You know what annoys me when Im travelling? Those scaffolding and cranes right where I want to take a photo. When I went to Bristol last year, there were scaffolding everywhere; the city hall, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, etc. Also at the embankment in London a few years ago. And now this! I pointed to a building with a crane sticking out toward the right.
These buildings are very old and UNESCO declared Porto as a World Heritage Site They gave money to this place to restore or repair the damaged buildings.
I listened attentively like an eager student to Douwe as he shared with me his knowledge about Porto.
Coming out from the shop where I bought a selfie stick, I glimpsed a man with tourist written all over him. He looked different from the other men around, as much as I was different from all the other women around, being an Asian. I nonchalantly looked past him as I navigated for the road signs.
Standing in front of an ancient building, I wondered if that was the city hall. The massive doors were shut and a Latin inscription didnt help clear my doubts. I followed my instinct and went after the people crossing the street southward. As I stood by the zebra crossing waiting for the green man to appear, someone behind me asked, Excuse me. Do you speak English?
Delighted to hear someone speaking my adapted language, I felt revived like a seed that sprang to life when the raindrop fell, and bloomed. I had been mute for several days and heres my chance to speak again. I turned around and said Yes with a grin. It was the man with tourist written all over him.
He was also looking for the city hall. I fumbled for my phone in my pocket to check the map. He said he had a paper map. Looking at it, we found out that the building I thought was the city hall was actually a church.
You know those birds? Thats where my name came from. Dove. But its spelt D-o-u-w-e. I looked at a small flock of birds that landed on the ground a few feet away from us.
They are not doves, theyre pigeons! I corrected. Douwe argued that they were all the same.
My eyebrows arched upward in silent derision at his argument.
Heading south just a few meters away, we found the baroque city hall. The greyish white exterior gave a striking contrast against the clear blue sky. The sun shone directly on its facade, I could trace the outline of the decorative arts on the tower and up to the turret.
Standing in the middle of the plaza, I couldnt help but admire the Roman architectures enclosing the square. I felt transported back in time during Portugals heyday.
I did not envision Portugal this way. I took a video of the buildings to show my family and friends in the Philippines how Porto looked like. I wanted to give them an idea what sort of place Ferdinand Magellan came from.
Douwe knew exactly what to do and see in Porto. Armed with a paper map and knowledge about the place, he turned out to be my travel guide.
Offering to carry my shopping bag, Douwe led me to the statue of Henry the Navigator. His birth house stood by the river bank across the statue.
The inscription read:
To commemorate the 5th centenary of Prince Henrys birth, the main figure of the Portuguese Discoveries, this monument was inaugurated in 1900. The statue is of Prince Henry the navigator, in battle dress, beside a globe and, symbolically, pointing overseas.
We walked down the unpolished cobbled stones and narrow streets toward the embankment. Our necks craned and tilted as we admired the fancy designs of the figurines on the walls.
The embankment was almost deserted at 2 pm. I sat down on the bench and soaked up the Portuguese sun with my bread and soft cheese.
Douwe asked why I was carrying so much stuff. I told him that I found the items very cheap compared to England and they were made in Portugal.
It was his turn to deride me.
They just put those tags to deceive customers when in fact theyre made in China. I was in an international business for a long time in Hong Kong.
I puckered my mouth and sighed quietly. I was displeased with myself for being duped.
Having finished my lunch and taken the obligatory selfies, we headed up north toward the fort. Douwe continued to display his knowledge about Porto.
Pointing to the signs on the other side of the river, he explained that they were cellars where the world famous Port wine is stored and aged.
Porto, as he explained, used to be the central port where wines were shipped to other countries.
With the embankment far behind us, we passed by a group of middle-aged men playing cards. Not one of them looked slim. Their stout body and contented appearance suggested they were taking life easily. A similarly aged woman devoid of make up and glamour served them with drinks and snacks from behind a counter inside a small red box shop.
The walk to the fort was a bit long. By the time we got there I was hungry again. Douwe offered to treat me with a lunch but we couldnt find a restaurant nearby and it was time for me to go.