There’s always something you don’t manage to do! And on this trip there have been lots of things. With only one day in Porto it was only ever going to be a taste, but what a taste it was!
The day before we left Santiago our host said, “it’s a pity you are leaving in the morning; we have a festival here tomorrow night!” There would be bonfires in every square and celebrations long into the night. We arrived in Lisbon to discover their festivities had been the day before!!
When we were walking we also missed out on things. Many of the churches along the way were closed when we passed and we didn’t linger in the hope that they would open. There were some delightful towns where you could easily spend a day – Barcelos, Valencia, Tui, Pontevedra, Redondela – but we didn’t do a lot more than walk through them with our senses on high alert. Yet this was the right thing to do at the time.
When we decided to take a trip, we could have chosen to do anything – cruise to Antrctica, beach hop in Greece, visit Disneyland like we did on our honeymoon…..but we chose to walk the “Caminho Portugues”. We should have walked the Via de la Plata, the Silver route, seeing as it’s our silver anniversary, but that’s 1,000km and we couldn’t squeeze it in to three weeks!
And so we come to our final day in Portugal.
We could climb back up to St George’s castle. We could visit any of the many art galleries and museums that would take at least a week to go round. We could take a tuktuk ride. But at 75euros for a couple of hours, that was never going to be an option! Instead we buy a 6euro transport card, which gives us unlimited access to metro, trams and busses for 24 hours. Steep streets we have already walked can now be effortlessly climbed in the world-famous-in-Lisbon Number 28 tram. We are surprised to discover there is only a small portion of the route we have not already traversed. But it is far more fun to rattle along in these 1930s rickety contraptions that would only be seen in a museum in any other city. They groan as they creep up the hills, then zoom with gay abandon down the other side. At times they pass other vehicles with only inches to spare. Other lanes we wind through are so narrow there is no room for anything else.
Then we switch to a modern tram and head out to Belem. We know there is a monastery, an explorers’ monument and a small but significant tower there. What we have no clue about is just how enormous and ornate the monastery and church are. Here we meet with our first tourist hoards, but it is still possible to sit in contemplative silence and observe. In fact, we notice most people rush through, stopping only long enough to take a selfie. I wonder how many people get home and struggle to remember seeing the things they posed in front of.
Across the road is a lovely riverside walk with buskers and beggars and sunglasses sellers…
With time to spare, we consult our little list of things to do in Lisbon and pick the contemporary art gallery – primarily because there is no admission charge and we are saving our last euros for food! Probably not our best decision to date. In retrospect, it would have been better to forgo food and feast our eyes at the tile museum (no, really!) Not much of the modern art piqued our interest beyond a cursory glance
(Does this look like an old suitcase on a sofa with concrete?? There is actually something similar on the sidewalk just round the corner from where we are staying!)
…and so we opt to look for lunch as it is fast approaching 4pm! Last day in Portugal calls for something typical, right? Will it be pork or seafood? We are presented with a plate of olives and basket of bread. Then we tuck in to a couple of bowls of Indian chicken curry!
There is only one thing left to do before packing and sleeping until 3am: buy specialty cheeses and olives to take home. You should have seen us running to catch the metro so we could get these precious babies into a fridge as quickly as possible.
We end our time with no regrets about what we did not do, but full of thanks for what has been possible.