Day 1: Durham -> London - - - -> Porto Thursday 17th June
Start at the Beginning
It all began with me taking the train down to London where I met Doug at the station. On the way down I read my guidebook and took note of a few cool sites to visit and where the best places to do some partying would be. The first shock I got was that Doug had brought a suitcase! And not one of those new Samsonite rigid ones; an old canvas one he'd borrowed from his flatmate. To say it was shonky is an understatement!
Doug and I zipped out to the airport and before we knew it we were on the plane to Portugal! Of course, it would have been rude not to take advantage of the free alcohol on offer on the flight, and it was here that we were first acquainted with that most divine of beers: Super Bock.
A couple of these and a mini-bottle of wine each and we were nicley warmed up. We met Mike and Cookie, who'd taken an earlier flight, at the airport and they had already picked up the hire car. It wasn't quite the size we were expecting, it was a Peugeot206, but we managed to squeeze everything into it. I'd never met Mike before, yet it was me that spotted him in the crowd first. How? He was wearing an Aberdeen strip!
The next challenge - finding our way to the hotel. I'd printed out a few maps of Porto and knew the general location of the hotel and sort of how to get there from the airport. Of course, switching to continental cars isn't easy as everything is reversed. Whether this is a suitable excuse for Cookie immediately turning the wrong way down a one-way street is debatable!
We find our way onto the expressway that links the airport with the city. Of course we had no idea where to get off, so we took the first exit that pointed to the centre. This left us in the middle of some suburb, with very few landmarks, no road names and even if there were names, no map. We headed towards what looked like a main road and spotted a sign for "Hotels." We guessed these would be in the centre so followed the arrows. As luck would have it, the road turned out to be one of the major transport arteries and it wasn't long before I found our location on the map. After some more minor mishaps we found ourselves at the hotel and we pulled into the underground parking lot.
4 into 2 does go!
Now we'd arrived in Porto at about 10pm, which meant is about 11:30pm. Due to our late arrivals we'd decided we should book ahead for the nights we were going to spend in Porto. Of course, being in the capital city during a major international football tournament meant that we had a few problems finding rooms. Also, the pricing was rather extortionate (buy Portugese standards) so we decided to book one double room and sneak all four of us in.
The hotel was certainly not laid out in a way conducive to our plan - for a start you couldn't avoid reception on the way in, it was right next to the door. AND at night you had to ring the bell to get in and out. AND you had to leave the key behind every time you went out, meaning you had to ask for it every time you came back in. Lots of oppurtunity for the staff to recognise you. Especially when it's the same 2 guys - one on day shift and one on night!!!
Mice and Men
The plan for the first night was to take it easy - however, we were pretty psyched about finally being in Portugal so decided to head out and soak up the atmosphere. We walked in the rough direction of the centre, and soon heard the noises of a party. We followed the sounds and find ourselves at a giant outdoor concert. Probably some well-known Portugese group. We didn't have a scooby.
However, we quickly found the beer stall and having decided on using a kitty system, Mike got the beers in. Another pleasant surprise: beer was served in 750mL plastic glasses - bonus!! (over 1.5 pints) After a couple of beers and being accosted by some random drunks, we headed towards the real centre.
On the way down we found lots of little places selling beer from a tapped keg on the street or just cans from an ice box. Well, it'd be rude not to eh?
We soon found ourselves at the main square on the waterfront and it was jumping! Totally packed with Swedes all laying liberally into the beer. There were probably around 5 or 6 different bars with a central area of tables and chairs. We floated around from bar to bar, drinking merrily as we went. Soon, we were slightly inebriated. It gets kind of hazy here, but some things stick in the mind.
First was the statue. Against the wall was a monument statue thing, and it proved an excellent place to stand and wave a flag. When we arrived it was a Portugese flag, but later on it had been replaced by England fans waving a Union Jack. We started shouting abuse and one of the guys came down. He couldn't understand why we objected, until we pointed out that it was a British flag, and there was no British team playing. He pointed out that England were British and so he could use the flag. We then asked where the blue background came from (answer: Scotland's flag). Good point he said, and so he changed it for the English flag (St George's Cross).
I also remember being in a sort of food restaurant, and after trying to speak Portugese, discovered that they did chorizo (choricao) sandwiches for 1 euro! Thus being rather peckish I ordered one. The reason for me remembering this will soon become clear.
