Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Going to Portugal again.

On Saturday we went to Portugal. Some friends of ours were flying back to the UK from Oporto airport. As their flight was early on Sunday morning we decided that the four of us would go and have a day out in Oporto and a last meal together in the evening. And so off we went on the Alsa bus, which feels as though it takes you round half of Portugal, going via Braga and Oporto airport before dropping you off finally in Praça de Galiza, thus avoiding the city centre completely. We had a little drama at Oporto airport as someone discovered just as the bus was setting off again that one of their party had accidentally got off at the airport. Just in time she managed to explain the situation to the driver who very obligingly went round the airport again and collected the absent-minded fool!

Finally we arrived at Praça de Galiza without further
mishap and took a taxi to our hotel. I did what has become my usual routine with Portuguese taxi drivers: tell them in Portuguese that I don’t speak their language, sorry, then explain that I understand a fair amount of gallego (almost Portuguese) and carry on the rest of my conversation in Spanish. It works like a charm as a rule. They then speak their Portuguese more slowly and clearly and I get the gist of what they are saying. This time it resulted in our booking the taxi to go to the hotel on Sunday morning early to take our friends to the airport. Another job done! Everyone happy!

We had booked rooms at the Res
idencial Vera Cruz, a place we have used several times but this time we had a view of the Avenida dos Aliados, much better that the inner courtyard we saw last time we were there. Our friends did even better; for the same price their room on the floor below ours also had a little terrace complete with table, chairs and sun lounger. Well, we know exactly which room to ask for next time!

And so,
having deposited our belongings, we set off for a bit of sightseeing, finding shady spots as the sun had come out and the temperature was rising. This time, with a little help from our friends, we located the amazing old bookshop Livraría Lello, just over 100 years old. On our last visit we had looked for it but on a rather chilly and rainy evening and had given up after a rather fruitless search.

When we found it this time it was obvious that we had been close on the pr
evious occasion; in fact we probably walked past it but saw nothing but rain. Umbrellas do rather get in the way. The exterior of this building is impressive enough but the magnificent wooden staircases and the floor to ceiling original wooden bookshelves simply take your breath away.

Quite earl
y next morning I vaguely registered the sound of suitcase wheels on the pavement outside at some point, almost certainly our friends leaving, but we had said our goodbyes and so I turned over and went back to sleep. Some time later we had a leisurely breakfast and plotted a route, on foot this time, back to Praça de Galiza to catch a bus back to Vigo.

Our progress was impeded by hundreds of women running (well,
some of them were running, the ones at the front) through the late morning sunshine. We had seen the preparations for a sporting event of some kind on Avenida dos Aliados earlier and here it was, a women’s marathon. As the day was already hot, I could quite understand the great mass who had given up on running and were strolling along, with a good deal of shouting and whooping as they went.

We took refuge in the gardens of the Palacio de Cristal where a religious service (this was Sunday morning) was going on and being broadcast through loudspeakers to those who had opted to entertain their children with pony rides, “jo
gos tradicionals” such as stilts, hoops, skipping or less traditional stuff such as tackling a climbing wall. You do get some good views of the old town from there; it’s worth a visit.

And eventually we caught the bus back to Vigo, taking another look at Braga bus station en route. Because Portugal works on the same time line as the UK we had to put our watches forward, meaning that we did not reach Vigo until late afternoon. However, it was a fine sunny afternoon, another friend phoned us as we were on the last stage of the journey and we finished our weekend with cold beers outside a bar on Rosalía de Castro. Not a bad life on the whole!

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