The days are piling up behind me with memories of colour, food, wine, parks and ancient stone buildings. Warm sunny days and three dimensional walking, looking up, and around the next corner and through archways and wrought iron fencing. It been laughing with a son I don't get much time with usually, it's so nice to enjoy his company and good humour. My feet are aching with the kilometres we have tracked but despite that Im sure I've put on kilograms. We have been sampling everything we see.
We get up early and fly Ryanair to Portugal , a brief one hour flight sets you down in another country. I look down over Portugal's country side and it's densely populated and farmed or wild massive mountains and rivers. It ends with a rather bumpy touch down in Oporto sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Taxi to another airbnb Joel has booked - again gorgeous and in the middle of the old city. The kitchen window (where I could lean out of to hang the washing) has views over ancient buildings below. The thing first noticed is the seagulls cries, such a lovely beach sound and they echo a little in the laneways. And the narrow cobblestone lane ways which goes back and forth before steep down to the water's edge. The lanes are lined with cut stone buildings, narrow and tall and jammed together for support, each individually decorated with the renown Portuguese tiles, ornate wrought iron balconies and shuttered windows.
It's a little rougher here, more organic than Spain, more buildings in original state not all restored and polished. This is now my favourite city - I'm far too fickle with my love of cities.
We arrive before the home is officially open and find a cool dark bar with an ancient metal topped bench, both bottles of liquor and a statue of Joseph and baby Jesus decorating the wall. With hand signals and guess work we manage two coffees and ham crosaints and this elderly lady, with her apron on and hair tied back neat continues to make a big pot of meat, ( I see a part of a pig, hoof included) garlic and white wine stew and sell single cigarettes to Portuguese fellows who come in for a warm hearted chat with her. She listens to them and seems to give motherly advice as they all leave with a smile. I think we get some motherly advice too- but for the life of me have no idea what.
We return to our rooms with our bags and now it's hauling them up hill so Joel takes mine too. I think it's quite fair, as why else have children if they cannot help out a mother? But i suspect I get a smiling lecture form another old lady, telling me to pull my own bag. Or maybe she was complimenting me on having a son to pull the bag. Who knows?
We book in to our rooms and then can explore down to the waters edge- water is so clear we can see huge fish milling around the stone jetty. Kids are jumping in from the bridge, quite the feat of bravery it's so high and the tide going out rapidly pushes them down to another jetty
We eat Portuguese tarts from a street store and the egg vanilla custard is sweet and smooth and beyond delicious. We are told to sit down on the edge of the garden and are given a selection of treats. I think grandma is sitting next to us and she tells me a lot, in Portuguese, which of course I can't speak. But she kisses me, both cheeks with passion when we leave and shakes Joel's hands. And its a little cameo of who we are meeting here, a warm friendly people.
We test taste Port, for this is where it's from and savour the intense rich flavours and learn some history of this fortified wine.
We decide to recuperate and go home for a siesta before getting my fancy dress on and at 7.30pm we go on a boat ride, up and down the river - awestruck by the brilliant engineering skills that have put six completely unique bridges across this river with its steep rocky sides.
And as we boat into the harbour the sun starts to set and lazy golden rays lie all over the reflecting rippling water, warming up the ancient buildings and us. It's breathtakingly beautiful and I'm so content.
We eat at a recommended restaurant, with fabulous seats on the footpath overlooking river, boats, and the old city clinging to the banks beyond. Music seems to be in the air everywhere, singing or violin and piano accordion, buskers earning well earned euro for their toe tapping music.
We share a plate of sheep cheese, a generous yellow hunk of it slowly oozing out on the plate, and we scrape it up with some sort of sweet preserve jam on toasted slices of baguettes
And then my Julia's recommended "not to be missed" dish of a stew filled with every meat around, again, more bread mopping up the savoury sauce. A pottery jug of port sangria comes with a mass of blueberries and strawberries floating on the top. A Chantilly dessert, presented in a preserve bottle and a shot of black coffee sets us up for a stroll along the river, twinkling lights and people eating everywhere, music and the lapping of the water along the banks. Across the high span bridge and home. Exhausted full and content. Oporto you are a magical town.