Getting back into the travel routine has been a bit of a shock — after four months in one place we’d lost the slickness we used to have. This week, we finished the Camino Inglés and spent two nights couchsurfing in Pontevedra before heading to Porto for the Travel Bloggers Unite conference.
Monday 3/9: I talked about Monday in last week’s travel diary, but to sum up: we finished the Camino Inglés, had lunch with our walking companion Lucía and her boyfriend Jorge, then headed back to A Coruna to say goodbye to Oliva and have tapas with Alba. It was quite strange to stay in a hotel after living in the city for so long, I really felt like an outsider!
Tuesday 4/9: We had to check out of our hotel by midday, so we spent the morning running not-very-successful errands. After that, we packed our bags and headed to the library to get some work done (I finished the Camino Inglés video, see below), then had lunch in our local park. After a couple of hours at Siboney, we caught the bus to the train station and then hopped on a train to Pontevedra.
Our couchsurfing host, Alvaro, picked us up from the station and took us back to his awesomely bright apartment just on the edge of the old town. We had an earlyish night since he had to work the next day, but we did manage to get about three hours of chatting in.
Wednesday 5/9: Alvaro was gone by the time we got up, so we had a light breakfast then headed out to explore the town. The map we picked up from the info office included a walking route through the old town, so we followed that and visited all the main sights — some awesome squares and two spectacular churches. Craig preferred the basilica of Santa Maria, but I fell in love with the Iglesia de la Peregrina, which is shaped like a scallop shell and has the scallop motif throughout.
After a light lunch on the steps of another random church, we walked down to the river to see the sculpture park, located on a large island. There was a lot of nice work, but it seemed to be chosen more for durability than style. Back at home, we started to record the podcast, but Alvaro came back and we decided to hang out with him rather than work — he took us to his favourite square (la Plaza de las Verduras) for a glass of wine, then gave us the night-time tour of Pontevedra. Thanks Alvaro — you’re awesome!
In the evening, we had a South American-themed meal back at Alvaro’s house, then stayed up until after 2am just chatting.
Thursday 6/9: Alvaro had offered to take us to the station, which meant an early start — we headed out the door at 8.25am. Somehow we managed to catch the 8.40 train, which got us to Vigo by 9.15, where we wandered through the town to the information office then up to the bus station. Vigo was pretty enough, but I think we made the right decision in spending our time in Pontevedra; Vigo just didn’t captivate us.
We didn’t have any problems with buying tickets, but when it was time to board the bus, we hit a snag. The bus driver wouldn’t let us take our backpacks onto the bus with us; he wanted us to put them in the luggage area under the bus. This doesn’t sound like a big issue, but for us it was — we’ve spent years getting our luggage down to carry-on size precisely to avoid having to put our bags into storage areas. I prefer to have all my stuff with me at all times, so I don’t have to worry about it going missing, and I can access anything I might need right when I want it.
After arguing a little, we pulled out our computers and passports and took them with us, and stored the rest under the bus. All of this faffing around meant that the other passengers had boarded and there were no seats for us to sit together — for some reason the company didn’t have allocated seating. And this is why I prefer to travel by train.
Luckily, the bus station in Porto is conveniently located right by a metro station, so we worked out how to buy tickets and made our way to our hotel. Unfortunately, despite arriving half an hour after the check-in time, our room wasn’t ready for us, so we checked our emails then headed to the supermarket to find lunch.
In the evening, we headed to a bar in the city centre to meet some of the other people who were attending the conference. We met a whole lot of people for the first time, but I spent most of my time with Deb from The Planet D, who I already knew.
Friday 7/9: The conference was held at the Sheraton hotel, which isn’t exactly in the city centre, so we caught the metro across town rather than walking. There’s a nice café not far from the metro station on the Sheraton end, which looked set to become our local — 60-cent coffee for the win!
The conference itself didn’t start until Saturday, but on Friday we were heading off on a city tour. We hopped on a bus, which took us to Palacio da Bolsa, the old stock-exchange building. Our guide took us through the amazingly decorated rooms, explaining what each room was used for. We ended up in a ViniPortugal tasting room, where we all bought a few tastings of delicious Portuguese wines.
After that, we headed to the Lello & Irmão bookshop, which has a fantastic double-spiral staircase. The staff were pretty militant about not letting anyone take photos, but the video below will give you a pretty good idea of it.
On the way to the main square, Craig got stopped by the journalists who’d been on the tour with us, and they interviewed him for their piece. When he’d finished up there, we headed out for a business lunch with Leyla, the author of the Women on the Road book we’ve been working on for the past few months. It was great to finally meet her! Craig tried the famous Francesinha sandwich, while Leyla and I stuck to (very tasty) fish.
When we got back to the hotel, the staff told us that they’d organised a quieter room for us — I’d asked to move the day before because our room was on the first floor, right above the street. The new room was a floor higher up, facing backwards over the city rooftops. Awesome!
In the evening, we met the other conference attendees at the port, where we all hopped on boats for a quick river cruise. The boats dropped us off at a pousada for a cocktail party, where Craig and I met a whole bunch of other bloggers and drank a fair amount of port.
Saturday 8/9: I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference itself, since the last blogging conference we went to was a bit of a disappointment, but today went really well. Dave and Deb from The Planet D gave an inspiring opening address, and the sessions I went to in the afternoon gave me a lot to think about. After the conference, we had a beer with Cole from Four Jandals, and we decided that we didn’t really have time to go back to the hotel to get changed for dinner. Instead, we spent half an hour or so in the Sheraton, getting some work done, then caught the coach down to the port, where the “Travel Bloggy Awards” dinner was being held. The food was fantastic, and I hung out with a couple of lovely Costa Ricans who let me speak Spanish with them all night.
Sunday 9/9: Although we’d left the dinner earlier than most, getting up on Sunday morning was a bit of a mission. We eventually managed it, though, and even got to the conference on time — although this was mostly because our favourite café was closed.
We split up for the sessions, and I learned all sorts of things about press trips and how to improve what I write on the site. After lunch, Craig did a session as part of the unconference section, which had a good attendance considering it hadn’t really been advertised, and which went really well.