A visit to the beach

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

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

As I mentioned on a previous post, we were keen to explore a bit out of the centre of Porto and were particularly interested to see what was at the mouth of the Douro. We had seen waves crashing when we had taken our river cruise so this raised our interest.
Just near our apartment you can catch a number 22 tram. It's an historic tram similar to the one in Lisbon. I though the smartest thing to do would be to jump on it and see where it took us. It wasn't quite as silly as it sounds - we had spotted a tram on the way along the waterfront the previous day. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a tram but when it came we jumped on board and validated our Andante tickets. This gave us 60 minutes to complete our journey. The tram shunted its way through the streets of Porto at a brisk walking pace.
After 15 minutes we reached Carmo and the trip was over. We were still a long way from our destination, but we could connect to the number 18 tram which would then  allow us to connect to the number 1 tram which would take us out to the beach. Maybe 10 minutes later the number 18 tram came and we jumped on, revalidating our tickets. The machine told us we had 33 minutes left on our ticket.
The new tram rattles along, much the same as the first. We rounded a bend and came across a large truck parked on the tracks, It appeared to be unloading something and was not going to move for any trams. A passenger who had been standing talking to the driver took matters into his own hands and shouted out to the truck driver something in Portuguese, no doubt along the lines of 'move your %$#$ truck you stupid $%$#' Whatever he said, it had no effect on the truck driver who merely shouted something back and then started to make obscene gestures. So ridiculous was this situation that the other tram passengers started to laugh. The tram driver had remained steadfastly behind the wheel of his tram the whole time, staying out of the bloodshed.
After perhaps 15 minutes of this, the truck driver finished his business and headed off with a parting gesture for the tram passenger who had engaged him in lively debate. I felt like asking for a refund of my time off the ticket!
Anyway we reached the end of that tram and hopped off to wait for the final tram to take us to the beach. If it got here within the next 10 minutes we would be OK! Holding our collective breaths, we sat in the sun and hoped. And waited. And paced. After perhaps 40 minutes I realised that for whatever reason the number one tram was not going to be running today. No signs or anything, just no tram. We trudged over to the bus stop and 5 minutes later we jumped on the number 500 bus which runs along the same route as the tram and is twice as quick. It's just not as glam as the tram. Of course by this time our ticket had long since expired so I had to buy an on-board ticket for nearly twice the price as our Andante cards had run out of credit.
Ten minutes later and we were at Passeo Alegre. There is a castle there and a nice park as well as some beaches. The Atlantic was in full force, rolling in huge waves that were crashing onto the shore in a dramatic fashion, throwing spray into the air and making a thunderous noise. We noticed a café right on the beach, just 10 metres from where the waves were crashing. It had some funky lounges and we decided right away to stop there for a while.
Large glass barriers protected us from the spray and the wind, but the sun shone down on us and we were warm and comfortable. We had coffee and croissants and soaked up the atmosphere. Soothing lounge music played. After a while the girls went to investigate the beach. Jess and I were able to watch them from our café, enjoying a second coffee and then a glass of vinho verde.
After a relaxing time we could not justify staying any longer so we paid our bill and then walked along the beach, then along the promenade. Waves were crashing on a breakwater that had some sort of lighthouse at the end so we decided to investigate. We went right out to the end and stood watching waves crashing far below us, throwing pillars of spume high into the air, up to 3 metres above us. It was exhilarating and because the wind was blowing in the right direction we could stand right beside this curtain of froth and not get wet. Of course inevitably a wave came along that was so big it wet us regardless of the direction of the wind. But that too was fun.
We headed back to the shore allowing the sun to dry us as we went. There is a castle there too, which was built to fortify the entrance to the Douro many centuries ago. We walked around it but unfortunately it is some kind of government facility so we could not see inside. We discovered this by actually looking inside...
We headed to the nearby park where we spotted mini golf. Always up for a challenge we spent the last of the sun's rays playing 18 holes of challenging mini golf for the extortionate sum of one euro per person. Of course I won. We handed back our clubs and started walking along the promenade back towards Porto along the river. Quite a lot of money has been poured into this area and the promenade is very pleasant. We watched a fiery sunset out to sea as we looked back down the river.
The evening was balmy, so we just kept walking. After about an hour we stopped at a handy café for some refreshments. We continued on our path but it had grown quite a bit cooler so instead of walking all the way home, which had been half in our mind, we waited for a bus. I did a bit of lateral thinking and calculated that it would cost us almost six euros for the bus and it would take us to the bottom of the hill. We'd need to spend another five to get the funicular back up the hill, and then walk home from there. Surely a taxi would be cheaper!
So we let the next bus go and jumped into a taxi instead. Sure enough, the fare was 3.90 euros. So pleased was I with my stroke of genius that I gave the driver 5 euros and told him to keep the change. He looked a bit surprised by his good fortune.
We went for dinner at a café in our street that happened to serve Indian food. We had a very good and very cheap Indian meal then headed home.
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