Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head….. no wait, that’s the Beatles. Woke up having had yet another dream about friends and ex-girlfriends. These two seem to be recurring themes in my dreams at the moment, but I suppose it’s a sign that my brain is getting some rest whilst my body is not getting enough birdage action.
Caught the 11.40 bus to Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. We shared our journey with our neighbours from the marina, a couple and their son, who’s around my age. They’ve sold up everything and invested their entire future in their yacht! Looks real bling though. Once in Porto we all hit a canteen and have a long lunch and I learn a bit more about Des and Jan’s yacht, which they’ve been working on for the last 20 years! It turns out their son, Phil, is a sound engineer and installed a DVD player, projector and surround sound system in the boat. Now that IS bling! They have a toilet that sucks away the waste (like an airplane), rather than a pump job like ours. They have a washing machine, shower and lots of windows making it very light down below. The bastards have everything, but then I’d expect nothing less from a couple who are planning to spend the rest of their lives on this fair vessel.
I digress. Porto blew me away. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, from it’s opulent architecture to the river side promenades. The city of 263,000 people is stacked up either side of the Rio Douro, with the huge Ponte de Dom Louis 1 joining the main city centre with the port distillery lodges on the south side. This is echoed by another five huge bridges that continue to straddle the river in land. The old town centre was awarded the Unesco World Heritage Site accolade. That said the old town is made up of beautifully cobbled streets, rococo buildings (there’s that word again that just seems to fit the image) and intricately tiled shop fronts. Coming in from the bus at the top of the city we made our way down the Avenida dos Aliados, which unfortunately is broken up by the metro development. Even so one can’t help but notice every single building’s intricacies, from statuettes to gargoyles to huge vases. One could almost describe this as Gothic, perhaps a nesting place for vampires. It is certainly and very obviously baroque.
We make our way to the Torre dos Clerigos, a 76m high tower that gives the observer a birds-eye view of the terracotta roofs and the many bridges in the distance. Slowly making our way through the back streets we find ourselves on the Ribeira river front, looking back up the steep hill at the houses who’s tenants hang their washing out without shame. Indeed the washing merely adds to the view and perhaps some of its character would be lost without it! Crossing the bridge we aim for the Sandeman wine lodge for some port tasting, but are beaten to the door by a crew of about 50 American OAPs. Because of this we were given free passes to the sister lodge, Ofleys, where we ended our visit with some consumption and purchasing of some great tawny port. Yeah, that’s right. I’m an expert now.