Being Friday the 13th, I watched every episode in the film franchise back to back, which took up all my waking hours. The End.
OK, OK, maybe not. I’ve done that 3 times before, so perhaps I’ll do something different this time round – like, wake up to the sound of a herd of elephants upstairs, except elephants wielding drills and vacuum cleaners and stuff. Damn it. Do I actually have noisy upstairs neighbours, or is there a poltergeist about 10 feet above my head permanently?
Anyway. Helen took a shower while I blogged, and caused much peril by flooding the bathroom due to an impressively bad design of the room. I just about managed to avoid the same fate, and we set off to go source breakfast (being too late for the free hotel one).
First though we stopped off at the reception desk to buy tickets to a tour bus. The woman practically begged us to pay using shrapnel rather than large notes. As we approached the outer door we saw evidence of something going on opposite, there being a large group of people congregated for some reason – and as we stepped out onto the street, they all burst into a round of applause. Um, thank you, thank you all! Wtf?
A quick detour to the ATM next to the Majestic Cafe, which is a “must do” that we’re not going to do, then back to the place next door to where we ate on Thursday evening. We’ll have a ham and cheese baguette, a “one of those” «points at menu», a “one of those” «points elsewhere at menu», a coffee and two orange juices please.
It’s warm enough to be comfortable but the sky is grey, meh. We’re not actually sure what bus we’re on, because this “Yellow Bus” has two routes, orange and blue, and in this part of town they both do the same thing. We keep the unwieldy map out to try and keep track.
Very shortly we’re in parts of town we’ve yet to see, what with only having been in the city about 18 hours. There’s Aliados, the wide hilly street leading up to city hall, and next to there is the boozing district where you should expect to find groups of people wandering around clutching small beers. The architecture changes from building to building and it’s pretty fascinating.
There’s a giant tower which the voice guide told us stuff about, but I forgot it all because I was busy just gawping at the giant tower. The voice did get my attention when excitedly explaining the one-metre wide building between two churches, built at a time when it was illegal to build consecutive churches. What kind of weird law was that?
A little backstory here. The reason I chose Porto for the Christmas present this year is because Helen loves boats and I wanted to buy something with a decent amount of time on the water. Originally I spent weeks umming and ahhing about buying a 3 day cruise from Southampton to Bruges and Amsterdam, then discovered this here River Douro with tons of boat rides way up river where it’s meant to be picturesque as hell. We were going to take a full day on a boat, stay somewhere, then get the train back.
I failed to book such a thing because I couldn’t find a single website that would actually sell me the damn ticket, everything was just enquiry forms and my enquiries went unanswered. So, crestfallen, I booked the Friday night in the same hotel where I’d already booked Thursday and Saturday (thus causing confusion at check-in the day before), and considered the whole trip a failure in present-buying quality.
Turns out Porto is an attractive destination in its own right, and Helen didn’t fancy spending 8 bloody hours on a boat. So this 1 hour “six bridges” boat trip will do just fine, thanks, and my present is a glorious success about which I can now insufferably humblebrag. Hurrah!
Anyway. Six bridges, they said. Count ‘em.
We get to see the waves crashing repeatedly over the sea wall.
It was a fun trip, short and sweet, and now the weather was properly out. We’re back at Ribeira and want to go to the bric-a-brac shop up the way. Well, one of us does.
Up the hill past another couple of Jesus vendors, we go past numerous public loos which would have been useful earlier. There are more tiled churches and narrow stairwells and we tread a narrow pavement right next to the tram line.
Drinking my beer out of a jam jar, subscription paper notebook in front of me, and date-appropriate t-shirt on, Helen accuses me of going “full hipster”.
With a second beer comes a plate of cheese and a basket of bread. This could hardly be better.
And then it gets better, because we’re serenaded over the speakers by Bee Gees hour.
In the netting above the car are some noisy budgies.
The door is €650, and seriously tempting, but we’re not sure it would fit in our BA baggage allowance.
