The punk looked as though he could be dead. He lay on his side like a foetus with a Mohican; motionless. The woman holding her finger to his neck, trying to find a pulse, looked concerned; the flashmob dancing as one over the punk’s head didn’t. New Year’s Eve in Porto had just taken on a disturbingly surreal tone.
It had been an odd sort of night anyway. A late afternoon siesta in preparation for a long night had gone west after we were given a heads up on how loud the evening’s bands were going to be courtesy of an all day sound check at the stage on Praça de Liberdade about a minute from the door of our hotel.
The meal at the restaurant, although delicious when it finally turned up, had been the stuff of Kitchen Nightmares territory – which was amusing in its own way. I’d never truly believed all those ‘two hours after ordering, no main courses had left the kitchen’ voice-overs. Now I know different.
Preparation for the street party was by way of two bottles of Asti-Spumante (all we could get hold of) chilled in the outside refrigerator (i.e. the balcony). One was downed in the short time left between finishing a meal that had commenced at 7.30pm and getting into position in the centre of the crowd that stretched all the way from Praça de Liberdade to the imposing Cámara Municipal building at the other end of the long square. The other was kept for popping at the arrival of the New Year.
Talking of imposing buildings, Avenida Dos Aliodes where the celebrations were centred is lined with more of them than you could shake a chisel and mallet at. Decorated for the festive season, their elegant neo-classical features were softened somewhat, making them seem less pompous and creating a fantastically grand setting in which to celebrate. We wondered what scenes of revelry they had witnessed over the centuries.
The crowd was already pretty merry by the time we manoeuvred our way into a decent position. Like a lot of music we’d heard in the bars in Porto, the band belted out sounds from the mid to late 80s – no complaints from me as it took me back to my formative years.
Here’s a tip for anyone planning to celebrate New Year in Porto. Don’t spend too much time on your hair and wear a bin bag because when those chimes strike midnight, Praça de Liberdade is like the winner’s podium of a Formula 1 race (actually maybe the punk wasn’t a punk at all, maybe he was just protecting his clothes).
Like a lot of excellent parties, time at Porto’s began to defy the laws of science post midnight as the hours slipped by on a steep icy slope that led to dawn. As the 80s sounds turned to dance and trance we went on a tour of the square’s beer kiosks, soaking up the city’s supply of Super Bock as well as the atmosphere at a party that was boisterous good fun.
Who knows when we decided to call it a night. The party was still going strong-ish when we headed to bed, but this time it didn’t interrupt our trip to Z land.
Around 9.30am sounds from the last of the New Year revellers making their way home via the street below roused us. Funnily, every staggering group seemed to consist of about four or five lads and a solo girl who seemed to have lost her skirt somewhere during the night.
By 10.30am on New Year’s Day the square still resembled a booze-soaked battleground. A lot of cafés hadn’t bothered putting their tables and chairs away from the previous night and some were occupied by a few hunched up, shivery looking casualties. The city’s streets exhibited all the hallmarks of a bouncing street party.
We were out and about early-ish as we were due to catch the bus to Guimaráes. But there weren’t many others save for the party stragglers… and a familiar looking Mohican haired figure up a side alley. The pin-studded, spiky haired Lazarus was valiantly and unsuccessfully attempting to juggle in the hope someone would throw a few coins his way.
He provided a sorry but amusing sight that bookmarked our New Year in the city nicely. Punks, partying and Porto – we loved it.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+