Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride….aka, A Car Trip to Porto

On Thursday morning, Michael once again had to teach.   He hasn’t had much time to relax on this trip but hopefully he will get some time on the upcoming weekend!!

Roy, Diane and I dropped him off at work and headed down the highway into Porto.  As soon as we left CIBIO, the GPS (we call her Gwyneth) started sending us down smaller and smaller roads!!  We finally arrived at the Motorway and got about 20 miles along when we hit a major traffic jam that lasted for MANY kilometers.    Traffic was bumper to bumper and it was NO fun driving the stick shift!!!

We made it into Porto and, except for one turn, were able to follow Gwyneth’s instructions, however at some point I managed to mute her verbal instructions.  Between that and the fact that there was construction on one side of me and two buses on the other side, I managed to miss the entrance into the parking garage…YIKES!!!    Not knowing what else to do, I followed the road around, coming to the tunnel that lead across the bridge.  I knew that I didn’t want to go that way, so turned right down the road just in front of the River, which unfortunately led onto the tiny 10 kph road that we had driven on earlier in the week!!  I turned left at the top of the street and fortunately was able to find a place to pull over to have a quick word with Gwyneth!!

After a 3-point U-Turn in heavy traffic, I  made it back to the parking garage.  Now came the problem of actually parking!!!  The parking area is narrow and has cars on both sides so there is not much room to swing out to enter the space.  This is also a problem because our little Fiat has a HORRIBLE turning radius….we could do better in Michael’s Pickup!!   Because of the narrowness, most cars are not parked properly in the spaces meaning that there is even less space to park than usual.  I made a few passes at one spot and decided that there was NO way that I could get into it.  

Fortunately, I noticed a larger car moving out of a spot further down so I hurried there and was able to park….finally!!!    At this point, we were about 3 levels underground!!!  However, I have learned my lesson and next time will keep driving until I reach an easy parking spot or reach the end of the tunnel.

We found our way to the surface and started heading for our first destination…..Igregia de San Francisco de Oporto.


It is apparently a great example of Gothic Architecture and was started in the 13th century but not finished until 1410.

There were no photos allowed in the church so these photos are stolen from the Internet……

The interior is all carved from wood and gilded with Gold (they estimate that it took 650 pounds of Gold).  The only word that I could find to describe it was gaudy……


This photo makes it look bright and airy but, when we were there, it was dark and gloomy.   It didn’t help that most of the sculptures and paintings  were of people being tortured or beheaded.   

There was an intricately carved Tree of Jesse that was interesting……images

After we walked out of the church, Diane mentioned that we now needed to find a McDonald’s because we really needed a “Happy Place”!!!!

While on the Church property we visited the Catacombs, seeing crypts dating back to the early 1800’s.  IMG_4928

In addition to the crypts along the side walls, there were additional ones in the floor. IMG_4925  It was a bit freaky as the wood would creak when you walked across it!!!

The room was adorned with some unconventional skull sculptures…..


….but also with some superb iron work….


This was my last, and favorite view, of this strange church……IMG_4944

We now followed a walkway that led us back to the Riberia area of the city.  We looked in one or two shops and then found this man in his woodworking shop…..IMG_4945

After I took this photo, another man in the shop motioned that we should come into the shop and look in the back room.  We were surprised to see rows and rows of model ships, IMG_4946all beautiful and faithfully re-created…..


It was an astonishing display and I still don’t know if he sells these or if this is just his hobby.   I did have one scare…..there was a man working there who was dusting some of the ships.  He was trying to lift one ship off of the floor but didn’t realize that the mast was stuck under one of the glass shelves.  Every time he would lift it up, the glass shelf would flex, scaring me that the whole thing was going to come down!!   Fortunately, he realized what he was doing and stopped before there was a disaster!!

To me, his work bench was a thing of  beauty…..


We decided to stop and have a quick lunch, ending up at one of the restaurants with tables extending out almost into the street…..


As we had walked up, we had passed a series of sanitation workers busily draining the sewage pipes.  We were sitting right next to a manhole cover and I kept hearing a sucking sound behind me.   All I could think of was the scene from “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” where Indiana is in Venice and comes up out of the sewer, right into a street cafe…..he looks around at the horrified diners and says “ Ahhhhh. Venice”!!   I was waiting for “Ahhhh….Porto”!!!

After a simple lunch of cheese and bacon sandwiches, we were recovered from our car ride and dark church and ready to start exploring!!

One of the things that I wanted to do was to walk across the St. Luis bridge on the TOP of the bridge rather than the lower ridge so we started looking for the way to get up there.   It appeared that we had two options….climb hundreds of steps or ride the funicular.  Guess which we chose!!!!

The ride only took about 3 minutes and the views as we rose were terrific…..


As we walked toward the bridge, we noticed many houses that had pristine lower floors, but the upper ones were in pretty bad shape.  Looking down from the bridge we saw areas that had been grown over with ivies….


…..and other areas that were being used and lived in…..


The views of Porto were glorious and truly showed the various elevations of the city……IMG_4993

As soon as we crossed the river, we turned into the Monastery of Serra Do Pilar.  It is a pretty building…..


….visible from most places along the river. 

Unfortunately you could not enter the Church unless you were on a tour, so instead we enjoyed the views from the courtyard…..


One fun European tradition is where romantic couples attach a padlock to a bridge or other fence, thus “securing” their love.   They are called “locks of love” and were prevalent at this  gorgeous tableau…..


We made the return trip across the bridge and started winding our way down and to the left to reach the river again.     We ended up on some small streets that were definitely for the locals and not the tourists!!IMG_5032

It was fun seeing older women sitting on each side of the street, talking quietly to one another as they snapped peas or did other household tasks.  It really was a fun area……


We were able to find the stairs down into the car park but I wasn’t sure exactly which level we were on.   I stopped one level early and walked along the parking area so that I could find our car.   It was difficult since MANY of the cars were black and small!!!   I kept hitting the door lock as I walked and finally saw the car that was responding to my urgings!!!

The most interesting part of the drive back was trying to get out of the parking garage.   The parking areas were located on the outer rim of a spiral going deep underground.   The way out was to drive in a tight circle up thru the middle of the parking areas.   I was starting to wonder if I would EVER re-surface!!! 

Once on top, it took Gwyneth a few minutes to find her bearings so I drove “by the seat of my pants” until she caught up with me…..fortunately in the right direction!!!

The return trip to Vila do Conde was MUCH easier, except for one harried entrance ramp onto the Motorway!   

All in all, it was a fun day, but I will never look at a roller coaster in the same light again!!!!

2 thoughts on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride….aka, A Car Trip to Porto

  1. It looks like finding your way is going to be challenging for a little while yet. But if the end result is the wonderful places like you visited on this day, it will be well worth it. I am always amazed at the intricate work in all the decorations for the buildings. And how wonderful to share this experience with friends.

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