We mooched around this morning which was a delicious luxury. Anne has now come down with Bill ‘s cold so it was good to have a sleep in. We all had to negotiate the fancy shower. It has three areas from which water flows out. Irene got Bill up because she couldn’t work out which knob did what. Anne also was confused. I had seen them before in Spain and been bamboozeled then, so I had some idea how to get it to work. The morning is not the best time to solve puzzles!
At about 1.30 pm we set of for the Marquise de Pambol Park to meet our tour guide Margarida, an architect who works for a group called The Worst Tours. She took us around a whole different part of Porto, not touristy at all, and explained so much about the urban development. It was so interesting. She has a theme that there is actually lots of space within Porto but because it is within old derelict wharehouses and homes, it is not being used or developed. The usual obstacles of city laws and rules plus also the penchant for Portuguese to just lock up a property and leave it contributes to the lack of development. There is also a very strong social attitude to not take advantage (as in squatting, or stealing from empty properties) of these places.
She showed us the ilhas dos Porto https://www.historytoday.com/grand-tour/islands-porto and explained their significance. They were housing built behind bourgeoise homes, small cottages with communal toilets and bath facilities to house factory workers. We passed by a few that are proudly kept and provide a strong community feeling. We wandered along an old defunct railway line that the group is advocating for conversion to a bike trail and came upon a few streets that looked as if we were in the country. All these places are close to the centre of town, overlook the river and have a train station close by. In any other city they would be prime real estate (think Red Fern, or Surry Hills Sydney).
She had a leftist view of life but was not apologetic or strident and it was so interesting to hear her perspective. Porto is not so large, about 1.3 million people so everything seems very accessible and surprisingly a quiet town on Sundays. We were amazed to see the Maria Pia bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel now abandoned. It is a delicate and graceful construction replaced by a modern utilitarian concrete bridge because it could only carry a train line one way. Tourism is quite new here and they ( local government) are not yet fully across their opportunities. Property prices are escalating due to predatory property developers which are unregulated.
Above the old rail trail there were some washing tubs that were used by professional laundresses. They used to wear clogs and the steep road up from the tubs had special heel indentations to prevent slipping while carrying heavy loads of washing on their heads!
Along the way she explained why they tile the buildings. It was to reduce the absorption of water into the granite which was the preferred stone for building. As it is porous the winter damp is absorbed like a sponge and then the houses are cold and humid. The tiles seal the surfaces. This is a classic from the 60’s.
Towards the end of the walk we visited a studio/gallery in a converted wharehouse where there was a silent art auction and music to raise money for the victims of the hurricane in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. The music was interesting. It is the first time I have seen a jazz electric violin. The musician had the most delicate fingers.
We then all went to the station to return home. We all needed to add money to our train passes. Irene was being ‘helped’ by some concerned citizen who was confusing her no end. Finally we all got our tickets and as we were saying our farewells the train arrived. Anne, Irene and I rushed to get on and suddenly the doors closed and Bill who had been saying his farewells was left behind. We weren’t too worried but he called us to wait at the connecting station which we had already thought to do. Then we realised our station was the next one anyway. Bill arrived on the next train only 7 minutes later! It had been a fast walking tour of 3 hours non-stop so we were a little tired.
The women went off to get some dinner from the supermarket and we had a healthy lentil soup followed by a nice spicy roast chicken and vegetables and wine at home for a change. I managed to open the door to the building which is about my knee height but not the bottle of wine. There are no screw tops here. We are all out of practice with the waiter’s friend! It was good to have a night in.