Francesinha Citizens Tarts and crafts

Bloody hell, that minibar port late on Saturday night really wasn’t a good idea. Woke at 4am feeling like absolute hell (shout out to the play we’re going to see next month), though that wasn’t solely due to being hungover: the uncomfortable mattress and temperature played their part too.

Lots of dozing off to podcasts intermingled with vague fist shaking at BBC for successfully detecting I’m not actually in the UK despite using a VPN. I demand access, wherever I am, having been a 20+ year contributor to the unique way in which the BBC is funded, damn it! (I just want to watch HIGNFY, tbh)

Eventually I’ve written up Saturday’s boozefest and we’re in a fit state to check out and go for our last exploration of Porto. I settle up, once they’ve figured out I hadn’t paid in advance for one of the three days, and we’ve handed over our minibar tally. They look after our bags and we step out, to neither applause nor caped musicians.

Up the hill towards and past Bolhão station along with numerous tiled churches, things get fairly quiet and we loop back around until settling on BB Gourmet for breakfast.

Another one of Porto’s health food venues, clearly. Helen valiantly attempts to order the option which comes with fruit salad (as well as a custard tart and rice muffin) but, of course, that part doesn’t arrive. My ham and cheese toastie - what else? - is absolutely delicious. Bizarrely, when I respond “I’ll just grab a coke zero from the fridge” upon being asked for a drink, the waitress takes the can from me and doesn’t return it until 5 minutes later – still unopened, and now warm – along with the rest of our order.

While eating we remember a couple of recurrent things from the trip that have so far gone unmentioned, such as the prominent “we have a complaints book!” signs in all venues, and that shop which proudly displayed “the world’s biggest clay Barcelos cock”

We also figured out where we wanted to go for the next few hours. The photography museum was out of bounds, since it doesn’t bloody open until 3pm on a Sunday. So, we walked the streets of Baixa, past various places the bus had skimmed round on Friday and finding the original branch of Brasão plus a craft shop in which, uniquely, Helen actually found the pottery attractive.

At Aliados, the city hall looks impressive and the seagulls continue to disrespect all statues by shitting on their heads.

The replacement attraction was on the street of buskers, featuring all the same entertainers and artists as yesterday but in a slightly different order. There’s a mural of a giant cat, or a giant mural of a cat, which we’d failed to spot yesterday having been too distracted by the Maggie Thatcher paintings.

It’s a museum called MMIPO. Or MIPO. Something like that. The logo is weird. We buy our tickets and ascend to the 3rd floor, ready to wind our way down in the prescribed order. The first exhibit is the corridor of seven mercies, in which there are silver incense boats and a fancy toothpick dispenser.

The whole museum is about a thing called the Misericordia, an organisation that, best we can tell, is a society of wealthy benefactors who use their money to do good things for society: bury the dead, provide health care for the sick, run old people’s homes, etc etc. It started hundreds of years ago from a decree by the king and to this day the organisation still runs hospitals ‘n that, rather than the municipality.

I mean, I might have some of that wrong, but it seemed to be the gist. The museum tells a little history to start with, and shows a few cool things like medical equipment and stuff, then becomes a rather weird gallery of bad paintings and religious iconography made by artists who couldn’t really do faces well, nor perspective.

The benefactors portraits are of different sizes, which apparently reflects how much they contributed. That fat bloke must have struggled with Porto’s hills, eh.

The statues are weird, and there’s a painting of what looks like a pigeon shitting on the pious.

No idea what this guy did to deserve getting a staff in the skull.

Downstairs is the Misericordia’s private church, which includes a big fuck off organ. I kinda want to play chopsticks on it.

Excuse any change in writing style; it’s 5 hours and 2 beers since I wrote the previous sentence. Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right, in the museum of ain’t-we-great’s church, with its graphic depictions of that Jesus fella on a cross. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of the one painting that depicted him as a boy, seemingly wearing a cowboy hat and looking a bit like a young Dusty “American Dream” Rhodes.

Throughout the whole museum we only see two other visitors, and a few staff members who look to be stalking us but are probably just there to direct us to take the tour in the correct order. After seeing the Fons Vitae we’re directed into the little side room which has a video, despite not really having any appetite for us. Mercifully it’s only short, and is a CGI cartoon about town planning that’s actually moderately interesting.

On the ground floor is some exhibit of a local artist who, I dunno, lives and breathes the Ribeira and has some uncanny ability to tease out the heart and soul of any community he visits and then create amazing art out of it. I thought it was all largely nonsense.

