By 10xTravel Reader Robert Wells

Enjoy Robert & Amelia’s stories from their year-long journey around the world. You can also follow their journey on Instagram.

If you missed the beginning of Robert’s trip, you can catch up with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

After completing the accomplishment of the Camino de Santiago, we set out to enjoy some downtime in Portugal, a country that has been on our bucket list for some time. Portugal is just a several hour train ride to the south of Santiago de Compostela, so it was an excellent next move after spending over 35 days in Spain.

Final Day in Santiago de Compostela

Before setting off to Porto, we had a few last-minute errands to run including getting our trekking backpacks back to the United States. Personally, I had little faith we could do this inexpensively, but the kind people at the Spanish Post Office (The Correos) made all the efforts in the world to get our backpacks into one duffle bag and save our backpacker budget from being busted.

In the end, for around $80 we accomplished our goal of getting the backpacks home. It was really a funny sight to see, and they went above and beyond to help us out.

We enjoyed our final late morning at the Autograph Collection in Santiago de Compostela and headed out on an afternoon train to Portugal. As a final goodbye present from the kind staff, they offered to take us to the train station and see us off, given the close proximity. It’s very small touches that we encounter on our journeys that keep us happy to travel with Marriott, and these instances are great examples.

Trip to Porto

We used the Trainline.EU app to book our train trip south, as it’s a great resource for most European train travel. It’s convenient both because you don’t have to visit the train station to get a ticket, and you can obtain your boarding pass directly from the app.

Walking near Porti Train Station

Livraria Lello Porto

The station was incredibly easy to navigate, as the majority of European borders are open, It didn’t really feel like an international trip at all. The journey itself was very comfortable, with Wi-Fi, a comfortable seat and a bar car.

Upon arrival in Porto, we snagged an Airbnb close to the heart of the city for around $50 USD a night using our Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This is a little bit more than we typically liked spending on our nightly accommodation budget, but there was a lack of good points options in the city, or decent hotel prices.  Amelia and I have only a few ‘respect’ rules on the trip, and one of them is to have our own private room unless it’s just absolutely impossible. The other? Air conditioning.

Those aren’t unreasonable demands. However, If I was traveling solo, I promise I would stay in a free cardboard box if available, as I enjoy the cheapest move possible.

Our location in downtown Porto gave us excellent access to the best sites within walking distance, like the Porto train station.

Sightseeing in Porto's São Bento Station.

Sightseeing in Porto's São Bento Station.

We enjoyed seeing several key artifacts from the Harry Potter book series, including a library that inspired part of the story. The town is the home and sole production of Port. As avid winos, we enjoyed touring some of the brands there, and were surprised to learn a bit of history about the production process.

Figueroa de Foz

The second part of our one-week trip to Portugal was for intentional downtime to relax and cook our own food. After 35 days of eating out EVERY MEAL for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will truly miss the ability to have some semblance of control with your daily meals.

We rented a car from Porto airport (OPO) to make the drive south so it would be an easy return point when we flew out later. This was our first experience with a (budget) car rental agency who gave us quite a bit of grief due to the fact that we did not have an international driving permit (IDP). Ultimately, it was resolved, and we were on our way.

Getting an IDP was a complete oversight before we left the US. Countries like Japan and Greece, for example, are notorious for not renting vehicles if you don’t have one. You can visit a AAA office and get one for about $20.

Similar to Porto, we could not find any beachfront options that made sense with points, so we settled on a beachside Airbnb property for about $30 USD a night an hour south of Porto, in the beach community of Figueroa de Foz. Along with the needed downtime, there was a ton of video footage we shot from the Camino that needed editing, and of course article writing.

To us, there is no better motivation for these activities than a porch that overlooks the ocean, with the breeze coming in and smells of the local food below.

Our location was not so far that we couldn’t get to restaurants and stores easily, but it was far enough away from a big city that we felt secluded. The best comparison we could think of was a Southern California vibe, like Venice Beach, minus the vendors wanting to paint your photo or sell you random trinkets.

Beach near Porto (Enjoying the beach and wine tasting in Douro Valley)

Wine Tasting Douro Valley (Enjoying the beach and wine tasting in Douro Valley)

On the coast, we enjoyed a week of small-town vibes with a handful of beachside restaurants and cafes within walking distance and also a mall for grocery shopping and a movie theatre. Lucky for us the Joker was on its premiere week and we were able to see it in English with subtitles. We stocked up on food and drinks at a local supermarket and enjoyed being able to cook some home favorites that we had been missing over the last 45 days.

Planning Our Next Move

Our world trip was intentionally designed to be incredibly agile, and generally free from pre-planning so that we’d have the freedom to stay longer or shorter in a specific location. We carefully planned Paris and the Camino de Santiago, but in Portugal, we had to take our first real stab at the “Where next?” conundrum. Ultimately, we landed on exploring Morocco.

Next up: Part 5: Morocco