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.
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.
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.
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?
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?