“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
– William James
I sat in the warm sun at the table overlooking the Douro River at Mercearia dos Guindais, located on an elevated Road on the quiet side of the Ponte Luís 1 bridge. José (known as Zé) and his wife, Natacha, have run the tiny 100-year-old grocery store/café/wine bar for the past 18 years. They serve traditional Portuguese salads, pastries, sangria, wine and tapas.
I ate my tuna and bean salad while next door the neighbors lit coals to grill sardines. Beautiful Portuguese music played out of two small speakers. Locals stopped in for a coffee. Boats flowed down the river. I was happy because I found an authentic place to eat – not an overpriced, tasteless meal at a tourist restaurant on the other side of the bridge, just a two minute walk away.
I felt welcomed at the café, as had everyone before me. Zé liked to get to know his customers; where they’re from, where they’ve been, where they’re going. In the back of the store was a white wall covered with messages written by travelers from all over the world. There were postcards taped to the wall thanking Zé and his wife for their hospitality – all of us drawn to this special place and these kind people.
I told Zé how happy I was to find his café. “Enjoy it for now, because I have to leave by December,” he said. “This building and the one next-door have been bought by Hong Kong investors. The next building, where my apartment is, was bought by investors from Mozambique. Many of the buildings in this neighborhood are being sold to investors to be turned into rentals and hotels for the tourists. I’ll move across the river where things are still affordable, but I’m losing my business my home, my neighborhood and my friends. We’ll all be scattered.”
Porto is a city in transition. The same transition that’s happened in cities all over the world. One young woman I met said all the renovations were making Porto a beautiful city for the tourist, but not for the locals. When I told Zé I was sorry for all he was losing he said, “What can you do. That’s life.”
Mercearia dos Guindais
Avendia Gustavo Eiffel, 256