A real gem adjacent to Porto and Gaia

It’s just before 4 p.m. Portugal time (10 a.m. in Chicago) on a Friday afternoon. I’m sitting on a patio outside Pedra Furada restaurant, just a stone’s throw, and a short throw at that, from the River Douro. 

Looking to my left I can see the surf pounding the beach on the Atlantic Ocean around a mile away. To my right, less than 1,000 feet distant, is the Arribida Bridge, the first span crossing the Douro from the Atlantic, lesser known than the 138 year old Ponte Luis I a mile or so to the east, but eye catching in its own right.

I am in Furada, an old fishing village that’s part of and yet separate from Vila Nova de Gaia, where I will be staying for my last seven days in Portugal.

Or maybe not. After experiencing just a couple hours here, and my beautiful studio apartment a mere 55 steps away up the street, I’m feeling inclined to alter my plans and return here after my stay in Barcelona. 

Small boats and river tour boats docked in Afurada

As I gaze out over the Douro, the river taxi slips away from its pier and drifts over to the opposite shore, as further in the distance the Porto trolley rolls slowly westward on its rails, like a toy under a Christmas tree.

I’ll spare you more descriptive adjectives and just admit I am enthralled. 

Porto from my restaurant table in Afurada

This is everything I hoped Portugal would be- sun and seafood and wonderful inexpensive wines, the river, the ocean, a relaxed pace of life. And more. Just four or five minutes by bus along the river to downtown Gaia, a 2 euro river taxi from Porto. Restaurants preparing all sorts of seafood taken just this morning from the Atlantic, cooking on open grills on the sidewalk. 

Shrimp, squid, sea bass and cod grilling on the sidewalk

There’s a small mercado three doors away from my front door, two restaurants with outdoor seating looking out at the river, less than 150 feet away.

None of it will ever likely be pictured on postcards, unlike the Porto skyline a mile up river. But it is all magic nonetheless. 

I feel at peace more than at any time since I left Malaga, Spain in mid-January. Maybe more so. And I think to myself, how long would it take to become bored with this place that stands on its own just across the river from Porto and just down the road from downtown Gaia?

The boulevard along the riverfront in Afurada, Portugal

I suspect I may just find out after I’m done visiting Barcelona the first week of March. The beaches of Valencia sound very nice, and I’d planned ten days there to write. I think now that three or four days of sun and sand will suffice.

Wouldn’t want to get bored now, would I?

Full metal graffiti

Odds and ends of a wander through Vila Nova de Gaia

Too sore and tired after yesterday’s loooong wander up and across the Ponte Luis I and down through the beautiful labyrinth of the Ribeira neighborhood in Porto. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So here are a few photos and one video until I feel like writing again.

They’re building and renovating all over the Port cellar district in Vila Nova de Gaia. Had to walk past this crane lifting up loads of stone or pre-fab concrete to the roof of one of three construction sites on the street I walk down and back up every day to my apartment. Gotta say, pretty cool to watch.

A few more photos of my wanders about the waterfront.

A tire repair store
Yes! Cubans! Muy frio!

Crossing that bridge when I finally came to it

When you reach the banks of the Douro River (Rio Douro) in Porto, you instinctively look for the Luis I Bridge (or Ponte de D. Luis I). Designed by Gustav Eiffel’s top protege back in 1880, it’s 172 meter span at the time was the longest of its type.

Now it merely looks large and imposing and beautiful. And like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it will likely never be torn down.

And like the Eiffel Tower, I was pretty sure I’d fight off peeing my pants to scale its height.

World renowned BAB (big-assed bridge) Ponte Luis I

On my 11th of 21 days in Porto/Gaia, I finally made the effort to trek up to the bridge and make the crossing. That entailed, one, a loooong f’ing hike, most of it uphill, and two, pushing aside my fear of heights. I did both, and I’m sort of proud of myself.

And tired and sore. And a bit buzzed, because this is Portugal, so any sort of walk through the city involves wine, not to mention that, when I finally made it back to Luis’s hospitality at La Tasca al Forno up in the hills where I’m staying, he just had to introduce me to Mahou, a sorta wine, sorta beer beverage that… well, never mind. It’s a great hot weather drink.

I digress.

