Day 1 Porto

May 29/30 2019

What a day….or more correctly what a days. (You can equally insert daze in there as well)

Travel never fails to provide excitement. In this case Air Transat delayed the flight by more than 3 hours due to a mechanical failure. The poor agent had to keep telling the mob in the waiting area the bad news. Take your worst day, and it will not be near the experience this poor guy was faced with. As we all know Canadians like to think they are a more gentle society. Some of the people (Canadians) in the waiting area obviously didn’t get the memo.

In general people were pretty good. Come to think of it the complainers were the people sitting at the bar….for 3 additional hours.

Finally we boarded the aircraft for a rather uneventful flight to Porto, Portugal. We arrived 3 hours later than scheduled, of course, and the heat of the day was already on the city. 

In a big way.

I was able to get a SIM card without difficulty, and then catch the train into the city centre. The train was an ultra modern Bombardier train car….thinking of home.

Once in the city I walked to the Hostel I had reserved a month ago. This requires walking about 15 minutes from the main Metro station to an area called the Art District. What am amazing area of this little city. There are galleries, restaurants, and literal a flood of creative expression everywhere you look. In fact my place is called the Gallery Hostel. From the outside it appears to be an innocuous door with a sign above it. Inside it was an absolutely fabulous place.


Unfortunately the check in time is 3:00pm, so I had to do something for a least 2 hours.

As I am planning to start walking tomorrow I made my short list of places I have to see. In sort, I am planning to come back to Porto again. There are so many things to see and do, priorities are:

1) The world famous book store

2) Main train station to see the amazing blue ceramic tiles

3) Cathedral to get my Compostela

4) See the high level bridge over the Douro River

5) Visit a special restaurant Taberna Santo Antonio (recommended by Ruth and Wayne)

So off I go.

Porto is not a large city, but it is the second largest city in Portugal. It straddles the Douro River, which turns out to be a bit of a steep fiord. I didn’t have the energy to go down to the actual riverside….I wasn’t feeeling like the climb back up. The geography of the city is challenging. Small streets interconnecting like a someone had thrown a ball of string onto the floor saying “there’s our plan”.

Thanks to Google Maps it is dead simple to find anything, anywhere. As long as you are willing to climb.

On my way to the book store I came across a street performer. He was playing a bluesy sort of tune on a $3 guitar. Thing is, he was amazing. I watch him for about 5 minutes and asked to take a photo with him. His voice was pure gravel, and literally killed the songs he was playing. After talking for a coupe of minutes I set off again on my quest.

First stop the book store. There’s a lineup about 100 people long…so I asked the attendant at the front of the live where to get tickets. Back up the street, into a shop, and down two floors to get in a lineup to buy the tickets. Just to sightsee you pay 5 Euros, but can get a discount on book if you buy one. Hmmmm. Not thinking I want to buy a book and then carry it for thee next 2 weeks.

Once I have the ticket I join the line and actually I am inside the bookstore within 10 minutes. The staff regulates the numbers of people in the store…..impressively small….impressively romantic. I want to tell you. Spend the 5 Euros….it’s definitely a must see. The architecture of the place is so unique. Just be prepared for an inordinate number of “posers” hamming it up for photos on the main staircase. 

So now, on to the main train station to see the fabled blue tiles. This is another absolute must see. The station is a sort of “Hugo” station, but the main hall has enormous, and beautiful blue tile murals line the great hall. Stunning. You just gotta’ see it to feel the impact these tiles present. (Check out the photo by clicking on the image)

I’m feeling a bit low on energy….but I’ve got to keep going. At this point there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it is now 32c. Although I wasn’t planing on it I am now working on my tan……ouch.

The cathedral is yet another impressive reminder of how the Catholic Church built it’s empire on the backs of the less fortunate….Impressive, but decidedly unsettling. Enough of my political commentary….I can hear everyone yelling “enough already, get on with it”.

This is the place I can get my official Compostela. The document I will use to collect stamps On my journey, proving I actually walked this Camino. I walk into a small entrance and ask if this is where I can get a Compostela. The lady at the desk says yes, and then charges me 3 Euros admission. In I go. Think I can find where I get the Little Pierce of Paper? Nope!

So after about 20 minutes I give up and go back to the original Lady asking “Where exactly do I get the Compostela”. She opens a drawer and says “Here. 2 Euros please”. Crap! I just spent 3 Euros and didn’t really need to visit the Cathedral and all the chapels. Such is life.

My energy level is really failing at this point. The temperature, relentless sun, and my Jet Lag are really taking a toll.

Keep Going!

A short walk to the high level bridge, and the views are astounding. Far, far below there appears to be a riverside with tons of people and I can see patios, and others that look to be restaurants. This I am saving for another visit. I should let you know I have always kept certain things close to my chest. Experiences to be shared….this is going to be one of them.

All in all a stunning view.

On my way back to visit the restaurant recommended I come across a banjo player. What are the chances! I give him a nice donation, and start taking videos and pictures. He finishes his song and says “do you play banjo?” I answer with a certain modestly “ a little bit” at which he hands me the banjo and takes my phone.

So I sit down and start playing You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere. He’s laughing like crazy, and I actually see people tossing coins into the open banjo case at my feet. My imagination goes wild…maybe I have a future in Porto?

Reality sucks….I realize I may think I can….but the reality is I shouldn’t consider it.

Having dazzled the crowds….(not really)…I headed out to the last stop.

I should say thank you to Ruth and Wayne for passing the information about this place onto me. It is in a district around the University of Porto, and apparently have a fabled reputation. 

When I got there I met the owner Pedro and struck up a conversation. He said they weren’t open until 7 pm, and I would definitely need a  reservation. I asked if I could at least have a glass of good red wine, and he got a special bottle, and poured me a bucket full. Apparently mentioning Ruth and Wayne’s name is all you need to do. The hospitality door is blown off the hinges with the mere mention of their names.

I sat outside on little picnic benches and was accidentally joined by a couple from Brussels. They were on a 4 day getaway from their 2 boys….and having a great time. By this point the bucket of wine, jet lag, heat, and general exhaustion were in charge…..

I limped back to my Hostel, had a shower….and found the energy to write…. from where I have no idea.

I have no clue how all of this fabulous day was even possible.

More tomorrow…….