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Sunday, 14 October 2012 11:50 am
[personal profile] da

So, Porto is a funny city. It's more ramshackle by far than I expected; sort of faded glory, architecturally. Presumably this is partly due to the UNESCO heritage requirements: if a building's roof falls in, it must be rebuilt to historic style, and all the construction work I've seen here looks fairly labour-intensive (all brick and cobblestone).There are a huge number of seemingly abandoned apartment buildings in the 3-6 story range, sort of chock-a-block amidst everything visible from the many high vantage points.

I'm not as fond of the omnipresent ceramic tiles as many people apparently are- and the old-church styles are less architecturally interesting to me than elsewhere in Europe (though I've not yet been to Spain to compare). The tourist sites are somewhat meh- with exceptions. The stock exchange building was amazing- photos and more details to follow, hopefully. The port caves were spiff. As was the port itself.

It's hilly. The tourist areas are amazingly steep; it's unremarkable near our hotel to enter a building, go up two flights of stairs or escalators, and exit on a ground floor. If there were more whole-block buildings one could imagine the same for five or more floors. I have photos of some regions that are charmingly densely packed- looking from one intersection, there is a tunnel through the hill in front of you, with rock face topped with either four floors of housing or an ancient town wall / barricade, topped with the main city cathedral (beyond a setback). Out of sight next to the cathedral there's a two-level bridge across the Duoro river, some 50 meters between the top level and the bottom. Just off to the side by the tunnel is an alley which was not easy to find- but it led us to Kyodu, an amazingly good sushi restaurant we ate at.

Streets connect plazas, at all sorts of angles, often with at least five coming out of an intersection; and often what you think is a blind alley turns out to be the one road that gets you where you want in a straight(ish) line. And other times they are blind alleys. And a few of the named streets I've found are stair-cases.

The first few days of being a tourist involved getting quite lost. In this modern world, I was able to fix that with an app on my phone of walking tours. $5 well spent. Also, I bought two days on a hop-on hop-off tour bus, which helped get me a lay of the land. And got me out to see "Castle Queso": Cheese Castle, to the west of the city centre, built like half a round of cheese (to protect merchants from brigands in the 18th century).

Off to lunch and then the airport. To be continued..

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August 2013

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