Thursday, 25 December 2008

Paredes

Paredes is a town about 30 minutes east of Porto. It's a very quiet, cute little town with a couple of busier streets, a main square and a church which at night is beautifully lit up. It reminds me of countryside Brazil.

We spent Christmas with Isabel's family here. On Christmas Eve we had a lavish meal of potatoes, bacalhau (cod) and vinho verde (green wine), followed by about eight different kinds of cakes, some port wine, and finally coffee: a single shot, black, with sugar, served in a tiny cup. Just as it should be.

After opening the presents (as in Brazil, this is done on Christmas Eve, not Christmas day) and chatting for a bit over a few more drinks, we went to bed and had a good night sleep.

The next day I woke up very early and instead of sitting around waiting for everyone else to wake up, I decided to go on a short stroll to get acquainted with the surroundings.

As expected, before 8 a.m. on Christmas day the town was deserted. It was a frosty morning and the air was very crisp but the low morning sun made it a perfect morning to walk around. I walked past a couple of older men making their way to the Christmas service and decided to follow them into town, across the bridge over the train station.

What I saw on the way made me forget I was in Portugal, taking me straight home: the cafés with people sitting at the bar, the tiny shops with familiar names, the old folk saying hello as they passed by, the quaint houses decorated with patterned tiles, the architecture, the narrow brick paved streets.

Despite feeling at home, me and my big old camera certainly didn't belong there. At one stage this old lady walking past asked me why I was photographing the houses, particularly the abandoned/neglected ones! Somehow I thought she wouldn't quite comprehend, or care for, my obsession with urban decay so I just told her I was a tourist which seemed to have been a good enough reason as she went back to her business and let me be.

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