Welcome to Porto. We have been living here for almost a month, and we love it. Porto really is a magical city. It is right up there with Venice, Italy, San Francisco, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana, among my favorite cities in the world. I could say that it is something of a mash-up of San Francisco with its hilliness and New Orleans with the old buildings and ironwork, but it is really unique. The Azueljos tiled buildings are beautiful, stunning, and numerous in the city. The architecture and artistry is a feast for the eyes.
When we moved to Portugal, we chose to live in Vila Nova de Gaia because it was a lot cheaper, near the beach, and a 15-minute car ride from Porto. The reality of it was that while Gaia is physically just across the river from Porto, it is so close and yet so far, as they say. Gaia is a world away from Porto in mentality. In fact, the city of Gaia’s motto is Todo um Mundo, meaning, all a world unto itself. That it is.
The locals have a saying here, Porto is Porto and Gaia is Gaia. After living in Gaia for a year and a half, I fully understand this saying. Porto is a world-class city, and Gaia is more like a small town or village. This, even though it is physically bigger than Porto in size. Both have their pros and cons. We may be nearing retirement age, but we still want to be closer to the action of the city, as it turns out.
Now instead of having to take an Uber or walk for an hour to get to the metro, we are a 15-minute walk or metro ride from nearly everything. Including the above.
Jiver simmered down once we got off the plane in Newark. Ok, I thought, we’re almost halfway there. Our bags were checked all the way to Porto so, now we could check-in for the flight and relax. The check-in agent looked over our dog papers and issued our boarding passes. No problem.
As we waited to get through security, a fire alarm started going off, and it was LOUD! Jiver did not like it at all. He started to growl, and threatened to start barking when, after about ten minutes, it finally stopped. False alarm, thank God. We made it through security without incident and went to find our gate. We had about three hours to kill, and we found a Vino Volo near our gate. Perfect. We stopped to have a drink and a nosh.
Vino Volo is a great concept that serves good healthy-ish food and good wines to go with them. A great place to hang out at the airport, a dreadful place to work. Yes, I worked for Vino Volo at DIA in Denver for about a year. It’s ok if you are willing to cook food, serve wine, bus tables, and wash dishes by yourself for up to 40-50 people at a time. But that is another story.
Jiver sacked out by the table, and after some food and drink, we made our way to the gate, hoping that this plane ride would be better than the first. I had overheard a gate agent say that the plane was not full and that there were about 40 empty seats. That should help. We got on the plane, and the row in front of us was almost empty so, we agreed that after take off, Joe would move up to that row, and we would let Jiver have the seat next to me. He whined and panted for the first 45 minutes but, once we were at cruising altitude, we put his blanket on the seat, and he laid there through the flight. Finally, he was ok. We figured that he did not like the vibrations of the plane when he had to stay on the floor.
It is stunning how different the attitudes are between US and Euro airlines. Everyone is so uptight and stressed out on the US flights and so much more relaxed on the European flights. The TAP Portugal flight crew was great. They loved Jiver and were fine with him sitting next to me. Also, the food is so much better on the Euro flights. Oh, and no charge for wine either. We had a delicious baked cod in cream sauce with spinach with mashed potatoes, and a nice white wine to accompany it. We weren’t even there yet, and already I preferred my new country of choice to my country of origin.
When the plane started its descent, Jiver got nervous again. This time, he only whined and panted for about the last half hour. Whew. We made it to the ground and arrived in Porto. Now, we just had to get through customs, passport, and vet check.
I took Jiver to find a doggie rest area but couldn’t find one. There was an area with some planters, and he christened the Porto airport right there. After cleaning up after him, I found the veterinary office. The doctor was waiting for us there, and it only took about ten minutes for her to sign off on us bringing Jiver into Portugal. Now customs. We presented our box of spirits and wine from Colorado, and they opened it. The officer examined our stash and asked, to drink with friends? And, I said yes. He said, ok and we were off. It took about 30 minutes to get into the country, through customs, and have Jiver checked in by the vet. Portugal, what a country! It might have something to do with the fact that we arrived at 5:30am. There was a cab driver waiting outside arrivals, and he transported us to our Airbnb. After a year of planning and waiting, we finally arrived in Porto. Ha-le-freakin’-lu-jah!
We should get a prize for all we’ve been through. Oh yeah, being here IS the prize! 😉
The movers came and packed what was left of our things (which was still too much stuff) and we sorted out the rest of the last-minute things, cars, dog papers, and last visits to the vet. Not to mention various things we forgot to have the movers take that had to be shipped separately. Gawd, we suck at moving!
Luckily, I got us the most direct flight possible: Denver to Newark and Newark to Porto, with a four-hour layover in Newark. Our plane departed from DIA at 8:30am so we booked a room at the airport Westin for the night before, to make our 5:30am appearance at the terminal. Spendy, but so worth it. Our friend/landlord for the past eight months, Dennis took us to the Westin DIA in his vintage Rolls. (That’s about how far we traveled in style, suffice it to say!) We should have known it was going to be a bumpy ride when Jiver whined and panted and shivered halfway to the airport.
The night at the hotel was short, with a 4am wake-up call but a bellman took us across to the terminal. “First class? “ He asked…um no, I said, we’re lucky to have economy plus! After waiting in line to check our bags, we got to the check-in kiosk which told us that we would need special handling. (Due to traveling with a service dog, we found out.) We got to the desk and our large bag was 30 pounds overweight. No paying for it either; 50 pounds max or no go! Ok, drag our act out of check-in territory and go buy an extra bag, or throw out half of our belongings! Ugh! So, I had to run downstairs and put down $80 for the cheapest bag I could find that looked like it would hold 30 pounds.
Back to check-in, at least we didn’t have to wait in line again. With a little more finagling, we brought the big bag down to 49.5 pounds. Thank God!
We present our IDs, and the folder full of dog travel paperwork to the agent. After ten minutes, she tells us that there is something wrong. Our boarding passes won’t print out. And it looks like it’s because we don’t have clearance for the dog from TAP, Air Portugal for the Newark to Porto portion of our trip. After an hour of her talking to various superiors and others, I put a call into TAP myself. After waiting on hold for nearly half an hour, it is starting to look like we won’t make the flight. Finally, I get an agent on the phone, and he says we are clear for takeoff with them. At this point, I am guessing that United realized that it wasn’t TAP that was the holdup. (I knew it!) It was United having technical difficulties. Now we have five minutes to make the flight, and the “security” line is about five miles long.
The United agent took us personally around security, and we made a mad dash for the gate. When we got there, the gate agents saw and called out to us. They were holding the plane for us! Thank you, gate agents at United Airlines!
Can you say, holy mother of sweating it out?! Our new bag cost $80, and the cost for an extra checked bag was $120. We paid extra for seat assignments. Due to the delay in getting to the plane, we were stuck with inside seats in the middle of the aircraft. Jiver had to sit on the floor over the engine and landing gear. He whined, shook, and panted all the way from Denver to Newark! Poor guy was probably terrified. And this, after the woman across the aisle threatened to pitch a fit about us having a dog. “He’s a service dog,” I said. (I left out …bitch, trying to be nice!) Let’s just say, if looks could kill, she’d be dead! At least, we made the flight.