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  • Day20

    Porto - the Party City of Portugal

    October 7, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    It seems that every country has a city that offers the visitor about 50 different ways to kill themselves. I didn’t have to be in Porto for long before realising that Porto is obviously the thrill seekers' favourite Portuguese city. Whether it’s jet skiing, jet boating, motorcycling, Segway riding or a few dozen others, you are never far away from the roar of some kind of engine. In New Zealand the place for action is Queenstown, in Portugal it’s Porto.

    The city itself is certainly a fascinating mix of contrasts. From affluent shopping centres to derelict and abandoned houses, from well dressed young shoppers to filthy beggars sitting by the roadside asking for a handout. With its hilly location on both banks of the Douro River it really has geography working in its favour. The river itself is spanned by several towering bridges, the most impressive of which is the huge Dom Luis I Bridge.

    This huge metal structure was designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes the tower guy) and was completed around 1890. At the time its 172 m span was the greatest in the world. The upper path is now only for pedestrians and trams and, at 85 metres above the water, it offers an amazing view down to the city.

    You might have thought that the walking part of our trip would have been completed by now. If you though that you would have been wrong. According to my GPS I walked over 12 km before I sat down for lunch. I had also made life a little harder for myself by climbing the staircase to Mr Eiffel’s bridge, rather than ride in the funicular railway up the hillside.

    After wandering back and forth across the bridge I started to make my way back towards the hotel. I had not walked long before I was tapped on the shoulder. When I turned around there was a young gypsy girl with a clipboard in her hand. It was evident that the famous petition scam was alive and well in Porto. I told her that I was not interested (actually I might have told her to clear off if I am entirely honest).

    Since I had nothing better to do with my time I decided to follow her for a little while and watch her at work. To my dismay many tourists were not aware of how the sting works and bent down to sign the bogus bit of paper. I was even more alarmed when some handed over money when the inevitable sting kicked into action. At least she never got the opportunity to pick anyone’s pocket while I was watching.

    I was also greatly relieved that yesterday’s rain has now passed completely. The air is now clear and the temperature is now much milder. The low humidity also helps greatly when you are working hard exploring a city.

    Our hotel is not very far from the main shopping precinct. When I first walked down the main street yesterday, I was a little unsure of where all the smoke was coming from. I soon discovered it was from many vendors roasting chestnuts on the street corners. It is apparently a popular snack at this time of the year. There are also copious clouds of smoke billowing forth from the numerous smokers. As in most European countries, the anti smoking message has made little impact on the smoking habits of the population. Just as upsetting is the casual way that they blithely toss their used butts on the footpath, even when there is a bin within arm’s length.

    We have one more evening in this fascinating town before catching the Lisbon train tomorrow morning. I am so glad it is NOT another bus ride.
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