Tag Archives: tourism

Portugal 2007 Part 2: Coimbra and Lisbon

Originally posted September 14 2009 on em411.com

Coimbra

I was staying in Coimbra with Vic, whom I met at the first Stfu Porto. The city is home to Portugal’s first university, which is also one of Europe’s oldest. Luck would have it that I was in town for the annual week-long “Queima das Fitas” AKA the “Burning of the Ribbons” festival, so called because of the symbolic burning of the ribbons that represented the particular faculty that the student was tied to. It goes back for centuries and is a bit more stylish than your average student graduation ceremony.

My introduction to Coimbra however was anything but stylish and involved waiting for a long period in the train station’s taxi queue on the busiest night of the year while drunken top-hat and cape wearing graduates sang, shouted, threw things and generally annoyed the hell out of all the non-students in the queue…I take back what I said about luck as well, because although I arrived on the first day of festivities I was too late for the street parade and free beer, kindly provided by some beer companies. Some 30,000 bottles or so were handed out according to Vic and allegedly more beer is drunk during one week of the Burning of the Ribbons than one week in Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany! When we finally arrived at Vic’s I realised that a few student friends and relatives were also staying over, and when I say a few I mean there were about 15 people squeezed into a small 3 bedroom flat!

I had brought Vic a lovely present from Scotland, a Tam O’Shanter hat, you know the tartan type with the ginger hair poking out from underneath? In exchange he showed me his kilt. Yes, he really did have one, but it was in need of repair and regrettably I had left my kilt repair kit at home. After dinner I was invited out to experience the Coimbra nightlife but declined being on the sleepy side, oh yeah, I had been to an all night rock club just that morning so had been awake for over 24 hours without any sleep…

I was in Coimbra for 2 days and did what I usually do when I’m on holiday on my own in a strange city; I wandered about, mostly aimlessly but with a slight goal in mind – to meet up with Vic and Filipe after they finished work. I had stupidly only packed one pair of shoes for the trip but was doing a lot of walking and remember what I said about smelly feet in part 1? So I bought some 5€ flip flops in town and went walking. I was conscious that there was a strong smell of urine on many corners of the old town and was beginning to think that this was a trait of Portuguese towns but then I remembered the previous night’s festivities. Lots of students, lots of booze but a distinct lack of all-night public amenities because the shopping centres and record stores were shut (see part 3!)

And then drama! my girlfriend’s new Sony Alpha DSLR camera that I had borrowed started malfunctioning, and all I did to it was switch it off! Contrast this to my own non-SLR camera that had been dropped from various heights, numerous times and has had allsorts spilled over it and yet still worked fine. For the remainder of the trip the camera would work but would make a horrible motor noise every time it was switched on and off and it would struggle to focus correctly. Urgh.

At some point on the way to Vic and Filipe’s workplace I realised that my crudely hand-drawn map didn’t really make sense and that I was running out of time to meet them on time. I managed to nip into the tourist info just before it closed and got a proper map. I had to head south to meet them and estimated that it would take 40 minutes on foot to get there, meaning I would be a little late so I decided that taxi was the best option. According to the map the Parque train station was a 10 minute walk south, surely that would have a taxi rank right? No, it didn’t and the little old woman whom I accosted didn’t speak a word of English. She had veered away from me the minute I approached her and she didn’t want to be any help whatsoever, refusing to point out anything on the map. I didn’t see any taxis on the way here nor did I see any on the 10 minute walk back to the tourist info office, which had now closed. I looked at a few bus timetables but really had no idea where they were going so walked a further 10 minutes north to the central train station where I eventually got a taxi, which then got stuck in traffic and arrived 10 minutes later, at about the same time it would have taken me to walk the whole way. D’oh! I was quickly introduced to another of Vic’s friends before she went home, leaving myself, Vic and Filipe to go for a few beers, a tuna sandwich and lupini beans, which since my first trip to Portugal I had been trying to track down in Britain without luck (EDIT: but I have now found them in Super Asia on Pollokshaws Rd). I taught Vic some Scottish slang for when his kilt is repaired and then we went to the train station. While waiting for the train I bought a carton of Um Bongo from the shop, which brought back happy memories of childhood as they stopped selling it in Britain a number of years ago, though there is a campaign to bring it back. The train pulled in, I said goodbye to Vic and I hoped on, in 2 hours time I would be in Lisbon…

