10 September 2010

The Missing Museum - Porto/San Sebastián de los Reyes [Day Four]

I had half a day left in Porto, so making the most of it, I headed out to (what I was told was) the museum district. What I found was suburbia. Normal streets, houses, shops, people... Not even a hint of a culture. I continued to wander and stumbled upon Jardins do Palacio de Cristal (Gardens of the Crystal Palace). I found beautiful, lush green grass, trees, colourful flowers, a florescent green lake (don't ask me!) as well as some curious peacocks and cheeky ducks.

The gardens also house the Pavilhao Rosa Mota, a massive dome shaped building used for sports and concerts. On the far side of the gardens I discovered breathtaking views over the whole of Porto old town. I spent a good 30 minutes just wandering around, admiring the view and taking photos. I was suddenly very pleased I had been given such poor directions.

My last stop before departing Porto was the Casa de Musica. The easiest way to get there was on the metro - I jumped on what I thought was the correct train, turns out I was heading in the completely wrong direction. So off at the next stop, change platforms, and back in the direction I came. The whole process chewing up about 20 minutes of my precious time. By the time I got to where I wanted to be I only had about 30 minutes to look around, and even that was pushing it. The first thing I came across was the Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular (Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsular War) which symbolises Portugal dominating Napoleon's empire. There is a massive 45m column, and on top sits a lion (Portugal) which is pinning down an eagle (Napoleon).

The Casa de Musica is a huge concert hall in Porto. It is a strange building, with walls and windows at strange angles. The concrete surrounding it is a yellowish colour that intensifies as it gets older, just like port wine.

I made it to the airport without any trouble and had a uneventful flight to Madrid. An hour trip on the Metro and I arrived in the suburb of San Sebastián de los Reyes - where I would be spending the next four days enjoying the annual Encierro (bull running) festival.

I found my hotel, checked in, met my room-mate, Kent, then wandered down to meet the rest of the group. To be honest, I was unsure weather I had made the right choice to come with a group. I was surrounded by English speaking (mainly Aussie, mainly male), drinking beers and chatting shite. This was the exact opposite of why I had come to Spain. After a while a couple of the others and I decided to go and grab something to eat. We found an OK looking place called the Yellow Submarine with lots of tables outside, and plenty of locals chowing down. Perfect. I could not hear a word of English, not even from the wait-staff. As it was a beautiful warm evening we decided to join the locals and sat at one of the outside tables. None of us had much of an idea what we were ordering, I ended up with some sort of hotdog with salad and what looked like crushed potato chips on top. Strange, but tasted good.

After a couple of drinks we called it a night. We had a bus picking us up at 5am the following morning for our trip to Bunol, the home of La Tomatina! (Tomato festival). I was still in two minds as to whether I had made the right choice to travel with a group, but decided there was no point worrying about it now; I would just enjoy it for what it was.

Next Post - 'La Tomatina: Just Add Tomatoes'

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