Porto/Braga Trip – Part 6 (Save The Best For Last)

Most people tend to save the best for last and I am no exception. When I was a kid, I loved to save the food I liked the most for last and thus the taste of it could linger in my mouth. Now I love applying the same theory on traveling so that the unforgettable memories of it would keep me very content.

Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and consistently being considered as one of the top 10 bookstores in the world. Rumor has it that the bookstore was part of an important inspiration for  JK Rowling to write Harry Potter’s library scene in Hogwarts as she enjoyed having coffee at the cafe of the bookstore during the time she lived in Porto back in 1990s.

Its fascinating story already aroused my interest in visiting the bookstore, but what made me decide to go there desperately was actually its intricate interior design.

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Honestly, I was extremely nervous on the day I visited the bookstore. That nervousness was almost no different from the butterflies I get when I have a crush on someone (please don’t ask me when was the last time I had a crush on someone) 😛

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The cramping sensation from my nervousness went away immediately once their staff opened the bookstore. When the crowd was fighting for a good spot to take pictures, this astonishing masterpiece made me hold my breath in awe. I had a hard time to understand how time travel actually happened. I lived in a modern world just 5 minutes ago, but almost everything had changed into Neo-Gothic style after I stepped into the bookstore. All I saw was a world of old glamour infused with romantic vibes.

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Before I was deeply hypnotized by the facade, there was an aura from above caught my attention. It led me to the second floor where I saw a stained-glass skylight. Although the facade captured most of the attention from visitors, the stained-glass skylight was as attractive as the facade in my eyes. It directed natural light to the bookstore created a great contrast to the wooden decorations. Such an impression sank deep in my heart before I left the bookstore.

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Being able to tick Livraria Lello off my bucket list uplifted my mood for the rest of the day and got me ready for Braga.

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It only took me an hour to go from Porto to Braga. The minute I arrived here, I already started loving this city. Watching the sky changed from a lighter sky blue to a darker sky blue presented itself as a natural art gallery was enjoyable. Soaked in its rich cultural atmosphere and imagined that I was lucky enough bumped into a storyteller to tell me historical stories of Braga – from the time when it was once a significant metropolis of the Roman Empire to present.

Simply walking around already took me more than 2 hours, I almost forgot the ultimate reason why I had to go to Braga was to visit Bom Jesus do Monte – a Portuguese sanctuary.

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Standing at the entrance of the sanctuary, I already felt its special vibes.

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When I took my time to appreciate the surroundings, I found a miniature chapel placed at each corner of the stairway that led me to the major site of the sanctuary. I originally planned to go all the way up to the main site, but the chapel and the luscious green trees altogether created one of the most beautiful fairy tale scenes stopped me from doing so.  Instead of stopping and staring at the scene, I closed my eyes and let it rejuvenate me with the tranquility here.

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When the Baroque staircases placed in a zigzag form stood in front of me, it was the moment of truth. I finally came to know what its hype was all about. Camera could never do its justice for how magnificent it looked. Words could never describe the feelings I had when I first saw it.

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Enjoying a breathtaking view at the stairway left me speechless. I felt like I was on top of the world with the sun as my companion. ❤ What else could I ask for? 😀

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Porto Trip – Part 5 (The Art Of Wandering)

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The sound of seagulls squawking awakened the adventurous side of me. The one who usually prefers a well-planned travel itinerary finally changed for a day to experience the art of wandering. Wandering aimlessly left me extremely nervous at first, but then I learnt to trust the magic of Universe.

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Instead of planning where I should head to, I knew the path itself would lead me to where I supposed to be. Having a carefree mind while walking down the street allowed me to see things from a different perspective. The more I walked, the more I felt as if the whole city was smiling at me.

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I had no idea whether it was the positive energy I received from walking down the street or the magic of the Universe sent to the Cafe of my dream – Majestic Cafe. Whatever the case, I knew it must be a place where I meant to encounter.

