Next up is Porto, home of the fortified wine we all seem to drink only at Christmas. The drive in to the ‘authorised MoHo parking area’ was 2 km out of town on Via Nova de Gaia which is on the opposite bank to Porto. The roads were steep, one sign read 20%…what? What does that look like? At least is was all down hill for now, we’ll worry about getting back up out of here later. This particular scruffy car park didn’t ‘feel’ quiet right, there were about 10 other vans when we pulled in, most of them vacant. We’d not had the hand-brake on long, when a local Police car came cruising round, I decided to stop him and ask him if we were safe here for tonight. “Yes..it’s safe for the night, but don’t go off into Porto all day, 2-3 hours…no more, if you’re gone a long time, that’s when things can happen”. We got the message, so off we went. A pleasant 2 km walk along the the river, old port river-boats line up outside the where houses belonging to various different manufacturers. The where houses must contain thousands of liters of Port, but it looks like it’s been a few weeks since those boats have moved and there’s no way there’s Port in those barrels.
We stumble among tourists again, the cable-car cashier wants €18 return for a quick ride to the top of the bridge, we refuse at the gate, €18! you can walk it in 20mins…we do. Once at the south bank of a less famous bridge, designed by a more famous man (Eiffel), we cross on foot. It’s got to be said, cracking view, even on an overcast day. On the north bank we find an irresistible attraction, a Funicular! We love a funicular…I know, all these museums, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture and we get giddy over a Funicular…sad!. Just €2.50 each gets a modern self-leveling car ride, an almost vertical ascent levels out to a tram-like horizontal ride and delivers you into the centre of town.
We mooch around the centre for a bit, but it holds no interest other than the view over the south bank. Remembering the police advice not to leave the Charlie-bus for long too long, we walk back over the bridge and down steep lanes back to the Port houses. Finding the best ‘Nata’ artisan pastry shop in the whole of Portugal (we think), good recommendation for ‘Natas D’ouro’, (on the south bank near the lower cable-car station) for €4 we get a 6 box of mixed flavor Nata, Port, Orange and plain Custard, hand made, crispy pastry, straight from the oven, even Paul Hollywood would have approved. But I’ve got to admit at this point, we’d eaten them all before I’d had chance to take a photo…whoops!
All in all, a good small-city / large-town visit. Charlie, along with the other vans in the car park were perfectly fine and the night passed without incident. The 20% uphill escape during a pounding rainstorm in the morning… not so much fun, but we got out.
Averio, billed as ‘The Venice of Portugal’ (not sure how the Venice tourist board would feel about that). Now, the brightly painted boats they used to collected sea-weed, many moons ago, now punt-fare paying (American tourists) visitors around the town and out into the salt pans. Seems a bit of a short show for €10 pp, even less value for money whilst you’re wearing a pink plastic poncho & being pounded by rain, but some like that kind of thing. The heavy rain didn’t last too long, and it seems no one was asked to help bail-out (this time), shame, it may have added to the experience.
Unusually, we eat out (Stop press!). But don’t get excited, Burger bar ‘N# 56’ dealt up a very edible vegetarian burger advertised as ‘ Green too!’, coupled with unpeeled, oregano fries (that blew our ‘restaurant budget’ for that week), a rare treat whilst the rain lashed down outside. The punting Americans were out there, getting a soaked, whilst pretending to be the last great white hunter up the Amazon…but hey, it’s your tenner dude!
This town’s also known for a quirky little food-stuff (forward-slash) sweet-treat, called ‘Ovos Moles’. A cross between sherbet flying saucers (do they still make ’em?) and dehydrated eggnog, this delicacy is definitely on the ‘Marmite scale’. Willing to try most things once, we bought a little box from ‘the best sweet-shop in town’. The guy in the shop said, “we take egg yolk, mix it with sugar, heat it to 117 degrees, then will last for about 6 days, maybe longer. At first taste, I’m sure I was ‘for’ but after the 3rd or 4th, (I don’t know what happened)…I’d switched. It was just too much egg-yolk and sugar mixed together. After the 4th, shell-shaped-egg-yolk-product, the only question I was asking was…why? Angie bailed before I did, one was enough for her, ‘help your self to the rest’ she said. Is it me, or do they seem to involve eggs in everything here? Must have an abundance ‘ovem’, they seem to be in every dish, all the restaurants have fried eggs with all meals and now… sweets made with egg-yolks?
We didn’t get chance to try ‘Tony’s Farturas’ but I’m sure it would have been egg-based too.
We were getting tired of egg based products, thought we’d egg-scape for a bit, the smell of sea-salt & the odd mosquito, so decided to head inland. The walled Bucco forest has it’s own royal palace, which is now a 5* hotel charging around €200 per night, we didn’t stay…(they were full). The grounds are free and accessible for Portuguese day trippers to come spend the day, bring a pic-nic and generally run around in 105 hectares of forest, botanical garden and nature, mostly left to do it’s own thing. The roads were tight but we got parked in the spa town of Luso giving us a stiff 4 km walk, up some steep woodland trails to the top of the hill, a good trek, but as always…worth it.
Pulling into the aire at Coimbra, we suddenly feel like we’ve found the rest of the MoHo community in Portugal. There must have been 100 vans here, from all corners of Europe. It’s a pleasant enough stop by the river, perfect for a walk into town and stroll around the University buildings. I don’t know if we’re just getting harder to please when it comes to ‘towns’, but every town in Portugal seems to have a very similar lay-out. A maze of little cobbled streets fronted by cafe/bars, restaurants & tat shops. It would all have looked so much nicer before the international tourist decided they needed ‘souvenirs’.
Porto, n41.14295, w8.63210. A bit of a rough looking car park on the opposite bank to Porto. No services.
Averio/Barra, n40.64381, w8.74005, Quiet canal-side at Barra. Short drive to Averio. No services.
Coimbra, n40.19928, w8.42910 Large Aire, all services.