Sunday 19 August 2012

Faded glory

I didn't visit any churches, galleries or museums in Porto, so my experience of the city is rather superficial.  I'll keep the cultural treasures for another visit.  This time I just wanted to get a feel for the place.

Typical blue-tile façade
(this one in good condition)
After my dip in the Atlantic yesterday I took a bus that takes the scenic route into the city centre.  It follows the coast as far as the mouth of the Douro, passing some very nice beaches on the way, then takes the quays upstream to the historical centre.  There are rows of terraced houses along the quays, many with blue-tiled façades, that were no doubt beautiful in their day.  Nowadays, however, they are mostly in a shabby state of disrepair.

Henry the Navigator
(Infante Dom Henrique)
This was actually a good introduction to the historical centre of the city.  The whole place has an air of faded glory.  The second city of Portugal, home to Henry the Navigator who encouraged and funded the early Portuguese explorers, Porto looks like it has been through hard times since its golden era.

I spent the afternoon walking around the historical centre, up and down the steep hills between Praça de Liberdade and the banks of the river.  There are many signs of restoration work going on, but it will be a long project.

Next time you're in Porto, take bus number 500 from São Bento to Matosinhos (described in reverse above).  If you're not staying out there you have the option of simply taking the same bus back again, or taking a more direct bus, or the tram.

Lisbon today.