This could be a very short post. If you want to know anything about Porto, the word ‘hot’ just about covers it.
We did a bit of research before we went, to find that the city is not really motorhome-friendly in that it has narrow streets in the old city with a healthy dose of steep hills thrown in for good measure. All the advice was to leave Vince in his cosy pitch at the campsite and get there by train. Porto has a Metro system much like Paris or London although not quite so extensive. The campsite reception staff were kind enough to order us a taxi to the nearest station at Mindelo, some seven miles away. On arrival our taxi driver pointed to the platform on the other side for the Porto train, so we looked for a bridge or an underpass to cross the tracks. Oh how he laughed! This isn’t the health & safety-mad UK. You’re expected to use (whisper it) common sense and cross the tracks carefully on foot.
Our next hurdle was to sort out tickets. From a machine which had a language selection button which seemed to be on the blink so it was Portuguese or nothing. Luckily a kind-hearted guard came to assist, telling us we needed to get off at Trindade station in Porto which is a code z5 costing €5 return. We had to pay an additional €0.60 for a physical travel card, but this can be reloaded with journeys any time we need to travel on the Metro. You swipe the card before you board the train going, and swipe it again before you board the return train. All very efficient and the trains as well as the stations were modern and spotlessly clean.
What can I say about Porto – apart from hot? Busy, vibrant, a little pushy in terms of sharp characters trying to sell you things – but that’s no different from any big city. We were entranced by the wide sweeping boulevards and squares of the newer town. Here we found the shopping malls and fancy big company HQ buildings as well as endless booths selling tickets for river cruises along the Duoro or topless bus trips round the sights. That’s topless as in buses with open tops; it wasn’t that hot.
Heading downhill from the City Centre we found ourselves approaching the river through the older city, with narrow crowded streets made even narrower by the stalls and cafés lining the buildings. The contrasts were striking; the beautiful ornate facade of a thirteenth century church would be joined on one side to an old 5-storey warehouse with rusty corrugated iron patches to keep the rain out, and on the other by a modern boutique selling designer shoes. It made us dizzy.
I’d like to list all the important museums and churches we visited, and all the tourist attractions we saw, for anybody interested in visiting – but the truth is we were so taken with the ambience of the city itself that we just wandered aimlessly all day, taking pictures, drinking coffee or Sangria and devouring yet more grilled seafood (sardines & sea-bass if you’re interested!) If it’s any help, we decided that this is somewhere to visit on a city-break some time in the future so we can do it justice. The river setting, the stalls, the port cellars, the colours, noise and vibrancy of the place have all put Porto to the top of our ‘places to come back to’ list.
We did have a slight issue on our return to Mindelo. Picture the train pulling away in a swirl of dust and noise leaving the station empty and silent. Then two red-faced and sunburned Brits saying, ‘But I thought you booked the taxi back…’
‘No, I definitely remember you said you booked the taxi back…’
One difficult Portugenglish phone call later and all was resolved, with a yellow Mercedes pulling up to take us home a few minutes later. Crisis averted – it would have been a very long walk back in the heat.
Today, Monday, has been a lazy one – we realised this morning that this is the longest we’ve remained in one place in the last ten weeks. It hasn’t seemed that way as there’s so much to do if we don’t feel like just lazing around on the sand, or sitting with a beer in the lounge chairs beside Vince. We’ve had a long cycle ride and a lazy lunch but not done very much else. We’re getting itchy feet again (it might be the campsite showers..) so tomorrow we haul anchor and head north. Daft as it sounds this feels like we’re starting the journey home. We still have eight weeks travelling to go but this is the furthest point south and west on this trip so there’s a tiny element of sadness at moving on. What makes it ten times worse (for me) is that we have to visit the nearby outlet village on the way as my trainers look like flappy clown shoes with the soles hanging off. And I just love to go shopping…
One thing I’ve been meaning to say for a while, is a massive thank you to everyone who’s read or commented on our posts so far – it’s nice to know somebody actually reads this drivel. We seem to be getting more and more visitors – over 3000 in May so thanks to one and all. If anyone’s too shy to comment on the blog itself, please feel free to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org – we read and reply to every email (unless you’re a Nigerian prince with $1,000,000 to deposit).
Take care 🙂