Friday, 4 July 2014

Descanso em Porto - um conto de duas cidades em parcelas - Parte 1

We have recently returned from our first visit to Porto.There is a well known  Portuguese saying "Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works". Put to the test I would say this is so true.Walking through the terminal on our arrival, an airport official was only too pleased to show us how the ticket machine for the metro worked,inserted our money in the machine, gave us our tickets wished us a good stay and pointed us in the direction of the train.This proved to be a strong indication of the what we were to experience over the next three days.There are really very few similarities between Porto and Lisbon – they are both near the coast, on the banks of a river and have some fairly daunting hills, but that’s really where it ends. The two cities have a different feel and different charms.Where Lisbon has seven hills Porto has six  spectacular bridges.
As with Lisbon its hard not to like Porto.Its a large city but that doesn´t get in the way of it being laid back.
For me Porto’s most striking characteristic is that of ‘faded grandeur’.In Europe there are very few remaining cities that can do ‘faded grandeur’ quite on the scale of Porto.Not that I have ever been, but I would imagine you’d have to travel to Cuba or Argentina for close competition.You must constantly look up to fully appreciate the façades and engage in the design of the windows,the tracery, the mouldings,the balconies and the azulejos.The feeling is accentuated by the quirky mix of Baroque, Neoclassical and a splash of Belle Epoque architecture in varying degrees of preservation.Its a massively atmospheric place, almost Dickensian in parts with its narrow dark steep curving alleyways and lanes.As one winds one´s way through a confusion of cobbled streets one finds gold leaf writing on dusty old shop windows and more old fashioned
barber´s shops than one would care to count.One expects to encounter The Olde Curiosty Shoppe- its like stepping out of the Tardis, now there´s a thought,if ever the Doctor were to land in Porto.It’s hard to overstate how atmospheric this old city can be.Inevitably its the port that dominates every aspect of Porto, but take the port out of Porto and there is so much more to be gleaned.My first port of call is always the market.
                                                                                                      
Mercado Ferreira Borges



Mercado de Bolhao
Mercado de Bolhao
DAY 1: The grand Mercado Ferreira Borges unfortunately is, despite its imposing presence, a bit of a white elephant.Built in 1885 to replace the now old Mercado da Ribeira, it never fulfilled the functions for which it was originally intended, due to the reluctance of dealers to leave the previous market. The Mercado Ferreira Borges is now used for exhibitions and Trade fairs .
Mercado de  Bolhao
However, located in the heart of the city, the noisy and exuberant Mercado Bolhao was more what I was looking for.This a sight not to be missed,in more ways than one.The two-tier covered building houses stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to household goods. The building is over 100 years old and starting to look quite tired and in dire need of rejuvenation... this  marketplace has surely seen better days.Especially entertaining is listening to the flamboyant fishwives hawking the latest catch in true Oporto spirit, an image that has made this market famous all over Portugal.I have visited many market halls on my travels but I am afraid this one failed to get me excited. But if you want authenticity that is exactly what you get.This market was the decaying Porto without the grandeur.I was desperate for a comfort station but what the market had on offer was far from acceptable.We left fairly quickly, reminded by the fact that I needed to buy a new toothbrush.I crossed the road to the farmacia, purchased a toothbrush and spotted the Adolfo Dominguez outlet store.Thank god for fashion. A few items later we returned to the hotel with outfits to address dinner in a more different Porto........




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