June 21 – June 30, 2019; 858 nm and 100 days after departure from La Rochelle
What a warm welcome to Portugal. This is not related to the temperature of Porto🤪, but to the Portuguese in general and specifically to the nice ladies of the Marina Douro. We arrived in the morning of the 21 of June after a sleep over at the anchorage at Leixōis which is only a few miles up north. That was an easy and comfortable move as entering the river to Porto is best close to slack water time.
Eugenia and Cecilia from the marina made us feel at home! They gave us not only the information about the marina but also about Porto, Gaia and Afurada the little fishertown where the marina is located at the opposite side of Porto at the river Douro. No sailor question remained open. Laundry, supermarket, farmers market, bus stop, winery… everything was presented with jollity and a smile. And, to top it all, they even provided a breakfast roll service to the boat.😁 I think I made it clear – we loved it!
Accidently we choosed a perfect time to visit Porto. It was the weekend of São João festival. Originated it has a pagan festivity back in the 14th century as a celebration and thanks to the sun god for a good harvest and abundance. Later it was christianized as a celebration to São João by the church, but many of the pagan customs persits even to this day, like the usage of wild leek, basil and the bonfires. All in all this festival has been celebrated in Porto for about 700 years and it is truly part of the city’s identity. Enough history…
By the time we realized that that the São João festival exists, we already walked miles in Porto. Up and down the little, narrow alleys with 5786 stairs. We didn’t count but it felt like that many. Apart from lots of typical tiled covered and historical buildings we discovered many places where the Tripeiros ( the people of Porto) had procession with traditional costumes, dances, music and sometimes wagon ( like in carneval). It was amazing, people everywhere singing, dancing and watching. That was just the beginning!
Now, knowing that on the 23rd of June the big party starts, we prepaired ourselfes with a relaxed sunday, enough sleep and food to have enough energie for the festival. Unfortunately in our age we need to prepaire in advance and still need to recover after 😩. In the late afternoon we started our journey. Again, we walked the 3,5 km to the Ponte Dom Luis I (bridge), where we got together with the German couple Steffi and Jörg from “BigFoot”which we met through facebook. Thanks to technology we were able to find each other in the hustle and bustle. Together we dove into the crazy, noisy colourful night of São João. It was a blast! The streets filled up with people and happyness.
The unmistakable and hardly irresistible smell of grilled sardines and peppers. Two of the typical dishes of the festival. The others are “caldo verde” (a green broth soup) and tomato salad, spare ribs and “bifanas” (pork sandwiches). Not to forget to mention, everything is seved with red wine or the local beer “Super Bock”. I read that one shouldn’t dare to ask for “Sagres” beer as it is the local beer from Lisbon. 🤪 Don’t know what would have happened…Fortunately we always asked for the right beer.
Everywhere colourful decorations, basil and leeks, bonfires, paper ballons, music, dancing AND small plastic hammers. That is indeed a funny tradition! They are used to lightly pound the head of everyone, absolutely no exceptions: friends, strangers, men, women, drunk or sober, babies and grandmas. Though Norberts head was sometimes out of reach so he had to bow. 🤣 It seemed to be a conversation starter and a funny way to share the party with everyone else. We loved it! Once you get used to it you really enjoy it, especially the hitting!
We squeezed ourselfes up and down the narrow streets through the partying crowd. Stopping here and there to have a beer and enjoying to be part of the big party. Everybody who could put out some speakers in front of their houses to produce a cacophony of various and very loud music.
To watch the high point of the night, the fireworks at midnight at the D. Luis bridge, we slowly tried to find a good spot – like everyone else of the hundred thousands of people. Our spot beneath the cathedral was a reasonable one. Thinking of moving to anywhere else was anyhow not possible, just toooooo crowded. I don’t know how long it went on, but the firework spectacle took quite a while and was amazing. Lucky as we are we can present a little video made by Steffi and Jörg including us as background actors 🙃 and to get a real feeling of São João (https://youtu.be/dHcmRGvYSFU).
Thank you both for that and espeacially for sharing your time with us!
After the night sky show we said good bye to our new friends as we had completely different directions to our homes. And it was definite that it would take some time to go back. That still didn’t mean the party was over, not at all! It now kind of started to accellerate.
We needed to cross the bridge, so we went down to the river to cross over. That again turned out to be a challenge as the bridge was closed because of the fireworks. Clever as we are, well at least we thought we were 😉, we decided not to wait in the huge crowd for the opening of the crossing. Instead we walked up again- our feet already massively complaining- to cross the bridge on the upper level. OMG only to find out that this level was also closed.😩 The next bridge to cross as a pedestrian was more than half an hour in the wrong direction. Ok, lesson learned, back down.
The good thing was, the party was on its peak so a lot of distraction not to think of our walk. By the time we were down again, they let groups of people cross the bridge. We were lucky and didn’t had to wait long to cross. We made it safe to the other side, yeah! Safe, because the bridge was shaking and that was a scary feeling and El Capitano made us run to reach the bank. From here it was only another 3,5 km to the marina. Haha. With all the stages and music, the dancing and pounding and the cheerful crowd the walk back was a piece of cake and very entertaining. Completely happily exhausted we arrived at Altimate at 4am! Over and out!
The next morning was the same day but afternoon. The only thing we managed to do was watching the famous annual Regata of Rabelo boats in the Douro river. They were used in ancient times to transport Port wine. And that was only because the race started close to the marina.😁 Yet we weren’t able to take nice pics, still too tired and not highly enough motivated to take any effort.
When our recovering time was finished- days later, ok it was only one day- we kept on exploring Porto, Gaio and “our” close by fisher village Afurada. We did all the “must do’s” and more. Like Port wine tasting, a guided tour and walking, walking, walking. We calculated that we at least walked every day 10 km in average including the non-walking recovery day! Sailing means a lot of walking 😎.
After around 10 days partying we were ready to move on. I forgot to mention, in Afurada was also a party going on, a fun fare, started the day we arrived and favoured us with almost unbarable music and more crowd until we left 🤪. Especially at night!
Next destination: Cascais, roughly 160nm south the coast or around 30 hours sailing.