Oporto, an ode to buses and trams!!

Fri 31 Aug 2007 22:25
Oporto is a beautiful, magnificent city that takes looks, feels and smells wonderful. Friendly helpful people who seem genuinely pleased to help and welcome visitors to their home town. Probably the most interesting and intruiging place we have been to and I am really smitten with the city. The mixture of old and new, some decaying and some still under construction, is fascinating. The obviously well funded public transport system works brilliantly, it enables travellers, and locals, to get around fairly easily. The Metro is a dream to use being fairly new and very reliable, and it too seems popular with locals. Buses go everywhere, very frequently, and the information and maps enable one to get around the city quite painlessly. Trying to walk around the city can be a challenge, as the place is very hilly and the street network seems to work on different levels. There are stairs, alleyways and passages that have the potential to take the unwary pedestrian into a different world. On a couple of occasions we have stumbled upon the rougher side of Oporto, which was not at all threatening,(no bears wandering the streets) but sufficiently different to demonstrate that the relative economic prosperity that Portugal has enjoyed in the last 20 years is not universal.
Food is very good, lots of fish and good meat too. Restaurants are extremely good value and staff in them, again, keen to help, and will always try to translate and describe the unfamiliar Portugese dishes on the menu. The wine in the restauants is amazing value, a decent, very drinkable, bottle of wine can be had for around 4 Euro.
A suprising number of people speak good English, even in small the non touristy suburb where the Marina is located. The local market was a shock as it was offering live rabbits and chickens for sale, alongside the vegtables needed to accompany them on to the plate. Kate and Molly were a trifle perplexed by the live animals being sold, but appear to understand that it is part of a different culture.