Oh Porto!!!Posted: October 6, 2011
Porto is a truly amazing city. Shattered, dilapidated and on the verge of collapse in spots, it looks like it’s held together with safety pins and bandaids. It’s very hilly and a walk around its busy streets and laneways is a bit like urban mountain trekking. Back streets are seedy and dirty and interesting. Boulevards and bridges are brand new and impressive. The main bridge, now called Ponte Dom Luis 1, was initially designed by Eiffel in 1843. 43 years later, a business partner of his redesigned it. The central railway station was shortlisted as the most beautiful railway station in the world. Add to that, a street life that gives the city a pulse, its alive! For us, perhaps preparation for what we will encounter further south in Africa! Add to that, continuous days of 29 degrees, sunshine and a slight ocean breeze!!! We are glad it is here we will be spending the week in the countdown to our friends arriving.
Porto has an urban population in excess of 1.3 million. A settlement dating back to 275 BC it became a Roman outpost in the years 300 AD. The Atlantic Ocean, the Douro river and a large estuary, has ensured its survival and growth and is now Portugals 2nd biggest city………… another claim to fame – it is also the city that first developed Port!
We are staying out of town on the beach. Here, ramshackle meets California!! A fantastic bicycle path leads all the way to the centre of the old town, but is lined with weeds and rubble. Landscaping clearly not a part of the developers priority list or budget. The Atlantic ocean and beach is very clean and reminds us of beaches at home. A regular sprinkling of modern cafe restaurants dot the sidewalk but look the other way and you will see abandoned building developments and slum type constructions. Interesting and true!
Still a little effected by the “Guggenheim Syndrome”, arriving into Porto we noticed an “installation” of wooden poles and clothes hanging. Smiling knowingly to ourselves, imagining we can understand the artists interpretation of the art! On closer inspection on our bicycles later that day, we also saw the washhouse that went with the washing drying! A real life working community washhouse.
Without doubt, the most exciting thing about Porto is it’s the meeting place of “our gang!” And they arrive!!!!
Jo, two days before Ian, Geoff and Elaine.
So, we are reunited and ready. Pilgrim credentials have been collected from the Cathedral. Boots get another lick of waterproofing and poles, a final adjustment. We brace ourselves, wave goodbye to Porto, and begin our Camino!