Our time in Porto was funny. We absolutely loved the city, the people, the vibe and the food (oh god, the food), but all this was sadly overshadowed by a problem we continually faced back at our two week hostel workaway. The hostel itself was fantastic. It had a great location, awesome facilities and a friendly management team, but the problem wasn’t with any of these. The problem? Bed bugs.
It all started when our host assigned us our duties. Anita was on general clean up while I was responsible for disassembling and reassembling the hostel beds, spraying with hospital-grade alcohol to “prevent” any mould/pests. It was after disassembling the very first bed of the very first dorm that I quickly realised this hostel had a big problem.
I reported back to our host who was surprisingly already aware. He explained that at the same time every year pilgrims stay at the hostel and bring their little friends with them. After learning this I skipped the next two levels and went straight to our dorm, frantically spraying anything that moved.
So we were then put in a difficult situation. Did we continue to stay at the hostel for the next two weeks despite our unwanted guests, or pack up and ship out, never to look back again. We eventually decided to stay, as we’d already commited to volunteering and paying for accomodation at another hostel for two weeks would have simply blown the budget. We did however remain vigilant, continuing to clean and ensured our belongings were always sealed and zipped up. Unfortunately though no matter how often or thoroughly we cleaned the little bastards would always return. Anita copped the most bites while mine hardly showed, but despite our injuries and moderate anxiety we continued to soldier on.
But Porto wasn’t all bugs and bites. The first night we arrived was actually my birthday, so Anita took me to a fantastic local Portuguese restaurant named Taberna Santo Antonio. We arrived early so had a beer or two as we watched the sun go down, then demolished a steak and some pork rib stew with a bottle of local red, following it all with a few too many desserts. It was such delicious, honest food without the tourist price tag. It was perfect.
In fact we did a lot of eating during our time in Porto. We ate a farm’s worth of frango assado (Portuguese chicken), suckling pig with sparkling red wine, stewed pork biffanas, presunto rolls, Porto’s famous thousand-calorie francesinha sandwhich and maintained a strict one-pastry-a-day diet which were mainly Anita’s favourite pastel de natas or Portuguese tarts as we know them back home. But eating wasn’t all we did with our time off, we also spent a lot of time walking to help offset the spike in calories. We spent a day at Miramar beach, spent many days wandering around the Palácio de Cristal gardens and even walked all the way to Parque da Cidade for a picnic then back along the harbour, saw an art exhibition at one of the local galleries, and went port tasting at the famous Taylor’s cellar, all the while in complete awe of the city’s beautiful tiled buildings and traditional architecture.
So after thirteen nights we had only one left in Porto. The last few were quite restless as the bugs were really starting to get to us. Anita couldn’t sleep properly and in turn neither could I, so we decided to spend our last night resting peacefully at a bug-free hostel across the road from our morning bus to Lagos. We went for one last abnormally-sized glass of red wine, bifana and a short stroll to the bakery with a little Portuguese lady, then did exactly that; rested peacefully.