Saturday, 26 October 2019

Going to Portugal - a late blogpost!

Friday. Another fine morning. Rosy-fingered dawn and all that sort of stuff. With oddly, not very far ahead of the sun, the tiniest sliver of waning moon. I have not sussed out moonrise and moonset times. As a child I imagined the sun and moon coordinated themselves so that when one went down the other came up but that is not the case. On many a fine afternoon you see the moon in the sky. And of course, it comes up an hour later every day, which I knew already, explaining why high tide is an hour later every day.

All of this stuff that we take for granted!

Such as that if I head out at 8.25 in the morning my breadshop/cafe will have bread waiting for me. Not this morning it didn’t. I was down there by about 8.35 and the place was still in almost complete darkness, just a light on in the back where they were presumably getting ready. It’s usually closer to 9.00 or a bit later when I get round there from my run so maybe they don’t open until 9.00. I am pretty sure I have been there at that time before now and found them open, although on one occasion they told me the bread had not yet arrived. So maybe that explains the delay.

Anyway, I had to go another, altogether inferior, breadshop this morning. We still miss the small bakery just up the road from our flats. They ovens were behind the shop itself and the bread was far better than anything made by even the smallish chains that supply many of the cafes and breadshops in our bit of Vigo. It must be two years or so ago that the older lady of those who worked there - if there was a man you never saw him - decided she was retiring. Well into her seventies, she deserved to retire, but as she was the owner of the place she decided to sell up and move elsewhere. Since then the place has been closed up. Twice this year we have seen signs of life, someone inspecting and cleaning up, but not really looking as though opening is imminent.

What a shame!

So on this fine and sunny day, we travelled. The best laid plans went a little haywire. The plan was to catch the 12.00 bus to Porto airport, where we would catch a metro to Porto’s Campanhá station, just in time for a train to Coimbra B. There we would be met by a friend with a car.

The timing was always going to be tight.

The bus arrived at the airport 10 minutes late and even though we were on a metro train within five minutes it was soon clear that we would miss our train to Coimbra. And the rest of the day was shunted to match it. So it goes.

I paid 50 cents to reacquaint myself with Campanhá station’s toilets - clean enough, nicely decorated, pot plants here and there and fado music in the background! I’m not sure it was 50 ents worth of fancy. Stations in the UK have recently decided to make their loos free. A big plus!

Then we bought our tickets to Coimbra B for a later train and sat on the platform eating the sandwiches I had prepared - hummus, ham and lettuce, gourmet sandwiches! We had to produce our passports to qualify for a discount on our tickets and get them out again when the ticket inspector came along on the train. He got very agitated with a pair of young people, Japanese looking, whose passports were in their suitcases. Presumably they were on some kind of young people’s discount and so had to show their ID documents. Maybe there is a trade in discounted tickets which demands strict controls on the trains.

This was a train going eventually to Faro, a super-smooth, highly sophisticated, high-speed train. A thing of sleek beauty, it had to be admired. It took an hour from Porto to Coimbra, dashing so fast through numerous, sometimes old and picturesque, stations that it was impossible to read the names.

By contrast the train we caught, after another hour’s wait, from Coimbra B to Figueira da Foz was slower and rather clunky, covering a much shorter distance in a rather longer time and stopping at just about every station along the way, with names like Vila Pouca do Campo, Ameal, Pereira and Formoselha-Santo Varåo.

Seen from trains, however, this long, thin country, Portugal, looks quite neat and well organised - an impression enhanced no doubt by the blue sky and sunshine.

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