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A sense of romance permeated the cafe – dimly chandeliers and Art Nouveau decorations were perfect settings to intoxicate anyone who walked in. I was almost drowned in the world of romance until their waitress woke me up from daydreaming to take my order.

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I would have gone back to daydreaming, but my order finally arrived. The smell of Rabanadas Majestic Style (French toast in Majestic Style) kept me awake and made me realized that it was the time to enjoy it.

I felt the love floating in my mouth when I first tasted it. Every bite of the French toast gave me delightful warmth and sweetness that melted my heart completely.

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The feeling of love left me wanting more…A cup of tea would be the best to complement the taste of the French toast, but a glass of Sangria was perfect to continue the feeling of love.

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When the Sangria traveled down my throat, I could feel the alcohol slowly running through my veins. A blurry image of Belle Époque kept flashing in my head…I couldn’t help it but to think of its old charm. It made me forget how busy the cafe was. It was a moment when everyone was frozen, except me and the cafe dancing to a romantic song.

“Excuse me! Would you like another drink?”, the waitress asked. There I knew I should leave my fantasy behind and let the magic of Universe take me to another destination.

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Just left the cafe, I saw a small crowd moving towards the same direction…I didn’t even question where they headed to, but simply followed them. After all the traveling, I reached a place where I believed it was a fairy tale. Grasses at its finest, trees at its tallest, sunbeam was caught by the luscious greens radiated a ray of hope.  However, nothing quite like the smell of seashore.

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I still couldn’t understand how the smell of it led me to a world with palm trees waving their hands in the breeze and clouds drifting in and out to catch my attention. I would like to stay here longer to enjoy the relaxing vibes, but the smell of seashore kept haunting my mind.

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The smell of it was no longer haunting my mind after I found my final destination – Pergola da Foz.

I stood aside to soak up the romantic atmosphere as a breeze gently touched my skin. It was a moment when I felt the presence of my Prince. He hugged me from behind while we listened to the sound of waves together. Our love seeped through every corner of the Pergola. There I knew the sparks we had would be ignited forever…

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It sat deep in my heart and kept me content when travelling back home. It also made me proud of myself getting out of my comfort zone to experience the art of wandering.

The experience of wandering changed my perspective about traveling. It left me more than just romance. It was a gift with treasures – the unexpected, the excitement, the joy and the love were all wrapped in one.

Porto Trip – Part 3

When I was a kid, I only dreamed to see futuristic architectures (the fancier the better). Such a dream has changed overtime…Now that I’m an adult, I wish to keep everything in balance. Living in Hong Kong, I often see high-rise buildings. They are mostly built very close to each other giving me a sense of oppression. I realise what I need is to have a balance in order to keep me alive. When I’m tired of seeing buildings, I will go out and connect with the nature.

Before traveling to Porto, I already planned to visit Crystal Palace (Jardins do Palacio de Cristal). I knew it is a place where it has the power to refresh my mind. The Crystal Palace was initially built in 1860, but the edifice of it was replaced with a huge domed pavilion in 1956 to serve as an arena hosting sport events, concert, etc.  Although the domed pavilion seems to attract most of the attentions from tourists, its adjoining gardens are equally attractive.

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I felt rejuvenated when I saw the luscious green garden right in front of the domed pavilion. It awakened the happy child inside me and I couldn’t stop smiling at the beautiful scene here. The garden was well situated to create layer effects complementing the domed pavilion. It was not only enjoyable for the eyes, but also gorgeous enough to make you amazed. The beauty of it seemed to steal my heart away, but I knew I better started moving from here in order to discover more.

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The more I walked, the more interesting my journey had become. I found a “secret garden” with a small lake reminded me of the Chinese garden I used to go with my parents. When I was reminiscing about my childhood, I heard someone whisper in my ears suddenly. I thought I could leave the whispering behind, but it was haunting enough for me to keep wondering who it was.

