the Shard (& quite lost trying to find Nick’s LSE residence hall).
Sunset over the Thames
View over Trafalgar Square with Big Ben in the background
Westminster Abbey and a classic red double-decker bus
The famous London Eye and some great clouds
Tons of cool animals casually seen walking through St. James park on our way to Buckingham Palace.
Hullo there, Buckingham Palace
With great weather like this, the Thames really didn’t ever seem like it would get boring
Mind the gap! I’ve always wanted to hear those words on the London Tube.
London’s rep for really mediocre quotidian food may be correct, but assuming London has a poor gastro culture would be a serious mistake. We made a point to eat cool foods in London, and I ate a number of the best meals I’ve had all semester while in London for just 4 days. This fried chicken burger was from a super busy, super hipster restaurant in a very trendy neighborhood packed with other restaurants I would have loved to try. I wasn’t even slightly hungry, but still demolished this sandwich.
Tate Modern. This photo doesn’t capture the crazy depth of the layers in this painting.
A full room full of what looked like potato sacks. Something about this installation just made me feel uncomfortable, like I was in the viewfinder of a microscope along with a bunch of lumpy dust mites.
Nick gave me a little London graffitti tour, which started with this Ben Eine street art: “sell the house, sell the kids, sell the wife”
We stopped mid-tour for some modern Peruvian grub. Man, I could eat ceviche every day.
A glass-protected Banksy piece in the back patio of a bar
When your eyes are parrots
All sorts of dark, crazy, funky, quirky street art in Shoreditch. Such a cool neighborhood. And, as Nick aptly described, very Bushwick. Checked out a cereal bar, tried some artisanal chocolate, and immediately felt the weight of gentrification upon my young shoulders.
Friends, pints, and pubcats. What more does a man need in life?
Crushing horrific amounts of Indian food at the legendary BYOB institution, Tayyabs of London. One of the best ideas ever — thanks to Nick for being the most well-prepared yet perfectly irresponsible tour guide a guy could ask for.
Tower Bridge
Looking back at some more iconic buildings of the London skyline.
Quick walkaround visit to the Tower of London
Back in Madrid for a mimosa brunch a La Carmencita. Things that tend to happen when you spend enough time with Georgetown folks.
A Sunday marathon in Retiro Park draws crowds…and huge military vehicles.
The “After Brunch Rooftop Party” that never was
3 day weekend translates to “massive botellón”, one of my favorite Spanish phenomena.
Constantly on the quest for foreign flavors in Spain
Georgetown Day 2K16, celebrated admirably on the morning Renfe on the way to Galicia.
Gorgeous sunshine & views in Santiago de Compostela
The famous botafumeiro ceremony in the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. The botafumeiro is a giant metal incense burner that is hauled skyward, creaking and straining against the thick rope that bears it, by a group of robed men. This giant thurible is then swung at man-killing speeds across the cathedral hallway, narrowly missing pilgrims and pillars. The crazy tradition has persisted despite a few (4?) loose botafumeiro mishaps in the past.
Gallego morning market in Santiago de Compostela, seemingly populated exclusively by older women buying produce, fresh eggs, and large, hazelnut-shaped cheeses from even older women.
Pulpo gallego, soon-to-be pulpo gallego. Insane seafood selection at this market.
Who do you think you’re looking at, eh?
Tour of the roof of the cathedral
Stairs with style
Another fancy meal on Georgetown, this time featuring a bizarre (but supposedly culturally appropriate) Galician queimada (aguardiente) ritual, complete with bagpipes and a “witch”. Here’s Kevin dispelling bad spirits by pouring good spirits.
Santiago de Compostela might be one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, but it also has a Conejo Valley Days-style town fair, complete with ferris wheel.
Ourense wine tour the next morning. So much goes into making this very specific, very delicious Ribeiro wine. The way the vines are set, the soil, and the climate all have to be just so.
If this wine were imported to the US, the amount I tasted probably would have been more valuable than all the wine I’ve ever bought in my life. Here in Spain, however, wine is unbelievably cheap and generally very good.
The vineyards also had a heavy door that led to a private jungle. It actually felt like a little jungle.
Views during the bus trip from Ourense to A Coruña
Ayuntamiento de A Coruña
Torre de Hércules, which dates back to Roman times, served as a lighthouse for the busy port city of A Coruña.
Craggy bluffs, blooming flowers, crashing surf and bike trails. Feels like home.
Looking out over the Atlantic from the top of the Tower of Hercules, you can see a compass rose with Celtic symbols on it. This alludes to Galicia’s history as having been the homeland of an ancient Gaelic people (makes sense, really). Something I never knew.
Clear waters, beaches, and the city of A Coruña beyond the lighthouse peninsula.
Beach day to round out the trip before taking a significantly less rowdy Renfe back to Madrid.
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.