Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tues. July 1/14 Entre-os-Rios to Regua, and then Pinhao for the night

Early this morning we set sail for Regua our morning docking address.  The river seemed narrow and we passed the Carrapatelo Dam, the deepest lock in Europe.  The country side was intriguing with lush vineyards, horizontal and vertical, and gorgeous structures among them.  The alluring image of Sandeman beckoned.  

Bark stripped cork trees

Once at Regua we boarded a bus for a short drive to the Museu do Douro for a Signature Lecture called "The Magic Duoro Valley."  This was an education to say the least.  In 2001 the Alto Douro Vinhateiro, this area that produces the unique Port Wine, was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.  "It is the perfect combination of nature and human effort, that accounts for the beauty of this landscape of terraces and vineyards."  Nothing like it in the world.  The huge demarcated area produces mainly Port wines but also red and white table wines.  It was probably Roman Soldiers who first planted grapes in the Duoro Valley but British Merchants are credited for the discovery of Port.  At war with France they could not import French wines in the 17th century so turned to Portugal.  The British added brandy to preserve the grape juice for shipment to Britain and to remove some of the wine's bite.  Famous names such as Taylor's, Graham's,Cockburn's and Sandeman's date from this era. We learned about all aspects of production in this valley and about the types of Port.  It was no easy task but over centuries the vineyards have persevered, perhaps evolved but the hardiness of it all is evident.  The soil here is rocky,  the river was wild and the history  is fascinating.  It reminded me of the ruggedness of logging in Canada!  

Regua, our boat far in the background

A lecture but not boring! 

hands on museum 

Port Boat used to transport barrels down the wild river

Queen Isabella repositioned 

While we were at the museum the boat refueled  and repositioned ready to receive us for lunch. Then we boarded the bus again for a tour of the famous Mateus Palace followed by a visit to the Wine Estate Quinta Da Avessada including dinner.  Does this sound like a busy day or what? 

I had a fuzzy memory of Mateus Wine from my youth but let me tell you it is something that will stay with me clearly now.  What a gorgeous palace, the one that is famously depicted on a bottle of Mateus rose wine.  It is still owned by descendants of the last count of Vila Real and is a fine example of baroque architecture and a glimpse into the life of Portuguese aristocracy.  No photos inside. The gardens are incredible!  

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 this...love 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 fares 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.  http://eng.sograpevinhos.com/visitas/cave/6

At 3:15 p.m. after returning to the Queen Isabella from our walking tour of Ferreira Wine Cellar we set sail. This was an exciting moment for me.  Although everything we had seen and done so far was wonderful,  I was thrilled to be “on the river” and moving.  I loved watching the scenery from the boat and spent every possible moment up on deck.  This was so different from anything we had done before.  It felt like we were going the wrong way once we left the dock, and we were!  It turned out we had to go to the mouth of the river to turn around.  Once we were well away from Porto the scenery changed completely and became more remote and natural.  It was an amazing view really as the hills became steeper.  Looking closely at the landscape you soon realized that it was not entirely wild but was actually “farmed.”  Farmed in the sense of wine farms, or Quintas, as they are called in the Duoro Valley.  We went through our first lock and arrived at the dock called Entre-os-Rios, one of many very remote docking areas where we would spend the night on this trip.  The Queen Isabella would not sail at night since the river is small and the captain needed to see where he was going.  Not so long ago this river was not navigable by boats of this size but since locks and dams were installed (between 1961 and 1986) it has become possible.  What a feeling to be enjoying an exquisite  atmosphere and delicious meals on board the Queen Isabella while ensconced in this gorgeous and unique valley! 

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