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Published: September 8th 2019
Last night we walked down to the main road leading to Ponte D Luis, aided by the clever web site established by our hosts for their business. It has a google map link that highlights the essentials to get us around. We had dinner at a local cafe, an empañada and coke , and while waiting for Sue to finish - I know, I eat too fast; I wish it was an Olympic event - I spotted a trail of people heading up a very steep path to something.
At my suggestion to find out what ‘something‘ is, Sue gave me the , look at the hill look, but I was not to be denied. After glowing compliments about how well Lisbon’s trekking had gone, and how she’d even surprised herself, l led and she followed cautiously. Sometimes it is good to look back, and in no time we were staring back at the street below with only metres left.
At the top of the hill sat Monestario Serra do Pilar, a magnificent illuminated building overlooking the river Douro. Hundreds of people were enjoying the sky fading to deep crimson, highlighting the eclectic horizon of Porto, with the old
fortified walls, domes recalling the days of Islamic rule, and the palaces and towers that we will explore in the coming days.
If selfies were an Olympic event, I’m sure the gold medalist was among us somewhere. I don’t care if people enjoy being in pictures with places of interest around them; they’re holiday snaps. But the the guy who asked a few Asian tourists to move out of the way last night, to accommodate his girlfriend pulling the signature move of the sideways glance, whimsically touching the tip of her hair, took the prize. Is she an ‘influencer’ ? She influenced me; I wanted to push them both off the bridge. How rude.
I’ve got learn to ignore these people. There’s so many wonderful worthwhile people out there. I’m trying.
Today we had a sleep in, a late breakfast, and toddled off at 9.39am.
We crossed the Ponte do D Luis Bridge, which is much higher than it seemed last night from our view from above it, and luckily walked into a tourist information and ticket centre almost immediately. The young girl there guided us through a few of the technicalities of boat rides, train
movements, and where to board things like the chair lift to the riverside that we will certainly take tomorrow to reach our boat cruise.
When I say cruise, it’s really a slow sail on a traditional type of boat they used to ply their trade up the Douro, moving freight and helping people get around. Most cruises are for 3 to 9 hours and stop at various wineries for tours, cellar inspections and tastings. It was explained that much of the time is taken up with these activities, so we’ve opted for the ‘ temperance tour ( my description, not the tourist information girl,), where we pass the six bridges, head out to the sea, and return to the port. It’s all we want and we’re not committing too much time to it.
Another point of interest for us is the Livraria Lello, an historic bookshop that J. K.Rowlings credits with inspiring her to write the Harry Potter book series. I’ve seen pictures of this shop and it has a fairytale look, very Harry Potter, fitted out with deep stained, ornate timberwork, and is still a working shop. I’m hoping to buy one book at least just to
say I have. I’m excited, and the cost of the entry comes off the book, so even better. Our plans for a visit today were scuttled by our naive perception that we would walk straight in. Oh no you don’t. The line is about 40 metres long , broken by the road, and if a tour bus turns up, they move to the front of the queue.
We lined up in the ticket shop where the queue was a little shorter. At 5€ per person for entry, I hope JK is getting some commission. I’m sure she’s the drawcard for many visitors. We saw young children, jumping about and frothing at the mouth in unbridled excitement. It reminded me of supporters of the Footscray Football Club a few years ago, when they won a premiership and broke a drought stretching back to the 1950s. Everyone was excited for them. That’s these kids.
We’d been wandering up and down for about 6 hours by this stage, had visited churches, tourist shops - Ka- Ching ! -and had an artistic floral ice cream next to the Lello. You had to join a long queue there as well, but it was
On our way towards the bridge, we called into the tourist ticket shop, bought boat tickets, and staggered up the hill to our place, a little leg weary. Dinner will be nearby at a local restaurant, recommended by our hosts who eat there every Saturday. I’ll be checking to see if the staff look anything like them. Could be a relative.
Tomorrow is the bookshop, the boat ride later in the day, and the middle will be packed with the local market, maybe some museums, and whatever else we see. Catch up then.
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