21st - 24th August 2021
Campsite : https://istasgarden.com/
What3Words : /https://w3w.co/ripe.touches.shiver
FREE walking tour : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/porto/free-tour-of-porto/
Amazing Sardines at Taberna Sao Pedro : https://www.facebook.com/tabernadosaopedro
The best francesinha is from Gazel : https://m.facebook.com/cervejariagazela
Oh wow, we thought we had fallen in love with Lisbon, well, Porto is also incredible. Portugal’s old cities are stunning. On our previous trip to Porto we had tried to stay at an unmarked quay aire on the banks of the Rio Douro. This would have been a fabulous spot close to the city centre, however our van was too big, the aire was too busy and we did not get a good gut feeling. So, before we headed to Porto this time, Steve did some research and found an exciting sounding campsite just 10 mins from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia.
We arrived at Istas Gardens and were met by owners Pedro and Claudia whose smiles were even more welcoming than the delicious glass of local wine they greeted us with. Istas Gardens is a tiny campsite with just 10 placements, gorgeous facilities and an indoor pool which is perfect for year round use. We have never met friendlier or more passionate owners! “Istas” isn’t a real word, it’s like the English suffix “ers”, which they played with to create a garden open to all campERS, caravanERS, motorhomERS… essentially open to all travellERS.
Covering over 100,000km, Pedro, Claudia and their two daughters have extensively toured Europe with their caravan. When they decided to build a campsite in their back garden, they cherry picked their favourite elements from the sites they have visited and imported them to create a perfect haven for all.
Within 20 minutes of arriving, we had received a guided tour of the tiny site. Steve absolutely loved the BBQ area. I adored the upstairs kitchen that could be opened to enjoy the sun, or closed to stay warm on winter evenings. The kitchen and BBQ are both fully equipped, Pedro and Clauda even provide salt from the sea to cook with, and a free washing machine (which I’m almost embarrassed to have used to the max). Istas really is created to be a special home from home.
Before arriving, I had booked us on a FREE walking tour of the city. As we were checking in, Pedro and Claudia shared suggestions for excursions, places to eat and even the best taxi drop off points to get the very best views of the city. It quickly became obvious that our original 2 night plan would be woefully short, they soon helped us plan an action packed 4 day, 3 night itinerary. They even booked our “Fit to Fly” covid tests for us!
Our walking tour was as good as any we have ever taken before. The guides don’t get paid upfront, so they earn their money in tips by being informative, entertaining and generally amazing! Lunch on the walking tour day was a bit rubbish, but we picked a tourist trap and the Franceshina was tourist nonsense. But the next day, we put ourselves in Pedro and Claudia’s hands and ate the best meals of our whole trip.
For lunch we visited Taberna do São Pedro, a fish restaurant owned by and for local fishermen. All of the food Pedro chose for us was incredible, but the BBQ sardines were the freshest, tastiest fish I’ve ever eaten. After lunch we visited Unilabs in Gaia to have our “Fit to Fly” tests done, this was Steve’s first ever covid test, so he was very brave. The boys and I just took it in our strides. Thankfully within 15 minutes we were all certified and declared fit to fly and headed back to Istas Garden to enjoy the pool and do more washing!
That evening, we all headed out again to experience Porto at night. What a beautiful city. For dinner we headed to Gazel, to start we tried Cachorrinho which is a tasty toasted hot dog style sandwich, which was lovely. But then we tried a real Franceshina - wow!! Now I understand why everyone recommended we eat this in Porto!
After dinner we walked around the city, taking in the sites and listening to Claudia and Pedro share stories and explain more of the city’s history. Our final stop before returning to Istas Garden was for ice cream.
What an incredible few days. Pedro and Claudia are amazing hosts, and have created a tiny haven for travellers. Not only is a fantastic place to stay, it is also the perfect base for a trip to Porto.
#Porto #vanlife #Citybreakporto