Sailing south from the Bay of Biscay, Kongo’s ship, World Traveler, arrived in Porto, Portugal and moored next to a pier for the first time since Dublin. While riding to and from the ship in a tender reminds the monkey of going on liberty during his days in the navy, it was nice not to have to worry about missing the last boat to the ship and getting stranded. Of course, you can still get stranded and Kongo was just about the last to board in Porto. And he can thank Mrs. Kongo for that.
The monkey let Mrs. Kongo seduce him into a trip to a gold museum in the village of Barga, about 90 minutes from Porto. Fearing the shopping damage Mrs. Kongo could inflict in a short period of time, Kongo came along in self-defense. Boarding the bus with five other women (this should have been a warning sign) Kongo settled in to listen to the ladies chat about how excited they were to go on the gold trip. Kongo snuggled down in a back seat and watched the beautiful Portuguese countryside roll by. Portugal is amazing clean and efficient. The roads are well designed and modern (mostly) and the drive offered broad vistas and snug little villages nestled amongst the hills.
So, the museum actually turned out to be a private home and B&B – a very nice one – that also included a little museum of jewelry making from the owner’s ancestors. Workmen were in the process of making filigree during the monkey’s visit and there was a display of old jewelry making tools the monkey found interesting. The Museu do Ouro de Travassos was quaint, and the owner gave a personal tour of the museum and surrounding grounds. But, overall, this was not what the monkey was expecting. There was only a little shop at the museum and Mrs. Kongo didn’t really find anything she wanted there so the thrifty simian was thinking he was getting out of this tour on the cheap side (relatively) until the owner mentioned he had another shop only seven kilometers away. Danger! Danger! Naturally, one of the tour women immediately pressed the tour guide to make a diversion to the shop and Kongo, sulking in the corner, was clearly outvoted. Off we went to the shop and, of course, Mrs. Kongo found just what she wanted for granddaughter Christmas presents and the damage was done.
Kongo got back to the ship in time to take the last bus to the real city of Porto to see the sights while Mrs. Kongo went back to the ship to play with her gold horde.
Kongo started his brief Porto exploration at the Clérigos Church, atop a high hill adjacent to the Douro River. The Church and tower were finished in 1850 and built in the baroque style. It sits in the center of the old city of Porto.
The old city is a jumble of narrow, cobblestone streets bordered by multi-story buildings lined with balconies. Bars, restaurants and shops fill the area. Throngs of locals mix with thousands of tourists. Porto is the start and end point for popular Douro River cruises and when you walk through the streets you hear English, Spanish, Italian, German, and French spoken in a babbling jumble of noise. It’s a vibrant, exciting area.
At the riverfront, crowds of people jam waterside restaurants and line up to take water taxis across the river. The Douro is spanned by a number of beautiful bridges but for those on foot, which is most of the people in Old Town, water taxis are the quickest way to get to the other side of the river.
The architecture of Porto is all about balconies and baroque. Laundry hangs from balcony railings. Churches wedge themselves in the midst of commercial buildings. Construction is everywhere, renovating and updating. Cobblestones are often pulled up to lay infrastructure so you need to keep you eyes on the ground as you make you way through this busy part of the city.
Kongo really liked Porto. He wants to come back soon when he can take the time to properly explore the city without the distractions of gold trips to the north.
Tonight Kongo sails for Lisbon and the final day of his cruise. He and Mrs. Kongo will spend 3 days in Lisbon before flying home to Los Angeles. Stay tuned.
Travel safe. Have fun.