2019 - Porto - Days 2 & 3
Today we decided should be more leisurely, yet we were still down in The Cave for breakfast before 9am. There was some much nicer bread to have today with the boiled eggs although I made the schoolboy error of not taking out a Banana to eat later.
When we started our walk down the hill we were greeted by low clouds and it actually looked a bit misty. After we had eventually walk past the Holiday Inn Express (with no teeth gnashing from Karen) we decided to explore a small shopping mall on our way down to the River. Our decision was in no way influenced by the fact it advertised that it had a Starbucks inside. After having our drinks the next place we stopped was a good old fashioned C&A’s. I was shocked that Karen managed to find a top that she just had to buy.
We then went in a most peculiar shop that just sold chocolate and jam type stuff that came in toothpaste type rolls. Most peculiar, most expensive, and most supposedly unique to Portugal. Karen had a free tasting of many of them and declared them very nice, but that she thought would probably want a whole tube of them on a scone at a time, so we didn’t remortgage the house to buy some.
Doing all this time I had still been in continuous contact with Sky regarding Karen’s mobile problem. Eventually I had a call back from someone in their technical team who said that it was a known problem when in Portugal. When I pointed out that my Sky phone was still working they conveniently ignored that fact. Anyhow after resetting Karen’s phone to show that she was in fact still in the UK it eventually started working again and sent through all the messages that had been held up in the ether. That's another complaint I will have to sort out when we get home.
Yesterday we were also both convinced that we had bumped into Ellie Simmonds (Paralympic Swimmer) on a couple of occasions. Today I looked her up on Google and saw that from today she was competing in the World Para Olympics starting in London today. We both saw her independently and decided that she must have been here for warm wether training or something before flying back.
By now Karen was feeling peckish and so we spotted a nice looking cafe perched high in front of the old market overlooking a green square. We both had a toasted sandwich and Karen had her first Super Bock beer of the trip. The sandwiches were made of real Portuguese bread instead of the plastic bread we had eaten the day before.
Our plan for the afternoon was to take one of the remaining old fashioned trams along the River to the coastal area of Boa Vista. We found the end station for Tram 1 and joined a short queue. After 10 minutes or so the old tram turned up. It was built in the 1890’s and was very similar to the ones we had ridden previously in San Francisco. It was a lovely journey punctuated by the driver firstly having to stop for a toilet break and then him needing to pop into a bakery to buy himself a Custard Tart. Some of the parking alongside the tramline was amazing as well, we passed just millimetres from some of their wing mirrors. We alighted at the harbour entrance for the river and then walked up the coastal promenade. By now the sun was back out and we had blue skies. It was very windy though.
It was all rather pleasant although I kind of felt for what was a pretty walk they had not made the most of what they had. There were no pretty cafes or shops, merely just a pathway albeit a nice one built with EU funded money. After a while and passing a few beaches where people were trying to sunbathe out of the wind we came to cafe overlooking the sea. The setting reminded us somewhat of Lanzarote. Karen was most excited to see they offered afternoon tea which she promptly ordered and I went for some plain toast and tea. After 5 minutes they announced they had no normal tea just some flavoured rubbish. I swapped my order to Coke Zero whilst Karen went for Red tea. I was then delivered a Ham & Cheese Toastie which I had not ordered which I sent back. The waiter eventually most insistent that it was what I had ordered so in a very British way I said I would have it anyway. I had finished both that and my coke before Karen’s scones turned up so I went and chased them. I was then told they are made to order. Eventually Karen got them. They were small, hard and salty but hot. We didn’t leave a tip.
The tram ride back was even better as we had the waterside view.
Before this trip we had booked the Bridge climb for this afternoon. We thought it was to be up on the famous steel bridge in the middle of the City. Instead it was on a modern concrete bridge near the harbour entrance. What with that and the fact it involved 268 steps with Karen’s foot and knee problems we decided to give it a miss especially as we hadn’t paid for it in advance.
When we got off the Tram we went back to the Riverside o soak up both the sun and the atmosphere before trying to decide where to eat for the evening. After a lot of humming and ha-ing we thought we would look for somewhere on the long walk back to the Hotel.
