Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Porto, Portugal: Our 1st trip abroad since 2018

Looking North into Porto, at the old city wall, from the bridge.

Last week we returned from our first trip abroad since 2018. We spent a full week in Porto, Portugal and it was absolutely wonderful. If I had to sum the whole trip up in a single statement it would be to say that it was the first time I really felt fully alive in a very long time and I already wish we could go right back.

Traveling with COVID is hard, but possible

This was our first trip without an agenda since 2019 and our first to Europe since 2018. Frankly, given so few are willing to take even the most basic measures to protect themselves or others during an active pandemic, we were both very nervous about traveling at all.

A selfie with me in my mask in front of giant wine casks at one of the Port wine cellars
Me in my mask on a tour of one of the old port wine cellars.

We took this trip because, frankly, I know longer think traveling safely in such a selfish society is even possible yet we still have to travel at some point if we’re ever going to get out of Florida. To say I hate where we live is a bit of an understatement. The longer we’re here the more my depression increases. I already go almost nowhere around the house and have no real desire to change that. I don’t really care to be threatened, spit on or otherwise attacked when I go out, something that happens almost every time I do (because wearing a mask means I am of the wrong politics), so I just don’t go out.

In Portugal things felt different. We still, of course, wore a mask literally everywhere, we avoided crowds and we didn’t eat inside restaurants but, unlike in Florida, none of that was a problem. We were, unfortunately, one of few who masked but I never felt threatened for doing so and many places we did go advertised their improved ventilation and other COVID measures. While their measures might have been marketing at least they went that far. Food was also easy as nearly every restaurant has outdoor seating and the weather was perfect, much better than when we used to go to Panama City Beach this time of year.

I think the only time we were inside anywhere with people and took our masks off was to eat or drink at the airports. While that wasn’t ideal, at least it was minimized and so far the tests are showing we did manage to keep healthy.

While we did luck out this trip it won’t change our safety measures in the future. We’ll continue to mask and avoid crowds and I wouldn’t touch irresponsible events like WordCamps or other conferences with a 10-foot pole. None of that is going to change. What I am grateful for is that we now know we can travel safely if we need to and there are places where we can do so without feeling threatened for taking reasonable measures. That, at least to me, is a big win.

Porto is beautiful

Porto is a beautiful city. We stayed in the historic center of the city and I absolutely fell in love with the area.

Every day we walked. We walked to the cathedral, to the river and across the bridge to the wineries and restaurants. It was wonderful. If anything got me, though, it was the hills. Where we live in Florida everything is flat and I probably only go up the equivalent of a single flight of stairs maybe once a month. After a week in Porto, however, my legs were feeling the hills. Most of our walks went down to the river and getting back up involved either steep stairs or hills and either could get my heart going. I enjoyed it, but it was definitely a bit different than my normal walks.

Looking down the stairs of a Porto "street" with the old city walls on the left and businesses and homes on the right.
This was the “street” we often took to and from the river. The old city walls are on the left and homes and businesses, including the only jazz club we found, are on the right.

I also loved the history. From the extant 14th century city walls to the old homes, churches and museums Porto is like a bit of a trip back in time. In other cities we’ve visited the historic areas have been given over to businesses but Porto’s city center is still alive with residents and daily life. It is a wonderful mix of the old and the new put together in a relatively small area where people live their lives and welcome us transients. I already miss that.

We may have found “home”

We took this trip not for a vacation but as a fact-finding mission. We are looking for a place we can call home. In the past we had hoped to move to the UK before BREXIT. Then we looked at The Netherlands but it just wasn’t right. We’ve been thinking Portugal, with its mild winters and good VISA programs might be the right fit for us and, after this trip, I think it is safe to say that thought was spot on.

Porto is a city where life is more laid back and the weather was, at least for March, perfect. For us it checks all the boxes we’ve been looking for and then some. Four years ago I had little interest in the country and I was really missing out. It’s a gorgeous city with wonderful people and a lifestyle that really, at least on the surface, appeals to what we’ve been looking for for a very long time.

Now starts the long process of moving. We own our house here and, for a number of reasons, it won’t be a quick process but it is a process we’re going to get started on with a hope that we can physically get there in 2024. Throughout that process we’ll probably look a bit towards Lisbon as well but, that’s not really here nor there.

In the end we finally have a destination we can work towards and that is what I am so happy about. Maybe we’ve finally found “home.”