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 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?