Porto – City of Soft Light & High Bridges

On our first morning in Porto we set off bright and early for the three mile walk along the river Douro from Afurada fishing harbour into the city centre. Normally I might hesitate to park up so far away. But in the case of Porto an hour’s walk along this beautiful route was going to be no hardship at all.

For a long time I’ve been wanting to visit Lisbon, but so many people had told us that Porto was by far the nicer city. Maybe one day I will still visit Lisbon. I hope so. But for this trip we had decided to visit only one of the two – and Porto had won the toss.

What can I say of that walk along the river bank? The details of the bridges, boats and the beautiful bridges drawing gradually clearer with every few minutes that passed? Shall I say it is pretty? Will I tell you the atmosphere is busy, touristy, laid back, relaxed, easy? What shall I say?

I can say all these things and more. I’m not sure why but words like ethereal jump to mind when I try to describe Porto. Maybe it’s the mist that rolls in as the sun goes down. Flooding the Douro and all around her in soft, filtered, fairystory light.

For sure Porto is a pretty place. A place of contrasts. Of magnificent architecture. Of beautiful old barges. Vibrant, alive and lived in, it is, as all real cities, first and foremost a space in constant creation by the people who live there.

On a bright sunny day in February it is also, without a shadow of a doubt, a world renowned tourist hub. The weather is fine, the city is beautiful and the flights are cheap. Of course it is busy. Thronging with weekend City Breakers, and professional Instagrammers alike.

The latter always an amusing sight as you watch the real life action as opposed to what they pretend it’s like on their Instagram page. The smoke and the mirrors on full display. It’s all showbiz folks.

Instagrammers hard at work doing a “walk through” in Porto

The contrasts and life and shabby reality of grubby city corners rubbing shoulders with “must see” spots is fantastic.  Porto would be a great City to spend some real time in. To live for a few months. Get to know people. Become a local.

But we have only one day, and we walk, for mile after mile. Wearing our shoes down on the hills and cobbles. There is so much to see. I cannot even list it all, hold it all in my head to try. I have so many beautiful photos I don’t know which one’s to squeeze in to this small place. I want to use them all.

The Cathedral neighbours. Such beautiful houses in such a bad state of repair.

The Cathedral, the castle walls. The beautiful Delft like china tiled walls of the old station. The trams, the tourists, the street artists and the the old men smoking cigarettes and watching the world go by from high balconies.

With no particular destination in mind we just wander the city streets. Stopping now and then for some food and a drink, and to rest our weary legs.

In time our heads grow as weary as our legs. The evening mist is slowly curling into being with the first flames of sunset towards the sea, and we turn, slowly, for home.

I cringe as we join the evening throng crossing the high heights of the rail bridge. The world seems a very long way down from up here, and Marley and I both freak a little when we realise there are gaps beneath our feet. My head spins with vertigo but I delight in the gaps anyway, peering down giddily into the depths of the Douro far below.

Everyone ambles happily across the rails, making way for the trains as they blow horns on their slow approach among us. It is a magical moment. One I will never forget, and always be grateful to have experienced.

Crikey but it’s high up here!

And then we were back on the other side. With nothing remaining to do but wind our way down the hillside and slowly back along the river to Iggy.

It was a longer walk back than the walk in had been that morning. There was no exciting day out waiting at the end. But the sunset pulled us along for a good bit of the journey.

It occured to me that Porto was almost like two cities. A day time city, and a night time one. The first so bright, warm, alive with movement and colour and noise.

The second this misty place of rainbow pastel sunsets. Soft, silken, a negligee of night that would seduce the hardest of hearts. Strung with pearls of multi coloured lights falling in waterfalls of gemstone beauty across the inky black waters of the Douro.

Porto. Go. You’ll like it.

Fi. x

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