7th September 2020
Baiona, Spain – Pavoa de Vazim, Portugal
Setting your expectations correctly is important. Set them too high and you’ll be disappointed, set them to low and you may never embark on the planned activity. We had our expectations set of having just another sail, to just another country, to visit just another town. Our expectation setting was way off the mark as there has been nothing ‘just’ about sailing, a new country or a big day in a big historic city.
The race was on as we left Baiona, a race which we expected to lose. Our competition were all longer than us, lighter than us and critically had bigger engines than us; they didn’t however use our tactic of starting early and bagging a head start. As we turned left and turned downwind we raced to rig lines, setup poles, unfurl sail and deploy reading books in true Ruffian style. Right on cue, Calista powered past us using her iron sail and Favorita slowly overhauled us with their waterline length.
All however was happy on Ruffian as we won the moral battle of sailing and in celebration the whales that have so far been elusive trumpeted our win with huge plumes of spray. This was not ‘just’ a sail, this was a sail that we’d been yearning for after all the short hops around the Ria’s.
Waking up in Portugal we had a big day in Porto planned but before that Iain had to get a few miles in on the tarmac. He was thinking that he’d pound the soul-destroying pavement south, turn on his heels and continue to lose his soul heading north. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
With the first step things were different in Portugal. The ceramic pavements of Spain had been replaced by artistic sidewalk mosaics, the empty morning streets replaced by hustle and bustle and the panoramas of hills and trees replaced by incredible points of historic interest. Within a few kilometres Iain had sampled an ancient fort, a 10th century church, sculpture inspired by Vasco da Gama, a galleon from Napoleonic times and an aqueduct with no less than 999 arches. This was not ‘just’ another soul-destroying run this was a run that raised spirits and foretold of the days adventures.
The main adventure of the day was a simple stroll around Porto, which tuned into anything but a ‘simple stroll’. Lori of Favorita fame took us in her hands and proved to be a prize-winning tour guide. We watched the queue for the Harry Potter bookshop crawl at a snail’s pace in the burning sun while we sipped coffee’s and saw all the sightseers simply ignore our first sight.
With the crowds elsewhere, we put foot in front of foot and climbed the hundreds of steps that lined the inside of a tower that promised to give unending views of this ancient city. Our breaths were taken away as the expectation of ‘just another view’ paled into insignificance as the reality of looking down on a town that’s never been sacked, has eons of history and every corner is an excuse for art, open up far below us and stretched as far as the eye could see.
While in Porto it is almost an obligatory activity to take a tour of a Port house, however choice is often the enemy of decision. Finally, a decision was made for us as we were taken in hand around an artisan Port house. The reward for successfully learning the theory about Port was in practical tasting, out came strong wines, white ports, vintages, LBV’s and with them Larry made an appearance, with obvious consequences. Amazing as the Port became older, stronger and more expensive, it became more ‘quaffable’, increasingly silky smooth and its hangover power increased exponentially.
With a full day of sightseeing behind us all the train home lulled us into a light slumber which gave us just enough energy for a celebratory drink in town and with darkness descending bed and a book were beckoning. Pavoa however had another plan for us.
Instead of the usual walk through a boatyard home we simply ‘happened’ upon not just a castle, but a castle with views, a castle with bars, a castle that was clearly open just for us. We felt so very special as Pina Colada’s were supped, single malts decanted and beers bottles popped (yep Iain lowered the tone) and felt more special still when we came to leave. Not only had we all had our very own lock in we had been locked into a castle complete with doors inside doors and bolts bolting bolts.
So, with our expectations of just another sail, just another country and just another town completely wrong we went to bed happy with no expectations as to what else this amazing town and amazing country has to offer.
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