Coming Home: Ourense, Porto, Omaha

I left Ourense by BlaBlaCar, with a driver who my friend Carmen had verified, and rode to the bus station in Vigo (1 hour) with two other young women and the driver. I had a snack in Vigo, and then I took the bus from Vigo to Oporto (1 hour). Just over two hours later, I was in Portugal, and would be flying from to Omaha from Oporto two days later.

With limited time in Oporto, I tried my best to see the city and try the most famous foods all in less than 48 hours. I began with the Francesinha, famous Portuguese sandwich, at Brasão Cervejaria Aliados

The famous Portuguese cream pastry was on my mind long before I arrived in Oporto. These sweet cups can be found in Galicia as well, but they are much better on the Portuguese side of the border. With time in the Iberian peninsula running out, I drank cafés con leche constantly, evening ordering decaf so I could drink them into the evening. ❤

I wandered across the bridge to the side of the city where all of the port wine is made. I scheduled a tour and then explored the twisty streets until my tour began.

The views in Oporto are all remarkable. The city is full of steep hills, which means another lookout spot every few blocks.

I wandered until it was time to go on my tour at Cálem Port Wine. I learned a little bit about the process of making port wine, and…

I quickly learned that my palette is not appreciative of the strength and spice of port wine. I would like a Spanish red instead please!!

As the sun started to go down, I began meandering back up the hills of Oporto.

Curvy, steep streets and ornate tiled cathedrals are frequent in Oporto.

As I neared my hostel, I decided that I would have time to visit the bookstore that inspired J.K. Rowling in writing Harry Potter in the evening, avoiding the rush of morning tourists the next day. Although the bookstore was not wildly packed when I went, it was still nearly full with tourists.

On my way back to my hostel, I walked past many bright murals and tiled buildings. I grabbed dinner at Froiz Supermarket (my favorite from Ourense), and headed to my little studio apartment to relax.

On my final full day in Europe of my Fulbright 2018-2019 experience, I wanted to make sure to do lots of exploring and to drink many cafés con leche. My day began by walking across a more residential part of the city to arrive at the Palácio de Cristal.

Once at the park, I spent my morning with LOUD chickens and roosters and proud peacocks showing off all their feathers for me. I meandered down trails and watched the city and the river glow in the sun as it rose in the sky.

I walked back to the city center from the park, and made sure to visit all of the most famous landmarks in the city, mostly churches.

The final item on my “what to eat in Portugal” list was the Pastel de Bacalao, which is like a deep fried dumpling made of cod, potato, and cheese. It was super heavy and only mildly tasty.

Post cod: more churches, tower, monuments, and important buildings.

The Portuguese are famous for their blue tiling, and one of the best places to see this in Oporto is in the train station. My favorite part of this station was the Minho River being a direction on the ceiling, because it is the same río miño that I spent my year running and walking along in Ourense, Spain.

Although the city is filled with churches, the main cathedral is like a fortress upon the hill overlooking the Douro river. The same blue tiles can be found here in an arched patio of the church. The view from the cathedral looking down upon the city was nothing short of magnificent.

After seeing the cathedral, I had hit all my destinations in the city. I spent the rest of my afternoon meandering through the curvy streets. Reading my book in the sunshine at cafes and drinking cafes con leche.

I said goodbye to the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula, my home from September 2018 until June 2019, the following morning. I flew on TAP Portugal from Oporto -> Lisboa and Lisboa -> Chicago. From Chicago, I flew American home to Omaha. I was pleasantly surprised to sit next to my friend John on the flight, and we caught up about the entire last year of life as the plane landed in Omaha. I hugged my mom, met my new dog, told a few stories, and passed out a little after midnight in my own bed.

Three weeks have passed since I have been home in Omaha. I have been lucky to spend a lot of time with friends and family since back.

I began working full time at a small law firm in Millard three days after I returned, and I have been keeping busy in the evenings at yoga and spin class at Lotus and grabbing dinner and drinks with my pals often.

I am so grateful for every single moment that has passed over the last 10 months of learning and growing in Ourense, Spain, and an assortment of other cities along the way. I guess all that is left to say is thank you and long live España. MOITAS GRAZAS y VIVA ESPAÑA.

I am back to brunching, taking bathroom selfies at work, ordering pad thai instead of cooking it, hanging with my fam, late nights & twinkly lights with pals. And although everything has changed, everything is still the same. I am happy to be home, and I am happy to have been a Fulbright ETA in España.

Thank you so much for following along my Fulbright journey. That’s a wrap. More life posts and book reviews to come soon. But next time, I will be reporting about life from Michigan Law School. Ciao!!

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