Chapter 42: Madrid (v2) and Porto
A little Spain, a lot of Porto, a lot of writing
Hello from Amsterdam, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to follow this weird trip around the world, add your email below:
Hello all, we are back!
Apologies for the radio silence the last few days. Frankly, it has been one of the slower (but much more productive) parts of my trip. I wrote 10,000 words on Sunday, believe it or not.
Some things that have happened: Devin and I went to Madrid for three nights. I taught Devin some colorful phrases in Spanish. I met back up with Paula (you may recall that we had a very nice date a few weeks ago!) while in Madrid. I went to Porto, and it was colder than I expected. I hit a cop in the head with a hammer, but don't worry, he hit me too. Then I didn't do anything except write for four days.
Why, you may ask? Because I'll be in Amsterdam with five friends for a week, and we're probably going to be sideways the entire time. Work hard, play hard. Or something like that. ANYWAYS TIME FOR YOUR RECAP I HOPE YOU ENJOY!
Sunday, June 19th
Just realized I haven't updated in 10 days, whoops.
*Still in Ios at this point*
Anyways, Devin and I woke up at 9 something, packed our stuff, and grabbed some breakfast crepes and coffee. Another sea voyage awaits! Our ferry (big boi boat) arrived at 1:30ish, and we headed back to Athens.
I was spending the night in Athens, but Devin wasn't really. Our plan was to fly to Madrid on Monday. Except I was flying to Barcelona, running by Mike's apartment to grab a shirt and phone charger (I ended up forgetting the phone charge again, a casualty of travel, I suppose), then training to Madrid. Meanwhile, Devin was flying to Bilbao at 5 AM before catching a train to Madrid.
We arrived in the Athens port around 5:30, made our way to the metro station, and took a train to my hostel for the night. Luckily it was in a good part of town this time. I dropped off my bags before Devin and I hit the gyro place that we had gone to every single night when we were in Athens previously. I believe Devin deleted a single beer to keep the streak going (rumor has it that he still hasn't broken the streak), and I think I had gelato? Maybe I had a beer too? I have no idea.
We called all of our family members to let them know we weren't dead, then I sat down at the hostel to write the last post on this here travel blog. At midnight, Devin headed to the airport, and I went to sleep.
Monday, June 20th
Devin called me from Bilbao while he was trying to get his train ticket stuff situated.
Again, Spain necessitating that we get the seat reservations in person is AWFUL.
In Barca and Madrid, you can get tickets to and from any other town at those two stations. Apparently Bilbao wouldn't let him get his next two legs' tickets there. He figured it out, eventuall.
I took the metro to the airport, except it just didn't go all the way because Athens' infrastructure was better 3000 years ago than it is now, so I grabbed a taxi halfway.
Made the flight, it was chill. Landed in Barca and had two hours to run by Mike's place + get to the train station. So I got a cab, spoke some 5/10 with my cab driver, and made it to Mike's in 20 minutes. I chatted with Mike, Daan, and Brendan for a bit before catching a metro to the central train station and heading to Madrid.
Getting pretty good at this travel thing.
I got to Madrid at like 7:45 and grabbed a kebab on the way to the hostel. Devin was passed tf out, dude hadn't slept in like 36 hours. I showered and stuff, he woke up, then I went to hang out with Paula at the park. I think Devin hung out with Carlos, our Panamanian roommate (we had a room of 5, the three of us plus 2 chicks). Carlos was cool.
Paula and I ate some overpriced gelato and talked about her work visa application to move to California and watched a sunset and she made fun of my awful Spanish (I couldn't remember the word for scoop! It's Bola!) and then we had a super formal platonic handshake and parted ways. Or something like that.
Tuesday, June 21th
Devin and I went out and explored the city for a bit, and he took lots of photos.
Devin's phone camera is like 20x better than mine and I hate it. Pretty much any picture I post from our time together was taken on his device.
I think we hit the park gym for a workout too. Actually yeah I know we did.
