Friday, September 17, 2010

The Countdown Begins

Hopping a trolley
We went next door to the hotel and ate dinner in our last night in Porto at a Churrasceria, bbq joint. Michele had the Frango no Churrasco - chicken, while I had the Alheira a Che Madeira, a stuffed sausage. The appetizers included some marinated octopus, which was tasty and tender. Slept in a bit this morning, as there was nothing pressing on the schedule, then had a leisurely breakfast at the buffet downstairs. There are these yellow/green melons here that are the most succulent ones I've ever had. We had some at the Netos' house in Cascais, and they're on the breakfast bar here daily, so I've been savoring them.

Down by the Riverside
Didn't have anything on the schedule for morning, so we slept in just a bit, then went down for breakfast at the hotel buffet. Got all our stuff gathered up and packed, then left it all in the hotel room and went out for a while. Bought a transit pass for a euro each and climbed on the electrocarro (trolley) and rode around town, transferring to another trolley, then getting off down by the electrocarro museum we'd visited the other day to stroll on down to the Ribeira district, which we had blown past on the bus. Walked around there for a while, had a cafe in a place overlooking the Douro River, then took the funicular near the Luiz I bridge back up the hill to about a block from the hotel.

The Funicular
 Checked out of the hotel at that point, around noon, and left our bags behind the reception desk while we killed the three hours we had before we figured we ought to be at the train station. Decided to walk the entire length of Rua Santa Catarina, the shopping capitol, and had a good time poking our heads inside the shops for a bit. Crossed over eventually to the Avenida Alliados area, and found the nearby open air market, which was fascinating to behold. Fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cheeses, flowers, plants, nuts, and gallons upon gallons of wonderful olives. The fish market ambience was a little intense for fine dining, so we went on over to the avenue, found a little sidewalk cafe, and I had a franceshina sandwich, while Michele had a cachorro, or hot dog, prepared with the same type of sauce, mildly spicy.

Open Air Fish Market
Back to the hotel, picked up our bags, went to the Sao Bento station, and took the commuter train to Campanha, then waited there for our train. It all went way quicker than we'd allowed time for, so we had a long wait in the train station, reading our books, doing Sudoku, and so forth. The train ride back was more amusing than the ride up. A band of gypsies joined the train just south of Porto, carrying all their worldly belongings in some gigantic blanket bags. Their luggage ended up blocking the doorway out of the car, forcing some people who needed to get off at that point to miss their exit when the train pulled out. The men were all quite drunk when they boarded, and they spent the entire three hours yelling at each other, and walking back and forth to the train car bathroom - I think they continued to drink out of flasks or something the entire trip.

The Melons in the foreground are delicious!
 We made a mad dash for the exit as soon as the train pulled into Lisbon, along with a number of other passengers on our end of the car, hoping to avoid their mess getting their luggage off the train. Turned out, their luggage was still completely blocking the door of that car from opening, so we had to push on through the connecting doors to the next car to get out. The girl behind us was screaming (in English and Portugese) "Go, Go!, quickly!". The gypsies had banged on the door to the bathroom in the train, because they wanted to use it, when the poor thing was in there using it, herself. She was quite panicked. Anyway, it was a different experience.
Manny came down to the train station and picked us up, brought us back to Cascais. He'd had a good first week back at school, and we got ourselves all caught up again. Manuel and Irene had gotten some marinated flank steak and South African sausage on the grill by the time we got home, so we all enjoyed a really nice meal together, then stumbled off to bed.

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