7th February 2002
I awoke after a fantastic sleep showered and packed. I paid the bill at reception and ordered a taxi to the train station. I was feeling more alive now and less of a space cadet. I was ready to bust out my Portuguese and attempted conversation with the taxi driver. I can’t say we had the most in depth conversation, or that it flowed very naturally, but it was satisfying to know something of a new language, and certainly more than I knew before I embarked on this trip.
The timing was perfect and I had to wait about 1 minute at the station before my train arrived. The train was a brand new high-speed service to Oporto, and it all seemed very efficient and modern. From the train window I glimpsed some of the countryside, but it was largely flat and boring with only a few shacks and farms along the way. The train only took about 35 minutes and before long I was once again carting my kit through the train station. I had no idea where to go next so I thought I’d get a taxi to the ‘Centro Turistico’ and work out my plans from there. They were very helpful in the tourist office and gave me a list of hotels nearby. I went straight to the nearest one because I couldn’t carry my stuff around, it turned out to be one of the most expensive on the list but still very cheap in comparison to England’s prices. It was only 11:30 am and so I couldn’t have my room straight away but they did let me leave my luggage at the hotel while I wandered the city.
Oporto is an interesting city. Like Averio it is built around a river, but unlike Aveiro it is very hilly which adds lots to its character and charm. The streets are narrow and the buildings are tall which sometimes makes it feel imposing, other times it feels cosy and intimate. There is some amazing architecture and it was great to be able to stretch my legs and see new things. I walked miles that day and saw loads of the city, my legs were really hurting unused to walking far on the boat, but I was determined not to waste the opportunity. It felt so good to be back in civilisation and to be able to go into cafes, shops and restaurants.
I found myself doing a lot of people watching today. On the boat we were all men between 20-60, here in the real world there are people of all different shapes and colours, they come in both male and female varieties and ages ranging from 0 to 90. It’s great to watch normal people do normal things – I’m beginning to feel more human again!