I had a couple of Zoom calls + work to catch up on, so I knocked all of that out from like 4-7 PM. I was also in desperate need for a haircut, so I rolled the dice with the barbershop across the street.
The Colombians that ran the shop didn't really speak any English, so I played Russian Roulette with my Spanish explanation.
"Ummmm hola! Quiero un corte."
No shit I needed a "cut," it's a barbership. What a stupid thing to say Jack.
"Qué estilo?" (what style)
"Ummm cuatro en los lados y el fondo" *motions to the sides and back of my head* "y tijeras para la partes de delante y arriba" *motions to the front and top of my head.*
My hairdresser understood, I guess. Anyways the haircut turned out well.
Devin and Carlos and I grabbed an extraordinarily cheap (but not bad!) dinner nearby, and Paula swung by to say what's up. We taught Devin 15 different vulgar Spanish phrases in a span of 15 minutes, and then Devin, Carlos, and I headed back to the hostel.
I had no plans to go out that night, or really that week.
We ended up going on a hostel-wide pub crawl a few hours later lol. This picture of Devin was taken at some point on that crawl.
We went hostel bar, to one club, to another place, before it was 2:30 AM. I had to finish up a newsletter (this time difference really can be annoying at times), so I headed back to the hostel to finish up and catch some sleep.
Devin and Carlos arrived separately between 5-6 AM. Big night, it appears.
I woke up at 7 AM to some repetitive, incredibly annoying loading screen tune. The same awful jingle, over and over again, repeating every 45 seconds. And I saw that the two girls in our room were awake as well. We all had the "PLEASE MAKE THAT AWFUL SOUND STOP* looks on our faces, so I climbed down to investigate. At first I thought it was Devin's phone, but he was innocent.
Then I saw that Carlos had fallen asleep playing some game on his phone or something, and his volume was on full blast. I tried shaking him like 10 times and he didn't respond, so I reached over his unconscious corpse to turn it off myself.
I guess my 230 pound presence hunkering over him messing with his phone woke him up, and he gasped, opening his eyes understandably startled.
"Carlos, turn this shit off."
"Oh oh my bad bro."
*15 minutes later random music starts playing again*
"F**k my bad"
A brief note for anyone who hasn't stayed in a hostel before, there are three things that you don't do:
You don't snooze your alarm
You don't cut on the light while everyone is sleeping
You don't play music/shows on your phone without headphones
Wednesday, June 22nd
At 10 AM, I met up with my friend Nathan Baugh to work on a project that we're doing together. Nathan is a writer/internet worker (I honestly have no idea how to classify what we do), and we are launching a course on the "business of newsletters."
The goal is to teach others how to make money writing online.
We spent three hours at a coffee shop brainstorming and building a skeleton outline of our content. I think it's going to be a banger. We'll be launching it in August.
After that I went to a Starbucks to work on some of my own stuff.
Devin had been hopping around the city all day, and we met up at some hill overlooking the city right before sunset. He took some pictures that were way better than mine.
Then we got another light afternoon workout in at the park. Sadly, we would be parting ways in the morning.
Thursday, June 23rd
I sent my boy on a solo trip to Sevilla 😭
I was flying to Porto for six days, because I seriously needed to get caught up on some stuff and a jumpstart on some other stuff after living like a half-degen for the last two weeks with my friends. Plus I scheduled to be a guest of a couple of podcasts this afternoon (My Money with Katie chat should be releasing today. Give it a listen, Katie is fantastic.)
My podcast set up, very cool
Devin was going to Sevilla for four days, before hitting Barcelona for two days with Codone. Mike, who has never met Devin, is letting the two of them stay at his apartment bc he was leaving two days before his lease ended. Class act, that Canadian.
Porto is a bit quieter than some of Europe's bigger travel destinations, and it looked really pretty, and I could get a private room at the Selina with a queen bed and high-speed wifi for a decent rate. The plan was to be incredibly productive for six days, because I would be flying to Amsterdam in a week to meet five of my friends.
