My friend Raymond will be amused to know I encountered my first European transit strike today – at a most inconvenient time.
My conference in Porto, Portugal wrapped up today about noon. My flight wasn’t until 4:30 so I decided to do some shopping at El Corte Ingles. One fabulous pair of shoes and two tops later I headed out and across the street to catch the Metro to the airport. I bought my ticket, waited for the tram, went downtown, got off at the main station and headed to the platform for the E train. Standing on the platform with my big red suitcase a very helpful transit employee started talking to me in Portuguese. I looked confused and said ‘aeropuerto.’ He then switched to his very polite English and explained that the transit workers were on strike and the E train was not running. I would need to get off at a particular stop and then transfer to a smaller train to get to the airport. I had already spent a half hour on my journey and didn’t really have a lot of slack time in my schedule (shopping was fabulous, did I mention the shoes?)
Anyway, this main terminal station didn’t have a taxi stand (or so the guy told me) so I took the next train three stations up the line to another station that he said had taxis. Off the train, upstairs to the street to look for a taxi. Nothing. I headed back down to ask someone where the taxis were and asked a group of people sitting on a bench. None spoke English, but ‘taxi’ is universal. A kind gentleman walked me over (a theme in Oporto) to the escalator and then went off in Portuguese, luckily he made the universal hand gestures for up the escalator, up another escalator then across the street. When I got to the top of the escalator I didn’t see any taxis, but there were helpful university students doing some IKEA promotion with a giant sized Klippan sofa (I would have taken pictures had I more time). They spoke great English and explained that the taxis are not at that stand during the day, only for commuting and evenings. They sent me several blocks over to the main traffic circle, where I did finally find a taxi. Thank goodness there was no traffic as we got to the airport pretty quick, but by now it had taken me so long to get there that the ticket agents were not happy when I checked in for the flight so late. I tried to explain that the Metro drivers were on strike, but they were not amused. Luckily they checked me in anyway.
It is good to be home!