Saturday July 7th 2007
I went to Porto for a weekend. I had to sleep at Stansted to catch the early flight, which is always a horrific experience, and in my exhausted state I bought the wrong metro ticket and ended up in a distant suburb with no cash to buy a new ticket. I walked into town.
Once I'd made it there, I walked down to the river, where the red roofs of Ribeira climbed up the hills on the Porto side. The buildings looked crumbling and poor here, and there were a lot of beggars around. Underneath the Ponte Dom Luis, I walked up a street down which smelly water was running. Small grubby children were playing and I felt like I was in a poor part of Latin America. On top of the hill was another story - shiny new metro trains rumbled by, and grand buildings lined the streets.
I crossed over the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia, home of the port industry. Some sort of parade was taking place, and bands were marching by. I sat down and watched them going by, eventually falling asleep, exhausted by my night at Stansted.
Sunday July 8th 2007
I went to the beach. I was hugely disappointed to find that there was a street circuit in the suburb of Matosinhos which had hosted a round of the World Touring Car championship only the day before. I walked along the beach, watching the waves coming in off the north Atlantic. It was cooler now with a strong wind blowing, and sand whipped around as I walked along. Large ships were passing by off shore, on their way to and from a nearby container port.
Monday July 9th 2007
I had a quiet time in Porto. It seemed quite empty most of the time, and I just wandered around enjoying the chilled atmosphere.
Disaster almost struck on my way home. As I waited to board the flight, an announcement was made that the plane had hit a bird on its way in to Porto, and would need checking. Apparently someone needed to come from Lisbon to do the checking, which seemed crazy. The word was that we could expect to be here for at least five hours. I didn't quite know what to think when after just 45 minutes, they said that in fact everything was fine and we'd be on our way. It was good not to be delayed, but was our plane really safe? Well, we didn't crash, so I guess it was.