Photos from Coimbra here

Lisbon

Arriving in any city late at night when you have never been there before and have only a vague notion of where you are going is not recommended. I arrived at Lisbon’s Santa Apolonia at 23:30 and had picked a hotel 2 metro lines away. Unfortunately I only had a single map from a guidebook that was slightly inaccurate, suggesting that the street where my hotel lay began at the intersection and did not cross the intersection, and so when I walked out of the metro at around midnight at a crossroads and looked across the road and saw the name of the street I was looking for, I crossed over and walked off….in the wrong direction.
Perhaps the police standing at the beginning of the street was a warning and when I noticed that the street numbers were going down instead of up my brain really should have kicked into gear (I blame it on a lack of sleep), instead I kept walking and ended up in a poorly lit neighbourhood which I can best describe as highly intimidating. A large group of African immigrants eyed me suspiciously as I walked past, there were groups of people milling about, some laughing, some shouting, some arguing, but most just standing about watching…waiting…in a street that had virtually no lighting at 00:30 on a Wednesday morning! I was surprised no one approached me as I was clearly lost. I walked out onto the main road, backtracked to the metro station and found my way to the hotel. I was late but the owner was not bothered – he was friendly and agreeable. I asked him about the area I had just walked in and he advised me to steer clear of it as it was where the drug dealing went down. Mind you, in the following 4 days I spent in Lisbon I was actually offered drugs 3 times, each time in broad daylight and in the main shopping streets.

I settled down into my room and then the owner knocked, he told me to come with him and I followed him into a darkened room…a light came on. “This is the fridge” he said proudly. “You can keep your things cool here, but shhh, not tell everyone. Just for you.”
I had gained his trust and had VIP access to the secret fridge! I returned to the bedroom. My room had no TV or en-suite shower but had a double bed, washbasin and a bidet so I could wash my arse to my heart’s content.

The following morning I awoke to strange noises outside my door, sounding to me as if someone was continually hoisting a sail, not that I’ve ever sailed a ship! Eventually I stuck my head out the door. “Good morning” said the hotel owner, who was ironing a million and one bed sheets right outside my room.

I nipped into the shower next door and showered in the cold (no, it never got hot) water. When dressed I asked the owner for advice on how to spend my time. “Go to Belém and have a Pastel de Nata” he said and so I did. But not before I asked for suggestions for breakfast, which wasn’t included. He led me out the door and down the street to the local pastelaria. “This is where I take all my good guests” he boasted proudly. He spoke with the owner of the pastelaria, first of all in Portuguese, probably saying “here is the victim for tonight’s human sacrifice” then in English “He will take good care of you. See you later” The pastelaria owner proffered me to sit down. After croissant and coffee I got the metro down to the river and then the tram along to Belém, or at least I tried to. I missed my stop.

As I found out – press the stop button if you want off a tram in Lisbon. If you don’t and no one else wants on or off it will whizz past your destination, and the next stop, and the next…
I walked back to Belém and visited the Torre de Belem, which is a little castle like building on the beach. A former prison and Customs House, today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is popular with tourists though there isn’t really that much to see. I did get a few good photos, though getting up and down the stairs was a pain as it is very narrow and clearly not designed with the foresight that one day fat Germans and Americans would be clambering up and down. After that I walked along the riverside, took a few photos of the Henry the Navigator monument and headed back into Lisbon.

When I was in Porto a number of Portuguese delicacies were recommended to me, some of which I had tried but some still eluded me. I asked the hotel owner about them, all of which contained meat. “I am vegetarian” he told me, “and my wife is vegetarian also” Thwarted. He suggested that any decent restaurant in downtime would have these dishes on the menu. “Isn’t downtown expensive?” I asked. “Not if you stick to the pastelarias he told me, you will get lunch for 5 euro”
And so I headed to downtown. I looked in a few of the pastelarias and noticed something that probably should have dawned on me during the earlier conversation. Pastelarias sell cakes and pastries. If I wanted a filling meal I’d need to find a restaurant. And so I found a place that did “Alheiras De Mirandela” for a mere 6€. This was the “garlicky chicken sausage” that I had been told about in Porto. It was created by the Jews living in Mirandela, being kosher and fearing persecution from the inquisition, they created a sausage that looked like pork, tasted like pork but was made from any meat other than pork. Whether it fooled anyone or not I can’t say. I walked inside and made it clear that I was a dumb foreigner and was given an English menu. On the badly laminated menu dishes lost their exotic names, and beef specialities simply became “beef steak”. “Crème Caramel” and “Crème Brulee” had all the life sucked out of them becoming simply “custard desert” and “caramel desert” respectively. But worst of all, average prices were now 12€ and there was no 6€ non-pork pork-meat tasting sausage listed! I requested to pick from the local menu and paid the local price for my sausage. My 2 orange juices, main course, desert and coffee were all delivered promptly. However, when it came time to pay for the bill, suddenly no one wanted to know I was there, and so I waited and was avoided, repeatedly. What had I done to offend them? I watched as the woman opposite me had her main replaced by coffee and a bill. She paid and left but still the waiters walked past me with not a single one making eye contact. I had to stand up and walk to the till before a bill appeared. I didn’t leave a tip and I’m sure they were talking about me as I left “The Brit who refused to order from the English menu and had the audacity to order a coffee after his pastry and then didn’t leave a tip!”

