Venturing out into the winter streets of Porto today before the shops close prior to the “Immaculate Conception” holiday tomorrow. We discovered that everything was closing at three because of Tuesday’s national holiday, so we needed supplies as Sunday was closed too and we were running low on essentials. Finding the supermarket is still an uncertain journey through the city, making our way up only vaguely familiar steep streets, around corners past remembered landmarks – the music shop with the Fender Telecaster, the ukulele and two Portuguese guitars in the window, past the massive construction site where some kind of massive old building has been gutted, keeping the facade and in the middle, cranes and diggers are completely remodelling the interior, men in yellow hats and mud. Getting to know a new city, finding the cool parts and parts to avoid, as today we stumbled into some kind of seriously dodgy street that looked like junkie row and remember, all drugs are decriminalised here, so it’s not as hidden as it might be in other places. On the way back from our trip a small fountain which always has people sitting there, today they were smoking crack (I think). The steep side road above the street that looks down on the pavement seems to always have someone looking dodgy and looking down, like a lookout which makes little sense if the police don’t arrest people. But that’s what it felt like and there was a glimpse of a doorway that had that feeling of a drug house. Who knows how it all works, we’re new but I got the feeling today that there might be a couple of places where one might not want to wander.
The city wasn’t so busy today, the rain was sporadically falling and it was like people had already retired for the holiday. In the centre of town, there was a man with a big thick-bodied sunburst Jazz guitar that I presume was a Gibson (I forgot to look). He was playing the melody to Let It Snow over a backing tape, amusing as it never snows here but don’t think it doesn’t get cold. We haven’t moved to The Algarve or Africa. Northern Portugal has weather and we are experiencing it the first week we are here. I said, “Let it snow, brother” as we passed, “Thanks,” he said. We had no coins and as we moved past he started to play Summertime – this guy had a sense of humour.
We found the supermarket we went to last week and I went to the same fridge where I found the veggie burgers but those last two packets that we bought might have been the last for a while, I’m not sure how popular processed veggie food is here. We stocked up on expensive sparkling water, why would supermarket brand sparkling water be five times more expensive than in England? Some vegetables, soya milk, hoping to get the sweetened one this time. More bread, more brie and of course more pasteis de nata. Shopping in a foreign supermarket is an adventure – no brand recognition and everything in another language. We had only just made it, a message came over the tannoy, we are closing in 15 minutes. At the till a very small lady checked us out, her name was Olívia. My very tall Olivia is always impressed when she finds an old Olivia because it seems to be one of the top contemporary baby names. In 2030 all girls in the UK will be called Olivia and all boys Oliver.
It’s still a wonder to walk around the streets here and see all these amazing buildings with the patterned tiles. I wonder what it will be like when the people return to the streets maskless and pandemic free. What will the summer be like? Will we get to know some people? What music will we discover? My mate Boydy told me there’s 15 record shops here. I haven’t seen one yet but maybe they aren’t in the centre where we have been. It will be fun discovering some Portuguese legends of the Progressive scene like I did in Argentina. We will, of course, be investigating Fado (the ‘o’ is pronounced more like a ‘u’). Even though it is essentially a Lisbon thing, it’s also here and I’ll be happy to go and see it live. I suppose it might be touristy but with time we’ll find the best example. Tomorrow Olivia is doing one of five Portuguese lessons with a Portuguese opera singer who lives in Barcelona – every day is an adventure.
Music today was The Beatles’ Abbey Road because I felt like something really familiar more because of my speaker situation than anything else, although I never tire of The Beatles. The songs are so great, they sound good on anything. I didn’t bring my portable speakers with me as I have some in Germany that Olivia’s dad can send me when we get a proper address. I might have to buy something in the meantime because just listening to the computer speaker is tough. And on the subject of an address, it seems like we can’t move in till December 20th or 21st but can stay where we are till then, the price works out about the same. I guess Airbnb is cheaper in Portugal during a pandemic and in the winter. Interestingly Here Comes The Sun is the most popular Beatles song on Spotify, a song not written by John or Paul but by George. Here Comes The Sun? Not for a while.
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