Exploring the Douro

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Our riverfront adventures of yesterday had made us keen to take one of the river cruises on offer. We got out early (for us) and headed straight down to the river, again avoiding the funicular and again choosing a gritty pathway, although a different one this time with more stairs. We were able to take our choice of cruises, with two companies operating in competition and leaving every half hour. We took one that was just about to leave, climbing aboard with the other six passengers. A one hour cruise was just ten euros each for Jess and I and the girls were free. Bonus!
First the cruise headed up-river until it reached the first of the 'seven bridges' that connect one side of Porto with the other, across the Douro. What we saw was an area that may well be world heritage listed but is sadly neglected. Many of the riverfront properties lie derelict, their windows smashed. Large warehouses and multi-story buildings of some vintage lie empty, as do many homes. Why this is the case is a mystery to us, but no doubt has its answer somewhere in red tape.
We cruised up-river for about 10 minutes then turned around and went back towards the river mouth. The cruise allowed some great views of life in Porto. We passed  fancy places and poorer neighbourhoods, classy restaurants and empty warehouses. When we reached the place where the Douro flows into the Atlantic we turned around and headed back upstream. As we turned we saw some interesting beach areas that we thought would be worth investigating another day.
Turning the boat also exposed us to the wind so we headed for the comfort of the cabin and enjoyed the cruise back upriver away from the stiff breeze that had developed.
On our return we went to a 'cool' café that we had spotted from the boat. I managed to spill coffee all over myself which made my day. Georgie's new shoes were hurting her, so we headed back home to ditch them and grab my laptop to try that wireless hot spot.
Of course, going back to the shops inevitably involved shopping. It seems to happen that way. At least I was able to camp in the food court near the hotspot while the others shopped till they dropped. Sadly, the hotspot turned out to be more lukewarm than hot. First, it wasn't complementary but in fact involved a heft charge of 7 euros per hour - more than I have ever paid for Internet in my life. I was desperate though to post some blog I started to fill out the online forms to pay the money. Each time I tried to submit my details however, the connection died and I could get no further. Half an hour of frustration later I was ready to throw my laptop from the fourth floor down into the fountain below. Instead I joined the other shoppers and agreed to their suggestions of a shirt for me and also some new shoes, extra cheap, from Springfield (the shop, not the town - the shoes are from Portugal).
The girls headed home while I went to a traditional Internet café to see if they would let me plug in my computer to their network. They did, but it was so slow that after an hour I had only managed to post a couple of days blog as well as clear my email. Eventually they blamed me for slowing their network down and asked me to leave. Oh well.
For dinner Jess and I walked to a nearby café and bought some barbecued chicken and chips to take away. While we waited for them to cook we enjoyed a glass of vinho verde, 'green wine' that is a regional speciality. It cost us the princely sum of 50 cents a glass and was poured from a tap.
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