Tuesday, 6 May 2008

observations of Portugal (and Spain)

The Spanish label their railways, so when you drive over a railway line is says which line it is, much in the same way that rivers in the UK (and elsewhere) are labeled. Whether this for the benefit of lost travelers or train spotters isn't clear.

The Portuguese have lots of rocks. They are everywhere. You wouldn't think they'd need to bother quarrying for stone seeing as it seems to be pretty much the only thing in some of the fields, but there are loads of quarries anyway.

Whoever decides where to put road signs in Portugal seems to take great delight in misleading would be picnic-ers, as there were a plethora of "picnic-table-under-shady-tree" signs on the way to Porto that lead instead to baking hot service station car parks.

After a schlepp of a drive yesterday, powering (ahem) Sheena up the highest mountain range in Portugal, we are now in the lovely city of Porto. Portugal's second city reminds me equally of Newcastle and Zanzibar, in the way that high, beautiful bridges span the Duoro river between castles and cathedrals, while the old town is full of cramped, tiled, slightly decrepit, but nonetheless attractive buildings. there's a heat haze over the city, but with the breeze from the Atlantic it's cool and pleasant. The lower bank - a separate city called Gaia (more parallels with Tyneside) - is full of Port distillers and wholesalers, their signs dominating the bank. We'll probably head there after we've finished rinsing the various wireless networks we've managed to find while Kate samples the best coffee in Europe.

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