Porto Trip – Part 4 (A Tribute To My Beloved Grandparents)

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The moment I saw this elderly couple at the winery, I couldn’t help it but to think of my grandparents. They always wanted travel together, but they never had a chance to do so. My grandfather spent more than half of his life on earning money to raise his family. By the time he earned enough to retire, his health started to deteriorate unable to travel. I know I can’t turn back the hands of time and make him alive to travel with grandma, but I would like to dedicate this post to them.

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They could hardly sleep last night as they were too excited to visit winery. By the time they arrived the winery, they acted as if it was their first school trip. Their vast curiosity encouraged them to keep looking around and touching whatever it was around them.

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Their inner active child had never stopped until it was the time for wine tasting. They sat patiently and waited to be served with the wine. Both of them coincidentally took a small sniff of the wine and swirled it before tasting.  When each sip of the wine slowly evaporated in their mouth, they started remembering the first wine they had together at their wedding.

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All good memories kept flashing in their head. Then, he looked at the window when hugging her from behind.  ‘Remember what I promised you when little princess was born?’, he asked. She looked down and nodded with a smile on her face.

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I was surprised to find out the promise he made was to have a boat trip with us. What made me even more surprised was he already started channeling my travel desire on the day I was born. The mesmerizing picture of peaceful Douro River, colorful Porto boats and magnificent Dom Luís I Bridge altogether was the main reason why I wanted to travel to Porto 2 years ago.

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They asked me to sit in between them and held my hands tightly when enjoying an amazing view of Douro River. I almost felt bad to be in this position until I saw how satisfied they were. I guess it just reminded them of the wonderful time they had when I was very little. Although they seemed to be living in their good old memories, they never forgot to teach me a life lesson as usual. “Never be afraid of all the challenging bridges you may face in your life because they will always teach you something valuable”, they pointed at the bridges we saw during our trip and said.

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As I saw how much they enjoyed teaching me a life lesson, I somehow felt like teaching them how to say “hi” in English. They were shy to say it at first, but eventually took the courage to say it aloud to the travelers on another boat “hhh…Hi”.  However, our trip was about to end. They both obviously seemed a bit upset about it, so I offered them a cable car ride to cheer them up.

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Luckily, they accepted my offer with full of excitement. He gently held our hands when we first entered the cable car. He even asked grandma to lean on his chest if she ever felt scared of the ride. I knew she wasn’t scared at all, but she still pretended to be just to make him feel good.

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I thought it would be awesome to capture the moment when she leaned on his chest, but they stopped me doing it immediately. They took a picture of me instead. It was sweet to see him using his left hand to hold half of my camera while she used her right hand to hold the other half of it. “It feels good to see you’re all grown up now”, they looked at me with tears in their eyes and said. What they said completely melted my heart and made me promise to myself to be the best granddaughter as I could be.

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I never made empty promises and therefore I took them to Miradouro da Serra do Pilar to make them even happier after the cable car ride. It was a place where they could enjoy a panoramic view of Porto. They were speechless to see how breathtaking it looked and asked me to pinch their face to ensure what they saw was real. I knew It was the time for them to spend some quality time with each other.

I sat aside soaking up the sun to be grateful for having them as my grandparents. All they did for me was more than just memories. I believe it will make me a better person.

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Time flies when you’re having fun. I couldn’t believe the sun started to set. All boats decided to rest after working hard for a whole day. Threads of yellow and orange lights in the sky slowly prepared us for a romantic night. Clouds kept rolling in to cover Porto with darkness gradually.

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When the city was covered by a complete darkness, city lights glistened as twinkling stars in the sky.  It became much more romantic than usual to allure them coming closer to the river. He wrapped her in his arms as a gentle breeze brushed up their face. ‘You will always be the woman of my life’, he looked at her with sparks in his eyes and said.  She couldn’t react, but to be deeply intoxicated by his love.

 

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.