As Steve Marriott once famously said, “Are you ready? ‘Cause this one what’s coming up is a long one.”

Walking down from my perch up past the Cockburn Port “caves,” I made my way along the Gaia river front – or “atwrforny” as Apple spell check puts it – to a small tree shaded park looking down at the river and looking up at the bridge. Way. Up. There.

Which really … did not… help worth a shit with my fear of heights. Face my fears my ass, I growled to myself. Wait! I have a bad ankle. And it really hurts right now. That’s a great excuse! No… no! Gotta do this… SFP!

To paraphrase the Munchkins, “Follow the f’in’ brick road!” So upwards I did. On, and on, and on. Clutching the tube of Salonpas in my jacket pocket.

Oh, look! Another incline!

Someday I’ll publish my musings on what made people settle along a river that required them to walk up in every direction. There is about 10 percent downward here and 90 percent up.

All I can say is it was a very good thing I’d been walking around three or four miles a day the past ten days, and nearly all of it at a steep upward angle the last four, or they would have found my skeleton with it’s mouth gaping open, tucked in a rocky crevice three quarters of the way up the path.

Temptation reached out to me about that time, but I knew it was a bad idea with climbing ahead of me.

Get thee behind me, Satan! … no, wait, maybe just a … NO! Go away! NO, come back!

And then, when the legs felt like the ache was going to move from annoying to disabling, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Or at the top of the hill, or- whatever, pick your own analogy.

How ’bout that? Feeling thrilled and dreadful, all at the same time.

And look!!

A cafe at which to toast the Douro from on high.

So after a glass of Moet et Chandon, I turned to the task ahead.

Walking the 60 or 80 miles across the bridge span shouldn’t be so difficult. After all, teenagers jump from the bridge al the time. Really. There are stories about it. But then, teenagers, as we all know, are immortal and can’t be injured, so they have an advantage over tired old guys with acrophobia.

Then I thought, what the hell, I may be old and scared, but I saw Led Zeppelin live four times, while their music mostly sucks, so there, all you fearless little bastards!

C’mon… Gimme a break. I was really grabbing at straws here.

So I just started walking. Took no more than an hour or two. Or maybe just a few minutes. Who can tell with these things, after all.

In any case, I was able to pry my clenched fingers off my genitals long enough to take out my iPhone and manage to type in the password and take a photo of the Douro at the midway point across the bridge.

And I was thinking how really pretty the view was and how peaceful and all everything was when

… holy f… what’s this train doing on this bridge?!

One… foot… after… the other.

Land ho!!!

And then… the end was near.

And I was once again on terra firma, with an emphasis on “firm.”

So I’d done it. Looked fear in the eye, spit in it and told it to piss off. Moved forward in the face of doubt, ignoring the demons within me and…

Ummm, hey, would love to stay a while and tell you all about my triumph, but I really need to find a bathroom. Maybe later?

W… T… F?!

This may seem petty of me, but I just want to inform whoever will listen that, while typing in the word “waterfront” as I took notes on my afternoon along the Gaia, Portugal. you know, waterfront, as “along the water, Apple spellcheck decided to change it, for some reason known only to the supposed geniuses at Apple, to “atwrforny.”


Ok. That’s all. Thanks for listening. I feel better. Kind of.

The sun-kissed atwrforny on the Douro River.

The ramshackle beauty of the Porto skyline

I’m very tired and quite content as 5 o’clock approaches in the Yellow House in the Vila Nova de Gaia overlooking Porto on the other side of the River Douro.

No one photo does the ramshackle beauty of the Porto skyline justice. Only the human eye scanning from right to left and back can capture it’s mesmerizing tumble down attraction.

And the food and wine. OMG.

View of Porto from the back room of Luis Martin’s Tasca restaurant in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Much to post, but I’m too lazy this evening after carrying some 65 pounds of luggage 500 meters, most of which was “up.” A photo and a video will have to do for the moment.

View from the Douro River Ferry as it moves away from the Porto side over to the Gaia side.

Oh, yes. The view behind me schlepping to my new lodging…

… and the view looking up at part of the distance I still had to go.

I wanted to take a photo of the third segment of the climb after I turned right for two blocks, but I was too busy fending off a heart attack.

That said, my late lunch and the view was fabulous, so I’ll stop complaining.