Meeting George Clooney

So. Porto. Sorry if I got a bit carried away in my last post, but I bloomin’ love the place. Gill’s told me to shut up about it now and get on with updating everyone with what we’ve been doing this last couple of days. So I will…

Following our day out in Porto we packed up and said a sad goodbye to Vila Chã. It was the site we stayed at longer than any other on our big trip last year and we’d have loved to stay a few more nights this time but the pull of the ferry home has really taken hold so we had to go.

Actually we only went a few kilometers up the coast to Vila do Conde! We’d enjoyed a fabulous fishy dish of the day there on Gill’s birthday last year, and wanted more of the same. Last time we’d cycled along the beach boardwalk from the campsite but this time it made more sense to take Vince to the town and stay there for the night. It’s getting far too chilly now for any more cycling malarkey – we’ve put the bike cover back on, and I suspect it won’t be back off again until May…

Bottles of Blog wine at the bottom – how appropriate!

We found a car park set aside for motorhomes right by the river where we could watch the local rowing club going through their paces. I take my hat off to them as it looked bloomin’ freezing out on the water. One or two of them were on those standy-uppy surf boards that you paddle along. They look precarious to balance on and it wasn’t long before somebody took a header into the freezing waters. Sure, they were wearing wetsuits but no, not in a million years would you catch me out there this weather.

We found that the town looked very different in winter without the barbecues sizzling in the street and the rows of restaurant tables outside in the sun. People were hurrying by holding their jackets closed against the wind and even the seagulls had their heads tucked down and were hunched up against the cold. We paced up and down the street a few times where we thought the restaurant was but it all looked so different. Eventually Gill said, “There! That’s the one!”

It seemed she’d recognised the face of our waiter from last year at the window. Yeah, me too – how on earth..? Once we were seated in the warm she explained that he reminded her of George Clooney when we had her birthday meal last time so he was easy to recognise. I didn’t see the resemblance myself; I’d say he could possibly be mistaken for George Clooney’s son – but only if Mr C had married Omid Djalili…

Anyway, the main thing was that this time we were seated inside the restaurant rather than on the street, in the warm and cosy lunchtime atmosphere. It felt like we were in somebody’s house as there wasn’t a lot of space between the tables. The shelves around the walls had all sorts of weird things on display, vintage radios, wine box sculptures, fishing-related bits and bobs and the place was full of locals all chatting, laughing and selecting their dishes from the menu. We were made really welcome, especially when Gill said to George that we’d come back just to eat here at O Cangalho. His English was very good so he took us through all the options. Gill asked rather too many questions for my liking – I suspect she just wanted to look into his dark, dark eyes and listen to his sexy Portuguese accent.

Fantastic atmosphere. Russ Abbot would have loved it

I won’t bang on about the quality of the food – this isn’t Facebook – but it was fresh, hot, beautifully presented and delicious. Oh, hang on – I am banging on about the quality of the food, aren’t I? Whatever – it was also unbelievably good value at only fourteen – yes fourteen Euros for the two of us. That included a starter, bread, a main course of the freshest fish, wine and coffees. The Menu del Dia may have included desserts too, but we had to decline as we simply couldn’t eat any more. The other restaurants along the harbour seemed very quiet and empty, but this one was really busy. I think I know why, and I think we’ll be back. George has reserved a special table for Gill any time she wants to return….

We needed to walk off our lunchtime excesses so we had a little look around the Christmas village which so many Portuguese towns seem to set up at this time of year. In Vila do Conde, they’d gone a step further than we’d seen before by spraying artificial snow everywhere. It was surprisingly realistic. So much so that we felt it would be rude not to partake of a glass of mulled wine as we strolled between the little sheds selling er..mulled wine, crêpes and Christmas decorations. There was a realistic stable scene set up with hay bales and the local school children were all dressed up as shepherds, kings and Mary & Joseph. It fair brought a tear to the eye remembering all of the nativity plays we had to endure – I mean enjoy – when our own children were small. Vila do Conde had really pushed the boat out with a pop-up ice rink too.

The Christmas village

I said earlier that the ferry home is beckoning, and it’s put a little cloud over Vince as he takes us ever closer to Bilbao. Of course we can’t wait to see our family and friends after six weeks away, but there’s always this feeling of good things coming to an end as we get nearer to the sailing. We cheered ourselves up on the next leg of our journey – to Bragança – by listening to Sir Lenny Henry’s new 15 minute monologues downloaded from Radio 4. They’re really well-observed and helped the miles roll by.

Bragança was just somewhere to sleep for us I’m afraid as we want to spend a couple of nights in Burgos, Spain before the ferry on Tuesday morning. That said, we still found an hour or so before bed to brave the gales and climb up to the castle for a photo opportunity. We didn’t feel too guilty about our lack of exploration as we (sorry to be boring again) stayed here last year in the free aire. We met a chap who had been on the road for a couple of weeks in a big motorhome by himself. His wife was flying down to Barcelona to meet him for Christmas then they plan to be on the road for the next twelve months. Twelve months! Not jealous, not jealous at all, but it’s filed away in my ideas box for consideration once we’ve found a house to buy…

Bragança in the twilight

We’ve been hearing about the UK weather today so if you’re snowed in and can’t get to work tomorrow, stay warm, make yourself a nice cuppa and think of how lucky we are to be sailing across the Bay of Biscay in raging seas. I feel sick already. One more update tomorrow then we’ll be on the ship and incommunicado. Enjoy the peace! 😀

Bragança Castle
…and again
Vince’s little Christmas tree!
It’s not so warm oop north 🙁
Craft fair at the Town Hall
Our favourite restaurant
Santa saw me at the window of the Town Hall!

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