As I was saying yesterday we were parked right beside the train station. We had our tickets and we were ready to go so we got up early-ish and got the 9:18am train. But not before taking some pictures of the old station. (beautiful blue tiles) Then off we went delighted with ourselves. Very soon we realized we were sitting on the wrong side of the train… every seat on the left side going towards Porto was full, we were sitting on the right side. That’s the side the sun was pouring in… we were soon roasted, but grand.
Within an hour we had arrived in Porto at a station called Campanhã and then the train driver got out – a bit disconcerting. We were supposed to be going to Saõ Bento. You know how it is, you’re watching everybody else wondering what they are going to do? Asking yourself, “is this really the last stop?” And then the train started up again and we were going backwards… into Porto.
We saw some beautiful views over the river including the bridges but I wasn’t able to take pictures because like I said, we were sitting on the wrong side of the train. But, it was spectacular. If you ever go to Porto get on one of the trains that go over the river, any of the trains and any of the bridges. Also there’s a walking bridge that has a metro line running on it too. Walk on that one too. I’ll see if I can find the name of the bridge and the metro line. (It’s the Don Luis I Bridge Metro Yellow or D line.) There are amazing views of Porto from that bridge.
Now we were in the train station at Saõ Bento in Porto and we had until 12.30pm to wait for our tour. We had decided not to have breakfast or coffee, we wouldn’t eat anything until the tour because it’s a food tour, there will be food… oh I nearly forgot Saõ Bento station is impressive and it’s worth taking a moment to look at the blue tiles covering the walls of the big hall at the entrance. Lots of people are doing the same thing – just standing there taking pictures. Then we walk out of the station and see the most people we’ve seen in one place for years! Literally. The streets are jampacked… we look at each other and decide to change our minds about the no coffee and sit at the first free seat in a cafe across the road from the station.
Denis went in to order coffee and a nata while I kept myself busy watching dodgy looking characters. There would be no leaving my bag, nonchalantly on a chair here. To be honest I saw nothing out of the ordinary but my nervous system was indeed on full alert. Probably didn’t need the coffee then… hmmm.
After coffee, we headed off to Trinidad station (to meet our guide) just walking the streets of Porto is so nice and was very comfortable. Not every part of the center was as busy as the station and it was a beautiful day, not too hot in the shade with a nice breeze. We spent time in a book/stationery shop and I got a book of poems from the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa and Denis bought a phone cover.
It was time to meet our guide, Clara, she had sent me a WhatsApp earlier and we were to meet up outside a cafe near the Trindade train station. We were supposed be waiting outside the café but it was hot so we were waiting in the shade and we could see the cafe in the distance. It wasn’t long before I realised that she may also be waiting in the shade somewhere and we really better go stand outside the cafe… in the hot sun.
Almost immediately I saw someone who could be our guide, I went up to her and said, “are you Clara?” No it wasn’t Clara, the clues were, her lack of response and the fact that she was vaping. Fortunately, at that very moment, a friendly voice said, “hi, I’m Clara, are you waiting for a Clara?” Clara had a huge smile and shook hands confidently and I thought, yes, I picked the right tour. The power of first impressions.
Remember when we were in Vila Nova de Milifontes? And I got the the idea for some kind of tour that would help me navigate food markets. Well, there were hundreds of food related tours you can go on in Porto and there are thousands of reviews. A lot of information to wade through and choose. So I chose the one that felt right… having no idea if this tour would do the trick but trusting it would be grand.
So here we are with Clara and she sets off at a quick pace with the two of us tagging along. You know how it is when you’re in a new place and every junction needs to be paused at just in case you’re going the wrong way? And more importantly you need to look both ways twice because you’ve forgotten again which way the traffic flows? Well, Clara always knew where she was going and was confidently walking across junctions. And I was happily trusting her with my life. (Yes, I did secretly look both ways, ready to grab her if she missed something speeding in her direction, did I mention my on full alert nervous system?)
Part 2 tomorrow…