Quite by chance we came across a place called Arroz de Forzo which although not yet open looked very nice. We hung around for a while until it opened and were so glad that we did. This was another family run place but this time specialising in local dishes. Within 20 minutes of it opening they were having to turn loads of people away. We heard one couple say that they had come back to Porto especially just to eat in the restaurant. The food and service was superb. We shared a starter of Salt CodFish croquettes which were to die for. I then had a Portuguese style Steak whilst Karen had chicken. They were both really good. Karen even managed a dessert. the local wine was so cheap that we felt it rude not to force a couple of glasses down each.
To make Karen’s evening and the journey back to the Hotel bearable we went to a Starbucks which was only 80 yards away to get her a final hot drink of the day. The walk back didn’t seem quite as far tonight.
On our final day our flight home was not until 8.10pm that evening and check out was not until 1pm so we had a slow start to the day. Breakfast was fine and we returned to the rom to pack up. We checked out before 10am and left our bags in the Hotel for the day.
Rather surprisingly our first stop was back in Starbucks in the shopping centre. Today the weather was back to being sunny and war and so we were able to sit outside. We then headed back to the famous bridge and this time we walked over the top walkway next to the train line. It is very very high and unsurpisingly there was no one attempting to dive into the river from this level. It reminded me that I have always wanted to go to Acapulco to watch the Cliff divers ever since watching the Elvis film. That strikes me as even more dangerous because you have to time it right with the waves coming in and out.
One of the many interesting facts we have leant since being here is that most Portuguese align themselves closer to the UK than anywhere else in Europe. One person even said to us that they would rather follow the UK out of the EU than remain in it without us if there were trade restrictions placed between the EU & the UK. I never realised how close they feel to the UK nor how dependent they are on the UK particularly for tourism. The economy is very reliant on the UK tourist money especially around the Algarve. Every local we had met had seen especially pleased when they discovered we were British.
Anyhow once we had crossed the bridge we stood admiring the view from on high we pondered whether to go all the way down to the river level again. Apart from the view there was not much on the top level so we went for it, knowing that somehow we had to get back to the top again later. It was a very steep climb down the cobbled streets, with aggravated Karen's foot somewhat.
We wanted to find somewhere nice to have lunch but wanted to avoid the obvious tourist traps. Once at the bottom we selected one of the street leading away from the river and wandered along it. We had given up and turned back when Karen felt inspired with a small looking Italian place. It was full outside but the tables were in the full sun and Karen wanted somewhere cooler to sit. Inside was lovely and it was obviously full of locals. We both had a lovely cheap Pizza and shared a jug of Sangria. It was a good way to finish the trip before we had to head back to get some bags from the Hotel.
We crossed back over the river on the lower level and then started the arduous climb back up what seemed like 3 million steps. It took a few stops for us to get to get back to the top. Once there I had the idea of plonking Karen back in Starbucks and leaving her there whilst I trudged back alone to the Hotel to get the cases. She thought that to be a splendid idea and settled in with a bucket load of coffee to wait.
The walk back up the hill to the Hotel was slow long and hot in the sunshine and took about 30 minutes round trip. Once I had recovered we walked to the Metro and caught the train back to the airport. The airport was busier than when we arrived but it did not take long for us to get through security and we headed to the Lounge. This one wasn’t too bad and we stocked up on nibbles and drinks before the flight. I took the time to write the blog to pass the time.
This time the Ryanair algorithm had allocated us middle seats some 22 rows apart. Again I refused to give and pay to move one of them as it was only a relatively short flight. The challenge was though that I had to enter via the front door and Karen the back, but the boarding cards were on my phone. Still not getting me Mr Ryanair I thought, and so I just installed their app onto Karen’s phone and got her boarding pass on there. Game set and match to Karl against their hidden charges, although I was disappointed to learn afterwards that sitting alone Karen had a cup of tea on board thus boosting their profits in other ways. At least we didn't buy any scratch cards.
As usual at Stansted my passport did not work at the E gate, the only airport in the world where I have problems. Grumpily I went through the other channel and then we made our way back to the car. We were home just before 1am.
It had been a good trip and an inspired choice by Karen. Porto is a lovely City with plenty to see and do for a few days. Just 6 weeks to the next trip….