We finally decided that it was best to dump the car in Lisbon and catch the train to Porto. It was far more relaxing although the promised free WIFI did not materialise. We were delighted to receive our 50 % senior discount on the train fare, but it didn’t come easy. Obviously we looked too cool and hip to be over the hill, and they scrutinised our identification most carefully. In other places they automatically gave it to us!
The St John’s Festival was on in Porto on June 23 rd and as my birthday is on June 24 th I thought it was most appropriate. The main point of this celebration is to bang as many people as you can over the head with a plastic mallet. Originally it was garlic or leeks, symbolising that love can hit you, when you least expect it.
The night started sedately with cocktails high up on top of the Dom Henrique Hotel with fabulous views over Porto. The sangria was so strong that we were fairly pissed before the banging got under way. Soon the streets were full of people young and old rampaging up and down with their mallets. There were fireworks, bonfires and sardine sizzles in the streets. The Panama Hat had to be dragged home.
On the 24 th we had breakfast at the Majestic Cafe a 1920′ restaurant once the haunt of J K Rowling when she formulated her HP books. You can see how Porto inspired her, from the cloak clad university students in their faculty colours, to the spooky dark alleys and the antique library.the Majestic Cafe is now a huge tourist rip off, charging ridiculous prices , but tourists flock there.
We the wandered down to the old port area of the Ribeira and accidentally stumbled across a quaint old taverna overlooking the River Douro. The old port wine boats were preparing for a regatta, with horns beeping and coloured sails fluttering in the breeze. It was magical.
THEN we got lost, and the hills of Porto are more gruelling than the hills of Lisbon. We were trying to find a restaurant overlooking the gardens on the other side of town. It was fully booked as it was a Saturday night and so we trudged up and down dale, trying to get back to our Airbnb. I am afraid to say my orienteering skills let me down badly and i was ready to throw google maps in the bin. The annoying thing is a lot of the streets do not have names, which did not help seniors on the march, or in this case a stumble.not a good way to spend a birthday.
Then we spied the good old Dom Henrique Hotel high up on the hill. Yes, they had one spare table and we had probably one of the best meals I had experienced in Portugal. As much as I love the country I do find the food unexciting.