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All photos by Michelle Locke
It’s in the high 80s here in Porto, which is warm for anyone, but for someone whose blood has been thinned by the anemic San Francisco sun positively a blazing inferno. While strolling the quay alongside the Douro River I had to restrain myself from going full-on Margaret Hamilton, “I’m melting! I’m melting!”
I persevered, however, and was glad I did because there is some excellent walking to be done here.
I’m staying on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, which is where all the port houses are and is a a little bit quieter than the Porto side. So, first I walked across the Dom Luis bridge which is a very cool iron arch with two levels, both accessible to pedestrians. The top level carries the Metro yellow line and has great views, dropping you off about halfway up the hill that Porto sprawls over. The lower level, open to regular traffic connects directly with the Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia quays.
Does it look a little bit familiar? It should. It was engineered by Teophile Seyrig, former business partner of the famous Gustav Eiffel.
I took the high way over and the low way back and then collapsed by the hotel pool for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day, I followed the Gaia riverfront trail to the sea, about a four-mile trek. There’s a wooden boardwalk for much of the way and lots of shady benches to sit on so it’s not too strenuous. Along the way I passed some intriguing ruins.
And I walked past a marina with an eclectic group of boats that ranged from sleek yachts to “can that thing really float?”
When I finally reached the sea it reminded me of a Northern California beach where you look at the waves and craggy rock formations but only an idiot (sorry surfers) would actually dive in.
I also learned a little Portuguese hiking etiquette. The whole California, slight smile and dip of the head which connotes, “Hello, friend. I am not the trail side strangler,” just got me some blank looks and even a few hard stares. I tried a couple, “Hi’s.” Ditto. I was about to give up when an old guy pedaling by at a pretty good clip called out “Bom dia!” Portuguese for “Good morning.” Aha. I looked straight in the eye of the next walker I saw and caroled, “Bom dia!”
“Hello,” he said.
Well, it’s a start.