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Portugal & the Douro River Valley

June 23 - July 9, 2013

Vantage Deluxe World Travel

This travel adventure started with a quick flight to Washington Dulles Airport from Binghamton,

and then on a flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Frankfurt, Germany. 

Our continuing flight to Lisbon, Portugal had us arriving there at 11:20 am. 

After a short wait,  we flew to the island of Madeira

 for a three day pre-trip visit to that beautiful island.

Madeira island is about 621 miles from Lisbon, Portugal. 

It was a flight of one and half hours from Lisbon on Air Portugal. 

The capital city of Madeira island is Funchal. 

Our hotel in Funchal was the Pestana Carlton Madeira. 

It was a beautiful seaside resort with great views of the Atlantic Ocean.

We checked into the hotel after our overnight flight trip from the USA. 

There were no activities planned, so we were able to catch up on much needed sleep. 

It also gave us a chance to explore the hotel and the area around the building. 

We enjoyed the traditional welcoming dinner after the usual trip briefing. 

On Tuesday, June 25th, we started the day with a very grand buffet

breakfast at the hotel.  Then we were off for a city tour. 

Several large shopping centers were located downtown. 

Across the street from one shopping center was the Funchal city farmers' market

(Mercado dos Lavradores).  It's a unique and interesting place to shop.

 

There were several vendors selling fresh produce and flowers.

Clothing shops had a variety of goods for sale.

There was a large room where the fresh fish market was located. 

They were selling freshly caught fish.  Butchers were carving large fish for sale.

After our visit to the city market we wondered down a very interesting

city street that had a variety of shops and cafes. 

Almost all doors were decorated in some fashion of art.

Fancy lights decorated the street.

Fun with doorway art!

After our walking tour of downtown,

we were bussed up to the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte,

whose twin towers look down on the city.

After a short walk down from the church,

we arrived at the starting point of the famous Monte Toboggan drivers. 

Carol and I were off on a fast toboggan ride almost two miles long. 

The two men in the back push and steer from the rear of the wooden sled

using their rubber-soled boots as brakes. 

It was a fast, thrilling ride downhill.

In the past, these sleds were used to transport goods up and down the hills. 

After our toboggan ride it was off to the city center to visit and sample

vintage Madeira wine and brandy.  We had a tour of the Old Brandy

St. Francis Wine Lodge where we learned the ins and

outs of creating Madeira brandy. 

Brandy to go!

Our afternoon was at leisure.  We returned to the hotel for lunch and the chance to rest up

before going to the optional Espetada dinner at Restaurante A Seta. 

It was an enjoyable meal with traditional Portuguese music called Fado

and folk dancing. 

We are pictured with our traveling friends Susan and Jay Jayaram from

Cypress, California.  It was great to have them join us on this river trip.

The meat that was served was cooked in brick ovens and served

on long skewers that hung on large table racks from

which you helped yourself. 

Wednesday, June 26th we started our day of touring

with an early stop at the Jardim Botanico Gardens. 

The gardens are nested high above the city

where plants from all over the world are displayed. 

Carol was very eager to see the many different plants

and creative arrangements.

Gardeners tending to one of the displays at the botanical gardens.

Trumpeter Plant flowers were beautiful this morning.

Our next stop was at Pico Ruivo, Madeira's highest peak. 

This twisty, turning bus ride took us up through the clouds

to this beautiful scene. 

Below the clouds is the ocean and the city of Funchal.

The radar tower is on top of Pico Ruivo. 

There were hiking trails around the mountain peak.

Madeira's rugged peaks.

A local fish hatchery.

We visited a local bar where we were served a local drink,

which was a mixture of honey and local spirits.

Machico was our lunch break stop. 

Our restaurant was in the clouds with some sunshine peaking out at times. 

Our last stop of the day was in Santana, where the houses

had thatched roofs, which is typical of north Madeira.

Note that the highway goes under the Funchal Airport runway.

On June 27th, we flew back to Lisbon where we began

our 12 day Portugal & Douro River Valley trip. 

Our hotel in Lisbon was the Hotel Real Palacio. 

It was not nearly as posh as the Pestana Carlton Madeira. 

The beds were like sleeping on the floor. 

It was a good feeling when we checked out for our Cruise on the Douro River.

On June 28, we started the day with a panoramic city tour of Lisbon. 

Our first stop was military monument on the banks of the Tagus River.

War Museum

Bethlehem Tower (Torre de Belem)  built in the middle of the river

between 1515 and 1521.  Its function was to control

the access of shipping to Lisbon.

Located next to the river marina is the Monument to the Discoveries. 

This 52-metre high monument renders homage to all the Portuguese who

took part in the great sea voyages of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Our next stop of the morning was at the Carriage Museum,

where a large collection of royal carriages were on display.

Praça Marquês de Pombal statue.  We had a mid-morning break

in the square where this monument is located.  During the

break our tour directors treated us to small pies called Pasteis de Belem.

