It was 7 in the morning when the Gulden Leeuw made its grand appearance into Porto. The towering tallship was met with bewildered eyes and camera flashes from all angles as we docked at Gaia, a city across the river from Porto.
As for us, the students, most of us were taking pictures or chatting happily about our opinions on our first port of our Class Afloat journey. Some students talked about how they wanted to call their parents, satisfy their sweet tooth or just simply stretch their legs in running club. Many of us were not expecting to be greeted by a Pizza Hut right next to the ship, or the free Wi-fi that many of us used without hesitation. Speaking of food, all of us enjoyed our first night out off the ship and eating at a pleasant, friendly Porto restaurant. As we split off in different groups, all with one goal, to find and taste some real, Portuguese food that was shown to us in the port presentation by one of our teachers, Doris.
Bleach art that we came across on the streets while walking back home.
While on the hunt for food, we noticed almost immediately that this was no ordinary city. Less than 3 minutes away from the ship, there was a large bridge that we had to cross to get into Porto. Some of the locals had other ideas for the bridge and decided to jump off the bridge and into the water down below. Usually it was younger kids jumping and the older ones taking in the money for them to jump. Personally, it didn’t surprise me as much as some people. It was a change to see it with my own eyes, but even our walking tour guide told us that they’d been doing it since they could walk.
View from the bridge that the kids were jumping off.
Later that night, we found a river-side restaurant that served the famed meat sandwiches, beef, sausage, bacon, egg all in one! They called it a Francinha. We ate like kings, after being at sea for so long, all of us enjoyed every bit of new and exciting food fresh from the Portuguese kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, ship food is good, but ports are a time to try new and exciting things.
Our first Francinha in Porto.
The next day was packed. It was our arranged arrival day and we pushed through the last few classes before we had shore leave. Most of us went to do laundry and others decided to go eat first. After my gangway watch from 4 to 6PM, a group of us decided to go for a picnic in a park that had an amazing view of city. It was a long hike as we took a few wrong turns and missed the sunset, but it was worth it in the end anyway!
Enjoying our picnic on the top of the park.
Our third day in Porto was the day of the dreaded walking tour port program! I thought it would be just a long, boring and tedious monotone tour. We all met at the Clerigos Church and split into watches as we waited patiently for our guides to begin the tour. The tour guide for my group was called Nuno. The reason I remember Nuno so well is because he made the walking tour fun. He put a smile onto everyone’s faces, kept us interested and got us excited. During the walking tour, we passed famous libraries, like the one from Harry Potter. Nuno also took us to some of the best sightseeing spots in the whole of Porto! It was the typical touristy type of thing to do, but it felt more down to earth and real as we walked, instead of looking out the grimy windows of a tour bus.
Griffins in the square near Porto University while the freshmen did their initiation behind us.
Our fourth day wasn’t as productive as we all had to work together to get provisions done for our next leg to Corsica. It was a team effort and everyone did their bit, which made it quick and easy.
On our last day of full shore leave, we decided we had to do something crazy…something out of the ordinary which none of the groups had done yet. A group of us decided it was a good day to go surfing at a beach nearby. So we did. Cody, our shipboard director, recommended a spot he wanted to surf at, but wasn’t able to due to the other half of provisions coming in and mixing up his day. So after we finished provisions, completely this time, we headed to the beach by taxi and Uber. We arrived at the beach shop where we each paid 15 Euro to rent a wetsuit and a board.
A poster on the wall that made us smile.
It was time to go. The 12 of us hit waves running and got smacked right back to shore. Maybe we should have taken those lessons after all… We got some tips from local surfers and were soon catching waves with ease. We surfed until the sun went down before going out to a local restaurant for sushi and burgers.
The 12 of us who were crazy enough to go surfing.
At the end of a long day and the end of an awesome port, we took the train back to the boat. It was one of the funniest train rides any of us had ever been on, but… that’s a story for another day.
Written by: Class Afloat student, William Ensink