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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 40.965, -5.66305
Our second day in Porto was a completely free day to do with what we wanted. We took advantage of that by sleeping in and not having breakfast until 9am. We finally left the hotel about 11 and were greeted by a bright sunny day. We walked from the hotel to the riverfront and admired the view over the Douro. We were about to take the tram to the old town when the Hop on Hop off bus loomed into view so we opted for that instead.
The route took us along the banks of the river and then over the iron bridge and past the Caves along the opposite bank. Where the bus turned there were hundreds of motorbikes, a bikers' convention, obviously. Then we returned over the bridge and up into the main part of the city. We passed the town hall and several beautiful churches and had a stop at the Art Gallery. The gardens here are lovely. Then it was down to the Atlantic coast and a drive along white sandy beaches. The beach seemed to be a popular spot and because it was Sunday, there were many families taking advantage of the warm day.
the circuit and got off in the old town. We walked down to the riverside and looked for somewhere to have lunch. It was packed with people but we eventually found a table overlooking the river just near the bridge. Here we ate grilled squid and drank green wine and thoroughly relaxed into a lazy afternoon.
We did stir ourselves and did some shopping at the market stalls near the bridge before finding the blue line of the bus and embarking on another trip. This took us to several new places in the city and we finally alighted at the Central Railway station. This is an amazing building, decorated in the blue and white ceramic tiles much favoured in Spain and Portugal. After a busy day it was time to return to the hotel and relax with a drink and then dinner. We found a taxi easily and it was a short ride to the hotel. We were lazy so decided to eat there once again. This time my choice of pork was disappointing while Fletcher stuck to the prawns as he knew they were good. A large G&T capped off a good day.
The next morning it was back into routine:
Wake up call at 6, bags out by 7 and then breakfast and leave at 8am.Today we were leaving Portugal and heading back into Spain. We drove up into the mountains which Lucy told us were called Stellar or Star mountains. When we reached the border the police came aboard and checked passsports but it was merely a cursory glance.
We stopped for lunch at a small hillside town of Cuidad Rodrigo. Lucy explained that this was not a touristy place but it was a good chance to experience the life of a small town in the Spanish countryside. The main square was attractive and we found a small bar where we had empanadas and croquettes for lunch accompanied by a white wine. Another couple of hours driving brought us to the University town of Salamanca. Our hotel was right in the heart of the city and after a short rest we met our guide, Marie Jose who showed us around the town. The buildings here are mainly in the Romanesque style built from a yellow stone which gives the nickname of golden city to the place. Everything looks solid. Marie Jose explained the symbol of the frogs to us. Frog
souvenirs are everywhere and on the front of the Cathedral, on one of the columns there are 3 skulls one of which has a frog sitting on it. This was an admonition to the students to keep lust and sin( represented by the frog) at arm's length while they completed their studies. There has been an University here since the 12th century and we even saw the area where student duels used to take place. We walked down to the river where there are the remains of a Roman bridge. The Romans were here for quite a while. Back up the hill and we saw the palace of shells, so called because the walls are decorated with stone shell shapes.
It was about 7pm when the tour ended and we were free to explore on our own. We had walked a long way so we looked for a rest and a refreshing drink. Most of the cafes and restaurants looked very touristy but we found the Rua Mayor whose menu seemed a cut above the rest. Here we had a great meal of various Tapas and a wonderful red wine. The vegetable tempura, the sea bass ceviche and the octopus were
particularly outstanding. A good end to the day which had been a long and tiring one.
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