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Friday, May 13, 2011

Porto and Lisbon

Illusionist performer in Lisbon

Layne on the veranda of Taylor's port bodega

Circus student performer (he's dancing, suspended from  a window)

Fish frying outside our lunch venue in Afurada, near Porto

Laundry is usually part of the scene; Afurada

Tram 28 in Lisbon

Looking out on the street is a common pastime; Porto

Enjoying a day in Lisbon
Porto from across the river
Our Portugal vacation began in Porto, in the north of this long skinny country. The old part of Porto is comprised of steep and winding cobblestone streets that change names practically every block. It´s guaranteed that you will get lost- but it doesn´t really matter because if you go down you´ll end up at the river and if you go up, you will eventually finds some recognizable monument and thus get your bearings. We found Porto to be irresistably charming; gritty old buildings, comfy old shops and restaurants with an occassional trendy modern interior thrown into the mix (sometimes they keep the facade and build a completely new building behind it). Old ladies hanging laundry on balconies- many people either don´t own dryers or opt not to use them when weather permits outdoor drying. We paid a laundry service the equivelant of $9 to wash and dry all our clothing. It felt great to get a fresh start. While our clothes were being laundered we walked across the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, a separate city with over 60 port wine "lodges" , most of them along the river front or uphill from the river. Most are owned by the British, and we toured the Taylor facility. It was a very informative and fascinating tour, and we enjoyed free tastings afterward, as well as some "down time" on the view terrace surrounded by English gardens. Really a nice experience. Afterward we walked along the riverfront a couple miles to Afurada, a tiny old fishing village that retains much of its old time flavor. Lots of people were out on the streets, just passing the time of day or frying sardines on charcoal grills. We had lunch at a seafood place where you identify "your" fish and they grill it up for you and serve it with potatoes, bread and salad. We just happened on this place, but heard afterward that it´s the best place to go. It was quite the cultural experience (pictures to follow).

So on to Lisbon. Actually, this was another of my bonehead moves. We bought tickets for the train to Coimbra, a charming university town, and I intended to work our way down to Lisbon via Pineche, Obidos and Sintra, destinations that I chose from the Lonely Planet guide that we bought in Porto. But I missed the stop! Jed was dozing, and I was busy reading the Lonely Planet, and the stop came sooner than I expected. The conductor was very kind, and let us go on to Lisbon without charging us more, but I was really bummed that my plan was foiled. But "that´s the Camino", as we say now, you regroup and move on. So for the rest of the journey, I dove into the Lisbon part of the book and found us a cheap pension in the oldest part of town, near the river. By now, Jed, who hasn´t felt well all day, is actually feeling pretty sick, so we got him to his bed in this rather divey but clean room and I after getting him a coke to settle his tummy, I went out to explore. He´s almost back to his old self today, and that makes him a much better travel companion for me. We walked up to the castle on the top of one of the old hills, had a lovely lunch on the grounds of a "circus school" that we stumbled upon on the way and were treated to a performance by a young man who danced his way down the side of a building froma 4th story window to the tune of "All that Jazz". You just never know what you´ll discover when you travel! I got some great pictures of that too. Tune in in a couple weeks.

The plan now is more Lisbon over the weekend, then take in the Sintra, Peniche, Obidos destinations next week, followed by a little trip to the southwest coast so that I can get a taste of the whitewashed buildings spilling down the hillside that I have always wanted to see. There are many more of those in the south, but we understand that they have been somewhat spoiled by tourist business.

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