The breakfast spread at Gallery Hostel this morning was as good as most hotels. I ate muesli with soy milk, fresh fruit salad and a small roll with jam. Way more than I needed. Then I watched a chap next to me take two huge chunks of cake, four pastais de nata and two croissants. Wow, that’s a lot for two people, I thought. But his wife then went up to get her own plate full – all that sweet stuff was just for him! And they weren’t overweight! Perhaps they are off to run a marathon!
I walked to the Palacio Cristal this morning. It is billed as an interesting building in beautiful gardens. That would do me for an hour or so I told myself. Not on your Nelly was the reply. We can’t have you sitting in beautiful surroundings just relaxing – let’s dig the whole place up and close it off to the public and whilst we’re at it, we might as well close the palace and do maintanence on that as well! I did manage to find a bench and sat down to consult the tour bus map. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and turned my head to see a beautiful peacock about a foot away. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. There followed a rabble of young cocks with their feathers beginning to change colour around their necks. All these birds were interested in one thing only – begging for food, which I didn’t have, so they soon moved on. It was quite breezy and the full grown peacock was being whooshed sideways when the wind caught his tail feathers.
There is a tour bus stop outside the gardens but not one where you can buy a ticket. I searched online and found I could buy one that way. Around 16 euros for one day, 18 euros for two. The bus duly arrived and I showed the driver the voucher I had downloaded, but apparently I needed to send a copy to his office. He gave me an email address and I duly sent it off. Then (whilst he was driving) he took my phone and tried to scan the barcode, all the time with his eyes on my phone, on the scanning machine, or on his phone. Something wasn’t working. Still driving, he passed me his phone so I could see his personal email address and told me to send it there. There was much passing of phones between us and eventually something happened to enable him to issue me with a ticket. All this time, probably ten minutes, he was driving with one or no hands on the wheel – incredible!
Anyway the bus ride was a great success. There are two routes with this company, red and blue buses. I was on the red one which drove out to the coast at the Forte of San Francisco and alongside the beautiful sandy beaches to the lighthouse at the mouth of the River Douro and back into the city alongside the waterfront. I hopped off at Praça da Liberdade the main square of the city
I had been advised to pop into McDonald’s, what a juxtaposition I looked upon, inside this beautiful building right on the city’s main square one looks upon the McDonald’s garish illuminated menu board whilst floating immediately above a massive Art Deco stained glass window, crystal chandeliers and intricate friezes complete the anomaly. Apparently this beautiful building was once home to the Imperial Cafe, until Ronald moved in.
I walked the length of the square and sat at the far end admiring the building of the Camara Municipal. The entire square is lined with outrageously ornate and beautiful buildings and the roof lines against the perfectly blue sky are spellbinding.
By now my stomach is telling me its time to go find the next vegan dining experience on my list. Da Terra in Ruta Mouzinho da Silveira (there are several branches) is a vegetarian/vegan buffet salad bar. You can visit the food bar as many time as you wish. Huge choice of dishes, almost all vegan. 7.50 euros at lunchtime and I think 9.50 euros in the evening. Highly recommended by others and I can concur.
I then walked back to the square to get on whichever tour bus turned up first. It was red so I jumped on, planning to alight closer to the hostel at the stop I got on this morning. But this red bus wasn’t taking the red route. Very strange. I leaned out over the side to check that the bus was actually red. Yep! Having taken neither red nor blue route as far as I could make out, it eventually coincided with the blue route, alongside the river and over the Luis I bridge, climbing up behind port wine warehouses and looking down on the very long red roof lines, with cable cars rolling by overhead.
Once we were away from the Vila Nova de Gaia area, this route was not so interesting, until we eventually crossed back over the river and I hopped off the bus back where I had hopped on, in Praça da Liberdade. And I wandered back to the hostel from there.
I probably walked about 5 km in all today. Not ideal, but it is impossible to be in a city and not walk. I took it extremely slowly and felt fine, although after I reached the hostel and rested for a while I was a bit stiff.
No supper required for me tonight after my buffet lunch. I popped to the small supermarket just adown the road from the hostel and bought some fruit and soy yoghurt to fill any gaps.
I challenge anyone to come to Porto and not fall head over heals in love with the place. There is so much to do and see. River activities, beautiful beaches, wonderful architecture, cafe culture, shopping. Porto has it all. And don’t forget the PORT. I might visit the wineries tomorrow. My flight isn’t until late evening so I have another full day to fill.