Friday, August 27, 2004

Now in Porto

All the ways I learned to order coffee in Spanish are no longer any good, and I need to start again. (For some reason Portuguese coffee seems to resemble Italian coffee more than Spanish coffee - I don't know why this is).

I have hard that the Douro valley is beautiful and I have seem photographs of it, but I have to say it really was splendid to come out of the Porto suburbs and then onto a railway line coming downstream on the side of the valley in the morning mist, into a tunnel and then finally into the main Porto railway station (which is quite spectacular, with the lines terminating at one end of a large metal trainshed, and the lines going straight into tunnels at the other end of the platform).

From a couple of hours, Porto is an interesting and rather magnificent city. Crumbling imperial grandeur, still the poorest country in western Europe, but with twenty years of solid growth starting to uncrumble things. (And of course there is all that EU money that has paid for infrastructure that Portugal by itself might not be able to afford for a few more years. A couple of nice modern bridges over the Douro beside a classical high deck steel arch. A large public works project working on beautification of the main square, but which makes it ugly and awkward to get around from now. Possibly some of the most traditional food markets in Europe, but also a couple of shopping malls that are modern and architecturally rather better than the equivalents in England. (I don't know whether to blame planning laws or what, but shopping malls in England are generally dreadful in this regard).

And the internet cafe I am in is perhaps an example. It is in the same street as the nice shopping malls. Rather than crappy four year old computers running Windows 98 and without properly updated software (as was the case in Santiago yesterday), the computers here are small form factor (ie Shuttle like), quite new, have Athlon XP2600+ CPUs, 480MB of RAM, Windows XP Pro, really nice Sony LCD displays (17" with 1280x1024 resolutions). And the person running the cafe is not a hard core geek, but a rather beautiful young woman. She is wearing glasses and looks a little studious and appears able to help people with their tech problems. I am not sure of her overall level of tech competence, but it can't be too bad.

I wonder if she will marry me if I ask nicely.

No comments:

Blog Archive