9 Day Douro River Cruise North Portugal Tour
- Price from:
- 0 EUR /person
- Payment Types:
- Credit Card
- Travellers cheque
- Wire Transfer
- 9 days
- Location Start:
- City of Oporto, North Portugal
- Location Finish:
- City of Oporto, North Portugal
- We Speak:
- Portuguese, English
Last updated: 09/03/2009
"9 Day North Portugal Tour and Douro River Cruise" :- Mike and Lorna Gizzy from England, wrote this first hand Review of their pleasurable experiences of North Portugal Holiday
Arrival at Oporto Airport:-We were whisked away to our hotel and over refreshments discussed our itinerary, general information given and location of restaurants pointed out.. Information on places of interest was useful and about the cruise was most helpful.The standard of service prior to arrival was excellent, information was provided promptly and any queries were dealt with efficiently.The service level during the holiday was excellent.First night on arrival in Oporto :Accommodation for our first night in Oporto was the Hotel Tuela -Porto, which was a comfortable hotel and quite adequate for a few days stay. The room was clean and of a good size.
The hotel was situated in a busy, but pleasant part of the city within easy reach of restaurants.The Rotunda was an interesting monument and was the focal point of Boavista in which the hotel was situated.-We had been shown several cafes/restaurants on our drive through Porto on our way from the airport to the hotel. We decided to walk around and have a closer look at what was on offer.
We chose the recommended Cafe Negra 2. A rather unimposing entrance to the cafe belied its size. We were taken to a table in a very busy area of the cafe, but to an English speaking waiter who produced menus and advised: Heres the menu, but its all in Portuguese! After some negotiation and lots of questions we decided upon a Porto speciality, FRANCESINHA ( a meat, ham, sausage between to slices of bread, covered in melted cheese with the option of a fried egg on top surrounded by French fries in gravy) it may sound revolting, but was quite tasty, if you are on a diet, forget it!
The waiter also suggested as a starter another speciality, Balls with meat. This we had to try and was quite tasty.
We were also recommended a red wine which, tastes better than the price.All of this was finished with large ice cream sundaes and coffee the bill at 41 was excellent value, plus the sense of humour from the waiter made the event most enjoyable.
First full day in Oporto:This was both interesting and informative and having a good driver to negotiate the traffic and give a running commentary was a joy. Very attentive to detail and knowledgeable about the city and we saw and learned more than if we had been on our own.Our next stop was to Taylors Port Wine lodge: Lunch here was splendid. The food was beautifully presented and tasty, the dining room was exquisite. The tour was informative and the tastings enjoyable.Visit to Serralves Foundation of modern Art, and Gardens:-On our way we visited Vila Nova de Gaia. We decided to view the gardens rather than the museum which consisted of statues, art deco buildings, rose gardens and lakes. Some of the items were somewhat surreal e.g. a large trowel four to five metres in height and two large slabs of granite standing parallel to each other apparently serving no purpose whatsoever :Modern Art!First Night on Board Ship:-Arrived at the cruise boat at 5pm. We were introduced to the reception staff who ensured our cabin was all correct. We were invited to choose our table for the cruise and we opted for Table 1. We unpacked and found our way around the cabin which was rather cramped, but adequate. The bathroom, wash hand basin, shower and loo was compact to say the least, but functioned extremely well and after a while one got used to it.Cocktails were at 7pm when we met the crew and we were briefed as to the next days events.
Dinner was at 7.30pm where we met Karin from Germany who was to be our dining companion for the rest of the voyage. After dinner a walk along the quay, a nightcap on board before testing out the beds.