We exit through the gift shop, pausing to take a photo of the “my blood is your blood” artery-of-Christ that pokes out of the wall.

Helen takes charge of our walking route now, opting for another exploration of streets we are yet to visit. Amusingly for me, this ends up meaning we walk up by far the steepest and longest hill in Porto yet. I did try to warn her that all the downhills earlier were putting money in the uphill bank, but to no avail.

Near the summit there’s a bar which looks kinda Brewdog branded and says “we’ve got 77 beers”. Coming out onto a 1:6 slope after a few drinks doesn’t seem overly sensible. Up, up, and around the corner, we end up on a corner of a square opening up and there’s a flash of realisation: we’re by that park and building and hospital what where the bus took us round on Friday. That’s good news!

Helen takes a breather on a stone bench while I nab some photos. Dunno what this is, nor the creepy statue of “old bloke, perhaps Einstein, cradling a young naked lass”. I think many of the moustachioed painting and sculpture subjects look like Einstein, tbh.

The seagulls and pigeons around here really do/don’t like statue heads.

In case we forgot where we here, there’s a handy sign. And, being near that park and that hospital and that building means we’re also near that tower and them churches.

You know, those two churches what were built with a 1 metre house between them because it was illegal to have them as neighbours. You remember that, right?

Around the corner from here is a bookshop that people queue up to visit, and in fact pay to get in (redeemable against any purchase). Inside it’s utterly gorgeous, so we’ve heard; queueing to get into a bookshop, especially when we’re now starting to get short on time, isn’t our cup of tea. Helen wants to just skedaddle, therefore, but I’m like: well hang on a moment, I’m sure the folk who read my blog would love a photo of people queueing to get into a bookshop (seriously, we have this conversation).

Inspiration for Harry Potter, apparently. JK Rowling (guitarist from Judas Priest, no?) used to frequent the place.

Heading back towards Aliados via only a slight wrong turn, about which I get some vague abuse and no credit for leading us past some more interesting craft shops, we arrive at the very busy Brasão. I am desperate for lunch here and somewhat panicky that there seems to be a queue out front – there isn’t, it’s just a bunch of people reading the menu. Panic returns when the lass manning the front desk apologises profusely to the people ahead that there’s just no way she can seat them, they would be at least 5th in the queue. A smaller group of only 3 are also turned away, but apparently they can sneak in a pair like us. Hurrah!

Up the rickety stairs and into the corner, we’re perched at a table with 3 seats. Hmm, sorry about that. Though we think one of the seats is decorative, as it’s under a very low ceiling. This is the original Brasão and much more cramped in all dimensions than the one we visited on Friday. We have a nice view of the bar and downstairs though.

Being veterans we know exactly what to order: a francesinha con ovo for me please, yes with a half portion of fries of course. Helen opts for the healthier veggie-ish option of mushrooms and asparagus... in smoke ham lard. Plus, erm, what was it? «asks her» Ah, yes, vegan rissol. Kinda like croquettes but not. Presumably one is breadcrumbs and the other, something else? Can’t be arsed looking it up to be honest.

Look at that sandwich of mine. Just look at it.


I’m better prepared, in some ways, for this. I haven’t been eating tons of stuff all day, we’ve walked a fair bit including lots of hills, and I’m not already tanked up. There being room in my stomach and sobriety means I am better able to judge whether it’s really a nice thing or just some comedy “check out this decadence!” bragging device.

Well let me tell you something: that there is an immensely nice sandwich. Oh my god. I ate it, what, 10 hours ago as I type this? And I’m drooling just through the memory. I’m not big on repeat visits to many places in the world, Sydney for family and San Francisco because San Francisco aside; Porto might have just added itself to that list, simply for the food.

Again, we’re asked if we want dessert. “Maybe tomorrow” is my answer. The familiar headache kicks in as we bugger off, deciding against going to buy some pottery and instead heading back uphill – of bloody course – to the hotel. As we pause to take photos of city hall, an email arrives.

Apparently there’s a discrepancy in what I paid and what we consumed out of the hotel minibar, and they want me to fork out an extra €6. Oops! Well, we’re close anyway because we want to get our bags back so I’ll just ... Helen. Helen. HELEN! Where are you going? No, traffic comes from that way, what are you... oh, I see. You’re popping into that custard tart shop that only sells custard tarts and lets you watch the custard tart chefs making custard tarts. Are you seriously buying some custard tarts?

