Sunday, 30 August 2015: Porto to Aveiro
Written 6 May 2016
Sunday morning, we had to say goodbye to the Hemming and her crew. Breakfast was served a little earlier than usual in the dining room (although those poor people who caught taxis at 3:45 a.m. had to settle for just coffee and pastries from the coffee station), and while we ate it, the ship cast off from Porto and crossed the river to Gaia, where all the buses and taxis would meet us.1p>
When I packed, the evening before, I was uinable to find the leatherette cover for the tripod of my folding computer table, which I was 95% sure I had never taken out of the stateroom. Once we'd finished packing and set our luggage (adorned with their black "taxi transfer" tags) outside our staterooms at 9:00 a.m. as instructed, I searched the room again, in the absence of clutter, and still couldn't find it. All I could assume was that it was somewhere in the bottom of my suitcase or computer case and would turn up at home, but in the end, it didn't. No idea what could have become of it.
Then we settled our "incidentals" account (in our case, a couple of dollars in postage for postcards) and relaxed in the lounge until we were called to our van-sized taxi (we were four, with luggage) at 9:30 a.m. for the quick run to the Campanha train station. Ordinarily, the trip south to Aveiro is a half-hour run, but we had the commuter special run, so it took an hour, with many small stops on the way.
Here we are on the platform, waiting for our train (after one small epicycle during which we waited on the wrong platform; a passing conductor spotted the color of our tickets and redirected us).
At the right, Kathy poses with a decorated fiberglass cow, one of several in the Porto train station, all differently decorated.
On the train, we ran into colleague Lauren Mullineau, also on her way to Aveiro.
At the other end, we took a cab to the hotel. It was less than a mile, but over the cobblestones it would have been a nightmare with luggge. Even where they have concrete sidewalks, they've cut them up to look like irregular square pavers.
Here's our hotel, the Meliá Ria. Meliá is a chain, and this one is called "Ria" because it stands at the inland end of a waterway to the city's port.
The waterway, heavily embanked on both sides, is plied by many of these little boats, which take tourists up and down between the hotel and at least the topmost lock at the other end. For a little higher fee, you can get a tour that includes side canals and even goes through the lock to the port itself.
Of course, we were way too early to check in, so we dropped off our luggage and walked across the street to a park with an accumulation of ham, sausage, brebis (sheepsmilk cheese), bread, figs, and chocolate that we had assembled from snack bars and delis along the way (note the window full of pastries at the left). Buz walked to a nearby concession stand for bottled water. I got out my trusty little Swiss Army Knife, and we tucked in.
That's not a picture in David's hand; it's a flat plastic package in which thinly sliced sausage was vaccuum packed.
The park where we picnicked was also stocked with a widely varied assortment of, what? Exercise equipment? Playground equipment?
Here, Kathy demonstrates what I call a stirrup swing. At the left, she stands motionless on the stirrups, tricky in its own right, as they swing away when you try to step up on them.
At the right, she swings the stirrups back and forth in a walking motion.
Here, at the left, she sits on a seat and pulls downward on overhead bars, which, through a system of cables and pistons, lifts the seat—sort of a gentle chinning motion.
At the right, stands on one side of what seems to be a sort of seesaw designed for two, with levers for lifting the steps you stand on. These were only a few of the devices available.
David wasn't sufficiently sunscreened, so he went back to the hotel while Buz, Kathy, and I walked down the Ria to the hotel where they stayed after the 2006 Southampton meeting (see my 2006 vacation diary). We were at the Southampton meeting as well, but we went to France afterward while they went to Portugal.
The sidewalks were almost all mosaics of small paving stones, clearly the pattern for the similarly patterned sidewalks we saw in Recife, Brazil, during the 2007 Meiofauna Meetings (see my 2007 travel diary).
Here's a shop window featuring a famous Portuguese confection, ovos moles. I think I described these where I wrote about our visit to Lisbon. The outer shell is the same recipe as communion host, and the filling is pure egg yolk and sugar.
We found the hotel where Buz and Kathy had stayed and stopped in for a glass of wine and a few munchies. Each table in the bar was decorated with a little ship like this one. The menu was printed on the hand-made paper sail.
Along the way, we passed this handsome iron gate on a particularly ornate house, which turned out to be a museum, which we returned to visit later in the week.
At the right (and just to the right of the museum) is a house with a tiled facade. Aveiro has whole neighborhoods clad in tiles of a dizzying variety of patterns, of which more later. Note the small, discrete satellite dish sticking out at second-floor level.
The particularly ornate house/museum with the sunflower gates is right next door—you can see it at the left-hand edge of the photo.
On the way back, I got this shot of the meeting venue, a huge old rambling brick building that used to be a glazed-tile factory and is now a national historic landmark. That's our hotel on the right-hand edge of the photo, so the guys didn't have far to walk each morning to attend the sessions.
At the right is a closer view of the building, in which you can read the sign acorss the façade: "1896 Fabrica de Ceramica de Jeronymo Pereira Campos, Filhos 1915."
We got back to the hotel just at the 2 p.m. check-in time. As you can see, the rooms were bright, modern, and clean-lined. They were also air conditioned and quite comfortable.
A particularly elegant touch, I suppose, was the chambermaids' habit not just of folding the free end of the toilet paper into a point—many chains do that—but of using a moistened stamp to seal the end by embossing it with the hotel chain's circular logo. Not something that would have occurred to me.
The opening reception and registration for the meetings was scheduled for 6 p.m. at the university "livraria," a couple of kilometers away, so we consulted our maps and set off on foot. The route started with the climb up the stairway shown at the left, which had "I [heart] Aveiro" painted in big letters on its risers.
Other streets along the way were adorned in a variety of ways, including several draped, like the one at the right, with decorative fish nets full of stuffed and embroidered cloth fish.
Signage was sparse on the ground, but eventually, we found the location and were greeted with this banner, announcing the 14th [triennial] Deep-Sea Biology Symposium.
The reception theoretically occupied three spaces: a grassy outdoor cloister-like place, a small lobby, where tables of munchies were laid out and drinks were dispensed, and a large "exhibition space" overlooked by a musicians' gallery (where the registration tables were set up). Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take food or drink into the exhibition space, so everyone went in there just long enough to register for the meeting, then crowded back into the other spaces to munch, drink, and talk with colleagues.
The munchies were incredibly varied and were intended to be a comprehensive survey of Portuguese snack food. In the photo at the right, you can see—I think—canned eel filets, two colors of grapes, canned octopus chunks, codfish fritters, olives and ovos moles (in the far corner), and soemthing that looks like turkish delight. The label from each can or package was placed helpfully next to the dish, to help us determine what we were eating, but unfortunately, someone had thoroughly scrambled the layout. For example, the powdery confection was labeled "codfish," and the codfish fritters were labeled "octopus." This was only one of six or eight tables. The inevitable cheese and crackers, tiny pasteis de nata, and squares of meat bolos were also represented of course.
During the reception a local choir sang from the musicians' gallery (left-hand photo), but unfortunately, they were pretty well drowned out by the nonstop talking. The graphic on the wall below them is a PowerPoint slide projected on the wall.
Once we had all talked ourselves hoarse and our feet hurt from standing around, we walked back to the hotel and got supper at the hotel's buffet. The evening's featured dish was "topside steak with fresh mushrooms," a sort of stroganoff-like stew, accompanied by fried potatoes and outstanding white melon with ham.
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