I hadn’t been on the internet for a few days and was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms when I found a place called “CAFÉ INTERNET.” A girl stood outside the door holding a menu. I asked her about the internet, she asked me about “luncheon.” I told her that I was only interested in the internet; she told me that she was only interested in “luncheon.” I told her that I had just eaten. A minor point as far as she was concerned as she pointed to the menu on the sandwich board and smiled. I repeated that I had no desire to eat and as things were at the pointy stage, pointed to the sign above our heads that said “INTERNET” in big shiny capital letters. She shrugged her shoulders. She’d never heard of it. Seeing that she was getting nowhere, she then resorted to asking me in Spanish whether I wanted “luncheon!” I told her thanks but no thanks and walked off.

The search for the internet took me to near the cathedral, where I spotted a sign pointing to “Cyber Café” I followed a few of these signs towards the castle where they seemed to stop. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to stick to the main road, or head towards the castle. I stupidly veered off the main road and found nothing so headed back to the main road and the signs re-appeared a bit further along, pointing off the main road eventually. After 20 minutes of walking and no Cyber Café and no more signs I gave up and headed to Castelo De São Jorge. You get an excellent view of the city from up here but by the time I got there I had missed the last visit to the camera obscura. Damn you Cyber café!

When I left the castle I continued in the same direction I was walking earlier and kept going until I did find an internet café. I checked my emails and had one from Dan with a contact number for his friend Hugo. I tried txting Hugo but got a strange message back. Dan explained that it was a landline that I was txting as Hugo did not have a mobile phone. So I phoned him but as he worked until 9pm each night he suggested meeting up for a few beers on Friday instead. His girlfriend Sara had a mobile and so it was decided that I would call or txt her to meet-up. I also had a reply from Pedro, who runs the Test Tube net label and monocromatica records. He was available to meet up for a beer or coffee that night in Belém. I let Pedro know I was coming and headed there. Upon leaving the internet cafe I noticed something curious. There were 3 internet cafes on this street and the very last one (i.e. the furthest one away from all the signs) was the fabled “Cyber café”.

On the way I stumbled into a place called “Megavega” for a cold drink but then so intrigued was I with their “all you can eat vegetarian buffet” that I decided to stay for food and had the whole place to myself. Not a single soul even bothered to look in while I sat there. It cost 15€ for the food and 2 drinks, which I thought was a bit steep given that there’s only so many ways that you can package falafel and couscous.

In Belém I met up with Pedro, he took me to a local bar for a few beers and then gave me a car tour of late night Lisbon, which was a welcome surprise but depressingly the most common sight on our trip were prostitutes. He even dropped me off near my hotel and warned me about the drug-dealing area and he gave me two free cds! Sadly I didn’t have anything to give him in return as although I had brought vinyl with me I had given it all away in Porto and Coimbra.

Dan had recommended that I visit the Gulbenkian museum (4€ entry to the permanent exhibits), so I paid it a visit on the morning of my last full day in Lisbon. It houses a large collection of artefacts from around the world amassed by an oil-made Armenian collector. Portugal was the only European country to offer him a passport, hence why the collection ended up here. It’s a bit similar to the Burrell collection in Glasgow, so if you’ve been there you know roughly what to expect. The Gulbenkian features Ottoman rugs, paintings, furniture, jewellery. If you go, look out for the dark humour in the tapestries with the cherubs. The best bit of the gallery for my money is the Rene Lalique collection. An assortment of mostly art nouveau jewellery. Incredibly intricate work with ivory, metal interspersed with gemstones. My personal favourite was a letter opener with ivory handle depicting an open book (most probably the bible) and souls falling to the demons below. Made circa 1900, his work reminded me of an old school H.R Geiger, art nouveau but dark and mysterious.