Second Day on Board:The boat departed Gaia on time at 7am. We got up and went to the sunshine deck to take in the morning air somewhat misty, but pleasant and quite warm. We arrived at our first dam, the Crestuma Lever and watched the crew at work. The dams and locks are huge constructions and are quite awe inspiring. Travelling up river the water level rises and the depth of some of the locks is quite extraordinary. Once we had negotiated the lock we went below for breakfast..On arrival at Peso de Regua after having had a buffet lunch on board we transferred to a coach for a visit to the Mateus Palace and gardens at Vila Real. We had a tour round the palace, but found that the gardens, although pretty, not as extensive as we had been led to believe. It was extremely hot and we were all glad to return to the coach and air conditioning. We then travelled to Pinhao where we met up with the boat.A briefing as to the next days events then off to the Vintage House Hotel for dinner situated just along the quay. A very nice hotel where we were escorted to a private dining room. We enjoyed the food although it didnt appear that everyone was of the same mind. We walked back to the boat to find the whole town bopping to brass bands and the like enjoying a local festival. Nightcaps on board and bed hoping to get some sleep.
Third Day on Board:After breakfast we had a wander around Pinhao visiting the railway station and towns houses which were decorated in blue tiles depicting the wine growing process. We inspected the bridge which was under repair and watched the locals enjoying themselves as the festival continued. At 11am we went to the Vintage House Hotel again for a lecture on growing grapes for port coupled with some tasting. The talk was quite interesting as were the prices of some of the bottles of port!During lunch we set sail for Vega Terron which is the furthest navigable point of the river before the border with Spain. After lunch we sunbathed and watched the scenery change to a more rural landscape. Almond and olive trees became more evident, very few communities and only scattered houses. It was very hot (42C) and shade was required. We went through the last lock and docked at Vega Terron. This is a purpose built quay complete with customs house, bar and very little else. Barca dAlva is the Portuguese equivalent and is a short distance away and has about 150 inhabitants and 10 dogs.Briefing and drinks before dinner with a reminder of a full itinerary the following day. Following dinner was a Spanish show with four young ladies with castanets and steel toe-caps Flamenco!
Forth Day on Board:Up bright and early, breakfast and ready for the coach at 8.30am. The trip was to Salamanca and the journey time was 1 hour 50 minutes. Some twisting climbing roads to begin with through hills full of almond trees. After a while the road levelled out to long and straight. Cecelia, our guide was able to point out the storks resting on the Campo Charro, bulls being trained for the bullring and some dark grey piglets being made ready for the famous pata negra smoked ham.We arrived at the Hotel Monterrey at 10.50am and had coffee before setting off with an official guide for our tour around Salamanca on foot. We were taken to the university, the library, the Plaza Mayor, the House of Shells and the old and new cathedrals. Some of the buildings are very beautiful and the cathedrals as can be expected are very ornate.Lunch was at 1pm, typically Spanish with Paella, roast chicken and ice cream for dessert all accompanied with lashings of wine. After lunch was free time we went to a shop called Zara which was recommended to see the ruins of an old building previously on the site. The shop has been built in part of the ruins and was three stories high. The whole of the back wall was glass; relics were also encased in glass on the staircase and the lift was all glass in order to give a view of the ruins and relics. We remarked that the construction must have been expensive and was rather unusual, but said a lot for the citys ideas of preservation. We toured a good deal more of the city ending up in the Plaza Mayor for drinks and to watch the world go by. It was alleged that temperatures were expected to rise to 46C so it was a welcome relief to return to an air-conditioned coach for the journey to meet the boat at Barca dAlva where arrived at 6.40pm. Briefing for the next days events before dinner at 8pm. An early night.
Fifth Day on Board:We set sail at 9am during breakfast on our way to Ferradosa. The morning was very hot and sunny, but with a gentle breeze. We sunbathed and enjoyed the scenery. After lunch we set off in the coach for Sï¿½o Salvador do Mundo which is one of the best vantage points from which to view the River Douro. Unfortunately, to get to the top of the hill there is a very steep climb passing 9 small chapels, for which the town is famous, before reaching the vantage point ï¿½ as it was very hot and time limited we opted for a lesser vantage point where we were able to take photographs of our sister ship the Douro Queen sailing through the lock at Valeria Dam.We moved on to Sï¿½o Joï¿½o da Pesqueira which is one of the oldest villages in Portugal. The whole area is the heart of the Douro Demarcated Region and is surrounded by hillsides covered in vines. The vines are laid out of steps in the hillside which have been created by blasting the granite and earth. Unusually there are some vertical vines growing up/down the hillside. We learnt that it takes approximately 2ï¿½ kgs of grapes to makes one bottle of wine. We walked around the town and the town hall to see the blue tiles depicting the four seasons of the wine process.These two villages were natural and not at all geared to tourists ï¿½ which is a welcome relief to the plastic Algarve.Back to the boat now moored at Espinho to set sail for Pinhï¿½o for dinner and overnight. After dinner we were entertained by a Portuguese Folk Group. The highlight for us was our cabin maid, Suzanna, who sang a Fado which is a plaintive blues type song she sang very well and had a haunting voice. Nightcap on the sunshine deck, much cooler.
