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Published: April 28th 2018
Wednesday, Day 2: Great day to be alive. Sunny, warm and not throwing up...what more could a body ask for? I know, let’s get out and try to see everything in the universe!
Today, April 25, Freedom Day, is a Portugese national holiday. Also known as the Carnation Revolution, this was the day that, in 1974, the regime of Estado Novo was overthrown and lead to the eventual withdrawal of Portugal from its African colonies. Almost no shots were fired as the revolting citizens put red carnations in the muzzles of the soldiers rifles. More or less.
For us, this celebration meant huge crowds, street music, speeches, concerts and late buses. Some stores were closed but not so’s you’d notice. The plan was to explore in the morning on our own, meet for lunch, then go on a hop-on bus together to tour the city. Karen and Glen left early. Mike and Gary went for coffee and a meander. Marji and I power walked downtown to see the sites.
We really liked this city. Denser than Lisbon, it was much easier to get around on foot. People seemed a bit friendlier and shopkeepers were more helpful. The hotel
was nicely located on the edge of the city center. All The fun with less of the noise.
First thing to notice is that Porto is covered with tile, especially the typical hand painted blue and white tiles or azulejos. Generally, not just pretty pictures, they also tell a story. You find them on both the interiors and exteriors of buildings, especially the churches or public gathering sites. A great example is at the Sao Bento train station where the small waiting area depicts scenes from Porto’s history, economy, and various modes of transportation. You could take pictures all day and never capture the impact of the tiles. A Church in the morning sun will look totally different come evening. Incredible.
Marji and I visited the bookstore that inspired JKRowling, Livraria Lello & Irmâo. This is a beautiful shop with faux-wood carved, swirling staircases. The shelves are tall and full of Portuguese and other language books and climb up to the adorned ceilings. You can see Diagon Alley all over this place. One British woman remarked to her friend that she hoped this would inspire her to think of a trillion dollar idea.
McDonald’s on Liberty Square is a hoot! Formerly the Imperial Cafe, we are talking crystal chandeliers, Art Deco walls, and electronics screens for ordering. You can get all the usual McD’s stuff but also traditional Portuguese cafe food. Mike wanted to get nuggets but we persuaded him to wait for lunch. He was happy he did!
Francesinha, or the Portuguese croque-monsieur: I believe the French may have a dispute about that description, but here goes: Between two thick slices of bread, slice smoked ham, pork sausage, chorizo or linguica sausage, beef steak, and cheese. This is covered with more cheese and a fried egg. Toast and set it on a plate with a tomato/beer sauce and French fries. Yikes. Mike loved it. The rest of us felt our lives were complete with 1/2.
All six of us caught a hop-on/off bus for a tour of the city. It was great to at least see the lay of the land and get across the river to the Gaia neighborhood. The city was getting fuller and fuller of citizens taking advantage of the festivities, especially in the city center. The tour was slowed by traffic jam after traffic jam, with
a few road closures. A harbinger of things to come...after getting off one bus to hop on a second, we waited and waited and waited and waited and, no bus. Too much traffic for a schedule. Wait more, or go home? We walked to the hotel and checked out the concerts on the way.
Showers, rest, then up to the 17th floor for spectacular views and a wonderful dinner. Life is good.
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