Well here we are in Porto, after a reasonably easy trip up from the south of the country. All train connections achieved and we face the final, but not infrequent of challenges. Up an enormous hill to our hotel, one which we will be forced to do on many occasions over the next few days. Consequently I am looking forward to the final trip down when we leave. Maybe we can just sit on the suitcases and roll all the way to the bottom.
Porto is a bit of a paradox, modern and well maintained government infrastructure, comfortable transport that runs on time etc and a plethora of derelict buildings with a fair sprinkling of homeless people in doorways and beggars on the street.
One thing that is outstanding after being in Spain, is the food. Like our Faro experience, the creative presentations, the size of the serves ( huge) and the taste was fantastic. Finding restaurants that served traditional Portuguese was the order of each day, but despite the urging of the locals, who all seemed to speak far more English than their Spanish cousins, we baulked at the tripe, liver and other sundry bits of offal that were all presented as specialities of the house.
So other than eating, and labouring up countless hills to reach even more heart stopping view points, we also ventured farther afield on one of Jean's many day trips. Those of you who can recall our previous adventure in Italy on a similar train - ferry - train excursion will understand my trepidation at the thought of a repeat performance. Fortunately, no land borders were to be crossed so passports not needed, but nonetheless, I kept my own ticket and stood guard at every toilet stop.
Looking back, it was a breeze. The trip was to a little ( aren't they all) town called Pinhao, where port production was at it's greatest. The boat ride up the Douro river was with two others on a small flat bottomed river boat (Rabelo boat used for transporting port barrels to Porto) that was electric powered with solar panels on the roof. The result being that it was silent and as we navigated the river, the sounds of song birds filled the air with the occasional stand of gum trees making it was a great day out.
All that's left now is a trip out of town, walk and tram, and another ferry ride across the river to Afurada, a small fishing village almost at the mouth of the Douro river. Arriving just in time for lunch, we found a little Taverna up a back street where we had sardines cooked over a charcoal fire all washed down with a couple of glasses of local beer. We shared the table with a Spanish couple who have an apartment in Porto and come every few weeks to escape from Madrid. It made for a very interesting couple of hours, as they spoke quite good English and so we were able to better understand the cultural differences that exist between Spain and Portugal, and of course Australia.
Fed and watered, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours before going out to have dinner. Jean had sea bass cooked over charcoal and I had a veal chop, which barely fitted on the 10" plate. Rounded off with some local wine and a glass of port to finish, it seemed the right way to end our time in Porto.
Now it's back on the train to Lisbon for a few days before fulfilling the main purpose of this trip, bikes and Italy.
There is an event that occurs when one high speed train passes another from the other direction that needs to be noted. The combined compression of air that precedes both trains is forced into the space between the two trains as they passes each other causing in our case, the inward movement of the side of the train accompanied by a loud bang.
Note to self: be aware when this occurs especially when wearing noise cancelling headphones and listening to music to drown out the ambient animated conversations of fellow passengers. The volume of the automatic reflex, in this case an expletive, is actually louder than one might have intended. At least it brought a smile to some weathered lips.