Arrival to Portugal...and 'running into' the President

Oporto Travel Blog

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Across the river with Porto in the background along with a boat for carrying the wine down the river.

So my count puts this at country #39 over the last 10 years, but it has been a while that I have been traveling on my own through a country where I don't speak the language at all so this will be an interesting change.  I asked a Portuguese friend before I came here if I can just speak Spanish and she said it wouldn't be a problem....I forgot to ask if I will understand them though and I sure don't.  Went to a cafe and asked where the bathroom was in Spanish and the waitress asked me what appeared to question.  To this I responded with the word for bathroom in 4 different languages.  She then responded with a question that I didn't understand so I just started walking around looking for a bathroom and found it.  Luckily the tourist office and hotel staff speak English and have been incredibly helpful.

a pretty standard backstreet in Oporto.
 

Porto is the second largest city in Portgual (after Lisbon) and is known for the Port wine that is created in the region.  The city seems like it once was a great city, but could use a lot of upkeep.  Wonderful cobbled streets tend to have a lot of garbage and there are more drunks/bums on the streets here than in Spain.  As I walked around this morning I saw what appeared to be a woman kicking her husband out of her house (which was a set of boxes).  He didn't seem to want to leave so she got up and moved half the box complex down the street....I guess that works.

I eventually found a place to get a cafe before walking around a bit.  I asked for the bill in Spanish and he responded what I assume was the price, but didn't understand so I just held out my hand full of change and then let him take what he wanted.

A charge that probably was amazing when it was originally build, but has lost some of its charm.
  Luckily he didn't take much.

I wondered around toward the river and stopped in another tourist office to get some more advice on other cities to visit in Portugal and where I can buy a guide book.  Then I came to some military festivities on the river.  A military ship was on the water and dozens of solders were lined up.  I went into a shop to get some water and asked the owner what was happening in Spanish.  I will do my best translation of the rest of the conversation...he responded with 'an important person is coming'....I said 'why is he coming?' 'The French came...killed a bunch of people...bridge...we kicked them out'...'When was this?'...'a while ago'. I figured I should stick around for a while and get a little better idea of what was going on.

A military vessel awaiting the visit of the president.
  After 20 minutes a large police caravan came up and some people came out.  I took lots of pictures of them since obviously they were important as did a military review.  I came back to my hotel to find out that it was the President of Portugal: Aníbal António Cavaco Silva....the first head of any country that I have ever seen.  Apparently it was the 200th anniversary of some big battle where over 4,000 Portuguese died fleeing the French known as the: Desastre da Ponte das Barcas...maybe I should work on my Portuguese to figure out what is going on next time.

huibdos says:
On my visit in the Algarve, the Portuguese people were lovely.
Best works a smile, boa tarde, and then the question in Spanish, end with muito obrigado.
They smile back and will try to help.
You could also try French, but with the bicentnial of Desastre da ponte das barcas, when Napoleon took Portugal into his reign, that might not have been a good idea:)
Posted on: Sep 10, 2009
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Across the river with Porto in the…
Across the river with Porto in th…
a pretty standard backstreet in Op…
a pretty standard backstreet in O…
A charge that probably was amazing…
A charge that probably was amazin…
A military vessel awaiting the vis…
A military vessel awaiting the vi…
The President of Portugal is in th…
The President of Portugal is in t…
The president performs a military …
The president performs a military…
The presidential Mercedes.
The presidential Mercedes.
The barrles at the Offley porto wi…
The barrles at the Offley porto w…
Oporto
photo by: jordirochblom