They had purchased them from the bakery where they were first created

and are considered to be the very best! 

Bakers there must sign a contract never to reveal their recipe.

They were delicious!

The Monastery of Mafra.  Some 40,000  workers were

employed on the building of the Monastery.

Just before our lunch break, we went to the famous Calouste

Gulbenkian Museum.  The private collection museum is known for its

 sculpture, classic and Oriental art, as well as Lalique glass.

After checking out of our hotel we bussed to the Walled City

of Obidos.  This is one of the best conserved medieval cities

in all Portugal.  It is surrounded by the walls of a 12th century castle.

The castles thick stone walls provided necessary protection. 

The castle had four gates, with the south gate as the main gate. 

Walking up to the castle there were many small

 shops selling a wide variety of items.

 

The Church of Santa Maria has its origins dating back to

the period of Visigoth rule.

Our lunch break was at the seaside fishing village of Nazare. 

Pictured above are the cabanas that bathers use when at the beach. 

The modern part of town has a full range of tourist facilities.

After our lunch stop at Nazare, we bussed to the city of Porto

and our embarkation on the MS Douro Azul Cruiser.

A sailing we will go!

The busy port of Oporto on the Douro River. 

On Saturday June 29th we toured the historic city of Guimaraes.

Our first stop was at Vimaranes Castle.  This ancient fortress

stands north of the old city centre.

It was wash day in this Guimaraes neighborhood.

The church of Os Santos Passos.

Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira whose origins go

back to the 10th century.

Our dinner this evening was at the Alpendurada Monastery.

The evening meal was served in the great hall of the convent

with views of a great landscape dominated by the Douro River

and its vineyards.

The Alpendurada Convent, located in the Town of Alpendurada

and Matos, is now a hotel. The adaptation was done maintaining the

original architecture and preserving the mystique of the place itself.

The cells are now rooms that retain the austerity of other times.

After our tour of Guimaraes, we returned to our river cruiser to sail up river. 

Sunday, June 30, found the Douro River cruiser heading up stream. 

We had a morning long sail as we headed to the town of Peso de Regua.

Two hitch hikers were riding along as we sailed up the Douro River.

The upper deck of our Douro River cruiser

with the city of Oporto in the background.

The Maria Pia bridge (Ponte Maria Pia), commonly known as Ponte

Dona Maria, is a railway bridge built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel in

Porto, Portugal.  Built of wrought iron, its two-hinged crescent arch

used to carry the railway to Lisbon for 353 meters (1,158 ft) across the

River Douro at a height of 60 m (200 ft) above the river.  When constructed,

it was the longest single-arch span in the world.  It is no longer

in use as a rail bridge as a modern replacement was constructed in 1991.

It was a beautiful day as we sailed away from Oporto. 

There were many swimmers on the beaches.

The Barragem de Crestuma-Lever Lock is the first lock of five we will

pass through while sailing on the Douro River.  Located 20 km from

Porto on the River Douro, the Crestuma / Lever Dam is in the far eastern

portion of Vila Nova de Gaia.  One of the features of Douro River cruises is that

river craft are lifted or lowered by lock about 14 meters.

Construction started in 1976 and was completed in 1985 by the

contractors Construtora do Tâmega.

Low bridge, one of several we encountered when sailing on the Douro River. 

The cruiser's crew was very alert to remind passengers to mind their heads!

The railroad runs along the river.

This passenger train passed by as we sailed along.

A typical view as we sail up river. 

The Douro River can be very narrow in portions. 

We navigated several river bends as we sailed along.

We saw a great many vineyards and olive tree

orchards as we sailed up river.  

Upon docking at Peso de Regua we visited the Museum of Dour,

which portrays the region's rich heritage through paintings,

writings, and other forms of local culture.  The main emphasis

of the museum was the history of grape growing and the making of wine.

Testing the vineyard equipment!

One of the boat construction exhibits in the Museum.

The Douro River cruiser awaiting our return from the museum. 

After lunch on board the river cruiser, our group had an

excursion to Baroque Mateus Manor.  The 17th century Manor House, 

is considered to be the most beautiful and emblematic baroque

building in the country.

Mateus Manor gardens

Mateus Manor reflecting pools.

Our river cruiser was dock at Regua for the night. 

The next morning we bussed to Lamego nestled among

the terraced slopes of the Douro River valley's port wine

growing region.   True port wine comes from

this area in Portugal.

The most striking building of Lamego is the sanctuary

dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies which stands

gracefully above the town on Monte de Sao Estevao. 

Beautiful blue and white tile pictures as well as fountains

and sculptures were found on each level.

Looking back up at Our Lady of Remedies from downtown Lamego. 

Note the almost 700 steps down to the city below.

A small chapel was located in downtown Lamego.

 The Lamego's  Gothic cathedral was built by Afonso Henriques,

 Portugal's first king.  Although only the Romanesque tower is

left from the original building, the carved Renaissance portal and

fine cloister date from the 16th and 18th centuries.

