The past is a foreign country...

To Porto for a conference organised by ViniPortugal. It is unseasonably warm so, having spent the last week snowed up in the north of England with temperatures of minus 14, I spend the afternoon walking round the city. I used to visit Porto very regularly but now that my visits are much less frequent I notice the changes that have taken place. Porto used to be a backwater but now that Ryanair have turned the local airport into a minor hub there are many more foreign voices to be heard in the streets. Bright fashionable little shops now light up previously run-down parts of the city and the once grimy Ribeira (where thirty years ago I recall hens attached by string to the lamp-posts) has been well and truly sanitised. The same is true with the Portentreposto over the river in Vila Nova de Gaia which is increasingly less of a working area and more of a showcase for tourists. An unnecessarily ugly teleférico (cable car) is being built right in front of the new Yeatman Hotel (not itself an architectural asset) and the Ramos Pinto Port lodge.  The city has lost much of its hard working character in recent years and I feel pleased that I knew Porto as it was.