Endless rolling hills and winding roads wrapping around them, tropical smell of Eucalyptus trees, reminding me of India or perhaps South of Spain and starry skies like somewhere in a small French village or on Goa beach… Blending new emotions together with the past memories. Colorful houses built diagonally on the sides of the hills and some crazy driving of the locals. This is my first impression of (North) Portugal.
Our 4-day trip in the beginning of the month went all along the countryside roads around Porto, then to Lisbon by train and offered a quick peek to the picturesque castles of Sintra.
But to start off from where our Portugese adventure really started, have to go back to the “cosmic station” of Porto airport (or should I say air-Porto), which welcomed us with Star Trek-like interior.
Our first destination and the base camp for a few days, was a lovely small town(or even a village) of Castelo de Paiva, by the river Douro. Would be nice to actually have time to look around and explore the hills, but hopefully next time, as trip was mostly about work.
By day 2 unfortunately it had started to rain and the promised never ending sunshine of Portugal(or so they say) had disappeared, getting replaced with mystical misty valleys and annoyingly cold rain. Actually it seemed to be hotter and drier even in London at that time!
Had a short stop over in Porto, just enough to drink a glass of Port by the side of the river near Maria Pia bridge, built by Eiffel himself – indeed, it looked rather similar to his famous Parisian tower´s metal constructions – and admire tiny cable cars riding up and down the “rope” across the river.
Within the couple of hours spent in Porto, I can´t say that I managed to develop a clear opinion of this town. Greatly due to the weather it left me with a feeling of general grayness, brightened up with some colourful buildings and beautiful azulejo ceramic tilework ornaments, abundance of abandoned houses, narrow winding streets and a certainly intriguing sense of mystery.
If you happen to go to Porto and get one of those free Porto maps that have an “Art Spot” drawn on it and you might get an idea to check it out – well, don´t! 🙂 That´s my little advice. We tried and could not find anything more there than just a random small gallery. Or maybe the art scene of Porto is just so underground and you´d need a lot more time than just an hour to find it(and definitely not following commercially printed tourist maps to find the genuine avant-garde).
But here´s some “street art” from along the way – azulejo tilework from past centuries. Apparently they were not only used as an ornamental art form, but also had a specific functional capacity like temperature control in homes.
The easiest way to get from Porto to Lisbon is by train. Departing almost every hour, the 2.5hr journey rushes through half of the country at the speed of 140-220 km/h. The train tickets can be pre-booked online and the journey in First Class is a total delight!
to be continued…