Another magical day. Each day has been incomparable. And precious.
We breakfasted down by the river, Joel getting a peculiar Portuguese dish that is kind of like layers of a spicy sausage and a meat on soft bread, covered by slices of cheese and smothered with spicy sauce surrounded by chips. One look at that (tasted Iike it sounds haha) and I went for mixed toast. Which turns out has ham and cheese on it.
We jumped on a "0n Off bus" (no trip to Europe could be said complete until that experience has been done) enjoying the open top ride through historic streets until we reached the edge - where the city meets the Atlantic Ocean.
I had planned on swimming but it was cold water this ocean had ! Europeans are made of sterner stuff than me, they were in the water with enthusiasm. The beach was crowded and busy -all quite normal here I guess, but for an Aussie girl it was intriguing.
Imagine layers of people from the concrete walkways to the ocean. Up near the walkways it's quieter and people are more scattered on the course sand, crowding closer and closer together as it gets nearer to the water edge. They lie on towels with umbrellas above and cloth bunting shelters to the side protecting them sorta-kinda from the sunshine. Most are spread eagled asleep or talking on their phone. Their bodies shiny with oil. And they are from young and perfect to aged and rounded and it's comfortingly nice seeing the lack of care for body image. (Albeit there were some young men who obviously did have a very high body image - flexing muscles & strutting self consciously )
In a strip right beside the waters edge are the energetic ones, parents playing with their kids, teenagers playing soccer, every ten meters or so a group kicking a soccer ball around cheering, jeering and laughing - showing off their ball techniques. The ages vary widely and unlike Australia it seems more families with older teen children are enjoying their holiday as a group. In the shallows little kids run splashing and squealing, people stroll talking intensely to each other with their hands as much as their voices.
Then out deeper, in the cold water, waist level there are more people, enjoying the slight waves and on the horizon huge ships come and go from the busy port.
We have to detour, weaving in and out around groups and it's a busy and happy place this beach in Porto on a sunshiny day.
I love the silver specks in the sand - as the waves swirl in these tiny silvery mica? particles sparkle and glint in the sun becoming denser or less and creating designs so pretty all around my feet contrasting with the darker sand.
We walked up to the end of the beach then kilometres back to the mouth of the river, stopping for ice tea under umbrellas in the sun. We pass rocky outcrops, elderly couples strolling arm in arm, others curled up asleep in the sun or several times clusters of tables and chairs with the serious elderly playing games of intense cards. There are rows of little tents for hire - so one can sit in a tent on the beach. Not sure why you would want too but they looked charming and bright in their soldier rows.
Loved the wildly coloured and patterned umbrellas scattered over the beach - fabulous contrast against the blue-green Atlantic or the black rocky outcrops.
Back into town and we explore an ancient church the Igreja de Sao Francisco Outside its grey stone, gothic buttressed, stern and strong but inside is a complete wonderland of gold leaf timber carvings covering the internal walls of the cross shaped building. It's ornate, lush even, over the top with angelic figures, cherubs, flowers, fruit and history documented in three dimensions. The incredible three dimensional Jesse tree reaching up to the tall ceilings, 12 men - the generational linage of Jesus depicted, each standing on a branch of an enormous carved tree. On the other side a depiction of beheadings, one man holding the head of another, the gruesome body left horizontal on the ground. Martyrs of the faith. The afternoon sun was beaming into one of the side windows and lit up with radiance Virgin Mary and the Angels around her, golden glowing in the cool dark church.
We went under the church and saw ancient scripts, writings from another era and the catacombs where hundreds are entombed in the sacred quiet. Numbered and enscripted stone & marble boxes stacked along the sides and holding the remains of earthly bodies who were an essential part of the history of this town. A peek through a glassed window in the stone floor and there were more bones but this time piled together neatly together.
Big arched ceilings, sacred statues and hauntingly sweet music. The floor was rough stone with creaking square timber coffin size rectangles - which was disconcerting - were we walking on people?
We walked up main square and home for a refresh, had olives and a drink on the ancient stone turrets near the bridge before returning to our favourite riverside restaurant where we were greeted and remembered and sampled more of their delicious food and another bursting-with-berries port sangria.
Blissful day - in every way. In every place.