And the plan in Amsterdam is to get sideways for six days. So it is quite important to knock out the productive stuff now. (If you're reading this, I probably just arrived in Amsterdam. Hit me with any recommendations if you've been.)
So ANYWAYS I ubered to the airport and had an uneventful 1 hour flight from Madrid to Porto.
Also I would like to note that their should be a high-speed rail line from Madrid to both Lisbon and Porto. Spain and Portugal literally signed a contract to build one like 14 years ago, and Spain made a ton of progress on their end. But then Portugal said, "You know what? This is a poor use of taxpayer money."
Portugal conveniently ignored that the EU was literally funding half of it.
Then Portugal said, "You know what we really need? We need more roads."
So they scrapped the high-speed rail and built more highways, America style. Portugal now has the most highway miles per capita in Europe, and the worst high-speed rail network in Western Europe. Very cool. So what could have been a 2.5 hour train would have been 8 hours on three trains. So I flew.
I landed a bit after lunch, caught the metro to town, and walked like five minutes to my hostel. Selina hostels are always fantastic, this was no exception. When I checked in, the receptionist asked if I was in town for the Festival of St. John.
As a matter of fact, I had no idea what that was.
"Well everything will close at 6 today, and people will party in the street all night. There is going to be a beautiful fireworks show by the river, and strangers wearing Super bock (type of beer) hats are going to hit you in the head with plastic hammers.
"Sounds like the 4th of July with hammers. Sweet."
I hopped on podcast number 1 (shoutout Rusty), before checking out a nearby gym. They were closing early for the festival, so I made plans to come back in the AM.
I returned to the hostel, showered, and had a fantastic conversation with Katie on her Money with Katie Show. We talked about money. Shocking, I know.
At 10 PM I headed out to the hostel courtyard to mix and mingle, and I met three US guys from Seattle around my age. One of them, Matt, worked for Apple in Cork, Ireland. The other two, Ryan and Nate, had flown out to travel around Portugal with Matt for a couple of weeks.
I stuck with them for the next couple of days. These dudes were hysterical. We all chugged some espressos, then chugged some cocktails, then chugged some more espressos (should have gotten espresso martinis, in hindsight) before setting off towards the river.
Five seconds into our walk, I got smacked in the head by 10 teenagers with plastic hammers.
We went to the first street vendor selling hammers, and the next street vender selling some tallboy Super Bocks, and starting wreaking havoc on the local populace. If you had a head, you were getting bonked. We racked up like 1,000 cumulative bonks minimum. Shoulda called the beer Super Bonk.
Halfway to the river, we came across a massive outdoor concert. I don't speak Portuguese, but it sounded like the Iberian Kid Rock.
The cobblestone streets grew steeper and more crowded as we got closer to the river. Porto is the classic European city: winding streets and alleyways leading everywhere and nowhere, old clock towers, beautiful bridges, a scenic river, and a massive castle overlooking the city.
It was now 11:30 PM, and we noticed fireballs all over the sky. Everywhere we looked, people were lighting lanterns on fire and launching them into the night.
So you have Iberian Kid Rock, 40 oz street beers (keep in mind the bars are all closed, so EVERYONE is in the streets), funny hats, human whack-a-mole, and now blazing lanterns flying and crashing everywhere.
And the show hadn't even started yet.
We made our way to the front of the river to set up for the show. A Portuguese guy behind us said, "Can you please move? I can't see f**k."
"I can't see f**k" is now my new favorite phrase.
The show was spectacular. It lasted every bit of 45 minutes, and I have no idea how they fit that many explosives on the small boats they were launching the fireworks from.
After the show, we made our way back uphill to the town square. We needed to relieve ourselves, but the only bathroom that we could find was in a venue closed for a "private event."
So we joined a dozen locals in a shadowy corner and answered nature's call.
At some point earlier in the night, Matt caught me with a hammer hit to my nether regions. Which, as you can probably guess, led to a painful game of each of us trying to get the last shot. Nobody wins games like this.