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After a few minutes of walk, I finally found who they were. They were volunteers who had been working here for years and the nicest people I’ve ever met in Porto. They never stopped smiling when talking to me.Their soft-spoken voice reminded me of bird singing. Their friendliness simply warmed my heart. They even showed me the way to explore Crystal Palace.

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I never thought I could find a secret paradise like this without their help. I believe the aura it had could only be maintained through silence. Distance myself from it by peeking through bushes was one of the best ways to respect its purity. The secret garden had slowly become a unique piece of jade when the color of sunbeam started changing. The shine it had completely broke through a peephole and I could no longer stay behind the bushes. I knew I had to walk through the “paradise” searched for something fantastic.

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Glad I took the courage to do so… Otherwise, I would have missed the chance to enjoy this breathtaking view. Standing on the veranda overlooking Douro River while watching all the small boats passed by was truly amazing. I wish to camp here watching stars shine bright in the dark and starlight sparkle in the reflection of the river.

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I thought nothing could steal the shine from the breathtaking view of Douro River, but it wasn’t the fact in reality. All the attention was immediately captured by peacock ever since he started walking. Although his bright-colored feathers were designed to attract more peahens, I was greatly fascinated by his irresistible charm just like any other peahens.

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He was not only charming, but also a gentleman. He showed where he usually hung out with other peahens. He sure knew one of the best ways to keep his queens happy was to show them blooming flowers. If I were one of his peahens, I would be drowning in his love.

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After spending some time with me, he had to leave for preparing a candle light dinner. Although I started missing him already, I wasn’t disappointed to explore this place alone.

Exploring the place alone was indeed delightful. I took my time to enjoy the serenity here. Let the sun gently shine on my face while listening to the rippling sound of Duro River. Each drop of the water had slowly purified my soul to make me realise the importance of living in the present.

“True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Porto Trip – Part 2

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Waking up in the morning, the first thing I think about usually not my breakfast but lunch. (weird right? lol 😛 ) I’m not a big breakfast person, but I’m a dinosaur when it comes to lunch 😀 .  Being in a western country can be a bit challenging to me sometimes because some smaller restaurants/ cafes only serve sandwiches or burgers. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the taste of sandwiches and burgers. However, I prefer to have either rice or noodles for lunch as I personally find it much more filling.

Being the only girl in a group of gentlemen I worked with, I had the privilege to decide where I wanted to go and eat. Obviously, I took the advantage to choose what I wanted to eat to satisfy my stomach. When I saw rice on the menu, I didn’t even think twice and instantly ordered Portuguese seafood rice. Honestly, I had no idea what Portuguese seafood rice looked like. The portion of it came out way bigger than I imagined. It was soupy, but in a good way. The rice had well absorbed the seafood flavour and I really enjoyed it.

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Apart from the rice, we also ordered octopus to share. In fact, we didn’t plan to order one but couldn’t resistant the temptation by seeing how much others enjoyed their grilled octopus around us. Seriously, it was a simple dish but tasted divine. The chef didn’t season the octopus much, but the freshness of the octopus was the magical element to make it delicious.

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I’m not going to lie…I was already full after having the rice and octopus, but I still wanted to have something sweet to satisfy my greedy stomach. What to do when I didn’t want to order a heavy dessert to put on a few extra pounds just to satisfy my greedy stomach 😛 ? Aha there I found a fresh fruit salad on the menu. (What a perfect solution to accomplish my mission lol!!! 😀 )

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I was truly a lucky one not only having an awesome opportunity to work with a group of gentlemen, but also being able to enjoy beautiful sunny days throughout my entire trip. Look at that gorgeous blue sky! It made everything look picture perfect.

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Although the clear blue sky was beautiful, Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto) was actually the main attraction we would like to visit on that day. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have a chance to visit Cathedrals in Hong Kong. Cathedrals in Hong Kong aren’t usually opened for sightseeing purpose and therefore I was thrilled to visit the one in Porto.

Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto) was a twin-towered cathedral with Romanesque roots built in 12th century. It has undergone numerous architectural and design changes overtime, but it didn’t stop visitors from visiting this historic landmark.

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Sorry for the bright lighting! This is the best my Canon Powershot S90 can do :(
Sorry for the bright lighting! This is the best my Canon Powershot S90 can do 😦

A sense of solemnity came in mind when I stepped into the Cathedral. Whatever it was on my mind seemed to fade away, I was simply fascinated by the sophisticated interior and stories behind the Cathedral. Although the Cathedral was too stunning to capture, all I wanted to do was to respect the Cathedral itself and its religious followers by not taking too many photos.

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If you have a chance to visit Porto Cathedral, please make sure not to miss its Gothic cloister. It was covered with blue and white azulejos tiles built in 14th century.  To be honest, I saw how it looked like on the internet even before travelling to Porto. However, the feelings it gave was complete different when seeing it in person. You probably don’t believe me, but seriously you don’t need exceptional photography skills to make your pictures perfect. It was already beautiful enough to make it picture-perfect for you.

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The Gothic cloister wasn’t the only part worth visiting. When you keep walking along the cloister, you will find there are different small entrances led you to different small rooms where they display various religious items.

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Remember I made a promise to take tons of pictures for you guys before travelling to Porto (hehe i found a photo to prove I did take my promise seriously 😉 )

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I couldn’t believe my visit to Porto Cathedral almost came to the end. All I could do was to gaze back and keep this mesmerizing picture in my heart.

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Just came out from the Cathedral, there I found a veranda allowed me to get some suntan while enjoying a gorgeous view from the top.

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Wasn’t it too amazing to see all those orange roofs right underneath you?

Porto Trip – Part 1

I’ve always been a fan of travelling since I was very little. I simply love the art of adventuring new places where I can learn about different cultures, meet new people and see the unique beauty the country offers.

I was beyond thrilled to know I got an opportunity to travel to Porto where I have been dreaming for two years. I truly believe, “If you can dream it, you can do it” – Walt Disney, is what makes my dream come true.

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Although I could choose to transit once only, I chose to transit twice to save my boss’s expenses (pretending to be a good employee lol 😛 ). Actually, I can’t deal with long haul flight which I often need a bigger space to move around and have some fresh air. I was truly the happiest when my flight landed in Doha as I knew I had 10 to 15 mins to spend at a brand new Hamad International Airport which was only opened last year. I’m not kidding it was by far the most beautiful airport I’ve ever visited. The design of it was modern and luxurious with a touch of Middle Eastern vibes. Although the gigantic bear seems to capture most of the attention from tourists, I actually enjoy the entire design of the airport. The glass ceiling, the lighting, the palm trees and the gigantic bear altogether created one of the most mesmerizing pictures and I know I will never forget it.

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I was talking about the gigantic bear a lot, but you wouldn’t be able to imagine how gigantic it is until you see it in person. I suggest you to learn some fighting skills before visiting Hamad International Airport because everyone is fighting for a good spot to take a snap of this lovely guy.

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The other side of the airport promotes a much more futuristic vibes which I personally adore. I somehow felt like I was an astronaut exploring an unknown planet lol (am I daydreaming too much? 😀 )

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back to the reality…My flight finally landed at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport after 7 hours. I was quite exhausted at this point since I already travelled for 16 hours all the way from Hong Kong to Madrid. However, I still had  a lot of energy fantasizing how wonderful Porto is. Unfortunately, Madrid Airport decided to give me an ultra exhaustion before I could see my fantasy. I had to go one floor down and walk 10 mins for baggage claim. Then I went back to the same floor to get my luggage checked-in before clearing the customs. After clearing the customs and I thought I could start relaxing and waiting for my flight, but it was only the beginning of my nightmare. I came to know I had to walk 26 mins before reaching my gate. Thank you so much for the physical activity!!! (I know you put your heart and soul to plan for it in order to keep me in shape)

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Arrived Porto finally, yay!!! Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the entire apartment arranged by my company. It was a cozy little apartment and more than enough for me to stay there. This lovely spot of my apartment was one of the favourite places to lounge around. It was also where I practiced yoga almost every morning.

