Up early at 7:15 - got a train to catch!
J got dressed and went straight down to the bank to get the rest of the money needed for the Porto accommodation. It was busy already - delivery vans delivering, cafes opening, fresh bread smells wafting from bakeries, people rushing off to work. We had arranged to check out at 10:15 so we would be ready for our taxi at 10:30. We were all packed and tidied up ready by a bit after 9. We hadn’t heard from the owners re the checkout process, so J sent a Whatsapp message. About 10:05 there was a tap at the door, and Betsy (Patsy) was there to say goodbye. No inspections or anything. We had enjoyed our stay here. Now it was time to move on.
We waited in the street, and at about 10:20 J’s phone rang. It was the driver (Anabela) checking we were ready. - 2 minutes later and she arrived in a shiny black Seat Ibiza. A quick pitstop as there is nowhere to park and traffic was busy. And we were on the way.
Anabela spoke good English as she had lived in London. She was chatty and interested in where we were going. She made some suggestions, even showing us some photos on her phone (as she was driving!) J asked how the transfers work ( this clearly wasn’t a taxi) - Anabela and her husband run a tourism business with the car, and a mini bus. They also take on work from Welcome Transfers when they have capacity. J and C have used them in Athens ( where they originated) and they work well. You even got a photo of the driver as soon as you book - a personal approach that gives confidence in the service.
After a 40 min drive we arrived at the Oriente station. J checked where Carriage 2 would be. A smart a*** would have said “ attached to the engine”, but this man said “ at the back”. We made our way to platform 5 just to sus things out. Immediately a Queenslander approached us to see what we knew. He was on an earlier train that us. We had plenty of time so we elevatored down to the station and grabbed a coffee and a custard tart ( the journey was 3 hrs so we anticipated being hungry by the end of the journey.
Back on platform 5 , and at about 12:07 the train pulled in - it was an alpha pendula fast train. We were standing in the right position for the second last carriage. J asked a uniformed lady who confirmed that it was no. 2. We got on, C found the seats, and J struggled to lift the cases onto the luggage shelf. The 1st class seats were wide, reclining, leather seats with heaps of leg room, footrest, tray table etc. Better than economy on a plane. Now to relax.......
Then a family got on with a whinging, bellowing 3 yr old. J looked at C with one of those looks. The mother said, to the people opposite her “ this won’t last long” - J hoped she was right! Turns out the kid was sooking because he had wanted to climb into the train by himself. Poor little sod.
Off we went at 12:09 precisely - it was smooth and quiet as we left Lisbon and made our way through the suburbs and into the country. Grapes, sunflowers, cornfields, tree farms etc. at times J noticed we were doing 210 km/hr. Soon the uniformed lady (Steward?) came around and took food orders. We didn’t know if it was included or not, but we ordered lunch. Soon we could smell food, and a trolley was wheeled along and the meals distributed. J had a type of cod mornay, salad, tart and a beer. C had what she thought was salmon, soup, a tart, and a bottle of white wine. Strangely her meal contained pieces of Chorizo and lumps of pork belly. Puzzling! It was very nice. After a while, they came around for payment - 2 meals for 13 euros was cheap.
As 3 pm approached, we started entry into Porto and had a good view of the old town, the steel bridge and the river. Down with bags and off the train, then a surge of people and bags heading for the exit. There was a line of people waiting for taxis, so we joined on. Not far ahead was the Queenslander - his train must have been the proverbial ‘slow train’.
Our taxi pulled in and we loaded our stuff. J gave him a piece of paper with the address - he grunted and looked slightly miffed ( maybe he was hoping for a longer trip). Anyway he seemed friendly enough - kept apologising for not understanding English. C kept asking him questions to no avail. A few minutes later we were there, and Fábio was waiting for us. He speaks English with a heavy accent, and using Portuguese words whenever possible. So we had to concentrate. We got a guided tour of the apartment and all its attributes . It’s a recent renovation in a very old building. Very nicely done. We have a balcony for boozing and drying clothes! He also gave us a lot of advice on things to see, places to go, places to eat, and so on. Every so often we would think he was finished. then “more questions” and away he would go! Our heads were spinning! He was very nice and said to text him any other questions.
We did a quick shop at the supermarket around the corner. No washing detergent was provided at the apartment, so we bought some ( about 2 euros for 2 litres - and we only need to do 2 loads! ) We picked up a nice cold bottle of Rose for a little over 2 euros - can’t go wrong thought J. We did have strife trying to buy milk. Most milk is UHT, with only a couple of fresh varieties, and no full cream. Then back to the apartment for a quiet rose on the balcony. It was quite nice, with a fruity flavour and a slight spritz .
At about 5 we went out for a bit of a look around. Some nice little trams. A political rally ( elections this weekend), a view across the city, the Cathedral, and our first look across to the left bank. We walked down a slightly seedy street and C commented on some of the “professional” ladies she saw there! As we walked back, we saw how close the famous steel bridge is. We should have no trouble getting around Porto on foot! We also sussed out the Hotel Royal where we will be collected for our tour on Friday. It’s only 5 minutes away.
Tea time. We only needed a snack. So we found a snack bar and selected a couple of small snack meals. Well, a picture is with a thousand words, so have a look at the snack! We are dreading seeing a proper full scale meal here!