They came out of nowhere. Caped crusaders filling the streets and cafes. Portuguese flags tied around necks and draped over backs, billowed in the evening breeze and green and red warrior stripes adorned cheeks. Children, the young and not-so-young were excited. Tonight was the final of the European Cup and Portugal were playing France.
The atmosphere in Porto and along the banks of the Douro River was palpable. Every cafe had at least one TV screen but some had as many as four lining both the inside and outside of their cafes and restaurants. We found one spare spot, ordered a beer and a red wine, along with some bar snacks of roasted sausage, cheese and small breads and settled in. We were supporting the Portuguese (without the cape and face paint) since my husband is part Portuguese.
Our television lagged about 45 seconds behind the one in the bar around the corner, so when a roar of excitement went up, we knew it was about to get exciting. The crowds were having a great time. No aggression or obvious poor drunken behaviour. On the final whistle, the fireworks began as the crowds cheered, clapped and danced on the river front. This was a Porto party! Even the next morning, flags were billowing from car windows and drivers honked their horns in celebration of Portugal’s win.
We had our first ride today and headed north after a detailed briefing. Interestingly, they automatically went and attached the GPS to hubby’s bike. Worldwide there is an assumption that men do the navigation. Funny really, since hubby is colour blind and we have to follow a blue arrow on a pink line!
Our bikes are hybrids which indicated that our cycle routes wouldn’t be too rough (or so I thought). They have 24 gears so are easy to ride. We had the Atlantic Ocean to our left and went out in a Wellington head wind! It felt just like home though it wasn’t cold. Out in a headwind meant coasting home with a tail wind.
Fishing is a big part of the coastal lifestyle. We could see large and small fish swimming in the river as we biked past. This particular river flows all the way to Spain. It’s 897 kilometres long, starting in Spain and finishing at Porto. Large numbers of small fishing boats were out in the middle of the river and onshore the bridges and river edge were lined with surf casters, many with buckets full of freshly caught fish.
The Portuguese love the beach. It was crowded with people, tents and volleyball courts, but no one was swimming. The Atlantic is cold (about 16-18 degrees – the same temperature we scuba dived in, in Alaska) and the waters along here appear quite dangerous. All the beach tents faced south against the prevailing north wind.
Before dinner, we visited the Burmester Port Wine Cellar. It was part of our cultural experience. You can’t visit Porto and not do a port tasting. I wasn’t too keen on the white port (didn’t know you could get a white port until now) but apparently it is nice as an aperitif cocktail mixed with tonic water and a slice of lemon or lime. Here is a barrel of fun.
Dinner, which was part of the tour, was at a small restaurant around the corner from our Hotel looking across the river. We had a fabulous evening of a five-course degustation menu and Fado. Fado is a musical genre and is played on a classical guitar and may or may not be accompanied by a singer. The tunes and lyrics are characterised by a traditional structure and are often mournful and melancholic.
In 2011 Fado was inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. It was a special experience, enjoyed even more by chatting to two American diners sitting close to us.
Tonight we are at Furadouro, having biked about 50 km along the coastline, through a pine forest and several small seaside townships. Large groups of children in coloured T-shirts and hats, shepherded by adults filled the beaches. I’m not sure if it’s the school holidays here but all along the coast, school groups were out in full force. They added a wonderful splash of colour to the bright tents on the beach but still, no one was swimming!
Observation: Diet must be good. We haven’t seen many large Portuguese
Alcohol: Cafes sell beer wine and spirits, along with coffee and soft drinks (happy hour glass of beer cost one euro so hubby thought he had better support the economy and have two).