In Summer 2016 we decided to do a side trip from our place in Asturias to Portugal. We had Lisbon as our end point to go and see Iron Maiden in concert and to see friends, on the way down we stopped in Porto. The only bad thing about the trip was that it didn’t last long enough.
I lived in Galicia in Northern Spain in 1996/97 and Porto was our nearest international airport. The city I remember then and the city we visited this Summer were the same, kind of, except for the thousands of tourists who have ‘discovered’ the city in the intervening years. Porto has three of four pretty decent draws, the old town, the port wine lodges, the grub and the surrounding countryside so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s ‘on the map’.
Anyway, we were in town for an overnight stop so we only managed a hot and sweaty walk and ride around and some decent grub, before we headed off to Lisbon the next morning, but next time the city really does warrant a longer stay.
We booked into a family room at a cheapish new hotel just outside the city centre (like two minutes just outside) around lunch time, after a five-hour drive from Oviedo, so I for one was ready for food followed by a kip, so that’s what happened. The first thing that we noticed was that food and drink were cheap and there was plenty of it, and the cafe we chowed down in just next to bus station, was true to bus station form in both these regards.
After an afternoon nap we tracked down a tourist bus because it was just too hot and hilly to drag the boys around, but it was still with a heavy heart that we forked out the total rip off price for a bus ride. Once again if I had been bothered to spend thirty minutes researching which public buses to take I could have spent the difference on vinho verde instead 😦
We got the bus to a couple of different spots, first, was the promenade along the river, which had some restaurants and some trees to hide from the sun. There were also some kids cleaning the days catch, in this case the very overpriced (INMHO) percebes. After a walk it was time for the next bus to one of the main tourist areas across the other side of the river, the Port warehouses. There was a busy atmosphere with places to eat and drink and of course many of the Port houses offered tours, which next time I wouldn’t mind trying. Still the boys only had eyes for the new teleferico which carried us back up the hill so that’s what we did… These made for some nice pics, but it was overpriced (don’t ask me how much) and we only did the proverbial quick up and down.
I highly recommend a mandatory afternoon kip for anyone travelling with kids or who gets knackered after walking around in the hot sun like a mad dog and an Englishman. Hotel TV is increasingly rubbish, but with wifi the kids are kept happy with iPad fun while we shut our eyes. I’d like to say they were engaged in virtual treasure hunts to discover the history of Portugal but that would be a lie, I have no idea what they were doing as long as they left me alone. We also stumbled across the market along the waterfront, (I say stumble across you couldn’t miss it to be honest), and Danny got himself a fetching leopard print baseball cap featured in later photos.
In the evening we strolled down to the riverside (the other side of the river this time), along with a couple of thousand other tourists to find some cod and vinho verde followed by an overpriced coffee and people watch. The food in the restaurant was not quite up to the atmosphere or look of the place (small, cozy, just off the main drag, super friendly waitress and indeed owner, although that may have been because he was pissed). But it was good value like everything in Porto and they made an effort with kids so all was good.
So is Porto good for kids? Well there’s the teleferico, it’s cheap, the Portuguese are kid friendly and mom and dad can spend a fair amount of time pissed, so I would say yes. There’s also some gorgeous countryside around and for these reasons I would definitely put the region of the ‘come back for a longer stay’ list.
Lisbon of course means Iron Maiden, at least on one hot night in July 2016, I’ve still got the ROCK!!! I went with Tommy and Lorena ( we didn’t leave Danny tied to a lampost he stayed with friends) I couldn’t drink, smoke, headbang or swear, but I did sneak in a devil’s horns so ROCK ON…..
As well as being in town to stand around with 10,000 other middle aged blokes with glasses and black Ts we were also there to visit Mari Bel and Maria Fe our friends Victor and Eli’s sister and niece. We had two nights, one rocking out as previously described and the other watching Portugal with the European cup, who’d da thunk it!
We were out of the city to visit Mari Bel’s Swiss boyfriend Sandro in his cool roof terrace included flat, so it was BBQ and pool (the one you do with stick and balls) and after some afternoon torpor, did I mention that Lisbon is MUCH hotter than the North of Portugal? We headed into the ‘town’ square to watch the second half of the match, we had tried the first half, but it was still light and you couldn’t see a thing on the screen, although to be honest with the quality of the game this didn’t make a massive difference. Anyway, jumping around ensued and Tommy spent the rest of the holiday saying “we” won (meaning Portugal), I told him that was taking the wherever I lay my hat principal a bit far.
With all our footy and heavy metal based fun I don’t have much to say about the city because we didn’t really get to see very much, which is pretty much a big shame. My niece Rosie was also in Lisbon by happy coincide so we met up with her on our one free afternoon and had a wander around the Barrio Alto, including a stop off for some lunch in a traditional tasca type place, can I remember what we had to eat? Not a clue, was it delicious, yes it was. The one bit I do remember is that were last in for lunch and by the time we were finishing the staff were sitting down to eat. As Lorena admired what the chef was having he sent some over to us well 🙂 who said they aren’t hospitable in the big city. We also managed some of obligatory creme custards (given a posh name of course), which were recommended by a guy in the street who overheard us comparing the Spanish with the Portuguese (favourably for the Portuguese)
Lisbon left me wanting more, but like with most cities the kids were underwhelmed. The big bridge was winner (is it even a bridge? It goes on forever) but they were most impressed with the pool table.
We did a quick lunch stop in Coimbra on the way back to Asturias and just about managed to take enough photos to make it look like we actually visited. Anyway lunch was cheap and tasty and it looked pretty damn nice yet again.
Portugal has this vibe of people pretty much living life in a contented fashion, now that could be that my Portuguese doesn’t stretch to understanding people’s moaning or it could be that the tourist cliches are true. Who knows. I do know that if I could earn a living wage here I’d be back like a shot and wouldn’t leave in a hurry.