I headed home at 3, and they stayed out til 5.
Friday, June 24th
I woke up at 10, took an espresso shot 🤟🏼 aha yeah shots, and headed to that gym. Big leg day, I was moving some kilos. Afterwards I walked around town for a couple of hours to see the city, then found a cafe/brunch spot to eat, consume an unhealthy amount of coffee, and attempt to write. The Seattle boys swung by to say what's up, and we made plans to go out again that night.
Thought this McDonald's looked cool
Later on, we regrouped at the hostel for some drinks before heading out. We went to a spot down the street for an hour, and grabbed a table outside. The guy sitting at the table behind us, Art, asked if we'd watch his stuff while he grabbed another beer. He offered to buy us some beers as well.
Duh, no brainer.
Art came back and chilled with us for a while. Cool dude, he was a firefighter from San Francisco, probably late 30s, traveling Europe for a few weeks. He made his first trip over a few months back and loved it.
Art joined us at a dive bar next door later, and the place was playing every single vintage rock song imaginable. The whole crowd (read: 15 of us) jammed to Brandy. We bopped around town for an hour or so before checking out some of the bars/clubs in the main nightlife district.
The Seattle guys left pretty early, as they were driving to southern Portugal in the AM. Art left soon after them, and I headed home maybe an hour after him.
Saturday June 25th - Tuesday June 28th
I'm grouping all of these together, because I did basically the same thing everyday:
I worked out at my Portuguese gym, I ate waffles with eggs, bacon, cheese and syrup and a yogurt cup with granola and fruit at a brunch spot nearby, I wrote an egregious amount of words, I read a slightly less egregious amount of words, and I walked around the city for a bit. Honestly the most productive I've ever been. I wrote 10,000 words on Sunday. That's stupid.
The one change up: I walked across the bridge (prettiest bridge I've ever seen, well done Porto) to catch the sunset on a hill overlooking the city. Immaculate views.
Which brings me to Wednesday. I am writing this on a KLM flight from Porto to Amsterdam, and I'm about 35 minutes from landing right now. One of my buddies from Austin, Texas, Jackson, is already in Amsterdam, biking around or something.
Jackson went to college around 30 minutes away from my university, and we were in the same fraternity at different schools. I hung out with him in Austin a couple of months ago, and he showed me around the city.
He called me up a few weeks ago asking what I was up to, and I told him to come kick it with me in Amsterdam. Turns out he had just quit his job and had some time to travel. Sadly, there were no good flights from Austin to Amsterdam, so it sounded like he wasn't going to come.
Then he called me last week and said, "Yo I'm coming to Amsterdam baby LETS GO"
So we're about to have a big week. One of the biggest. I am very excited.
It's actually kinda ironic that he's coming because when I was in Austin I told one of his friends, Allie, that she should fly out to Amsterdam while I'm there. Not impulsive at all. For those curious she will not (as far as I know) be attending. Probably a good thing, considering that we have five dudes in an Airbnb for a week.
We have an airbnb in the middle of the city for seven nights. Devin and Connor Codone will be joining us on Friday, after their two day stint in Paris. A real worlds collide moment: Canadian Mike left Barcelona on the 27th, but his lease wasn't up until today (the 29th). He's never met Devin and Codone, but he let them crash at his place for two nights. Free apartment in Barca, unbelievable. Devin was out until 8 AM last night and walked straight to the train station, so I'm sure he'll have a productive two days in Paris.
Sachin will also be joining the squad, though he has a hotel because he's too posh to stay with us. Maybe we'll let him hang out. Or maybe we'll Mean Girls him.
And our good friend Justin, who we affectionately call Toaster, and who got a tattoo of a toaster because we call him Toaster, may be coming up for the weekend as well. He is studying abroad in France right now.
Imagine an All-Star team of upstanding citizens. This is the opposite of that. A brief roster recap:
Choose your fighter, and catch u guys later.
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