Archive for September, 2019

Portugal Diary, day 10

Saturday, 7 September, 2019

Monday, 20 May, 2019. 12:06

We are on board the intercity express train from Lisbon to Porto. The journey takes about three hours, and we arrive just before 15:00.

We woke with the sunrise and got up and ready for breakfast. At the cafe again, we had the same yoghurt parfaits. This time mine came with a big strawberry, while M.’s had three raspberries. For the second course, M. had the same bolo do caco toast as yesterday because she liked it so much. I tried the second of the traditional Sintran sweets on the menu, a slice of tarte queijada de Sintra. This is a sweet made mostly of cheese, like a cheesecake, and traditionally served in the form of bite-sized individual tarts, but they had made a large version to serve by the slice. This was similar to the almond tart I’d had last night at Incomum wine bar, very dense and sticky, but without the almonds and strongly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It felt a bit less eggy, but with so much sugar and spice it was hard to really tell the difference between an egg base and a cheese base.

After breakfast we returned to our room to pack our luggage for the trip to Porto. The staff at the reception were two women we hadn’t seen before, but they wished us well on our trip. I wrote a message in the guestbook, echoing similar messages from earlier guests who had lavished praise upon the guesthouse. It really was a wonderful place to stay.

We walked up the steps between the streets to the station and found the correct platform for the train to Lisbon Oriente station. Some trains were going to Rossio, but we need to end up at Oriente to catch our intercity train to Porto. The train pulled in ten minutes before departure time and emptied, this being the end of the line. We got on and waited. A few other people boarded before the train left a minute after the due departure time.

The train took a bit over 40 minutes to reach Oriente. A few stations in it became crowded and we had to move our bags to let people sit on the facing seats. When we reached Entrecampos most passengers got off and it remained mostly empty the rest of the way. The train arrived at the large and busy Oriente station and we looked around to see where our train to Porto might leave from. I suspected that where we’d gotten off might be the suburban tracks, and perhaps we needed to go to another level to find the intercity platforms. The station had multiple levels connected by a maze of stairs and escalators and it looked possible that there were more platforms further down. But there were no signs indicating that, and the departure boards for trains here all listed what looked like only local trains. M. asked a ticket seller where we needed to go for the train to Porto, and he said back upstairs, on platform 5. At platform 5 our train was not listed, as it was still too early and another train was leaving before ours.

We had about 45 minutes to wait, so decided to exit the station and cross the road to what looked like a large modern shopping centre. Indeed it was, full of the usual fancy shops. There was a food court upstairs so we headed there to get a coffee for M. and find something to take with us to eat for lunch on the train. We sat in a cafe and M. got a coffee with pastel de nata for a combo price, and also bought a couple of the large bread rolls they were selling, plus a chocolate salami slice to take away. While she had her coffee, I walked upstairs again, where I’d seen a sign indicating a sushi place, intending to get a take away box of sushi for my lunch. But when I arrived it turned out to be a sit down sushi bar, with no take away food. So I returned down the stairs to a sandwich and salad place that we’d walked past and ordered a turkey and mustard sandwich on a grain roll, which came with lettuce and tomato as well. The woman wrapped it in foil and put it into a paper bag for me.

With about 15 minutes to go to our train, we used the toilets and then walked back to the station and up to platform 5. The sign indicated an intercity train leaving at our expected departure time of 11:39, but the destination was unfamiliar so I asked a woman in security uniform if the train went to Porto and she indicated it did. On the platform we waited with a large number of people, many with luggage. We were assigned seats in car 22, but unlike in Germany where there are posters showing exactly where each car will stop, here there was nothing. So when the train pulled up, everyone spotted the car numbers and raced up and down the platform to find the right one. Fortunately ours wasn’t too far away and there was a queue of people waiting to get in the door so there was no danger of the train leaving without us.

We found our seats and settled in for the three hour ride to Porto. The train stopped at Vila Franca de Xira, Santarém, Entroncamento, Pombal, Alfarelos, Coimbra, Pampilhosa, Aveiro, Espinho, Vila Nova de Gaia, and Porto.


Upon arrival in Porto, we walked to our hotel, about a 24 minute walk according to Google Maps. It was entirely uphill, steeper at first, becoming shallow and almost level at the end. We passed through some not so nice looking neighbourhoods, until the area right near our hotel started to look more appealing and tourist friendly. We are at the Ibis Porto Centro, a hotel with the entrance tucked away under a sort of tunnel leading to a car park and an arcade. The entrance is just a couple of lifts, with a sign saying that reception is upstairs on level 3. A woman there checked us in and we went up one more floor to our room on level 4.

View from Ibis Porto Centro
View from our room at Ibis Porto Centro

After dropping our bags and gathering our thoughts, we left to have a random wander around the streets. With no real goal in mind, we headed further away from the railway station, towards the historic centre of town, taking whatever street led roughly that way and looked interesting. From our hotel it was all downhill towards the centre, leading us to conclude that our hotel had been built on the highest point in Porto.

Read more: Exploring Porto Cathedral, steep and narrow laneways through the old town, and an amazing dinner