Coimbra. Load in day.
Happily the backline bus made it through the night without breaking down this time and I woke up as we were driving into Coimbra. Crawling from my bunk and heading to the front lounge I took a look at this ancient town on a river. It all looked rather beautiful in the early sunshine and we wound our way through the streets to the little stadium. Had we been doing this in isolation it would have been tricky enough to navigate the small streets but we were the first bus to arrive, with many more to follow. Clearly the arrival of a dozen double-decker tour buses and god only knows how many trucks is going to prove a tad challenging. Much of what normally happens inside the stadium at a U2 show has been transferred to the outside €“ catering, for example, is in a series of tents across the street. Once the audience gets here I€™d say the siege of Coimbra will be complete.
Due to the ratio of invading personnel to available hotel rooms in Coimbra, I am staying at what will become the band hotel, the Hotel Fabulous in Porto. This is all very nice but is a 90 minute drive from Coimbra so I€™ll have a bit of commuting to do over the next few days. Production had lined up a runner van to take me there this morning, but I thought I€™d be best to have a spot of brekky in catering before setting off. I also stuck my head into the stadium. Production load-in was yet to begin so the naked claw was standing by itself in the stadium, a sight I haven€™t seen since Barcleona a year and a half ago. There are three of these base strutures, leapfrogging around the planet, but there is only one of everything else which gets put up and taken down in every city. Again, the scale of the operation dawned on me, particularly as when I was leaving I saw a truck pulling in labelled €œBarricade 2€. Seriously - Barricade 2. It€™s insane enough that a tour would need an entire 40€™ trailer full of its own barricade, but it appears that we have two. Well, we, have at least two €“ there could be a Barricade 3 for all I know. Time to go.
The drive to Porto was pleasant enough and the town itself is not dissimilar to Coimbra but a great deal larger. Again, situated on a river and clearly very ancient. On the opposite side of the river from the town sit a series of port wine plants (distilleries? wineries?), bearing the names of the manufacturers; Grahams, Sandemans, and so on. It struck me as funny to think that port really does come from Porto.
On arrival at the check in desk of the charmingly boutique Hotel Fabulous, I was given a room key and a glass of port wine (10.30am €“ yay!) I took a shower and headed out for a look around. The hotel is situated in the middle of the old town, consisting of beautiful, old, steep, winding, cobbled streets with interstitial concrete horrors, suggesting an unscrupulous liaison between town planners and developers some time in the 1960s. Much building work seems to be continuing, but much of the living history of the place has survived. Roads clearly not built with the internal combustion engine in mind.
In keeping with the local custom, I took a pretty serious siesta to top up the brief night€™s sleep I€™d had on the bus last night. Evening ambitions were low, just a trip to a great local modern tapas place where I sat with my book and enjoyed the fine house red at a mere ‚¬2 a glass. The food was spectacular, with an English menu translation that included the very promising €œTurbulent Mushrooms€ and the wonderfully enigmatic €œBuilt Jewish€.
Hiking back up the hill to the Hotel Fabulous, I couldn€™t help but notice that a large area of the little piazza out front has been cordoned off with chin-high railings, no doubt in anticipation of the arrival of the Fab Four. I wondered what on earth they were expecting the good citizens of Porto to do which would warrant such security arrangements. Or indeed, what must have happened here in the past for them to think that this would be necessary. Perhaps we€™re in for an exciting night tomorrow.