Mike's Porto Diary
Thursday, 3rd September
Friday, 4th September
Steve and I woke up early in the morning and departed our Travelodge to take the short drive to Stansted airport. We parked in the long stay car park and then took the bus to the terminal. Upon arrival, we headed through security and then grabbed a coffee and muffin at Starbucks whilst we waited for our ryanair plane to board. We phoned David, who confirmed that he was at the airport with Rupert, but slightly worryingly, Dave had not yet arrived. Some time later, we joined the scrum and boarded our plane for the flight to Porto. We spent a chilled out flight chatting and listening to our I-Pods and a couple of hours later, the plane descended into Porto airport. We arrived at the airport slightly after David, Rupert and Dave did, but met them at the train station. The Grand Unified Experience had thus begun. We acquired tickets for the metro and then got on board, taking the train to Francos station. The train station appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, but David guided us expertly down the long road to the hotel. We soon arrived at the Tiara Park Atlantic Hotel, where we were due to spend the next few days. Our rooms weren't ready, so we deposited our bags and headed out to check out Porto. We turned left out of the hotel and walked up a long road, soon arriving at a park with a statue in the centre. We took some photos, then crossed the road and, after some dicking around at a couple of chemists where Steve bought some sun tan lotion, we boarded a train at Casa di Musica station and went to the centre. We disembarked at Sao Bente and made straight for a cafe for some lunch.
We took a seat outside and ordered a mixture of sandwiches. Dave decided to go for the speciality hotdog, which turned out to be some kind of disgusting concoction covered in melted cheese. We chilled for a while then headed out to continue our orientation. We walked up hill, past the cathedral and arrived at the bridge which gave us a panoramic view over Porto. On the far side of the river we saw all of the port factories and decided that we should head straight over to that side of the river to take in a tour or two. We crossed the bridge and then descended to the waterfront. Steve and I headed into a tourist information centre to enquire about tours of the port distilleries and were told that Taylors and Crofts provided free tours. Unfortunately, both were quite a long way away, so after a long walk up hill, we arrived at Taylors. We were a little early for a tour, but were directed to a table and given free port samples to try. After our drinks, a man called Marco arrived and we began our tour. We were guided into the distillery, where we saw several large Vasses containing port. However, none compared with the Grosses Fass from Heidelberg. David and I commented that the huge number of vasses made the distillery look like the closing scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. After an enjoyable tour, we returned to the bar area and were given more samples of port to try. We soon got chatting to Marco, who seemed a pleasant chap. Steve was very excited about the possibility of using a climate model to predict future vintage years for Taylors port. Marco seemed less impressed.
After a pleasant afternoon in the port distillery, we said goodbye to Marco and made our way downhill to the river front. We crossed the river via the lower part of the bridge and walked along the other side, where there were many restaurants. We sat down by the waterfront at a bar, but no one appeared to take our order. Eventually we moved to the set of tables next door, which appeared to belong to someone else. Soon a man with a big moustache arrived at our table, carrying some nuts. He put them on the table and took our drink order. He was very efficient and it turned out we'd made a good choice. We enjoyed our drink and commented how nice everyone was in Porto.
After our drink, we headed away from the river up hill again, then after a lengthy walk, settled down in another cafe for a drink, as it was quite hot. Everyone was tired by this point, so we decided to head back to the metro station and return to the hotel for our evening out. We walked up a long hill and eventually arrived at Sao Bente station. After a short train journey, we walked back from Francos to our hotel, to discover that our rooms were now ready. We headed to one of the rooms and did the room ballot. I ended up in a room with Rupert, whilst David ended up sharing with Dave and Steve got the single room. We went to our respective rooms and got changed for the night out.
We met in the lobby and once everyone was ready, we took the train to Sao Bente and headed down to the waterfront. We decided to have a quick drink before dinner, so once we arrived at the waterfront, we examined the outdoor bars. We sat down at Moustachios and our favourite barman came to take our order. After a quick drink, we went around the corner to check out the restaurants. They all seemed very similar and we settled on a restaurant that was run by a man that bore an uncanny resemblance to the comedian Bobby Ball. We ordered some soup for starters and I ordered a steak for my main course whilst the others ordered similarly. We then settled down to the business of the mentalist draw.
Dave revealed his destination first. It was Jelenia Gora. David then went for Rio de Janiero, whilst Steve went for Manaus and Rupert chose Buenos Aires. I completed the list with Singapore. We then did Piparus' draw. David's destination of Paris won and it got added to the mentalist list. Finally, we did the inaugural Schanaman's round. David put the Schanaman on the table, with several pieces of paper poking out. We then went around the table twice, with the option of sticking with the destination or passing. After one round, Cabo San Lucas was on the table and it was my turn. I chose to play, but picked Hamburg. Dave was up last and also chose to play. He revealed the destination to be Montepulciano, which was added to the mentalist list.