No-one needs that many old tennis rackets. But there’s an area dedicated to old sporting stuff, with heavy brown leather footballs and lots of boxing equipment.
The weather also makes us not want to get back on a bus to go visit a cave, so we change our plans and decide to get the tram to Foz. First though, we do a bit of that “people’s washing as tourist attraction” stuff that everyone visiting here does.
Back up at Infante/Ribeira is the start of the route for tram #1. There are only 3 tram routes in Porto, numbered 1, 18, and 22. Err, what? Anyway, this is the big hitter, which hugs the river along to Passeio Allegre a short walk from the beaches of Foz.
We missed one and that was good, because they get every bit as busy as the trams in, say, San Francisco, and we wanted to sit down. Sit we do on the next service, facing inwards but at the front behind the driver. It gets full and we set off, past the pavement cafes and ringing the bell to get pedestrians to move out of the way.
It also has historic toilets, including one in the ladies that’s so bloody historic no-one’s allowed to use it. Helen pops in and is so impressed that she takes photos. Behold, interior photos of historic ladies loos. I know that’s why you’re reading this.
In fact, we watch for about 10 minutes. It’s a bit hypnotising. The Atlantic isn’t really known for lapping onto docile shores, is it? I’d made such a claim on the boat earlier. Are there any tranquil beaches on the west coast of Ireland? Aren’t Cornwall’s Atlantic beaches mostly for surfing? Etc.
Where we are is called Foz. It’s an upmarket Porto suburb and all these noisy beaches have bars and restaurants on them. It’s still warm, and we wander past a few until finding one that takes our fancy. We get nice seats directly facing the beach, at the front.
It takes us about 15 minutes to even get a menu, but it’s a little busy so perhaps that’s OK. Mind you, plenty of other tables seem to be having grief getting served. Eventually we catch a waiter’s attention saying we’re ready to order and he says “just a minute”, and fucks off. We pack everything up and put our coats on, giving up, and get served. Well, OK then. Sangria, imperial stout, pimetos and some croquetes please.
Briefly we pop into the bit where the trains are, and discover that this station seems to be just some suburban/commuter station with only a handful of platforms running local trains. So like Wimbledon or something, it doesn’t seem to warrant such an impressive forecourt. Also what’s this weird machine on the left?
We come out the side and want to complete the route back to our hotel on foot. It’s not far, but at one junction I request that we walk just a little further so that we can get our bearings for a future visit to the brewery up the way (actually, I don’t think they brew here because it’s the second venue, the original is about half a mile away). Aha, here it is.
Perhaps we’ll pop in just for a drink now? Yeah, go on then. Life doesn’t start until late in Porto so at 7.15pm it’s easy for us to get seated, but it does feel a bit more restaurant-y than beer focused. The staff are really lovely though and happy just to serve us drinks and throw some bread and olives our way. Dry stout and a ludicrous sangria please!
It’s the most magnificent sandwich I can remember eating this side of a liverwurst bonanza in NYC. Maybe it’s even better. It really is utterly amazing, and I’m perfectly willing to accept the immediate headache that it brings forth. The “half portion” of fries that came with it are too much for me to finish. Across the table, Helen has been defeated just by onions.
We’d ordered at the right time, as the waiter had told us. 40+ people were late for their reservations, but seemingly everyone turned up while we ate and the wait time was now much longer. All around us were tables full of people eating francesinhas. We’re offered the dessert menu but I sincerely doubt anyone ever goes for it if they’ve had a main.
Waddling back to the hotel Helen says we should eat there again on Saturday and Sunday. I’m inclined to agree, but our GPs might not. We’re both totally bloated now and a coma seems imminent. Nonetheless I decide to pop up to the 3rd floor of the hotel to see if I can’t get some diet coke out of the vending machine, and discover the roof terrace.
Alas, I can’t convince the machine to serve me diet coke because it needs coins only and we have none. Never mind, at least I got to prove my legs can still cope with stairs, and also witness the range of corridor decoration throughout the venue.