Trip to Portugal May 2013
The last time we visited Portugal we drove
through the Douro valley. While everyone in the car was oohing and aahing,
the driver (Lew) didn't get to see it because he was focusing on the road.
We made a commitment to return one day. Seven years later we finally got
around to it.
In order to reduce the impact of jet lag we
decided to travel to Europe on the Queen Mary 2. The crossing takes seven
days, or about one time zone per day. From London we flew to Lisbon where
we spent three days, visiting the obligatory tourist stops at the tower of
Belem and the monument to the discoveries. A very nice bus took us from Lisbon to Porto where we
boarded a river boat for a tour of the Douro.
On the way to Porto we visited the village
of Sintra to see the Pena palace, summer residence of the Portuguese monarchs in
the 18th and 19th century. The architecture is fascinating.
About halfway between Lisbon and Porto is
the town of Fatima, where three young shepherds saw the Virgin Mary.
Pilgrims gather here for all the Catholic holy days. There is a large crucifix
here which is too modern for some of the worshipers.
We arrived in Porto in the late afternoon
with enough time to wander around the waterfront.
Our riverboat headed to the upper Douro
valley on a glorious morning in Porto. The scenery passing by our window
was beautiful. There is no flat land to farm so the Portuguese have
learned how to grow wine grapes on terraces.
After a heart-stopping ride up the side of a
mountain, we arrived at the home of Sandeman Port, the Quinta do Seixo.
The views from Seixo were the best of the entire trip. The guides were
dressed in the same outfits you see on the bottles of Sandeman.
The municipality of Lamego is famous for its
church architecture. We started our tour on a hilltop where we saw a
famous church - Nossa Senhora de Remedios. To go from the church to the
village requires walking down 200 steps. The walk was worth it as we went to
a wine and cheese tasting at the bottom of the hill.
Going up the Douro River requires going
through a series of locks as there is a significant change in elevation.
The Douro is part of the boundary between
Portugal and Spain. We spent one day in Salamanca, Spain where we got caught
in a hailstorm. Hard to believe how cold it was for the end of May.
Back in Portugal we visited a castle, the
Castelo Rodrigo. It was very old and very cold. Situated on top of
a hill, it offered up some excellent views. Note Pat's long gloves.
She purchased them in Salamance to prevent frostbite.
Our boat stopped overnight in Pinhão and
Regua. From here we visited the famous home of Mateus, purveyors of the
popular rosé. Casa Mateus had beautiful gardens and topiary.
Here we are back in Porto. In the
morning we visited a beautiful old train station (still very much in use).
The blue and white tile work is typical of the country. The rest of the day was
spent walking from the upper city to our boat dock, seeing the sights of Porto
along the way.
Our final stop was at a cork factory.
This plant produces 25% of the world's supply of wine bottle corks.