Sixth Day on Board:The boat left Pinhao at 7am on way to Peso de Regua. After breakfast we departed by coach to visit the small town of Lamego. In fact Lamego is quite large and has a growing new commercial area alongside the old town. It is also the cultural capital of the Douro region. We were driven up to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies a very ornate church on top of a hill. We decided to walk down the 723 steps to the town. The views fro the top of the steps were very nice, but the view back up to the church was magnificent. We reached the square and visited the cathedral, the Episcopal Palace and the ï¿½alley of old shops, a very narrow street with a staircase built into the road. We had drinks in a local cafï¿½ then made our way to the museum and the coach.During lunch the boat set sail for Bitetos for our overnight stay. We arrived at 4pm, the weather was extremely hot so we walked to the little ï¿½beachï¿½ for a paddle ï¿½ it was nice to dip our feet into the river that we saw every day.Our briefing was at 6.45pm as the coach was to take us to the Monastery of Alpendurada for dinner. The monastery, now an hotel, was a beautiful building built into the hillside with stunning views.Fernando, one of our two on board barmen was on hand to serve us with wine and to do his party tricks. The meal was interesting: vegetable soup, roast pork, roast potatoes, salad and rice followed by a desertï¿½custard! Back to the boat for a nightcap and straight to bed.
Seventh Day on Board:During breakfast at 8am we set sail towards Porto. Sundeck ,sunbathing and watching the changing scenery as we edged closer to the city more communities and population became apparent. We watched the crew navigate the last lock and marvelled yet again at the massive structure of the dam. Eventually we passed through the ancient part of Porto, the Ribeira and on to the new areas going up to the mouth of the Douro and seeing the Atlantic Ocean. The hillside on the Gaia side was littered with the hoardings for all the port wine companies. The monastery on top of the hill was very impressive and the bridges were both beautiful and a feat of engineering.After lunch we climbed into the coach for one last time for a tour of Porto with an official city guide. We again passed by the Clerigos Tower, the steep streets and peculiar alleys, the imposing D. Luis Bridge (built by a student of Gustav Eiffel) and all the conic chimneys.. We returned to Vila Nova de Gaia and decanted for a tour of the Ferreira Port Wine Lodge so we are now experts on port wine!We returned to the boat when it was time to settle the weeks bar bills and make our contributions to the gratuities fund. Advice had been left in our cabins as to a suggested amount which was 20 per day for each cabin. 140 was not in everyones mind as suitable, after all tipping is personal.Farewell cocktails were at 7pm where there were speeches from the organizers. After dinner we had drinks on deck with people with whom we had made friends and so to bed.
Final morning on Board / Tour:Up at 7am to finish packing. Breakfast and said our farewells to crew and fellow travellers.Our driver was waiting quayside to collect our baggage and whisk us off to pastures new.We first went to Guimaraes high above Porto which has a historic center with a new commercial center around it. The old town was very picturesque, narrow streets and nice squares. We visited the ruins of the castle and the palace then it was off to Santa Marinha and had coffee at an old monastery which is now a Pousada. After coffee we drove back to Porto down towards the beaches to have lunch at the Praia de Luz, Restaurante Esplanada and this was a super place for lunch being by the sea and dining to the sound of relaxed jazz.
Our driver then returned to bring us back to reality for our drive to the airport.An Excellent Holiday !
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