Arrived in Oporto on 9/10 at 3:00pm after a 3 hours train ride from Lisbon. Trains are clean, well maintained, connections to just about everywhere in Portugal, easy to manuever, meals served(1st class), cocktails, espresso, comfortable seats, pull out tray for lunch and laptops – definitely the way to travel.
On-line apt rental — went from the 17th century renovated nunnery turned hotel, in Lisbon, to an 18th century renovated old house turned oh-so-trendy weekly apt. rental w/ Pottery Barn type furniture and the most hideous purple glittery rug(think bordello, make that cheap bordello) to add contrast to the white – I suppose — windows overlooking the River Duoro and non-stop traffic below. Close to the city center – it was all good. Itty-bitty cafe 2 doors down, with fresh grilled fish & seafood salad(owner was born in Oporto, but lived in France most of his life, so “I know how to cook”…..) and he was right. Bicyclists everywhere, men fishing in the river all day long, darker that Lisbon – smoke soot on the buildings, windy tiny cobblestone streets on hills, people at cafes 24/7, accordion player and his wife with a tambourine on the riverwalk, people of all nationalities sip espresso, beers or Vino Verde(light white wine), tourist river boats movingg up and down the Douro River, grandmothers w/socks and open sandals and their grandkids in the parks, cafes on both sides of river, and the bars open at 10:00am. All of Portugal seems to open at 10:00am — the bakeries open earlier — but not a lot of activity before then. Blue and white tile are the facade de rigour for the old buildings. New buildings are slowly taking their place in the architectural scheme. For the past six mornings, I walked up the hills(no need for Taos Spa here) and pass women hanging their clothes to dry on the balconies, men starting their card games, the stalwart tourist ready to be the first on the “Hop On and Hop Off” See Portugal bus, and eventually find my way to the cafe with the best custard and apple filled pastry and coffee, to start my morning. Did “Hop On and Hop Off” City Tour bus(wish I had the franchise for THAT) and saw the sights, ate dinner at various places with the solo traveler’s greeting by waiters, “Oh, just one?” with disappointment highly visible on their faces knowing the tip would be small since dinner was for one only. “Deal with it…” I think, “..and “yes, I will take that table by the window with the really nice view” I say. Fish soup w/rice – fabulous! The occasional conversation w/another solo traveler – usually English or French traveler. Every store sells some type of wine or Port(hence the name PORTO) and was told a little known fact — “the third most spoken language in the world is Portuguese?” Believe that? I did not, but nodded and said “oh, ok..huh.” After being in Goa, India, a couple of years ago, I realize no matter what the time, what the century, we bring what we know to where we settle. The Portuguese were in Goa from the 17th century on and built the same stone houses with tile floors that I see here. Great old mansions still line some streets in Porto, competing with the high-rise weekly vacations-lets.
Tourism is the money generator for the economy and Portugal is catering to it big time. The phrase “American consumerism” is interchangeable w/European consumerism — world consumerism – basically. Difference is that here, instead of the MALL, one has the shop that sells JUST the Marc Blanc pens, or the Philippe Patek(sp?) watches or the $2000 handbags. And shoes, both sexes love their shoes – never seen so many shoe stores in my life. Food and drink are the primary socializing tools — the best coffee I have had in ages. Bangladeshi immigrants have lots of shops here — wonder why they settled here? Why does one go to No. Portugal — see the country, tour the wine country, see the rivers and experience a “rural Portugal”…
Left this am(9/18) on the train at 9:40am — arrived in Faro, So. Portugal at 5:21amtake good care,