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Speaking of “favourite”, the view from my apartment was definitely what I loved the most. Looking at orange roofs against the clear blue sky was already beautiful enough to take all my exhaustion away. But, I seriously didn’t expect how calming it was to look at that stunning river. It relaxed me to another level. When I was enjoying the view, one of the seagulls suddenly came say “hi” to me. (what a pleasant surprise!) I would love it even more if he came say “hi” to me every day hehe.

I guess I spent too much time on enjoying the view and I didn’t even notice how hungry I was. My stomach started to complain by growling lol 😛

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When my colleagues and I were on our way searching for a restaurant, we saw this adorable dog. No matter how much we tried to disturb him, he wouldn’t even look at us. He was simply enjoying himself and the view.  The wind kept blowing his hair while he enjoyed the view. I felt like he was being smart to let his hair air-dry (I should probably learn from him not to blow-dry my hair by using hair dryer that often).

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This baby was too tired holding himself in one position to let his hair air dry and therefore he had to take a little rest.

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After looking around, we decided to have our lunch at a restaurant specializing in making pizza. I didn’t know why I didn’t feel like having pizza. I ordered seafood fettuccine instead. It looked pretty decent, right? But , it was completely tasteless. I guess I was too stupid ordering pasta at a pizza place lol. I didn’t know if it was too tasteless to satisfy me or I was too hungry. I still felt so hungry after having it so I decided to order something else. I knew I wanted to try their pizza since my colleagues kept telling how delicious it was, but I didn’t think I could finish an entire pizza myself. So I chose to share a pizza burger with one of my colleagues.

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I’ve never tried pizza burger before. It looked a bit like Chinese BBQ Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao) to me 😀

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I wish you could taste this pizza burger with me. It was seriously tasty. The patty was really juicy and the egg was perfectly cooked (the egg yolk was still runny). After having half of the burger, I was way too full… felt like I couldn’t even move anymore…

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Even though I was carrying a heavy belly with me, it didn’t stop me from exploring. I found a magnificent sculpture just few mins away from the restaurant.  It was the first sculpture I saw in Porto and also the most stunning sculpture compared to all the sculptures I have seen in Porto. When I stood next to the sculpture, I felt the power of it. It seemed to empower me with the strength to conquer all the obstacles I may face in my life and keep me moving forward. Each small detail of the sculpture reminded me of all the hard work behind making this sculpture and why I love art so much.

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No matter how much I loved the sculpture, I knew I better saved some more time to visit one of the most beautiful train stations in the world- Sao Bento Station. It is a station blended with beauty and history. The design of Sao Bento Station was inspired by French Beaux-Arts architecture. 20,000 of tile (azulejo) panels were being placed to build the interior of the station. Historical events, landscapes and ethnography were being portrayed by the tile panels. It is what makes it truly unique and world famous for attracting people from all over the world.

The moment I stepped into the station, I thought I was living in the world of art and history. The camera can’t even do it justice for how breathtaking it looks. I simply ran out of words to describe its unique beauty. All I can say is to see it in person and feel the essence of each tile will truly make you understand what I mean by “living in the world of art and history”.

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Nostalgic feelings were slowly appeared when the sunset was approaching. The natural lighting became dim to ask people to stop running for the train, but to enjoy their daily life at a slower pace.

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The sun was finally set and it was the time for Sao Bento Station to put on a glamorous outfit to shine through the dark. The darker the sky is, the more glamorous it looks.  The history and beauty of it will never be faded. It will only get stronger with time.