During dinner, a couple arrived and sat at a seat opposite our table. The girl proceeded to sing and the man accompanied her on his guitar. This turned out to be very popular with the locals, who applauded loudly after each song. At the climax of Schanaman's round, we burst out laughing and the man at the next table turned around and said, "Hey, hey, hey!" indicating that we should be quiet. We were a little shocked, but kept quiet until the song was over. We were a little disappointed, as this man appeared to have dampened our enthusiasm for the Portuguese. However, at the end of the song, he turned to our table and thanked us for being quiet as he had really wanted to hear the song. We were heartened, as he seemed like a nice man after all.
Once we'd finished dinner, we returned once more to Moustachios for a drink, then walked along the river to the bridge. At the foot of the bridge there was a cable car which was took to the top of the hill. We then walked past the ruined city walls to the train station and headed back to the hotel to punch the sack.
Saturday, 5th September
Take train to Aveiro for excursion day.
Sunday, 6th September
Wake up and walk up road for breakfast at small cafe. Get in pastry, orange juice and coffee then wander to bus stop. Take bus to beach area to check out Castel St Angelo. Get off bus and walk into castle, but can't see much, so wander along beach. Take long walk along sand, eventually arriving at pier with small lighthouse. Pose for photos and decide to continue walking all the way back to the centre. Soon arrive at park on left and decide to stop for a game of crazy golf. Johnsons are playing in front of us. Crazy game - David eventually wins, with Rupert second. Chill with drinks for a while then walk along front again. Pass scene of accident - someone has fallen down cliff side and is being rescued. Walk under bridge, past helicopter pad and setting up for red bull air race. Make it back to central area and sit down around the corner from Moustachios at Eileen's restaurant. Get in sandwich and chill, then grab ice cream before wandering over bridge to go to Croft's port tour. Go up hill into Crofts and chill in bar with port. Take tour of vats then get more port and buy a bottle to drink. Toasts to new president of RSPB, dead Farrah Fawcett, as well as Pelham Barton and his new recruit. Once finished, decide to head back to hotel to begin stammtisch. Go up funicular railway and take metro train back to hotel. Back to rooms. Rupert and I depart for stammtisch, heading not to nearest station (Francos) but to Casa da Musica instead. Depart at Sao Bente and walk down from there for stammtisch.
Stammtisch at Moustachios. David and Dave arrive first, immediately followed by Mike and Rupert. Steve arrives about 40 minutes later. Get a photo of Moustachio himself as he arrives for work.
Go to Bobby Ball's restaurant for dinner. Circular table upstairs inside.
First mascot draw:
David - Shaft, Steve - Barney, Rupert - Kurt, Dave - Grosser Vass, Mike - La Dole
Second mascot draw:
David - Hel 2006, Steve - Chris, Rupert - LLL, Dave - Erik, Mike - Glogg.
Revealing of destinations:
1. Berlin (Steve) 2. Prague (Rupert) 3. Bruges (Chris) 4. Bruges (Mike) 5. Kingston (David) 6. Bamberg (Dave) 7. Bulgaria (LLL) 8. Berlin (Reardon) 9. Manaus (PC Bourne)
David ties P.G. to Shaft Round.
Glogg chooses Barney who is not bummed.
No D.I. No trapped under a cow.
veto votes: No veto (Dave), Manaus (Chris), No veto (Rupert), Prague (David), No veto (Steve), Prague (Mike). No destination vetoed.
No shaft. P.G.'s choice is Marrakesh.
No Grosser Vass.
9th Prague (Rupert) 8th Manaus (PB Bourne) 7th Kingston (David) 6th Berlin (Steve) 5th Bruges (Chris) 4th Bulgaria (LLL) 3rd Bamberg (Dave) 2nd Bruges (Mike) 1st Berlin (Reardon)
Eric is invoked. Prague is removed.
8 Manaus, 7 Bamberg, 6, Kingston, 5 Berlin (Reardon), 4 LLL (Bulgaria), 3 Bruges (Mike), 2 Bruges (Chris), 1 Berlin (Steve)
Back to Moustaschios for discussion about the draw. Decide to go by Eric's draw and it is indeed Berlin next time. Wander back up to metro station. Notice massive cones. LLL and Reardon pose for a stop telling me what to do. Go back to station and take metro. Walk back to hotel and return to rooms to punch the sack. Rupert and I chat briefly to Steve before going to bed in readiness for our trip home the following day.
Monday, 7th September
Steve and I get up early. Say goodbye to Rupert, David and Dave and depart for train. Take train to Porto airport. Uneventful flight home. Pick car up, stopping on route for food, back to Leeds. Say goodbye to Steve and then begin the drive back to Scotland.
It's 18 Berlin next time.