I edged past the school group who were visiting and made my way to the nearby Entrecampos train station. It was time to visit one last place…

Originally posted September 14 2009 on em411.com

Portugal 2007 Part 1: Porto

Originally posted September 08 2009 on em411.com

In April I returned to Portugal to partake in the 3rd year of the STFU Porto music festival.

My first impression of Porto airport, when I arrived 2 years previously was that it was the most futuristic looking airport that I had visited. On returning I can say that this is still very much the case as you can now bypass the passport control queue and self-scan your passport at a turnstile and be on your way before everyone else, provided you have a biometric passport.
I don’t however, so I had to wait in the lengthy queue and grumble. Once in arrivals I was greeted by Hélder and Nuno, who are responsible for putting on STFU Porto year after year, unfortunately it was late at night so there was no time for food, chatting or sightseeing, instead they would drop me off at the hotel and we would meet up the following day.

Hélder told me that I was staying at a hotel named after a king. The last hotel I stayed at in Porto was also named after a king, well, Christ the King, and it was a shithole. However given its central location, en-suite shower, double bed and bedside cabinet complete with 3 stale bread rolls, a coin and an empty packet of paracetamol for the thrifty sum of 7€ per night I would return if that was all my budget allowed. This time however I was breaking the bank at 20€ per night but I was just a stones throw from the venue.

We arrived at the hotel. The smell hit me first of all, that familiar stale cheap European hotel smell. Fit for a king? Maybe Jonathan King perhaps. Hélder did the talking to the guy at reception but he did speak some English. He led me to the 1st floor and showed me the room. It was larger than I expected but smelt just as bad up here. I smelt bad too though as I had been travelling all day, so to cool off I stripped down to my underpants (after the hotel guy had left of course!), my shoes smelled awful and I was relieved that it was the guy in front of me at Stansted airport who was instructed to put his shoes through the x-ray and not me. I had no windows, just a frosted glass door leading outside. It was a warm night so I stepped out onto the balcony; it was huge and had a table and a few chairs. I could get used to this I thought but then the washing line came into view, complete with underwear – someone’s knickers were drying on my balcony! There were no other doors, though the window of the neighbouring room did look out onto my balcony. I thought about the options, either Bo and Luke Duke were next door and made frequent washing trips through the window, or I could be dealing with the Portuguese Spiderman…worse yet was the bland but more realistic prospect that the cleaner simply used the room as a means of getting to the balcony and if I’m hung-over and fondling myself that’s not something I would really want.

I had recently purchased a new 1.4 aperture lens for the Sony A200 camera that I was dying to try out in low light conditions and so before bed I pulled the camera out and took a few shots outside, a couple of shots in and the door of the property next door opened. A dumpy woman walked out, and realising that I was standing in my underpants and brandishing a camera I scrambled back inside.

Outside I could hear a cat calling for a mate. For some curious reason I’ve only ever heard cats like this on the European mainland, never in the UK. Is it something about the heat that makes one, well…in heat? Then a dog started barking and wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t going to sleep in a hurry so decided to have a shower. The en-suite light had a decidedly seedy glow and it took forever for “hot” water to come through the shower head – this is after I finally realised which tap was hot and which was cold. Then I noticed all the hairs at the bottom of the shower. Yeww! Chances are that I did not suddenly become a member of the Sasquatch family and that these possibly belonged to the hirsute bear who put their knickers out to dry and went out for a drink, only to come home and ask “who’s been sleeping in my bed?” I also noticed that the bin in the toilet contained more hair that wasn’t mine! The bathroom sink appeared to have 2 hot taps and after leaving both to run for a considerable length of time they still only deposited cold water. I returned to the bedroom. Oh God! The smell! Are my feet that bad? And then I remembered that the room stank anyway. I lay on the bed and a mosquito floated past, I made several pathetic attempts at swatting it and then realised that I had packed nothing to protect myself from mozzies, and from past experience they like me…well they like my blood so I was at their mercy.

