Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Portugal - California 2004

'O' to be in Porto?

After a bit of a false start at 0330 (!), I awoke for real at 0730 and thought : "Where am I?" No, I wasn't disorientated; I just wanted to know what this place was actually called : Porto or Oporto. Both versions of the name seemed to be in common use and I hoped I would be able to get to the bottom of the mystery before leaving. I snapped out of these obscure thoughts and pulled the curtain to the side to check on the weather. Still thick cloud everywhere! Undaunted, I put on a tee-shirt and shorts and was glad to see at breakfast that I was far from alone in this. I made a further visit to my room to get organised and by 0900, I was ready to hit the town. There was also just a suggestion that things were brightening up outside.

Following advice given by the hotel receptionist the day before, I caught a no. 3 bus to the main square in the city centre which, conveniently enough, turned out to be the end of the line. I was pleased to note that the area seemed rather attractive, was relatively clean and felt 100% safe. I was happy to spend a couple of hours just wandering around, getting the feel of the streets and taking photos.

Eventually, I found myself outside the Chambers of Commerce and the Church of St Francis, and from there it was just a short stroll to the river. By now it was gloriously sunny, and as I took in the picturesque riverfront of the Ribeira district, the famous bridge and the great port wine houses across the river, I really felt that I had arrived.

I decided to do the 50-minute river cruise and was amazed to see that among the passengers was a fellow Scot whom I recognised through my interest in transport. I went over to say hello and we ended up having a most enjoyable chat, during which I picked up lots of useful information about the city's transport system (past, present and future) and some excellent tips on things to see that I now wanted to incorporate into my schedule.

By the time the river cruise was over, I was feeling decidedly peckish, so I sat down at an outside table at one of the riverfront eateries. I had a tuna salad and enjoyed chatting with two American ladies. The city seemed to be full of Americans - there were a couple of cruise ships in town - and my 'Colorado Rockies' tee-shirt was attracting its fair share of attention! I learned of recent flash flooding in Death Valley, CA, and hoped that the desert would be dry once more for my upcoming visit!

After lunch, I paid a visit to the fabulously ornate Church of St Francis - sorry, pictures not allowed - and then caught a vintage tram on service 1E to the tram museum. The museum is not large, but it is definitely interesting and well worth a visit. While I was inside, a horrendous thunderstorm broke - the signs had been there! There was a torrential downpour, which had only eased off slightly as I left.

In view of the weather, and with the realisation that I had been on the tourist trail since 0900, I decided to head back to the hotel. Even when the weather showed signs of a marked improvement during the journey, I decided to keep going. I picked up a city transit map en route and decided to spend the evening having a relaxing bath, enjoying a nice seafood dinner in the hotel, and formulating my plans for the next day. 

Saturday 04 Sep

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