The 12th-century castle preserves a fine keep and a very old and

unusual cistern with monograms of master masons.

Workmen laying paver blocks for a new sidewalk in downtown Lamego.

While we were visiting Lamego, our river cruiser was

repositioned to meet us at a dock on the river.   

We docked at Pinhao near this attractive bridge.

Same bridge with evening lights on.

A view of the landscape of Portugal.  Note

how the land is used for growing wine grapes.

After lunch on shipboard, there was a visit to Quinta do Seixo

vineyard estate. Above our tour guide greets the group

in the traditional garb of Sandeman vineyards.

Sandeman's black-cloaked 'Don' has become one of the most recognizable motifs

of the wine industry. Dressed like the Spanish caballeros de Jerez in his cape and

wide-brimmed hat, the Don was designed in 1928 by

Scottish poster Artist George Massiot Brown.

A antique wine press used in making port wine.

Robotic lagars, that closely replicate the traditional

method of treading grapes by foot, are seen beyond the wooden troughs.

Sandeman vineyards product a wide variety of port wines.

 

This evening on the river cruiser was the traditional Captain's Dinner. 

The menu had us start with smoked Ham Salad or Partridge Tentugal

Puff Pastry, second course was a choice of either Tomato Cream

Soup or Seafood Consommé, the first main course was Roast Codfish

with Breadcrumbs, then a palate cleanser of Lemon Sorbet with Douro

Sparkling Wine, followed by a second main course of Mirandesa Beef Steak. 

Finally dessert was served.  It was the traditional parade of baked

Alaska cakes with sparklers afire.  Needless to say

it was a delightful evening of dining. 

We should note that the food was well prepared and tasty. 

Wine both red and white was available at the evening meals.

 

On Wednesday, July 3rd the tour departed early for

Salamanca, Spain.  This was a day long trek with lunch included. 

Plaza Mayor

Three sides of the square held oval pictures on the buildings. 

One side depicted past presidents, another geographic discoverers,

and the third held those of literary fame.

New Cathedral

A busy street with new cathedral spire in background.

Storks nesting on a church belfry.

A Salamanca butcher shop.

Salamanca University

Interestingly the dinner on board of the cruiser this evening was a

Portuguese Barbecue on the upper deck.  It was a

very pleasant evening with a terrific sunset!

The next morning 's program was a tour to the little village of Castelo

Rodrigo.  It was a picturesque bus ride through the hill of

this part of Portugal.

Portugal's vineyards and the Douro River

The village of Castelo Rodrigo

Castelo Rodrigo

Ruins at the top of the village.

The afternoon was spent sailing down the Douro

River toward Oporto and the end of our trip.

As we sailed along we passed through more locks. 

This one was especially deep and took longer to exit.

Our evening was a ride to Avessada Winery.  We were greeted

by these musicians who played local music all evening long.

Before dinner we had a tour and lecture about how this vineyard

processes their grapes into wine.  Above is the

owner explaining the wineries process.

 

Overnight we sailed back to Oporto where we

docked for a final night before disembarking  for

Cascais and the end of the trip.

The first order of business on our last full day on the river

cruiser was a city tour of Oporto.  This is Cathedral of Porto.

An "Imperial" MacDonald's in downtown Oporto. 

Such class we had never seen.

Oporto Train Station

Boarding Platforms

It was a very hot day in Oporto so the locals were

swimming in the nearest fountain.

A statue honoring Prince Henry the Navigator.

Sailing on the Douro River

A typical local boat called a Rabelo that sailed on the Douro

River.  They primarily serve as sightseeing boats today.

The Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa in Cascais. 

Our last hotel of the trip.  It was magnificent!

Carol admiring the hotel sign that was also elegant!

A view of the Atlantic Ocean coast line in front of the hotel.

A 17th Century fortress guards tourist these days.

Cascais beach

Check out the white building that is very narrow overlooking the beach.

On our last full day of the trip we were bussed to

Sintra a drive of about an hour from our hotel.. 

An 8th Century Moorish Castle overlooks the city of Sintra.

The Palace of A Pena is considered to be the crown

jewel of the city of Sintra. 

Note the unique smoke stacks on the Palace of A Pena.

This last photo brings our trip to an end.  We spent the

afternoon packing and relaxing for the trip home. 

 

In our case, due to an early flight departure we were up at 2:30 am and in the

bus on our way to the airport in Lisbon at 4:00 am.  Our flight left Lisbon

for Frankfurt at 7:10 am and then left Frankfurt at 1:10  pm for Washington. 

Lufthansa Airlines mishandled our bags in Washington so we missed our

flight to Binghamton.  After a couple of hours waiting to get our suitcases

we decided to rent a car and drive to Owego.  We got home about 2:00 am. 

It was along 34 hour day!

But who said foreign travel couldn't fun and challenging?