The Miradouro de Santa Caterina
There wasn’t much more to say for the evening. I did venture out to Avagem de Cerveja a few doors down and enjoyed a couple of decent craft beers in small amounts, but since I was on my own and the place was pretty quiet, I didn’t linger too long. What I did do was break back into a habit that I’d stayed away from for the holiday so far: Twitter. Blame beer and not having a book to distract me. What I did gain from this Twitter lapse was notification that interesting things were happening in the golf, and when I went back to the department I was able to listen to the last hour or so of Rory McIlroy’s first victory in years. So between that and the rugby, a good weekend for sport. The less said about the current state of West Bromwich Albion the better…
Next morning I was up early as always, but I took my time in translating myself from horizontal to vertical, showering, and packing up my belongings. I had a few hours before my train was due to depart, so I took a stroll around town, stopping in a cafe on Rua da Santa Caterina for breakfast of a slightly stodgy ham and cheese toastie, fresh orange juice, and, yes, another pastel de nata custard tart. Current estimates put me at 32 percent custard by body mass. Once my roaming was done though, I headed back to the apartment and grabbed my bags before taking the mostly downhill route to Porto Campanha train station via Avenida de Camilo and Rua de Pinto Bessa.
That still left about 45 minutes to my train’s departure, so I grabbed some oranges from the local supermarket for a snack, as well as a couple more pasteis de nata. Going cold turkey back in Ireland is not going to be fun. Anyway, the train itself was delayed by about 7 minutes, but when it showed up it was one of the newer Alfa Pendular high-speed trains, and seeing as this was the first stop, there was no problem with grabbing my seat. If you’re taking this route yourself, I’d definitely suggest spending the little extra to grab one of these trains, as they’re a major step up from the older rolling stock, with charging points by each seat, in-carriage WiFi, and a better level of comfort overall. Plus, they’re a half hour faster on the route from Porto to Lisbon, which means that I’ll have an extra half hour in that city before the sun goes down.
(Onward goes time, taking me with it…)
Once the train arrived at Lisboa Oriente, Lisbon’s metro proved its usual brisk and efficient self, whisking me to the Marques de Pombal Square (more of a double roundabout, really) with the minimum of fuss and one change of lines. I was half an hour early to check in to Londrina B&B, but other than remarking to myself that I need to amend my earliness habit, all this meant was that I could sort out some lunch, in the form of sandwich and a cup of tea, in a coffee shop around the corner. This used up half an hour in some comfort, and I was soon checking into Londrina, a surprisingly sprawling B&B tucked into the second floor of a large, old building. The room itself was small and neat, but there was a bit of an odd smell coming from the bathroom, so after a minimum of rest, I was out and off again.
As mentioned earlier, there was an item I was looking to buy before I left in the form of a computer component, so I hopped across town, down- and up-slope, until I found myself a likely shop and at last laid my hands on what I needed. Not that I couldn’t have bought it in Dublin, but why not get it early, as it’s small enough to be easily carried? That bit of satisfying business transacted, I could wander in a more leisurely fashion, mostly downhill for the first part, until I arrived at the very familiar environs of the shopping centre of town.
The fact that the holiday was coming to an end made me want to savour what remained, and for the next hour or two, I just wandered, mostly uphill and westwards from the shops, until I found myself by accident at the Miradouro de Santa Caterina, with its gorgeous views over the city and the Tagus beyond. There were plenty of others crowding there, among them sellers of herbal supplements that you could smell being used in the vicinity, and since sunset was still a little while away, I moved on after spending a little time enjoying the vista.
Downhill and south brought me to the Time Out Market once more, and seeing as the end of the holiday was proving circular in that it was much like the beginning, I dropped in and splurged out on a fine meal and a glass of wine. Seafood, cheese, fish sauces, fine wine, and a hunk of pork big enough to brain someone with – not only was I managing to hit the three standard meals for the first day in the holiday, but I was doing so in style. And yes, for dessert I picked up a couple of pasteis de nata, because if I was repeating myself at the end of the trip, why deny myself that?
There were a few minutes left in the day before it turned to night, and with the sky reddening, I returned to where I’d begun: the Cais das Colunas that juts out from the Praça do Comércio into the Tagus. On the first day of the holiday, too early to book into my first lodging, I’d walked down here for my first experience of Lisbon and Portugal. Now I was watching the sun set and the clouds light up with pink fire as I bade farewell. I’d been wanting to go to this city and this country for years, and if this short trip hadn’t afforded me the chance to see and do everything I wanted to, that was all the more reason to return one day.
As the skies darkened, I walked up the familiar Rua Augusta to Rossio Square, then continued onto the less familiar Avenida da Liberdade, with its broad space lined by trees and its pavements patterned with white and black cobbles. It was uphill all the way, but a gentle uphill, and when I reached the Marques de Pombal Square, I was reluctant to just head back to Londrina, so I continued that uphill stroll all the way through Parque Eduardo VII. Well lit but mostly empty, the main point of interest proved to be a VIP party that was happening at the Pavilhao Desportivo Carlos Lopes, which was being guarded by some very twitchy police. I paid only a little heed and moved on, turning south again when there was no more park to walk through.
Back to Marques de Pombal Square then and from thence to Londrina. Some packing ensued to prepare for an early start the next morning, and then sleep. Breakfast the next day was at least functional, if not in the least appetizing, but I’d saved a pastel de nata (my last) from the night before, so don’t think I suffered too much. I left at about the time I’d planned and jumped onto a none-too-crowded metro that took me after a line change all the way to the airport. Where I found that I was a good bit earlier than I’d thought I would be. Again, that habit.
Still, it meant I could get through security without worrying about a need to rush and likewise pick up a couple of bottles of port wine from the duty free – the same ones I’d sampled in the Ferreira cellars in Porto and none too expensive given how good they were. After that, a little wait to see which gate my plane was to take off from and a chance to sit and rest and write this in the meantime. Which is where I will leave you, if you’ve had the patience to follow this all the way through. I hope the photos at least have been eye-catching. Portugal: much recommended. Lisbon and especially Porto: likewise. Pasteis de nata? Goes without saying at this stage.
And so, adieu.