porto polyrhythmic

Praca Ribeira
“Polyrhythmic” – being made of two or more rhythms at the same time. I think that is a good describer for many great cities, but is certainly true of Porto. I am not quite at the end of posting my Porto sketches, but have divided them out so certain ones will post together. I think with these ones, they were ones that I didn’t necessarily categorize, but looking at them together they do have a certain joined-up difference. Above, the Praça Ribeira, down near the Douro. This was where the nightly Drink’n’Draw was held, and there are so many sketches of this colourful little spot.

Miragaia hillside, Porto
This scene here is of the hillside of Miragaia, as seen from the long riverside street of Alfandega. Another scene sketched by many, as it was right by the Symposium location. It was an overcast day, so the colours were more muted. I never explored this area, which appears more labyrinthine and a little ramshackle. And of course, there is a tiled church in there. That’s the Antiga Capela e Hospital Do Espirito Santo, Google Maps tells me. I would have liked to have drawn even more, along the whole riverfront. I walked along it a lot of times (or ran along it, rushing to get to a demo or workshop on time).

Porto view from Se

This is the view from the Terreiro da Sé, next to the cathedral, looking out over the rooftops. I was really attracted to this group of colourful houses, many of them tiled, but the one on the far right (not a great phrase that, these days) is called the ‘Varanda de Fado’. I think they play a lot of Fado there. I don’t know though, because I never went to find out, in the evenings. Funnily enough, I didn’t manage to seek out any Fado in Portugal. I know I should have, but I never had the opportunity. I felt a little strange asking where the Fado was, like I was too much of a tourist, afraid of getting rolled eyes and shaking heads, like if a tourist to London asked me how to find the bowler hat shops. So, I pretty much missed out on the Fado scene. Perhaps next time.

Aliados, Porto

The scene above is of Liberdade Square / Avenida dos Aliados, which is the big main thoroughfare of Porto. It’s fairly long, sloping uphill slightly towards the tall white tower of the town hall. This was sketched during daytime, but I came along here on a Friday night on the way home to the hotel. It was a bit bizarre, it seemed to be full of teenagers, huge gangs of them, mostly young ladies dressed as if going to nightclubs and lads barely on the right side of shaving, but not doing much more than hanging around in the street in large groups talking and drinking and smoking. Perhaps they all were going on to nightclubs, I have no idea the habits of young people of Porto, or perhaps this just is what the young people do these days. Been along time since I was that young. anyway I popped into McDonalds, which was packed (mostly with more of these well-dressed youths). They had chandeliers (McDonalds, not the youths). Ordering at McDonalds in Europe these days is done on big touchscreens now, they aren’t really a thing over here in California yet, not sure why. Probably because we are still mostly about Drive-Thru when it comes to McDonalds. My wife says that this touchscreen ordering system would not work at McDonalds in America, but most Americans I know are quite familiar with touchscreens by now so I think it would. Except at a Drive-Thru, unless you had really long arms, or maybe the screens could move closer to the window. McDonalds, get on that idea, you are welcome.

O Porto Statue
This statue was on that same square. I don’t know who it is, but the statue is called “O Porto”, which is probably like “Oh Canada”. The man with the spear has a dragon on his head. From behind, he looks like Loki. “I am Burdened with Glorious Purpose!”
Torre Medieval Reboleira, Porto

Above is a building which I believed to be called the Torre Medieval da Reboleira, but which Google Maps now tells me is something else. No I think this might be not one but two churches, the Igreja Monumento de Sao Francisco on the right and the Igreja dos Terceiros de Sao Francisco behind it. Well, at least this is a couple more churches for my church count (this might put them ahead of the hydrants now). I had two attempts at drawing this, both times I ran out of time and had to go elsewhere, so I left it. I’m going to need to cross out that incorrect name in the sketchbook now though, aren’t I.

Porto Tiles

And finally, well I had to draw some of the tiles didn’t I. Seriously, Porto is chock full of houses decorated with these colourful ceramic tiles, usually in blue and white. There are so many different patterns. I remember seeing a lot in Lisbon, but nothing like Porto. If Porto is known for anything, it is this.

About three more Porto posts to go! Then we move on to Lisbon.

