Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sun. June 30/14 Porto City Tour, Ferreira Wine Cellar and setting sail to Entre Os Rios, Regua to dock for the night.

Monday June 30/14 

Waking up on the Queen Isabella at the dock, Cais de Gaia, was very exciting since we had new sights and adventures ahead of us.  After a delicious breakfast onboard we got on the luxurious tour bus and crossed one of the most lovely bridges.  It is called Ponte de Dom Luis and was finished in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel.  It is a double decker bridge with the top for pedestrians and a city metro line and the bottom for regular traffic.  Porto has an amazing array of architectural styles old and new and is a bit of a jumble.  Some buildings are looking forlorn but even those are beautiful.  We learned that the city is “experiencing a renaissance of sorts as architectural buffs have turned this into a pilgrimage sight”. Some of the streets were wide and stately and others narrow medieval alleyways.  The lovely tile facades were evident everywhere but the incredible motifs at the train station were stunning.   Balconies were strewn with laundry which to me is now a symbol of Portugal as much as the decorative tiles and the red tiles roofs.  The beautiful pedestrian shopping street with the most elegant cafe, the Avenida dos Aliados with city hall and other incredible buildings, and the ultra modern mall with a grass roof and park above are sights of Porto that stand out.  Aside from adding a "boatload" of pictures I can’t think of a better way to describe this amazing city.  

Tiles added to a church facade

Looking back to Cais de Gaia from a church on the Porto side

Tumbling down beauty

More laundry

2 churches attached 

An unusual display of what must be a protest against plastic water bottles

The grass and park above this shopping street keeps it cool below

One of many encounters with olive trees

Avenida dos Aliados

The train station lobby

The lobby leads to the old with the new! 

Ornate cafe

Yummy espresso 

It feels like a full day has gone by but we are heading back to the boat for lunch.   We were given a choice to get off the bus and take the incline down to the dock area rather than take the bus down.  Only a handful of us braved this adventure and our fairs were paid by Kersten, our cruise director.  We headed off to the terminal to pay and I must say I felt like I was really on an adventure not knowing what to expect at all.  But it was a wonderful choice and the views were spectacular.  This also gave us a chance to walk across the bridge and find all the locks put there by lovers and to enjoy spectacular views.  The incline was a bit scary at first since it reminded me of the first big drop on a roller coaster.  But this was a slow and controlled drop. 

Anxiously wondering what this was all about! 

He's not worried.

Great view of the bridge if you're not queasy about the steep angle. 

Looking back.

Beautiful views as we crossed the bridge...much better than bussing it! 

 A fabulous lunch onboard was  followed by a walking tour to a nearby cellar called Ferreira.  This is one of the oldest and largest wineries in the region with a colourful history.  Of course we enjoyed a tasting after the tour and this was just the beginning of our education and romance with port wine. Do we look like happy campers or what? To learn more about the history of Ferreira and the Douro region in general check out this link.

Coimbra and Porto Sunday June 29/14

Hilltop View of Coimbra
 Coimbra and Porto Sunday June 29

As lovely as Lisbon was I was looking forward to moving on and especially to begin the River Cruise.  The bus to take us to Porto where we would embark on the Queen Isabella stopped at the ancient town of Coimbra.  It dates back to the 700‘s and this is where we had a very festive lunch.  Coimbra is called the  City of Knowledge and has an amazing history and therefore beautiful architecture.  The University of Coimbra is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the oldest universities in the world.  I will never forget the sumptuous library which dates from 1728 and the story of it’s tiny bats which live behind the shelves eating the little bugs which like to live in books!  A very handsome law student dressed in the traditional black uniform of a suit and cape gave us an entertaining synopsis of student life.  His respect and high regard for education was apparent in every word.  Who would have guessed that the logo for Sandeman (Port) derives partly from the caped students.  I always thought it was Zorro!
A law student in uniform showing off his badges.

Gorgeous and ancient buildings of the University

At last!  We arrived at Cais de Gaia, our docking address.  As we drove to the dock the road became so narrow that it seemed impossible for a bus this size to get through. 

