With our bags packed, we left our place at 8:00am Tuesday and headed to Tampa for our flight out of town. By 10:30am we were in-flight to Newark where we had a couple hours for lunch before leaving North America. The flight, on the Portuguese airline TAP, was smooth, comfortable, and friendly. We played video games using the in-flight entertainment system, did some last minute language cramming, and managed a little shut-eye.
Over 6 hours and 5400 km later we arrived in Lisboa. After a few language mis-steps and confusion at the airport coffee shop we enjoyed our café and moved into the puddle jumper for the trip north to Porto where we met up with our wonderful and gracious hosts. We arrived to their home at 12pm Wednesday after almost a full 24 hours traveling. Then with lunch and a nap out of the way it was time to walk off the airplane legs and see a little of our surroundings.
What I can say just does not say enough. The streets and buildings are what I would expect from a european city, a typical mixture of old and new. A feeling of well used streets and a history yearning to be told from every brick we passed.
We stopped off first at a little café for another espresso before wondering the streets towards the Crystal Palace and Gardens park which was originally conceived in 1861. The main palace structure was replaced in 1952 with the Pavilhão Rosa Mota, but the gardens still have a very british feeling and style to them.
We spent hours just wondering through the gardens and enjoying the view of the Douro river. We then capped it off at the Solar do Vinho do Porto before returning home for dinner and wine. This was a older british style house or mansion converted to a museum upstairs and a wine bar on the ground floor. This is a hidden gem of the area, locals either don’t know or don’t bother and typically only the wine-touring tourists make it a stop – a very nice and relaxing atmosphere was only improved on with a perfect glass of local port.
Dinner this evening, as so much of the day, was an introduction to many traditional dishes from Portugal, all of which were wonderful. So we sat drinking our wine, and nibbling the food, and learning as much as we could absorb of the area and the nation.
Couple things we should note, the climate is perfect and reflects a lot of what we would be expecting this time of year in Victoria. It was a gorgeous sunny day; not too hot, too cold, or too windy … but just right. The kids wore jackets (Floridians) while I was completely comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans. The geography is of rolling hills though the sidewalks are all cobble stone or broken stone – which has a nice characteristic but you wouldn’t be able to roller-blade it. While we had heard how “european” Victoria felt from others, we really noticed that today. We felt completely comfortable and at ease with everything around us.
While it is only 9:10pm EST, it is now 2am here and I must get some sleep. Boa Noite!