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March 26th 2011
Published: April 17th 2011
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Lisbon to Porto via Figueira

Monday 28th February 2011

Time to move on to Figuera da Foz, a convenient stopping point about half-way to our next planned destination, Porto. The site itself was very well placed, next to a pine woodland and with its own private access to the beach. After the usual settling-in chores and a bout of schoolwork, the call of the sand dunes proved too strong. Ben and Jack tired themselves out running to the tops and back down again in a Star Wars Tattooine- inspired game of chase and dare. The day ended with some internetting in the TV/ recreation room on site.

Tuesday 1st March 2011

Another long drive up to Porto. Once again, the proximity of the site to the beach allowed the boys to let off some steam after the journey – this time investigating the various inhabitants of the rock pools. A newly constructed wooden walkway made it an enjoyable walk as sunset approached.

Wednesday 2nd March 2011

The hour-long bus ride into Porto was well worthwhile. First stop was the train station, famed for its elaborate tiling. After a bite of lunch, it was time to explore the old town. Having walked down an extensive and somewhat rickety set of ancient stone steps, we took the more modern way back up. The furnicular was bright, gleaming silver bullet that smoothly and swiftly carried us up until we were level with one of the oldest pedestrian bridges across the River Duoro. Max’s fear of heights didn’t preclude her from crossing the bridge but she completed it with a scamper rather than a controlled amble. The plan at this point had been to commence a tour of the Port houses, but we were pleasantly waylaid by the offer of a boat trip up and down the Duoro to view Porto’s six bridges and to reach the point where the river stretches out into the sea. The trip took about an hour and gave us the opportunity to view both banks of the city, with its magnificent architecture juxtaposed against some significantly poorer shanty town areas. The left bank was Oporto. The right bank, where the port houses were situated was Vilanova de Gaia. In fact, the name Portugal is derived from these two towns, separated by the Duoro river. With the port houses reported to close at 5, and the time approaching 3:30, we rapidly headed up a steep hill to the Taylor’s port house. An entertaining port guide provided information on Taylor’s history and the method behind port production. Although it is a fortified wine, it is produced in a very different way from Sherry. During the obligatory tasting, we got talking to an interesting English couple who, like us, were taking a year out from work. They decided to come with us to our next port house – Croft. We were too late for the start of the tour but they let us catch up with the group just in time for the tasting. The boys were distraught at not getting the chance to hear the spiel on port production again, but Max and I struggled by with just the tasting. The bus journey was decidedly more traumatic on the way back, Even our slightly mellowed outlooks couldn’t stop the adrenalin rush as the Portugese driver careered headlong down the narrowest of alleys at full tilt, with only a flick of his headlights warning oncoming traffic of our imminent arrival.

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