We began to see the warehouses of the Port Wineries, ancient but still in use.  Gaia is across the river from Porto although they are part of the same city. 
 The view of Porto from the ship was enticing as we could see old buildings climbing the hill with the ever present red tile roofs.  
First unpack, then explore the ship and relax up top.  We would sleep on board at dock and tomorrow tour Porto.  This port at the mouth of the Duoro is busy with boats of all sizes and shapes piquing my curiosity as to what they do.  So much to learn!  We met the staff of the boat and our Uniworld Cruise Director, Kersten, before enjoying our first meal in the exquisite dining room.    With only 103 passengers it was easy to get to know people but we had an affinity with Roger and Lynn and Richard and Ellen from the beginning.  And who knows?  We may run into them again some day.  Okay, correct that.  Ellen and Richard came to Kincardine for the final pipe band parade and we had dinner together.  Wonderful!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lisbon Thurs.June 26 until Sun. June 29/14

Lisbon Thursday, June 26

 We arrived at the Lisbon airport around 10:30 a.m. Portugal time,  exhausted but excited to explore this part of the world we had never seen before.  Thankfully we had no trouble knowing what to do since a Uniworld representative was holding up her sign and we just had to follow her to the bus which would take us to our hotel. 
View of Lisbon from Hotel Tiara
You could see all the way to the waterfront of Lisbon from the  park near the hotel.  
Hotel Tiara was a short drive away and it was very well appointed and comfortable.  After a short nap we explored the area on foot at the recommendation of Pilar, our Uniworld local hostess who gave us maps and suggestions for where to go for dinner etc. 
Gulbenkian Museum 
We visited the Gulbenkian Museum and walked around a beautiful park with an outdoor restaurant for our first Portuguese beer. 
A beautiful Park near Hotel Tiara with a jumbo screen for watching soccer and for other events. 
The red umbrellas welcoming us in for a beer.
Back at the hotel we attended the welcome briefing with Pilar and got the scoop on a few things that would help us deal with the being foreigners in this lovely city.  We walked a few blocks away to “Relicario” a nearby local restaurant.  On the way we met up with Roger and Lynn from New Zealand and had our first of many great meals with them.  Already I felt comfortable and safe in this beautiful country.

Lisbon Friday, June 27 

Old Fortress at the Waterfront
We boarded the bus for a guided morning tour of Lisbon, Europe’s second oldest capital, next to Athens. 
Henry the Navigator Monument

This included the  waterfront and amazing Monument of Henry the Navigator UNESCO sight, a visit to the custard tart factory with a tasting, a tour of the ornate cathedral where Vasco De Gama is entombed, and a walk through the narrow streets of Alfama an old and incredibly soulful section of the city.  
delicious custard tart!

Vasco De Gama entombed at the old Cathedral
Sofia showing us the world map of Portuguese explorers


Famous Portuguese Tile facades
With recommendations from our intriguing guide Sofia, we set off on our own to have lunch at a lovely outdoor restaurant and then touring on our own. 
We took a public transit bus up the winding streets to the ruins of Castle Jorge and one of the most spectacular views I have ever enjoyed. 

our hotel from the castle

Castle views, ever present red roofs

Castle beauty

We could see our hotel in the distance from here and realized Sofia was not being over enthusiastic when she said it would be perfectly reasonable to walk back to the hotel. 
We did just that inhaling the sights and sounds of this gorgeous place.  We went to another local restaurant near the hotel called Sabor and Arte for supper where we met Ellen and Richard, from near Toronto.  We had a blast with them and would enjoy their company throughout the cruise.  Ordering was a fun challenge each meal but the locals were quite good at explaining but many of the menus had English as well as Portuguese.  Fish galore but I enjoyed the chicken.  

Sintra and Cascais Saturday June 28

This was an optional excursion that we chose which included a visit to Palacio Nacional de Queluz, an 18th century palace with Rococo architecture and breathtaking gardens. 

From there we went to the city of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was stunning to say the least.  We toured the National Palace there which has Moorish features, an integral part of Portugal’s past since Muslims controlled the Iberian Penninsula for a period.  This was quite a contrast from the Queluz Palace. 

Tiles, tiles, everywhere! 

The town itself is set on hillsides with spectacular homes and buildings with charming winding narrow streets and shops. 
Sintra shopping streets
On the way back we stopped in the seaside suburb of Lisbon called Cascais.  This is a resort town with lovely beaches and cobblestone streets and shops. 

We enjoyed lunch at a cafe overlooking a small beach. 

The crazy streets of Cascais tiled with optical illusions! 
What a great day!  

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