Tales of four cities (and more)

Talking of football (see Bernardo’s previous post), there is bound to be much inter-city tension and taunting on the Iberian peninsula this weekend. In the Spanish football league, Barcelona host their great rivals Real Madrid later today. In Portugal, the only two teams that are still unbeaten after seven rounds of matches, Porto and Sporting Lisbon, meet in Porto on Sunday night. It would be a great time to be in one of those cities, seeing all the local fans gathered in the cafes and bars, glued to the television screens, “oohing” and gesticulating at all the on-field drama and cursing the stupid referees. Let’s hope there will be lots of “ggoooooooooaaaaaaaallls”.


Barcelona (Photo credit: kygp)

Bernardo has only been to Barcelona once, as a child on a cruise on board an Italian cargo/passenger ship, The Africa, owned by Lloyd Triestino. He doesn’t remember much about the city apart from going up to the castle and gazing down below (probably he had only one full day in the city). That was in 1969, so prono doubt the views have changed a lot since then. But everyone that Bernardo knows who has been to Barcelona more recently has raved about the place and said they think he would really like it. Bernardo, you’ll have to find a spot for Barcelona in your diary soon, OK?

Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid, was designed and b...

Madrid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who have also been to Madrid say, without meaning to sound derogatory about it or anything, that is cultured and elegant, but perhaps not as vibrant as Barcelona, from a tourist point of view. Bernardo was last in Spain in 2011, and would have dearly loved to have gone to see the capital, for its monuments, museums, palaces, plaza, and night life (by this Bernardo means the restaurants, he is at the age when frequenting the night clubs might make him look ridiculous, but only a teeny weeny bit ridiculous, nothing that a toupee wouldn’t fix, haha). But Bernardo didn’t really have the time or nerve in 2011 to venture into Madrid in a hired car, so instead stuck to the quieter spots near the Portuguese border, such as Caceres, Merida and Salamanca (all great places). You can read Bernardo’s newspaper account of his impressions of Caceres here.

The Castle of São Jorge occupies a commanding ...

Lisbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Across the border in Portugal, Lisbon is one of Bernardo’s favourite places. Once you have got your bearings (the most important thing is to find easy ways of getting up the hills from the squares in the lower parts of the city) you feel totally at ease and wander around as if you own the place. There are some great excursions nearby too – Belem, Estoril and Cascais along the Tagus estuary, and Sintra in the hills. And of course there are all those great cafes with good coffee and Portuguese custard tarts.

"Pérgola" at Foz do Douro, Porto, Po...

Foz do Douro, Porto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contrast, Bernardo has found it difficult to warm to Porto, the big city in the north. Perhaps that’s because he has only ever been in it as a day visitor, and maybe it is one of those cities that you need to immerse yourself in and it grows on you. It would be great, for instance, to dine at night at one of the restaurants on the quay overlooking the river Douro, or do a cruise up the river, glass of Port in  hand. Last time he was there in 2011, though, Bernardo did like the western suburbs of the city, the coastal stretch from Foz do Douro up to Matosinhos. But Porto’s city centre itself has always struck him as rather grey and foreboding, in contrast to Lisbon, which is bright and colorful. Bernardo’s preferred base in the north of Portugal is Aveiro, you can read why here.

Back to the football: In Spain’s Primera Division, Barcelona are the only unbeaten team and lead with 25 points, one ahead of Athletico Madrid and three ahead of Real Madrid. In the Primeira Liga, Porto are leading on 19 points, Sporting have 17 and the other Lisbon giant, Benfica, are in third place on 14. If the host teams win, they will be further ahead and favourites for the title, even though it is early in the season. If the visitors win, the competitions will be wide open, Which of the those cities will be the brighter and more cheerful in football terms come Monday morning?

See the various articles below for other people’s perspectives on these places.


One thought on “Tales of four cities (and more)

  1. Pingback: Dark moments in Lisbon, lighter ones in Paris | My Five Romances

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