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porto perambulations

Rua Loureiro, Porto

Taking a break from the people sketches, here are a few more sketches of Porto’s streets and hills. Before going to Porto, I checked out the roads I might be walking through on Google Street View, and picked my hotel behind the train station thinking, yeah that’s not too bad. My legs felt otherwise. The streets are pretty steep! There were a few different ways back to the hotel, none of which were easy climbs and one of which (Rua da Cima) was a little bit dodgy feeling at night, some seedy looking establishments behind doorways with ladies leaning in the half-light and men lurking in shadows nearby. So, I explored a few different routes. The street above is not far from there, and I came across it while walking down toward the Se Cathedral area from my hotel, this is Rua do Loureiro. I really liked sketching how the street weaved downwards, with those colourful garlands crossing from window to window. They are left over from a recent city celebration, I was told. As I sat and sketched, on an overcast Wednesday morning, some children played in the street nearby. It felt very much like a neighbourhood. That’s a bit patronising; of course it’s a neighbourhood. Porto is struggling at the moment with a relatively recent upsurge in popularity, with many locals being priced out of the old Porto quarters by the influx of tourist apartments. If the graffiti I read around town is accurate, anyway. Porto is no longer the undiscovered secret it used to be.

Rua da Madeira

Above, another street that ran next to me hotel, this one was right outside my window. Rua da Madeira. Again, one that I didn’t mind going down in daylight, a bit less so at night (though there weren’t as many small seedy, ahem, ‘nightclubs’ along the way). It’s less a road and more an alley with a large staircase. However, it’s filled with graffiti, much of which looks commissioned by the city, large interesting murals mixed in with down to earth tagging. I had to draw it. This part is as far as you can drive down from Batalha, before the steps begin, running alongside the back of the Sao Bento train station. Streets behind train stations look like this all over the world. Even in Burnt Oak; it reminded me of those alleys behind the tube station on Watling Avenue, like the one I used to go down to go to Cubs when I was a kid. This is very far away from Davis, but I felt a little bit more at home here. There is a nice view over Porto, with the Clerigos tower in the distance.

Rua da Madeira, Porto

This is the bottom of that street. It is really steep! I stood next to Sao Bento, in the doorway of a hostel, on the Saturday afternoon to sketch this. Across the street some members of a youthful rock band were drinking the day away. I know they were a rock band because (1) they had long hair, and (2) I had seen them earlier in the day waiting outside a rock club across from here with all their instruments, while the singer (I presume he was the singer, he looked like the singer) was on the phone to someone complaining that they couldn’t get in to leave their instruments somewhere. Obviously a band on tour, with not enough roadies (or any). I knew they were a rock band then. They sounded Australian or south African, but they may just have been British and just Talking Like That. Anyway they were getting lubricated as you do when you are in a foreign country and you are young and in a rock band, minding their own business, and I heard another man swearing at them, a local by the sound of it, very drunk himself, swearing in English. Then a very large man, who must have been a roadie or their minder or dad or someone, escorted said swearing-man away from the cafe. That is it, that’s the whole story. I’m glad I wasn’t in a band in my early 20s. I was rock and roll enough, without growing my hair long.

Rua 31 de Janeiro

Now this street was very normal and wide and a great option for walking home at night, however it’s just too damned steep. Rua 31 de Janeiro, which slides down from Batalha and then slides up again to Clerigos, took me absolutely ages to walk up at night. By the time I reached the top I was exhausted. Thankfully there was an ice cream shop at the top that stayed open until almost midnight. The top of this street is at the junction of Batalha and Rua Santa Catarina, a much nicer part of town with more upmarket shops and – amazingly – no steep hill to climb. I never did sketch the Cafe Mjestic, nor did I find the Bolhao Market nearby, but I did sketch the outside of this lovely bookshop, below. In case you are wondering, no, this is not the famous bookshop of Porto, Livraria Lello. That is the one with the magnificent curving staircase. I never actually went there. Well, IO tried, but on a Saturday afternoon it was packed with a very long line out of the door. You have to buy tickets to get in. The Urban Sketchers instructors were all given a free couple of hours after closing to come in and sketch one evening, but I’m not an instructor so couldn’t do that. It was also further away from where I was staying than I realized. Ah well, I’ll save that place for next time. And maybe next time, I’ll stay at a hotel closer to the bottom of the hill.
Batalha Bookshop

Stay tuned for more Porto!