Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sat. July 5/14 Regua to Porto with a tour of Guimaraes

We set sail for Porto early in the morning and I spent as much time as possible on deck taking in the sights.  We didn't arrive in Porto until approximately 2 p.m. but it was no hardship relaxing on board despite a cooler and partially overcast day.  There was more recreational activity on the River this time perhaps because it was the weekend.  John and I were keen on seeing a "campground."

 Porto was just as fascinating as it was when we left.  The colours, sights and sounds of this city are wonderful. This afternoon we chose to take a tour by bus to the nearby town of Guimaraes, known as the "Cradle of the Nation."This is due to the intertwining of its history with that of the country.  It is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE  site since 2001 and was designated in 2012 as the European Capital of Culture.  We thoroughly  enjoyed our tour of the castle which dates back to the 10th century and then a walk through the exceptionally well preserved Medieval streets of the city center.  To add to the atmosphere, preparations were being made for "The White Night" festival,  with elaborate decorations and entertainers  setting up.  "White Night" is something that originated in St. Petersburg (so I heard) when it does not get dark. It has caught on all over the world and is really an excuse to party all night!  People here were going all out though not everyone appreciates it I am told.   

The old Castle

Unique galleries and stores 

Love the laundry

White decorations

Tiny streets, lovely squares, strange sculpture

 What a beautiful city and we only got the tip of the iceberg in terms of the history.  Now back to Porto for our last night on board and I was feeling a bit sad.  Tomorrow, on to the Porto airport to fly to Frankfort and then home.  
Marvellous trip! We saw amazing sights and met wonderful people.  I would love to go back to Portugal.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thurs. July 3/14 Salamanca Spain

I was excited about getting a "lunch allowance" from Kerstin!  We left  at 8 a.m. for Salamanca Spain.  It was a 2 hour drive but the bus was comfortable and I love seeing new scenery so it didn't seem long. The drive was through farm land with olive groves, cultivated fields and some black pigs which are famous in this area.  (This is not my picture but here's what they look like.) 

We arrived at Hotel Alameda Palace for a "comfort stop" before heading out on a walking tour of Salamanca.  

This lovely and comfortable Hotel was ours for the day so we had the choice to return to it any time. We had to be back by 2:30 for the Flemenco  Show and coffee break before returning by bus to the ship. It would have repositioned to Barca D'Alva while we were away. 
First we walked to The Plaza Mayor where we looked around while waiting for our local guides.  We had time to  visit the nearby market and have an espresso. 

 We broke into small groups to walk and learn about this gorgeous city.  The Plaza was once a bull fighting arena but is now used for concerts and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.  

You couldn't help but be impressed by the gorgeous golden coloured sandstone buildings.  Salamanca is considered to be one of the best Renaissance Cities in Europe and home of another very ancient University which was commissioned in 1218 and is still vibrant.  

Even the graffiti is beautiful.

The university buildings are intermingled in the city and it was hard to say where the campus began or ended.  I could hardly imagine studying here.  The language spoken in Salamanca, Castillian, is considered to be the purest Spanish and people from all over the world come to learn it.

After leaving our guide we had time to stroll and find a place for lunch.  Tapas is what we were after so we found a bar along one of the streets and sampled various specialties I couldn't begin to pronounce or identify.  It was delicious! The restaurants,bars and cafes are numerous, as I have noticed in other places in Europe.  It's a wonder they can survive but I realize they are very much part of the culture.  Shops are closed mid day for siesta so where else would you hang out unless you went home?
After lunch we walked past closed shops (siesta time) and back to the Hotel for coffee and treats and the Flamenco presentation.  The dramatic songs and dances were quite entertaining.  

We got back to the ship in time for another lovely meal and evening on board.  As usual, we did not travel at night since navigating the Duoro requires all senses to be on full alert.

Wed. July 2 Pinhao, Quinta Do Seixo - Sandeman, Vega de Terron

That's our ship the Queen Isabel as seen from the mountain road. 
In the morning we left the dock at Pinhao and boarded our bus for the short ride up the mountain. 
It was an incredible drive to the wine centre called Quinta Do Seixo, the home of Sandeman, the port with the iconic label that I love.

You can look back and see Pinhao
 The mountain roads and views were spectacular.  Guides wearing the student capes of Coimbra and the Spanish Fedora met us.  
Yes...we enjoyed a tasting after the tour although it wasn't noon yet! John and I bought Sandeman hats and marvelled at the vistas  surrounding this winery, of which I could not get enough.

When we arrived back at Pinhao we walked about the town admiring the hand painted tiles of the train station depicting the harvest, as well as peeking into quaint shops, and visiting the beautiful Vintage House Hotel.  As in Porto we saw Rabelo boats which were used to transport Port wine and barrels down the Duoro before the river was made accessible for larger boats like ours.  Now they are used for can take tours on them.  We didn't but it is something I would like to do!

Tile walls, tile roads and sidewalks...a common theme all over Portugal

Rabelo Boat  

Waterfront walk to the Hotel

Stop and smell the roses!

By 1 p.m. we were all aboard enjoying lunch on the deck room of the dining area. It was windy and rainy at times but lovely.   Scenery watching was most enjoyable and relaxing as the afternoon went by.  Vega de Terron, our dock for the evening was quite remote but we could see the buses waiting to take us on an adventure to Salamanca Spain in the morning.  

Baton down the hatches! 

Kersten, enlightening John and Roger

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