Show me the way to go home
It was about now that I realised I wanted to go to bed and so the 4 of us decided to stumble back to the hotel. Only problem was that I was the only one who knew where it was, and after about 5 minutes, Doug and Cookie were nowhere to be seen. At that particular point I couldn't give a flying fcuk where they were and so Mike and I kept going. I knew the rough location of the hotel and was trying to retrace our steps. It soon became obvious we weren't where I thought we should be. As chance would have it, I looked up to find a road name and found we were at the bottom of the hotel's street!!
We stumbled in to the room and Mike and I grabbed the two beds. Doug and Cookie miraculously appeared about 30 mins later and we all just passed out.
Day 2: Porto, Italy v Sweden @ Estadio do Dragao Friday 18th June
I was the first to wake and was dying of thirst when I did so. To get to the bathroom meant getting out of bed, inching round the other bed whilst avoiding Doug who was sleeping on the floor at its foot, and then continuing round the bed. I did this a few times to get a few glasses of water. However, it may have been the fourth time I woke - I didn't feel good. I waited to see if it would pass. Nope, I needed to spew. I leapt across that bed, almost clearing the double bed in a single bound, before emptying my stomach. Not pleasant, and hence why I remember clearly the fact I bought a chorizo sandwich!
Perversely this meant I now felt the best out of all of us - but we were all rather dazed and puzzled as to how it had happened. After all it was midnight when we went out. However, we then started doing the maths - 2 glasses here, 3 glasses there, 2 more here and so on. It soon added up to over 12 pints! Indeed 12 pints of 5.6% Super Bock. Add in the beer and wine on the plane and it's no wonder I wasn't too hot in the morning!
Into the great wide open
After a quick breakfast/brunch at the nearby cafe, we headed back into town via small narrow alleys adorned with flags to see what we'd missed in the dark and our drunken haze. Our first port of call was the port, and we were soon at the square where the previous nights alcoholic revelry had taken place. It was full of Swedes getting ready for the big match later that night. They were in fine voice having won their first game 5-0!!
We even managed to meet some Swedes who had been on the same flight as me and Doug from London. They were really friendly and even taught us some Swedish chants. We decided not to hit the beer just yet and so tore oursleves away to continue our attempt to have a productive day.
The other side of the river is technically a completely separate town, and it is here that all the port that PORTugal and PORTo is so famous for. In the past, the port was transported across the river using old sail boats. No such need these days, but they are still used in festivals (and I think as a challenge in The Amazing Race - they also had to take penalties with Sporting Lisbon's reserve team). We decided to take a tour of one of the wineries which allowed us the chance to sample the local produce. I have to say I'm really not a big fan of port, and this did nothing to change my mind. Though I have to say I found it more bearable than the others!
We returned to the Porto side of the bridge and made our way to the square from where we could catch a free bus to the ground. Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have the same idea and we were crammed onto the bus. Because it was rush hour it took us ages to get out the centre and fans who had decided to walk towards the ground, forced themselves on making it even more crowded than before.
Italy 1-1 Sweden
We were there quite earlier and were disappointingly at the opposite end from the Swedish support. In fact, we were in the neutrals section as we'd bought our tickets on the net, and seemed to be surrounded by Italian fans. However, the official Italian supporter section was only half-full - a pish-poor effort from one of the pre-tournament favourites.
We had a particularly annoying Italian supporter behind us, from the States. He had a habit of running a verbal commentary on the match, but did so using the most inane expressions. I'm sorry, I'm very happy that North America is finally embracing 'soccer' but you have to learn the lingo - and shouting "nice" every time something good happens for your time is just crap, and highly infuriating.
Of course, the fact that Italy went 1-0 up didn't help our cause much as phrases such as "Here comes another one" and "This ain't Bulgaria you know!" continued to rain down on us. To be fair Italy were playing well, but with about 15 mins left started to defend too deep and invited the Swedish on to them. They got their just desserts as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with the most audacious backflick with 6 minutes left to send the Swedish fans delirious with delight. At this point Doug jumped up and shouted "Fucking Nice!!!" The Italian Yank got up and left.
We decided to walk back rather than face the same arduous bus journey and our hotel was on route. We had intended to go back to the square and party some with the Swedes but we just ended up crashing out, too tired from the previous night and the days activities.