I guess you are. Well, fine, perhaps I’ll have some room for food within the next hour or so before we get to the airport. Anyway, here’s the hotel.

They recognise us, and tell us they’ve sold our bags. Maybe to cover the extra cash? Paying the six euros yields many apologies but frankly it’s almost certainly our inability to tally things up properly that caused the problem.

The porter gets our bags and we’re away, up to Bolhão station. There’s a group of young people in black t-shirts about to start a rally or demonstration or something. Remarkably, it seems like they might be militant vegans. Yeah, er, this is Portugal. Good luck with that.

An E line metro arrives in about 15 minutes and gets very full a station or two later. Half an hour on and we’re at the airport, seeking space outside to sit down for Helen to vape and us both to eat our final pastel de nata.

They’re nice, but not as nice as the ones from Friday morning. Basically the custard needs to be cold and more congealed. I don’t even consider this an opinion, but statement of objective fact, and am confused as to how Helen can possibly disagree, but she does. Whatever.

Inside and there’s a fast track lane but we’re not eligible. Not to worry, the slow track is plenty fast enough thanks to about 12 security lanes being open. It goes a bit wrong when the belts stop delivering trays for us to put our stuff in though. Security is actually a bit weird, I ask the woman if the small bottles of port. need to come out of their box and she just shrugs a big “meh, I dunno? Looks alright to me?” kinda answer. I fail to take my iPad out and no-one cares.

Through airside and a quick duty free stop, we ascend to the ANA lounge and our shiny cards grant us access. I was a bit worried, being a shared and paid lounge, that it would be pretty grim but it held its own admirably. Grabbing seats at the far end, we tucked into some free beer and disappointing snack food – I’ve no idea how we had capacity for this – while downstairs a couple of fellas took to the stage and serenaded the terminal with a variety of songs on piano and violin. No, seriously, this happened.

Like the classless riff-raff we are, several trips to the fridges resulted in the acquiring of unopened cans of Super Bock that made their way into our hand luggage. Oh no!

About 55 minutes before take-off I’m like, well I need a piss which is beyond the lounge entrance and we are yet to go through passports thanks to non-Schengen and stuff, so shall we go? I know it’s early, but maybe we should...

Comfortable winner of 2018’s “‘Did you know?’ question to which the answer is most obviously ‘no’” award.

At the desk I am gruffly waved through, whereas for Helen he looks at her passport, then her, then his screen, then her again, then passport, then screen. All very suspicious, but eventually she’s allowed to leave the country. At gate 2 there are only about 15 people, queuing and moving through the gate, with a packed bus visible outside. Crap, are we, like, really late?

I step on the escalator and it’s not moving. Oh well. I walk down, chatting away to Helen who is, actually, not behind me but has stepped back and is waiting for the lift. D’oh. When we are reunited we get our boarding passes scanned and step onto a bus, which gets a little full then takes us on a tour of the airfield before depositing us before the mobile stairs.

Onboard we’re back in row 7. People keep arriving, this plane is busy as fuck. Luggage tetris is played, and one guy requests to go back to the terminal(!) because he’s forgotten or lost something. Er, no. The captain/first officer appears at the front, looking a bit annoyed, but the early boarding pays off because despite all the fail we push back on time.

Taking off, it becomes apparent why there are loads of shipping containers near the airport: we’re also near the coast, with ships and stuff. It’s called Porto (aka “Port”) for a reason I guess.

Oooh that sun poking through looks nice.

This is Foz, where we spent time on Friday afternoon when the sea looked exactly like it does here.

Up at cruising altitude a gin and tonic gets bought, and the three lounge lagers are quaffed. Classless riff-raff, I told you. Outside there’s nothing but cloud, and it’s getting dark anyway. Fuck all else happens. There’s no monitors telling us where we are and I can’t get a GPS signal so we have to rely on the first officer telling us “we’re near Bordeaux” and “we’re 15 minutes from landing”, while we play my third favourite word game because my two favourites no longer bloody work on the latest iOS.

At Gatwick we land early, and I can’t help but try a nighttime moving shot of bright lights, the kind that never come out well.

See? Hopeless.

It’s a long walk to immigration, and a comfort break means the empty queues are now busy queues. The guy two in front of me causes the electronic passport gate to crash and reboot, meaning I’m hindered much more than I wanted to be.

Outside for a vape after a liquids purchase and then into the “express pick up” zone of the orange car park, an Uber picks us up to take us home. Work tomorrow. And maybe some salad.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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