I couldn’t sleep, it was hot, the room stank and the dog was still barking so I turned to TV in a desperate bid to knock me to submission by watching badly dubbed American movies…

I woke up the following morning to noise on the balcony. Yes, someone was definitely on my balcony. I couldn’t make anything out through the frosted glass door but I had no plans to engage them anyway, they can have their knickers! So I turned on the TV and watched a subtitled American film called “Frostbite”. It was 10am and there was an awful lot of swearing and sexual references. It made me wonder, do most Portuguese adults have a clue what’s being said or does “I’m going to fucking kill you for screwing my wife!” translate into the watered down subtitles of “You’ve been a naughty boy!” for the pre-watershed viewing public?

My left cheek was itchy; I walked into the en-suite and saw that my Portuguese mozzie friend had left her mark already. I was on day one of my holiday and sported a great big red swollen cheek shining like Rudolph’s nose and I hadn’t packed antiseptic or anti-histamines or anything. I got ready to go out.

Breakfast wasn’t included with the hotel so I wandered about until I found a supermarket, my shopping came to 7.88€ so I handed over 10€. The girl at the checkout said something and I immediately knew that it would be a request for something smaller, or the exact amount, because in Europe no one ever has change.
From my experience your shopping could come to 9.99€ and if you don’t have it exactly a frown from the cashier is to be expected. I didn’t have 7.88€ but I did have 2.88€ and when I counted it out the cashier excitedly took it from me in exchange for a 5€ note.

My first day’s lunch would consist of a “fresh moment” salad. And let me confirm, it probably was fresh for only a moment and then packaged and left it to sit on a Portuguese supermarket’s chiller for a few days. While I was eating it an old Portuguese woman walked past me, stopped, saw what I was eating and laughed heartily and tried to engage in conversation. I think I made it clear pretty quick that I didn’t speak the language so she walked off disgruntled. She was probably just saying “Ha, those things? I bought one for the first time yesterday, what a load of crap! Fresh moment? Fresh my octogenarian arse”

The “moment” gave me a “fresh” idea however, T-shirts for tourists written in the local language that say “I don’t speak the language so don’t even waste your breath”

After that I walked around Porto taking photos and had a moment that was definitely not fresh when I reached a street corner that stank so badly of pee that I was almost sick. This, where the two ladies are talking, is the offending corner. They obviously have weaker nasal passages than myself. After that I returned to the hotel to freshen up, when I was leaving the guy at the desk told me that they wanted to move me upstairs and asked if this was ok. It’s their hotel and someone else’s knickers stuck hung on my balcony so I agreed. They said they would do this when I returned later but when I did return a few hours later they had already moved my stuff into a 2nd floor room and none of it was packed away – the cleaner must surely have had her mitts on my underpants! I bypassed her on the stairs on the way to the new room and found that my stuff was dumped in piles but my laptop was missing! I explained to her that the laptop wasn’t there. She didn’t understand. “Computer?” I tried. Não compreender. “Ordinator?” The bemused look didn’t go away. I performed my best monkey at a keyboard routine. Nada. I indicated that I was going to my original room. The door was ajar and no one was there. In the drawer sat my laptop and a few other things. Phew. I twaddled back upstairs with my belongings. “Ah! laptop!” the cleaner exclaimed as I passed. The new room overlooked the old room. At least I had a window now and could watch out for the pervy Peter Parker on the balcony below.

Before each night of STFU Porto, Helder and co treated us to some local cuisine at a restaurant near the venue, where I tried “Caldo Verde”, a light and unadventurous soup made from cabbage and potatoes; “Arroz de Lampreia” (Lamprey in rice), which arrived in the pot it was cooked in. It was ok, but it was just far too much of the same thing, “Bacalhau” (Salted cod), which was served with thin potato slices and not too dissimilar to fish n’ chips back home; “Feijoada”, a mixture of tender beef, rice and beans and “Tripas à moda do Porto” (Tripe with beans), something that I’d been avoiding for years. They’ve been eating it for years in Porto however, since the 14th/15th century when the best meat was sent off to soldiers in Northern Africa, or to Henry the Navigator’s sailors depending on whom you believe, so all that was left for the local inhabitants was the cheapest of cheap meat. It is now the “dish of Porto” and was actually ok, but was a bit too chewy.

