Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gardens, Gollies and Grappa

It was warm and sunny, a perfect day to visit the botanical gardens. We walked most of the way but eventually hailed a cab. There were no buses running as all the drivers were at a meeting. The garden had a beautiful layout but seemed to be suffering from austerity measures, much in need of weeding, pruning, and general cleanup. It was a nice walk but we decided to visit the other "romantic" gardens as the locals call them at the site of the Crystal Palace.

This was once home to Portugal’s very own version of Britain’s construction of the same name. Like the original Crystal Palace, the Porto version did not survive, although it lasted longer than its counterpart. In 1956 it was replaced by the current construction, a huge, run down domed pavilion, surrounded by the leafy vegetation of the expansive Crystal Palace gardens. It was hard to believe that it is a leading entertainment venue. The gardens are a melting pot of exotic trees and plants, fountains, ponds, statues, animals such as strutting peacocks, walkways, mirrors, chapels, viewpoints, and tree-lined avenues. We saw lots of rhododendrons in bloom, camellias, pines, ginkgos, and lime trees.

There was an art gallery on the site with an exhibition about racism that included quite a bit of modern art. My favourite was the golliwog tree, which may not be politically correct but it was lovely, made up of all kinds of gollies.

After more wandering around more narrow streets with little galleries and local craft shops, we headed back down to the Douro waterfront, where we caught one of the old trams for a ride out to the waterfront promenade at Foz. I ended up standing behind the tram driver since the tram was jam packed. It was quite a ride. This woman took no prisoners: old ladies, cars and vans shot out of the way at her approach and the ding ding of the bell. I had forgotten how jarring a tram ride can be. It is fine on the straight but as it shifts ever so slightly it sends major jolts through your body.

However, we arrived intact and after a drink in one of the seaside cafes we started our walk along the promenade by the river. It was very interesting with fisherman sitting by their boathouse playing cards, while others were mending nets. We were at the mouth of the river and watched as some fishing boats went by the breakwater and out into the Atlantic. After a very long walk we arrived back at the tram museum just in time to take another tram ride up the long hill. I was glad to avoid that walk.

Dinner took us to a local, family run restaurant. Immediately, some lovely bread and a rondelle of local cheese were placed on the table. It is only afterwards when you get the bill that you notice that this cost €6. I didn't mind as I thought the creamy cheese was excellent. Once again I ordered the lovely, fresh dorado. After our meal we were offered a liqueur. It always seems churlish to refuse so I always ask for a small one. An antique glass container with a spigot was placed on the table and the drinks poured. Of course the glasses were both full. I took a little sip.....homemade grappa. Sometimes I can drink it but this wasn't one of those times. Seamus drank his. There were no plant pots, nowhere to get rid of my drink. The owner asked if there was something wrong with it. As I was quickly trying to explain something, Seamus downed the lot. What a player. I was so thankful. This led us to having an even longer after-dinner walk tonight. It had been another twenty-kilometer day.

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