Guest Blog by Shane
05.05.2011 - 05.05.2011 22 °C
Ok, so blogging, huh? Another day in 'Porto-dise'. This place is so freakin' awesome. I love Portugal. For example, this morning we woke up in our pension, in our own room. Not in a smelly hostel in stupid Barcelona with six other smelly backpackers. Just me and my wife. First order of the day was to eat some of the yogurt we had purchased from the local supermarcio(or 'SUPER MEERKAT' as I've affectionately dubbed them). It sucked and tasted like plastic. Lesson learned. 1 euro for yogurt isn't really a good deal, you're just paying for plastic that looks like yogurt. No biggie. Next thing was coffee. Well, espresso. As far as I can tell actual coffee only exists in instant form in Europe and even that is hard to come by. No complaints here though, I'm loving it. Especially here in Portugal where it seems to be stronger. Alyssa likes it less straight up so we learned the Portugese word for milk, leite, which as far as we can figure is pronounced like the word 'late'. The people here seem to appreciate our stumbling through their language. We went back to the place we were at last night for coffee and the pleasant owner was there again, this time with his wife and daughter hanging out with him. He seemed pleased to see us and was cheerful.
With caffeine to jump start our systems, we were ready to face our challenges for the day. First things first. Train tickets. As I'm sure you've heard the rail system is actually a huge pain in the ass. This adventure in rail transit booking was actual ok. We managed to book the Porto-Lisbon tickets we needed with no problems, and while we were unable to actually book any other international tickets, we were amazed by our Portuguese railway ticket vendor's willingness to attempt it nonetheless. And so we left the train station feeling sort of neutral. Happy to have our next train booked, but still frustrated by Europe's lack of collective cooperation in regards to their rail systems. Ok, no big deal. Next stop, contact solution. I would just like to take a second to say that Alyssa DID tell me to bring a large bottle of solution, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided that the travel sized bottle would be more practical. I was wrong. Seventeen days in and I've been out of the stuff for a few days already. It cost me almost 16 euros for a bottle that would have cost me like $6 at home. I'm sorry honey. Could be worse.
What next? We walked up a small hill to Igreja e Torre dos Clerigos. But it was closed. We didn't know why. So we bought some fruit. An apple and a tangerine. They were good. We saw a building across a courtyard from the first one we tried. It was Porto's photo museum. Sounds cool. Yeah so cool it's closed too. But only until ten. It's 9:30. We walk across the street to a cool little park and chill for a few minutes. Alyssa says she doesn't like how noisy it is(there's traffic on 3 of 4 sides of the park). I like the sound myself. I barely notice it. I just like some background noise. I find it all very relaxing. I wanted to fall asleep. But not now. It's time for the photo museum (sounds cool still). Photo museum was not cool. Not really anyways. It was in a building that was a prison at one point. There is a nifty exhibition on the top floor about the evolution of cameras. There are some interesting old cameras on display. I particularly liked some of the old hidden cameras. Like the ones that were cigarette packs or dictionaries or stopwatches. On the ground floor is a large exhibition of photos of buildings and urban landscape around Portugal. The format is boring and Alyssa takes nicer pictures. It was free though so I didn't complain too much.
Next is the tower I mentioned before, which is now open. 2 euros to climb to the top. Such awesome views. The stairs are all different sizes and clearly built for people far taller then me. Based on the ancient staircases we're climbed thus far, I can only conclude that everyone born before 1900 was a giant, with the shortest people being around 6'2". The view from the top were awesome. I also love that things aren't really roped off here in Portugal. You can touch whatever you want really and unlike France, if I really wanted to jump off a 17th century bell tower it would be pretty easy. But maybe only smart people visit Portugal?
So what's next? The crystal palace sounds cool right? Right. Ok so we walk this way. Oh what's that sign say? Palacio de Cristal this direction? Ok cool. WRONG! It's actually to the parking garage and Alyssa and I are left wandering around what we know are the grounds of this 'Crystal Palace' looking for the actual entrance and not the fake ones the signs are pointing towards. We are now looking at what appears to be an ancient-ish wall with what looks like a lovely park at the top of it. So we continue walking around the outskirts slowly losing sight of the park. We are beginning to get hungry. Well, I'm starving. And unadmittedly starting to feel a little lost. This is a bad combo, but one we can spot now. So before the inevitable lose of patience and reason set in for either of us, we duck into the first decent looking dive we spot. WHAT A FIND! Lot's of locals filing in for lunch (always a good sign). The lone server (an owner I'm thinking) approaches our table and looks a little worried when he realizes we only speak english. This can be a problem, but I'm good at picking out key words. We express that we want food. He says 'Carne?'. I know this word. 'Lys, he wants to know if we want meat'. Sure do. And a Super Bock(a brand of beer we keep seeing). 'Sim'. He understands!! Awesome. He brings us out our beers and some buns. Next comes two platters with fries, rice, salad, and a piece of flank steak. And then a plate of black beans with chorizo (Portuguese pork and beans=win). The steak is marinaded with sherry vinegar. The fries are real fresh. The pork and beans is perfect. The buns mop it all up and the beer washes it down. Two espresso and 10 euros later (seriously I love Portugal) we are back on the hunt for the Crystal Palace.
Thanks to my instinctually awesome man sense of directions I lead us up a narrow street until we stumble across a pair of gates that can only lead to one place...The gardens of the Crystal Palace. You've gotta be kidding me. This park was amazing. If it was in Canada I would just live there. We spent the better part of two hours just exploring this many leveled park. It had amazing views of the city and river throughout, gorgeous foliage, a beautiful rose garden (where the roses were in full bloom), water features, and even a flock of peacocks. The Crystal Palace itself isn't there. It was destroyed during a war. Now there is a small stadium of some sort there. The gardens are free and I could easily waste away the rest of our trip there. Next up was the Museu Romatico also found in the gardens. This is actually a house that was lived in by the exhiled King of Sardinia during 1849. The house had a lot of 19th century furniture and some of the rooms were decorated with replicas of the actual furniture used by the king. Our tour guide was pretty awesome, translating the tour into Portuguese, French, and English for the benefit of everyone in the tour. Another espresso and it was time for a rest. Alyssa needed to upload some stuff, and I took a nap. I would just like to note that I never miss an opportunity for a nap. I consider it a hobby.
Last order of the day was dinner. Francescina's to be exact. This is a sandwich, but so much more. It is two thick peices of bread, with cheese, and several types of meat and then more cheese melted on top, sitting in a pool of a spicy sauce. The ones we found had chorizo, flank steak, ham, and turkey on them. The sauce is made with shrimp, beer, port wine, tomato, chilies, and finished with cream They serve the sandwiches with fries and a beer. At 19euros this bill was the most we've paid for a meal in Porto so far, but well worth it still.
Did I mention that I love Portugal?!?