Onto Stfu Porto itself – over 3 nights I drank lots of beer, sangria and muscatel, and introduced the bar staff to the delights of Glayva whiskey liquor! I listened to lots of good music and met Ingrid (Filmjölk) and her boyfriend who are both from Brussels and whose music I was familiar with from em411.com. I met Floris (Murw) from Utrecht in the Netherlands, who I linked up again with at STFU Leeds the following week. I met Dan from England who now resides in Porto, working as a web designer. Sofia and her friend behind the bar supplied me with antihistamines to speed up my recovery from the mosquito attacks and Sektor 304 kindly told me the best places to experience the real Portugal, which seemed to involve a lot of goat eating and devil worhsipping. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit any of these places, but hey-ho that’s my next trip to Portugal already sorted! I once again met up with
Filipe Cruz, who was responsible for organising the very first STFU Porto festival and João (Ocp), who played at the first STFU Porto.

It transpired that DJ Infekt[ion] whom I met on the 1st night had studied at Glasgow University for one year. I asked her if there was anything she missed about Glasgow and she said “yes, the pakora!” She told me that the best pakora was to be found at Aladdin’s on Great Western Road, which is a place I had never made it to. Sadly on returning to Glasgow I discovered that Aladdin’s is no more, but a new restaurant (Persia) now stands in its premises.

After the last night of STFU myself, Dan and Pedro, whom I had only met on the last night went to Tendinha Dos Clérigos, an all night rock club, where we stayed until 7am. You are given a card on entry, which has a list of drinks; whiskey, beer, rum etc and then 10 boxes next to each drink. When you order a drink one of these boxes is ticked off, no cash changes hands at the bar, then as you as are leaving the club you hand your ticket in and pay the appropriate amount. We passed a couple ofcasualties who’d had too much drink and not enough sleep on the way out.

When I got back to my hotel room I realised that there was another casualty, I was a pair of underpants down. Each night I had been washing my socks and underpants and leaving them to dry on the window ledge but the underpants were gone! Mmaybe Spiderpants man had climbed up the drainpipe to nab them or they’d simply fallen onto the balcony below, but I looked down and they weren’t there! When checking out I tried to explain the predicament to the guy in the hotel and got Dan to translate but he was adamant that no one had seen my boxers.

And do on my last day in Porto I hung out with Dan. He took me to Fundação Serralves, the modern art gallery, which was a bit rubbish to be honest, the grounds are worth visiting though, and it was while walking through here that I told him that I was heading to Coimbra and Lisbon next. He told me that he had a friend in Lisbon and suggested that we meet up and would send me his number.

We left and waited for a bus outside but then realised that only one bus came this way so we walked towards the main road where we had a choice of buses to choose from. There was only one other person at the bus stop, an old woman, who after a few minutes asked me a question. As I don’t speak Portuguese Dan took over and engaged in a fairly lengthy and frantic conversation. Dan said he would be back in a minute and walked across to another bus stop to scrutinise a timetable. I hadn’t a clue what was going on and then a bus appeared. Dan ran back over and we got on the bus. The woman then started talking to the driver, again in the same frantic manner. The woman eventually gave up and the bus departed. I asked Dan what it was all about and he said that the woman couldn’t read and was travelling to somewhere she had never been before and she didn’t know how to get there and her destination wasn’t listed on any of the timetables and the bus driver didn’t know where it was, or how to get there either! It was a really hot day as well; we had visions of her stuck at the bus stop collapsing from heatstroke…

We then visited the Casa Di Musica, where I had met the enigmatic, or just plain nutty “Dr Sound” 2 years earlier. This time though we were only going for food and a sit-down. Dan ordered us both a Tosta Mista (ham and cheese on toast). I was still hungry so went back for another. “Tosta Mista” I said to the girl at the till, who looked like I had just beamed down from Rigel Kent. “Tosta Mista” I repeated. I was really struggling with conveying the most basic requests to locals. I said to her in English that I wanted another but she didn’t speak English. I had my receipt from before so pointed at it. “Ah” she said, and indicated that I should wait, she shouted through to someone in the kitchen and served someone else while I waited, and waited, and waited. Then the manager appeared. She thought I wanted to complain about my Tosta Mista! She told her colleague who apologised and made me another sandwich. Dan had some work to do and I had a few hours to spend before my train to Coimbra. He recommended that I go to the beach. Porto is not the sort of place where a Brit goes on a beach holiday but certainly one could as there are a good few miles of beach and a metro station within easy reach. I spent some time here and then headed to the opposite end of town to see FC Porto’s Dragon stadium, before casually making my way to Campanhã train station. On the train I met-up with Filipe Cruz. He now lives in Coimbra a 1.5 hour journey away, and that was my destination too.

Originally posted September 08 2009 on em411.com