My mother taught me many important lessons. One of them has particularly influenced the way I experience cities: look up as you walk down a street and keep an eye out for details. You’d be amazed by what you’d miss by not looking higher up.
Architecture is the obvious part of the equation, but there’s much more. Try peeking inside the windows in the buildings and catching a glimpse of the decorations in people’s homes and offices: the centuries-old ornamented ceilings kept intact, the lamp shades, the wall paint, the artwork… It all tells a story, not just about the building itself, or the habitat of a certain individual, but also about the historical, cultural and social character of a place.
Also try paying attention to the signs that identify the stores in the street. They’re there for you to look at, strategically placed perpendicularly to the wall so that they face you as you’re walking. But how often do you really look at them? Their design: the typography, the colors, the material, the information they provide – there’s a story there as well.
Rua do Almada is one of my favorite places to do that in Porto. It may not be a particularly beautiful street in itself, but it is a place where the old meets the new. A place where innovation coexists with tradition. A place where the hip new bar maybe next door to a hardware store that may well be from the 1930s.
Definitely worth exploring.