The rain turned unexpectedly warm overnight, so I was able to wait for the 601 bus without shivering in Porto’s pre-dawn quiet. An air traffic controllers strike in Madrid, then rumors of snow in the Netherlands, put our flight in doubt but there were worse fates of staying another day in Portugal. Porto is a complex place, rewarding breathless climbs along its steep streets with unexpected portraits and rich landscapes.
To which, more later.
Snow began falling as the train pulled out from Eindhoven. The flight was on-time and uneventful: I’d collated pictures and archived receipts as Ryanair bumped northward through unsettled weather. The fields had a dusting of snow, with an occasional mini-drift where the wind had scoured a road clean. It was cold, though: clearly the Dutch have been having some hard freezes in the past weeks.
Unfamiliar lights glowed through the snow as I crossed the bridge to Kesselskade. “Kerst aan de Maas” flashed against the darkening sky, framing a line of familiar Market huts receding into the distance. Sinterklaas and a gaggle of Zwarte Piets stormed a bar across the street.
Christmas has scored a direct hit on my doorstep.
It looks like the traditional Vrijthof Market has ben split in two. The square holds the Sky Wheel, ice rink, a smattering of foods, and long lines of huts selling Christmas crafts. The slide, another ice rink, the Gluhwein pavilion, and a carousel have settled in across the street from me. The lights and music are pretty festive so far, and I’m seeing clear advantages to having hot alcohol only 40 seconds walk from my door.
It’s all sort of a nice greeting: I had a mug of win, my favorite sausage, and nibbled the first oliebol of the season. Suddenly, it feels a lot like Christmas.