Last night I had a late dinner in the humid September warmth, the outside tables of a dockside restaurant perched precariously on the granite as the harbour lights twinkled on the water below. A cabbage and potato soup followed by a large dish of tripe sounds far less appetising than it actually was, but the green vinho went down a treat - at 10% a definite quaffing wine, and one I'm now determined to drink gallons of. Finding the Fado bar late at night in a completely strange place down a rickety alleyway along which ordinary people were living their lives in the ten foot space that separated them felt like wandering through someone's front room, but they were friendly enough, smiles and nods as I walked through their conversations. From midnight things got lively, or mournful rather, but in a very alive way.
This morning was a time to rehydrate and spend an hour or so drinking coffee at a table on the edge of the main square, dominated by a 19th century equestrian statue, eating savoury brioche breakfast pastries and watching a little municipal scene enacted that could have taken place anywhere in the world. The safety seatbelt people had rigged up a small car on a large spit-type machine in the main square. An ambitious young woman made a speech that was too long. Then the Mayor made a short speech and his suited staff from the Town Hall clapped him. A few locals leaned on the barriers round about, smoking and making quiet comments. The Mayor was then strapped into the car, which then turned three spins in one direction and two in the other before the assistants sprung to release the rotated dignitary. He stood on the little platform and made a little gesture of spread hands and a crook of the neck that said 'It was nothing, I'm fine'. Everyone broke into polite applause.
For lunch I had a little French girl smothered in a beer sauce. With another bottle of green wine - a different one, only 9% but distinctly pétillant. Then the cathedral. More granite. I suppose when you live on a steep slope made out of granite you don't look any further for the stuff to pave the streets and build with; the 14th century remnants are massive blocks minimally worked, but as the centuries passed skills evolved to shape exquisite Gothic and baroque decoration from it.
Tonight it's an earlier night, having found the internet shop just opposite the hotel. Around me are half a dozen Africans from this country's former colonies no doubt diligently typing out their daily hundred 419 emails, but I'm in charitable mood.